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Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat
Bob Seebohar, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS


The focus of this article is changing your paradigm of thinking about nutrition so you can teach your body to use the right nutrients at the right times to improve your health and exercise better. It is about adopting some very simple nutrition concepts and most importantly, implementing them. Execution is paramount. The best plan in the world will not be any good if it is not followed.


What Is Metabolic Efficiency?


Efficiency is a term that is typically associated with sport. From a nutrition perspective, being metabolically efficient simply means being able to use the proper nutrients at the right times.


It is likely that you have heard of this scenario before as it applies to exercise: as you increase your intensity, your body prefers to use more carbohydrate and less fat for fuel. The physiological term for this is the crossover concept. With training you can manipulate this to essentially burn more fat during exercise but this article isn’t about what we already know. It’s about the relatively unknown effect of your daily intake of macronutrients and their impact on fuel utilization and metabolic efficiency.


Why Be More Metabolically Efficient?


I’ve been working with endurance athletes for many years and whenever I ask athletes about their goals for the short and long-term, I typically get the same two responses: lose weight/decrease body fat and get faster. I’ll address mostly the first point since manipulating your body weight and composition in a favorable direction can have a positive impact on your performance. This can be done without much physical training during the off-season because, as I mentioned earlier, it’s about changing your nutrition paradigm and how you approach food, not about how much you exercise.


The Carbohydrate Crisis


Carbohydrates are a staple in our eating plan and for good reason. They provide the energy that is needed to fuel the body for training sessions. But during the off-season, maintaining a higher carbohydrate eating plan can lead to weight and body fat gain.


Eating too much of any one macronutrient can lead to metabolic inefficiencies. Focus too heavy on one macronutrient and a state of imbalance occurs. Eat a combination of foods and you will remain in balance and not get thrown out of whack.


How To Become Metabolically Efficient


These simple, easy to implement, nutrition steps will help in your quest to become more metabolically efficient, use more of your fat stores as energy and create a metabolic shift inside your body where it will learn how and when to use fat.


1.     Adopt a nutritional paradigm shift. As you approach your food selection and preparation, prioritize your meals and snacks. First on the plate should be a source of lean protein and healthy, omega-3 rich fat. Second up is a healthy portion of fruits and/or vegetables. Then, if you have room on the plate (no more than ¼ of the plate), add a few whole grains and healthier starches.

2.     Follow the 90/10 rule. Stay on track with these steps 90% of the time and allow yourself to “miss” the other 10% of the time. Remember, you are human and life happens. Don’t stress out if you have the occasional miss (sweets, alcohol, chips, etc.). Approach your nutrition plan as you do your exercise plan and allow some room to deviate.

This shouldn’t be too difficult. It will take preparation, execution and commitment on your part. Remember, this is a behavior change that can take weeks to months to adopt. Start now and remember that this is a behavior change so allow yourself some times where you will take a few steps backwards. It’s all part of the process of improving your nutrition plan!


For more information about Metabolic Efficiency, refer to my book, “Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat” and my newly published Metabolic Efficiency Recipe book, both available at www.fuel4mance.com.