fat-adaption : the goal of low-carb dieting


The first and most important question in becoming adapted is “what does that mean?” Simply put, fat-adapted means you’ve switched your body’s fuel source from glucose (sugar based) to a ketone base (created by fat).

Put in a less simple way, it means a fat-adapted person has cut out the sugars and starches that get processed in the body as glucose.

Glucose is a fast-burning fuel source that treats your insulin levels like a rollercoaster and leaves your energy and hunger levels to bounce up and down (1), causing exhaustion, cravings, and mood swings. Cutting the simple sugars and eating a diet higher in fat means your body must switch to its preferred fuel source: fat.

Why does the human animal prefer fat created ketones to run its engine?

Fat is a more complex burn that is more consistent through our waking hours when we need our energy at its peak.

Glucose burns off very quickly, which is why it spikes and dumps energy and requires more food to add more fuel. More food means more calories which means more weight gain. The big problem with glucose is that our bodies want to get rid of it as a fuel first. We have to burn off all of our glucose stores before we can start burning our fat stores.

This forces the fat we eat to wait its turn to burn. The longer it waits and the more carb calories you eat to produce glucose, the more fat builds up until it’s eventually hanging off our stomachs.

Fat-adapted means skipping the glucose producing carbs and running your body on the ketone fuel that comes with a high fat diet.


The first step in understanding all of this is to first know what ketones are and how they are produced then burned in your body.

Most people in the U.S. have grown up with the idea that dietary fat is bad and that sugar is okay (You can thank these less than ethical Harvard scientists for perpetrating that lie). That misinformation is why a low-carb diet seems so radical and hard to accept.

But dietary fat is your body’s preferred fuel source. By eating a larger percentage of fat, you are priming your liver to start a process called beta-oxidation. Here’s a quick, step-by-step break down of what that means for you:

1. Beta-Oxidation breaks your consumed fatty acids down into acetyl-CoA (a molecule that helps to repair your body’s cells).

2. If your body has a low glucose load (low-carbs), then the left over acetyl-CoA is converted into ketones by your liver and burned as energy.

3. Once your body is fat-adapted to this process of converting acetyl-CoA into ketones, your body looks for more ketones to burn.

4. This is where stored fat is tapped and used to keep the ketone cycle going.

Essentially, using ketones for energy is like using whole logs to keep a campfire roaring whereas, glucose from carbs is like using newspaper to feed the fire.

The issue is that your body can only burn one fuel source at a time. If you give it glucose, it will burn off the glucose to try getting rid of it. If you eliminate the glucose, it will create and burn these wonderful, little ketones that help to draw in the stored fat we’d all like to get rid of.


Getting your body into a fat-adapted state so that you’re creating ketones and burning fat is a simple one-two punch.

First, cut the carbs.

Drop your carb intake to below 20 grams per day. This is the first step in a low-carb diet, and, even though low-carb is in the name “low-carb diet,” it’s often the step people have the most trouble with. Cutting carbs doesn’t just mean waving off bread and sugar a few times.

Low-carb means that you need to make strategic choices in your food intake to keep your carbs total under 20 grams.

Carbs come from a variety of sources that we’ve been taught from a young age to eat as part of a balanced diet. Fruits, most veggies, rice, and grains are all carb heavy and will prevent fat adaptation if eaten.

When getting started, it’s recommended that you log everything you eat using a tracking app. Tracking your macros will keep you honest in your carb intake and really open your eyes to how the foods we eat really work.

Second, eat healthy fats in abundance.

Yes, fats come in health and unhealthy varieties, (check out niKETO’s guide to health fats vs. the fats your should avoid).

Once you’ve chosen your favorite sources of healthy fat, eat them! Bombard your system with good fats to the tune of 70% of your daily caloric intake.

As soon as you provide your body with the abundance of fats it needs to shut off the glucose spigot and start pumping out the ketones, you will become a fat-adapted, weight-burning machine!

Quick Warning: With good fat comprising 70% of your diet and carbs making up around 5%, you need to make sure your protein intake doesn’t exceed the remaining 25% of your calories. Too much protein while fat-adapted can lead to glycogenesis where the body turns excess protein into a glucose substitute that stops fat-adaptation in its tracks (2).


The answer to this is, of course, it depends. Everyone’s body is different and it really comes down to how much of a carb surplus you’re working with when you get started. Your body absolutely must burn off the carbs and glucose before you can become optimally fat-adapted.

Good news though, it doesn’t take very long. Some people can speed into fat-adaptation in 24 hours, others can take 4 days; and 4 days is a mighty short time to adapt when the end result is the first major step on a path that will change your health and your quality of life for the better (3).

MCT oil can help give your system a large shot of good fat quickly to help kick the process off (4). MCT oil is tantamount to giving your system a high-octane fuel that gets you engine revved and burning faster with better performance.

Staying hydrated and drinking lots of water can help speed the adaptation process up. Something you absolutely must do when starting a low carb lifestyle is drink lots of water. Fat-adaptation brings a diuretic effect with it (5), so drink tons of water throughout your low-carb journey.

Exercise is another great way to burn off the excess glucose that slows the fat-adaptation process. So grab a jump rope and get to work running through those glucose stores.

Once you think you may be close to fat-adaptation you can test your system to be sure. Or you can keep your eyes and nose open for the tell-tale signs of fat-adaptation: fruity smelling urine, metallic breath, sudden drop in appetite, temporary exhaustion, and of course, weight loss (the whoosh effect).


Now that you know what being fat-adapted means, the simplified version of the science behind it, and how to get into a state of fat-adaptation, here are the major benefits to being in a fat-adapted state that go beyond just a loss of excess body fat.

  • You will be less hungry less often (1). And as everyone who’s tried to cut weight before knows, hunger is the number one saboteur of calorie cutting.

  • Once you get past the carb withdrawal stage of fat-adaptation that can leave you tired and dragging, you’ll find that having a fat burning internal motor will give you more energy (7) and pep than you’ve ever had without caffeine.

  • You’ll sleep deeper and wake more refreshed (8).

  • Your mental clarity will be cranked up (9). Suddenly, your mind will be firing on all cylinders and your acumen and mental senses will be razor sharp.

These are just a few of the more immediate positives you will notice once you’ve become fat-adapted. There are a ton more to reassure you that low-carb dieting is the best decision you’ve ever made for your health.

Here at niKETO we are dedicated to the low-carb lifestyle and educating people interested in joining our passion for health and happiness. Connect with us on facebook and Instagram to see what else we have in store!


(1) Rizi, E.P., Loh, T.P., Baig, S., Chhay, V., Huang, S., Quek, J.C., et al. (2018). A high carbohydrate, but not fat or protein meal attenuates postprandial ghrelin, PYY and GLP-1 responses in Chinese men. PLOS ONE, 13, e0191609. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29385178.

(2) Masood, W. & Uppaluri, K.R. (2018). Ketogenic Diet. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL).

(3) Dehghan, M., Mente, A., Zhang, X., Swaminathan, S., Li, W., Mohan, V., … Mapanga, R. (2017). Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (Pure): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet, 390(10107), 2050–2062. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32252-3.

(4) St-Onge, M.-P., & Bosarge, A. (2008). Weight-loss diet that includes consumption of medium-chain triacylglycerol oil leads to a greater rate of weight and fat mass loss than does olive oil. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(3), 621–626. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.3.621.

(5) Phinney, S. D., Bistrian, B. R., Evans, W. J., Gervino, E., & Blackburn, G. L. (1983). The human metabolic response to chronic ketosis without caloric restriction: preservation of submaximal exercise capability with reduced carbohydrate oxidation. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 32(8), 769–776. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6865776​.

(6) Chang, C.-K., Borer, K. & Lin, P.-J. (2017) Low-Carbohydrate-High-Fat Diet: Can it Help Exercise Performance? Journal of Human Kinetics, 56, 81–92. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28469746​.

(7) White, H., & Venkatesh, B. (2011). Clinical review: ketones and brain injury. Critical Care (London, England), 15(2), 219. https://doi.org/10.1186/cc10020.

(8) Afaghi, A., O’Connor, H., & Chow, C. M. (2008). Acute effects of the very low carbohydrate diet on sleep indices. Nutritional Neuroscience, 11(4), 146–154. https://doi.org/10.1179/147683008X301540.

(9) Ketogenic diet reduces midlife mortality and improves memory in aging mice. (2017). Cell Metabolism, 26(3), 547–557.e8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.08.004.

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