Using Fat For Fuel: The Science Behind Fatty Acid Metabolism

Beta-oxidation may sound like a scary scientific phase that you don’t want to learn more about, but if fat loss is your goal, then this is an important process to understand.

Your body uses fat as an energy source during all intensities and durations of activity; but predominantly during low intensity and endurance exercise. The breakdown of fatty acids through beta-oxidation allows the formation of Acetyl-CoA which is be used within oxidative phosphorylation to produce ATP. The key process of getting fatty acids into an activated and usable form to produce ATP is called beta-oxidation.

What happens during beta-oxidation?

The fatty acids consumed through our diets begin the process of becoming an energy source by using ATP to convert fatty acids into acyl adenylate in the outer mitochondria. This compound then forms Fatty Acyl-CoA through the enzyme Acyl-CoA synthetase and free Coenzyme A. Acyl-CoA is the important substrate needed within the inner mitochondria to become Acetyl-CoA.

How does our body get the Fatty Acyl-CoA to where it needs to be?

A shuttle bus of course! Well…sort of…a shuttle system on the inner mitochondrial membrane overcomes the inability of fatty acids to diffuse into the inner mitochondria. The scientific name for this shuttle system is the carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT) system. CPT1 transfers the acyl group from the coenzyme A to carnitine; followed by the translocase molecule transferring the acyl carnitine into the inner mitochondria. It is then converted back into the fatty acyl-CoA by CPTII. Now that it is in the mitochondria, the fatty acyl-CoA can be broken down to form acetyl CoA – the substrate needed to allow ATP formation through oxidative phosphorylation.

The amount of energy beta-oxidation can produce is substantially more than carbohydrates which is why for prolonged exercise, fats are your go-to energy source.

The PPARA gene is a key regulator of almost all the steps involved in beta-oxidation. Carrying the G allele variant PPARA gene is associated with higher levels of the PPARA protein, which explains the greater ability to use fat for fuel by carriers.

What can limit your use of fat as fuel?

CPT1 is the rate limiting step to the breakdown of fatty acids – so any impairment can lead to elevated fatty acids in the muscles; and poorer metabolic health. One factor that impairs CPT1 is hyperinsulinemia which would be characteristic of type II diabetics due to their insulin resistance.

If you have poor insulin function, you could be impairing your ability to utilize fats as an energy source and could experience higher levels of fatty acids in your body. Following the nutrition and exercise advice provided by a Blueprint Health professional will help you maintain or improve your insulin function and help you be metabolically healthy and achieve your desired body composition.

Why Eating Avocados May Help You Live Longer

It’s officially California avocado season. If you haven’t joined in on the smashing, scooping, slicing and avocado rose-making yet, now is a good time to jump in.

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Avocados are not Instagram-famous for nothing. This bumpy on the outside, creamy on the inside fruit is chock full of good-for-you nutrients. Avocados provide 11% of the daily value for fiber and boast almost 20 vitamins and minerals including potassium and folate.  

We know this popular fruit is good for us, but a new review of the scientific literature suggests regularly eating avocados may help prevent metabolic syndrome. According to the American Heart Association, as many as 34% of American adults may have metabolic syndrome, a group of factors that increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Some of those factors include having extra fat in the mid-section, low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, higher fasting blood sugar and high blood pressure.

Packed with health-promoting nutrients and phytochemicals, avocados have been shown to reduce many of these risk factors, giving them some serious food fighting powers. This review highlights some of the strongest research . A diet high in avocado and its monounsaturated fat seems to lower total blood cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and may also increase HDL (good) cholesterol. That’s a double win. As if we needed more reasons to scoop, there’s emerging research exploring a potential benefit between avocados and skin, eye and even joint health.

Being an avocado lover obviously has its perks. Data suggests people who eat half an avocado a day, on average, have a better overall diet quality and health status. A recent study revealed frequent avocado eaters had higher intakes of fiber, heart-healthy fats, vitamins E and C and several minerals. At the same time, they tend to eat less total sugar and sodium. It could very well be that people who regularly eat avocados generally follow a healthier diet. And those healthier eating patterns show on the outside, too. Those who eat avocados daily tend to weigh less — about 7 1/2 pounds less. In addition, they experienced lower insulin levels and were 32% less likely to have metabolic syndrome.

Now that you have plenty ways to justify your avocado addiction, you might be wondering how much to eat. Though it’s common for people to eat half an avocado at once, one serving is actually a third of an avocado.

And there’s no shortage of ways to incorporate avocados into your day. Try avocado smashed on toast, whirled into smoothies for creaminess, dolloped on top of burgers or fish, mixed into salsa, as a substitute for butter or oil in baking, or simply scooped right from the skin shell. If you need more ideas, or want someone else to prepare an avocado for you, pop into the world’s first avocado bar, recently opened in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The list of ways to enjoy this creamy fruit goes on and on. And that’s a good thing. Many of the benefits are associated with eating avocado daily, so get creative and enjoy it.  

 

A Guide to Creating a Calorie Deficit

Calories in minus calories out: That’s the simple, age-old equation for creating a calorie deficit. Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight, right? If only it were that easy!

The key to creating a calorie deficit is to burn a little more (or eat a little less) than your body requires for weight maintenance. The calories burned through exercise + non-exercise activity + basal metabolic rate (BMR) need to be more than the calories consumed through food to produce weight loss. But how much of a calorie deficit should you create through your calorie burn and reduced intake? In general, you’ll need to create a deficit of 250-500 calories per day to lose 1/2 to 1 pound per week.

OK, so now you know the what and why of calorie deficits; let’s talk about how to actually achieve it.

Figure Out How Many Calories You’re Burning

Know Your BMR: Start By Understanding Your Metabolism
The best place to start is at the beginning. Since your basal metabolic rate (the calories you burn at rest) accounts for 60–70% of the calories burned throughout the day, it’s important to calculate that as a starting point if you’re wanting to create a deficit. How much your body burns at rest depends on many variables such as genetics, age, hormones and muscle mass.

Wear a Fitness Watch
Are you burning as many calories as you think? Workout intensity, efficiency, muscle mass, duration — there are many factors that influence how many calories you burn during exercise, and the elliptical machine is likely not giving you an accurate measure of your total burn. Wearable fitness watches provide more reliable data for you to to add to your basal metabolic rate when creating your calorie deficit.

Walk It Out
You may be surprised, but the simple act of walking can be enough to lose weight and get in shape. Walking can help you build fitness and lose weight by helping you create a calorie deficit. Even if you’re a regular exerciser, upping your daily step count through walking increases non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which has been a big area of research of late because it may be an answer to how body weight is maintained, gained or lost.

Track Your Intake! A Calorie Isn’t Just a Calorie
What you put into your body makes a difference in your health and your weight. That slice of banana bread at the bakery looks divine. But choosing it over a banana adds more than just extra calories — you’ll be piling on more unhealthy fats and added sugar. As you track your intake, you get the bigger picture of what your food contains: carbs, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals. To get the biggest nutritional bang for your calorie buck (and create a bigger calorie deficit), consume the majority of your calories from unprocessed whole foods.

Learn to Count Calories Without Making Yourself Crazy
Don’t get lost in the numbers, which can be overwhelming. While it’s important to be as accurate as you can with food tracking when trying to create a calorie deficit, don’t lose your mind in the process. It definitely gets easier with practice. Stick with it: Logging your food consistently (even if it’s not perfect) is one of the most effective ways to lose weight.

Your Secret Weapon: Mindful Eating
This isn’t as touchy-feely as it might sound. “Mindful eating” simply means being aware of the taste, texture, aroma and presentation of what you eat, as well as your body’s signs that you’re full. Ask yourself: Do you really want that last bite of food because you’re still hungry? Discover your cues for eating so that you can be empowered to stop when you’re satisfied, even if there’s still food on your plate.

Consult an Expert!
If you hate math or are confused about how many calories you should be eating to create a deficit, go to a pro. A nutrition consultation with a registered dietitian (Full disclosure: like me) provides a personalized approach and game plan based on your medical and diet history and fitness goals.

Spring Clean Your Pantry
If you’re trying to set yourself up for success, the leftover holiday candy and cookies aren’t going to do you any favors. Give your pantry and fridge a little makeover to stay on track with your goals.

Learn What Midnight Snacking Is Doing to You
Late-night noshes are usually high-calorie, large portions or snacky foods (Read: cookies, ice cream, chips and candy) eaten mindlessly out of enjoyment to unwind from the stress of the day. It’s a recipe for weight gain and disaster.

Be Smarter at Restaurants — But Still Enjoy Yourself
Eating out can rack up the calories, so knowing how to make healthy menu swaps is key. Whether you’re dining at your favorite taqueria, steakhouse, Italian trattoria or ordering Chinese takeout, this guide gets you on the right track toward making the healthiest selection.

Arm Yourself with “Hacks” to Save Calories
Whether it’s swapping hummus for mayo or noshing on zucchini noodles in lieu of traditional spaghetti, the calories you save really add up when you’re trying to create a calorie deficit. Here are 10 simple tricks that’ll help.

What to Do When You Blow Your Daily Calorie Budget
We get it, we all fall off the wagon sometimes. It’s OK — what’s more important is understanding why you blew it and getting back on track. Try, fail and adjust … it’s a journey.