How Do Athletes Metabolize Fat?

By Subodh / May 21, 2015

Excess body fat can turn out to be inconvenient for everyone and it can also play a role in the onset of several severe ailments in the long run. People put on weight owing to several factors, including genetic setup, dietary habits, lifestyle, etc. For athletes, staying in shape is of utmost priority. That explains why they leave no stones unturned to metabolize fat faster. Athletes also need to focus on related and relevant factors like having apt body mass, in taking required nutrients and maintaining weight as per height etc.

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Basics of Fat Metabolism by Athletes

While athletes may resort to various fat burning methods, most of them focus on burning fat and not carb. By default, humans have limited supply of carbohydrates compared to that of fats. The idea is not staying without carbs either! It’s about preserving the glucose that is there in your body and metabolizing the fat for energy. Studies have shown that women enjoy a small advantage over men when it comes to fat oxidation. This is applicable to varying intensity exercises, though the difference is small.

Methods for Fat Metabolizing Athletes Resort To

There are a few effective fat burning processes most athletes resort to nowadays.

  • Endurance Exercise – Exercise increases fat oxidation in muscles, as it has been seen. Studies have shown Endurance exercise training, in particular, enhances the rate of skeletal muscle fat oxidation. This happens owing to a surge in mitochondrial density, oxygen delivery to muscles. While intense exercise eventually results in burning of carbs, endurance exercise tends to impact the fat more. However, it is not possible to enhance fat oxidation by eating more carbs before exercise as it can hike insulin levels and reverse the body’s natural fat burning mechanism.
  • Balancing Intensity of Exercise – While exercise helps in fat oxidation, it is necessary not to exhaust the carbs stored in the body, more so for athletes. To ensure this, they keep a tab on exercise intensity-whether it is outdoors or indoor. It has been observed in recent studies that fat oxidation rate increases with exercise intensity initially before taking a nosedive.
  • Dietary Factor – Athletes tend to eat small amount of carbs in their meals so that insulin is not raised and it does not hamper fat oxidation rate. The impact of insulin on body’s fat oxidation can last for a long time after eating. This indicates basically the body reaches its peak fat oxidation rate after an overnight fast. Some athletes resort to exercising without breakfast to get enhanced fat burning capacity. However, keep in mind that when you work out in the fasted state, your exercise capacity may go down. So, you may only indulge in moderate and low intensity exercises then.
  • Mode of Exercise – Athletes resort to specific modes of exercises that promote fat oxidation more than other forms. It has been seen fat oxidation gets a boost by enhanced oxygen intake. Activities involving running and walking aids this.
  • Special Supplements – Apart from taking healthy and nutrient rich foods, athletes sometimes resort to special supplements with fat oxidation boosting benefits nowadays. The indigents and herbs used in such supplements include Asian ginseng, hydroxycitric acid, guarana, cayenne pepper, carnitine etc. However, a section of fitness and health experts question the efficacy of such supplements in enhancing the default fat oxidation in human body. The green tea extracts help enhancing fat oxidation when you work out.
  • Environment – Athletes also make use of the environment to maximize fat oxidation. Working out in a hot area can raise glycogen use and bring down the level of fat oxidation. The same thing can happen at high altitude locations. In cold regions, fat metabolism gets stimulated.

Where it All Leads To?

So, it is quite evident that exercise is the biggest factor for fat oxidation- for athletes and others. However, it is important to tweak intensity, duration of exercise to obtain maximum benefits in this regard. Carbohydrate intake impacts the process significantly as it is clear. It is unclear as to which workout method works the best and every man and woman may not have similar metabolism and fat oxidation rate. Every athlete needs to check suitability of diet, exercise regime and supplements for optimizing his or her fat oxidation.