A high-fat, low-carb diet may be a solution for reducing body fat.
Carbohydrates are a mainstay in our diet, and for decades we have been told that the bulk of our daily calories should come from carbohydrate-based foods while minimizing our consumption of saturated fat. But your body can readily use fat for fuel in the absence of carbohydrates. The key is not in teaching your body to burn fat, but in re-thinking the way you eat.
Food as Fuel
Your body is uniquely designed to use carbohydrates and fats to create energy. Carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, and fat is stored throughout your body as adipose tissue. In the absence of oxygen, you can use carbohydrates to make anaerobic energy in the form of ATP in your cells, but fat is an oxidative fuel and cannot be converted to energy without oxygen. When oxygen is abundantly available, your cells make ATP in the mitochondria, tiny organelles that often are referred to as the power plants of the cell, where both fats and carbs can be used as fuel. When you restrict your carbohydrate consumption, fat is recruited from your diet and from adipose stores to make ATP in the mitochondria.
Fat and Fiction
In a 2011 article published in "Psychology Today," Emily Deans, MD explains that during periods of fasting or low carbohydrate eating, our bodies and brains can readily shift from burning glucose to burning what are called ketone bodies, which are created in the liver from the breakdown of fats. Your body frequently enters a ketogenic state during periods of fasting, as when you are sleeping, and can readily shift from reliance on carbohydrates for fuel to reliance on fat. Deans notes that a ketogenic diet is low in both protein and carbohydrates, and high in fat, which defies the modern prescription of low-fat diets that coincides with increased obesity, diabetes and mental health disorders.
Exercise and Fat Metabolism
During rhythmic endurance exercise like walking, running, cycling and swimming, a steady supply of oxygen to your cells makes fat an ideal source of fuel because your body stores ample amounts of it, and it yields high amounts of ATP. It has long been thought that anaerobic resistance training is not effective for burning fat, but a 2010 study of overweight women published in "Nutrition and Metabolism" found that subjects on a ketogenic diet performing 10 weeks of resistance training lost weight and significantly reduced their body fat percentage while maintaining their lean muscle mass. In the same study, subjects on a regular diet increased their lean mass and gained weight, but did not reduce body fat.
The Fat-Burning Diet
To enhance your capacity to burn fat for energy, the late John Yudkin, former professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at Queen Elizabeth College in the University of London, recommended a diet consisting of 50 to 75 grams of carbohydrates, with the rest of your nutrients coming from meat, fish, eggs, cheese and their natural fats. To ensure you are getting ample amounts of vitamins and minerals, the majority of your carbohydrate foods should consist of a variety of fresh vegetables. Due to their relatively high sugar content, fresh fruits should be eaten in moderation. Avoid highly processed carbohydrates like sugars and refined grains that provide calories but have little nutritional value. Popular examples of ketogenic diets include the Atkins Diet and the Paleo Diet.