How to become a Metabolically Efficient Athlete!

How to become a Metabolically Efficient Athlete!

By Debbie Potts

Many competitive endurance athletes are looking to lose weight in the off season, thus finding an extra “Edge” to improve their performance.  For years I have questioned the theory of eating every few miles while endurance training.  I have since discovered the low-carb fueling program for athletes, to get results.   

Energy for endurance training requires an athlete to become metabolically efficient.  What does that mean?  How do we become “Metabolically efficient”?  Endurance athletes need to build up a strong aerobic engine by building an aerobic base, training by heart rate and training the body to use fat for fuel. 

We can’t train the body to use fat for fuel if we are always training near or at their anaerobic threshold.  Plus we can’t train the body to use fuel if we are always eating “healthy carbs” for energy.  If we constantly consume carbohydrates, then we are constantly riding the blood sugar roller coaster.  If we want to lose excess fat and perform better in sports, then we need to get off the “roller coaster”.

I teach my clients how to eat more fat and eliminate their addiction to carbohydrates with my “21 day Rapid Fat Loss Challenge”.  For 21 days, my clients keep a food and exercise log and commit to no processed foods, refined sugar and grains.  My clients have dropped anywhere from 5-20 pounds depending on their weight. 

The biggest challenge for people lowering their daily carbohydrates is learning WHAT TO EAT and how to prepare “smarter” meals.  The “Standard American Diet” (SAD) is reliant on “quick and easy” meals.  People have forgotten how to make an easy meal from REAL FOOD!  It is simple and can be very easy, but we just need a few reminders and a “21 day challenge” to get back into the habit of eating REAL FOOD. 

How many carbohydrates do you eat per day?  For years I over ate carbs and always wondered why I was hungry an hour later and why I would get headaches after some foods.  I would workout at least two times a day (Training for Ironman’s) and never lost weight.  I don’t eat much meat and I followed the “healthy grains” fat free diet plan. 

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, Non-fat and “healthy grains” do not work for weight loss or for endurance athletes.  We continue to read about the newest “non-fat” diets in the popular “Fitness” magazines and on local new stories.  Just think about it… how do you burn fat for fuel when we continue to eat a carbohydrate packed diet and eat every few hours?  The plan just doesn’t make sense.  We need to eat real food while we eliminate refined sugars, processed foods and “healthy “grains. 

In my “21 Day Rapid Fat Loss Challenge” at Fitness Forward Studio, clients eliminate sugar and common food allergens for 21 days to start them on a new lifestyle of eating.  Their goal is to eliminate grains, legumes (including peanuts), soy, commercial diet and alcohol.  We add daily 30 minutes of movement, interval strength training and/or endurance training (those athletes training for events) each week.  You don’t need a carb heavy food plan if you are trying to lose weight, stay healthy or training for an endurance event. 

Here are some pointers and food list from the “Superhuman Master Coach” Ben Greenfield to help you get started on eating a healthy low-carb lifestyle:

Superhuman Pyramid for the Low-Carb Fat Adapted Athlete:

  • For 21 days select foods from the “eat“ list
  • If trying to lose weight thenreduce fruit intake on “eat” list and limit nuts and seeds
  • If eating meat then only consume grass fed animal products and free range eggs
  • If eating dairy then only consume organic grass fed local products

If you have 30 or more lbs. to lose:

  • Limit total daily carbs to 25-50 grams per day
  • Daily goal:  60-65% fat, 25-30% protein and 5-10% protein

If you have less than 30lbs to lose:

  • Workout days:  100-150 grams of carbs per day
  • Non-workout days:  50-100 grams of carbs per day
  • Daily goal:  50-60% fat, 20-30% protein, 10-30% carbs

Weight Loss Eating tips:

  • Avoid snacking
  • Allow 4-5 hours between meals
  • No eating 3-4 hours prior to bed
  • Avoid grains, legumes (including peanuts), soy and commercial dairy
  • If possible, fasted cardio in morning then mid-afternoon interval training three days per week.

Exercise Weight Loss Tips:

If Overweight or obese with 30lbs to lose:

  • Short intense workouts and no “slow cardio”

If less than 30lbs to lose:

  • Workout consistently
  • Aerobic exercise okay if training for event

Superhuman Food Pyramid Food List:  Select the “EAT” items.

Healthy Fats – 3-5 servings per day


• Coconut Oil

• Coconut Meat

• Olive Oil

• Macadamia Nut Oil

• Avocados

• Olives

• Organic Grass-Fed Butter

• Organic Yogurt (Full-Fat)

• Ghee

• Free Range Eggs (With Yolk)

• Grass-Fed Beef, Bison or Buffalo or Lamb

• Sardines, Anchovies or Haddock in Water or Olive Oil

• Wild Salmon, Trout, Tilapia or Flounder

• Triglyceride-Based Fish Oil

• Pure Cod Liver Oil


• Raw Nuts (Except Peanuts)

• Raw Seeds • Almond Butter

• Palm Oil

• Cold Press Flax Oil

• Bacon

• Mayonnaise

• Organic Peanut Butter

• Coconut Ice Cream

• Dark Chocolate


• Roasted Nuts

• Roasted Seeds

• Regular Peanut Butter

• Regular Butter

• Non-Organic Meats

• Margarine

• Any “Spreadable” Condiments

• Farmed Fish

• Commercial Salad Dressings

• Safflower Oil

• Sunflower Oil

• Canola Oil

• Cottonseed Oil

• Commercial Flax Oil

• Soy Ice Cream

• Regular Ice Cream

• Milk Chocolate

Vegetables – 3-5 servings per day


• Sprouts

• Avocados

• Olives

• Asparagus

• Broccoli

• Cauliflower

• Cabbage

• Naturally Fermented Sauerkraut

• Naturally Fermented Pickles

• Bok Choy

• Collards

• Swiss Chard

• Kale

• Mustard Greens

• Nori (Seaweed)

• Organic Greens Powder or Capsule

• Celery

• Cucumber

• Squash

• Zucchini

• Romaine Lettuce

• Red Lettuce

• Iceberg Lettuce

• Fennel

• Radishes

Moderate (add on weekends if 2+ hour longer aerobic workouts):

• Sweet Potatoes


• Plantains

• Potatoes

• Peas

• Carrots


• Canned Vegetables

• Non-Organic, Un-rinsed Vegetables

• Corn

Also avoid if autoimmune disease or nightshade sensitivity:

• Potatoes

• Tomatoes

• Peppers

• Garlic

• Onions

• Eggplant

Proteins – 2-4 servings per day


• Free Range Eggs (With Yolk)

• Grass-Fed Beef, Bison or Buffalo or Lamb

• Pasture-Raised, Organic Pork

• Sardines, Anchovies or Haddock in Water or Olive Oil

• Wild Salmon, Trout, Tilapia or Flounder

• Organic Whey/Casein Protein Powder

• Organic Rice/Pea Protein Powder

• Organic Hemp Protein Powder

• Organic Yogurt (Full-Fat)


• Yogurt Cheese

• Raw Cheese from Grass Fed Cows

• Organic Cottage Cheese

• Naturally preserved or dried meats

• Miso, tempeh, tamari or natto

• Egg protein powder

• Soaked or sprouted beans and legumes

• Raw seeds and nuts

• Raw nut butter


• Non-Organic Dairy Products

• Processed Cheeses

• Non-Organic, Commercially Processed Meat

• Chemically Preserved or Dried Meats

• Protein Powders with Artificial Sweeteners

• Textured Vegetable Proteins

• Soy Protein Powder

• Tofu

• Roasted Seeds and Nuts

• Roasted Nut Butter

• Regular or Canned Beans and Legumes


Non-Vegetable Carbohydrates:

  • Eliminate for low carb – fat adapted plan
  • Limit post challenge 90% rule

Eat Occasionally (Not during the“21 Day Challenge”):

• Wild Rice

• Brown or White Rice

• Sprouted, Organic Quinoa, Amaranth or Millet

• Sprouted Legumes (Beans & Lentils)

• Gluten-Free Oats

• Organic Full-Fat Yogurt

Moderate (but not during 21 day challenge):

• Soaked Legumes (Beans & Lentils)

• Raw Seeds & Nuts

• Soaked, Organic Quinoa, Amaranth or Millet

• Regular Oats

• Fresh Milled Kamut Wheat

• Soaked & Sprouted Wheat Products

• Non-GMO Corn


• Canned Legumes

• Any Regular Wheat Products

• GMO Corn

• Roasted Seeds & Nuts

• Fava Beans

• Soy Beans

• Soy Nuts

• Regular Yogurt

• Cookies

• Biscotti

• Scones

• Crackers

• Bagels

• Bread

• Cereal


  • Not during 21 Day Challenge if  trying to lose 10 plus pounds
  • Add 1-2 servings a day post challenge
  • Limit if trying to lose weight and becoming fat adapted


• Apples

• Apricots

• Bananas

• Berries

• Cherries

• Cantaloupe

• Grapefruit

• Kiwi

• Mangoes

• Nectarines

• Oranges

• Papayas

• Peaches

• Pears

• Pineapple

• Plum

• Watermelon



• Limes

• Grapes

• Strawberries

• Dates

• Figs

• Natural Dried Fruit

• Fruit Juices


• Canned Fruit

• Fruit in Syrup

• Fruit Candy

• Sugar Coated Dried Fruit

• Packaged Dried Fruit

Herbs, Spices & Sweeteners – Use When Needed:


• Cinnamon (great for reducing inflammation)

• Cloves

• All-spice

• Stevia

• Xylitol

• Maltitol

• Turmeric

• Curry

• Cumin

• Fennel

• Star Anise

• Garlic

• Ginger


• Raw, Pollinated Honey

• Organic Maple Syrup

• Natural Fruit Sweeteners

• Blackstrap Molasses

• Sucanat

• Truvia

• Regular Table Salt

• Red Pepper

• Black Pepper

• Fermented Soy Sauce

• Apple Cider Vinegar

• Brewer’s Yeast


• Processed Sugar

• Candy

• High Fructose Corn Syrup

• Regular Honey

• Agave Syrup

• Aspartame

• Sucralose

• Acesulfame


Source: Ben Greenfield Fitness.

I challenge you to keep a food diary for one week, start reading labels and start eating real food without labels!  Take notice on when you are eating and why you are eating… what is your relationship with food?  Are you eating because you are hungry or maybe because you are watching TV or it is a certain time of day (breakfast time or lunch time!)?

The next step is to add more healthy fats into your daily food plan and immediately notice how much more steady energy you have all day long and how you end up being full all day.  Before you know it, you will lose the carb cravings and stop the “mindless” eating.

Let me know how you feel on your workout.  Use your heart rate monitor for training and keep in your aerobic zone (look up MAFF formula) most workouts.  Make sure you add some interval training 2-3 times per week (Fitness Forward offers “FFIT” workout).

Mark your progresses with measurements at the beginning of the challenge… remember to take your measurements the beginning of your new food plan as you will be losing inches each week.  Weigh in every Monday to stay on track and keep focused daily by setting goals for the day.

You are on the way to become a fat –adapted athlete… and a lean mean fat burning machine!

Debbie Potts, Fitness Forward Studio


Integrating Nutrition & Exercise for Performance

Personal Training-Metabolic Training-Nutrition-Coaching

118 105th Ave NE, Bellevue, WA 98004

(425) 466-3653