14 April 2015

burn baby burn: a newbie takes on fat-loading

i've carbo-loaded before.  a three-day focus on building up my carbohydrates stores in advance of marathons has worked well for me - and truth be told i like gobbling down all of those muffins, breads, pastas and sports drinks.  it's kind of a treat.

but this is a first.

i'm fat-loading.

after having read several articles about this recently highlighted approach to distance event competition preparation (some in favour - like here, here and here - and some not so much - like here and here), i decided to give it a go in advance of the waterloo marathon on apr. 26.  given that i'm a hack at everything i do, i thought that it would be best to consult somebody who is (a) experienced in fat-loading, (b) a high-level athlete and (c) well-studied in sport sciences.  so without a second thought i reached out to my friend stan ong for advice.


gracious as ever, stan was quick to say that he was glad that i'd asked, and then probed just a bit to find out how to best craft a fat-loading plan that would meet my specific needs (including finding out what a typical meal would look like for me, my current weight and foods that i won't/can't eat).  factoring in all of this info, stan came back with an outline of a daily menu that i could riff off of and use to map out the week's grocery store trip.

if you've followed along with my blogventures then you know that i can't leave well enough alone - i like to tinker.  the beauty with this outline that stan's provided is that it has some flex to it - he even makes concessions for the occasional 'carb craving', allowing for a piece of toast or fruit here and there.  with that in mind, i was keen to launch into this new dimension of race readying.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on
i'm now a day and a half into it, and so far i've noticed a few things:
  1. stan provided advanced warning that fats don't provide that 'full up' feeling like carbs do - and i admit to feeling noticeably hungrier after each meal yesterday and today.
  2. so far it looks like fats lead to less weight gain than carbs - maybe because carbs trigger greater water retention.
  3. it's already painful to stare at the loaves of bread and bags of potatoes on my kitchen countertop.
but i will see this thing through - and trust that there will be a pay-off come race day in terms of efficiently metabolizing fat as fuel, and staving off the vaunted 'wall'.

fat fingers crossed!



  1. Hi Patrick. Thanks for the shout out as usual. I really hope this strategy helps you as it has helped me in past races. If anything, that plate of pasta that you will eat next Thursday will be extra tasty!

    On a related note, I read through one of the links you provided above and as much as Dr. Lewis Maharam is credentialed, I have a lot of reservations with stuff he writes...eg, calling Lactic Acid a fatigue by product, pointing out the the fat-coronary disease link (which we know doesnt exactly happen with the kinds of fats this loading phase recommends). In his other posts, he recommend orthotics and stretching for achilles tendinosis. These days we know that lactic acid isn't a fatigue by product and orthotics aren't as useful as people thought they were (same with static stretching) Just my 2 cents.

    1. my pleasure stan - you continue to help me both directly and indirectly to become a better person and athlete!

      and there you have it - you can't trust everything you read on the interweb now, can you? :) thanks for the insights about Dr. Maharam - i just wanted to be fair and share some pro- and con- perspectives on fat-loading with anyone who'd care to read this little bloggie of mine.

    2. Hi Patrick, It usually takes at least 3 weeks for your body to become fat adapted, so hopefully you can do that in time. Also I find that eating a diet more focussed on fats rahter than carbs, I feel fuller with less and don't get hungry between meals as much.

    3. thanks for 'weighing in' keith (sorry for the pun)! interesting - as an experienced ultra guy who relies on efficient fat-burning to complete your races i appreciate your insights about the length of time required for sufficient adaptation. this is definitely a bit of an experiment for me.

      i still don't get the 'fuller' feeling ... maybe i'm screwing this up?!?

  2. I think I finally did a proper carb load before my last marathon so don't know if I'm ready to try something new yet, but this is an interesting idea. Curious to see how it works out for you!

    1. thanks mike! this is about as scientific as it gets for me ... and man, can i tell you that i can hardly WAIT for that first plate of pasta next thursday!