Aspen Times Weekly: Lifestyles of the rich |

Aspen Times Weekly: Lifestyles of the rich

Protein Foods
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Aspen Sports Summit

March 27 & 28

Aspen Meadows Resort

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IMAGINE EATING a plate of cheesy whole eggs with bacon and sliced avocado, alongside coffee with heavy cream, for breakfast. At lunch, consume a handful of nuts and a huge salad topped with chicken, salami, or tuna salad. Dinner is fatty, well-marbled steak or sautéed calf’s liver with a side of sautéed vegetables drenched in butter. Quash errant hunger pangs — though unlikely with all this rich food — with some cheese, chicken liver pâté, or a few spoonfuls of almond butter. Cap the evening with a glass of red wine or a few squares of dark chocolate. When in doubt, put a pat of butter on it.

“In general, I find that this diet is very palatable and even indulgent,” writes Canadian sports physician and endurance athlete Andy Reed on his website. “If I’m on top of things, I’ll get about 75 percent of my daily calories from fat sources.”

In 2013, Reed crushed the Four Peaks race in Alberta, setting a time record to boot. He credits his success to a revolutionary program called Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM), a style of eating meant to re-train the body to burn fat, not carbohydrates, for fuel. (“Eat Butter,” proclaimed the cover of TIME magazine in June.)

Other athletes, from figure skaters to ultra-marathoners to boxers, are following suit, leading researchers to discover that the human body may be able to process fat at a higher rate than previously thought possible. It’s this controversial topic that nutritionist and OFM champion Peter Defty will explore at the inaugural Aspen Sports Summit, a convocation of health, fitness, medicine, and sports training held at the Aspen Meadows Resort this weekend.

“When in doubt, add a pat of butter.” —Peter Defty, developer of VESPA Optimized Fat Metabolism Program and featured speaker at the Aspen Sports Summit

“No matter what conference I go to, nutrition always seems to trip people up,” says Bill Fabrocini, Aspen Sports Summit founder and former director of the Aspen Club’s Sports Performance Program. “We know plants are good for us. We know processed sugar is bad for you. [Defty] has [athletes] on a feeding plan that’s 80 percent fat. They’re training their body to turn fat to fuel, and they’re setting world records, it’s amazing.”

Fabrocini calls OFM “a paradigm shift on the horizon in sports physiology, nutrition, and metabolism.” Here’s some of what Defty will discuss during his presentation on Saturday at the Aspen Sports Summit.


In 2010, Stephen Phinney, MD/PhD and Jeff Volek RD/PhD, leading researchers in the field of ketogenic diets, conducted a study called FASTER (Fat-Adapted Substrate oxidation in Trained Elite Runners) that compares physiological differences between elite male ultra-marathon runners who followed a conventional high-carbohydrate diet with those on a fat-adapted, low-carb strategy. They determined that a fat-fueled lifestyle offers a competitive edge.


“Data shows that humans can burn fat at a much higher rate than we previously thought possible,” Defty says. “Right now, current sports nutrition literature says humans can only burn up to one gram of fat per minute. Most athletes in the FASTER study were burning a mean of 1.54 grams/minute. One guy was burning 1.8 grams/minute! A properly implemented Paleo-style diet in conjunction with an active lifestyle gets you back to where your body wants to burn fat.”


Little to no fruit; dairy is allowed. Whole food, whole animal — including organ meats, skin, and connective tissue. “You get to eat a lot of luxurious food,” Defty says. “Pâté, foie gras, whole eggs and bacon, quiche, omelets. Fatty cuts of meat, chicken, duck, fish, salmon with hollandaise. Steamed asparagus or broccoli with butter, Brussels sprouts with bacon bits. Rich custards, crème brulee, cheesecake without a lot of sugar. It’s a rich diet.”


Active Aspenites can do this, Defty says. “A good level of fitness is someone in half-marathon shape — you can go out for two, two-and-a-half hours on a hike or a jog or go garden for three to four hours and not have hunger pangs.” Gender matters, too. “It’s a lot easier for me than it is for a female,” Defty says, due to biological hardwiring.


“That physiological response, when you take away the addictive substance, is powerful,” Defty says. “You don’t associate carbohydrates — amber waves of grain; whole-grain goodness — with heroin or cocaine or nicotine. [But] too much carbohydrate in the diet for some people is just like any drug.”


“In today’s modern diet, we’re eating way more carbohydrates than we should. Humans ate concentrated carbohydrates three to four times a year, when berries or fruit were ripe; we weren’t eating it three to five times a day for decades. You have to think of carbohydrates as sugar. This is oversimplifying, but one of the main drivers of fat accumulation is insulin, a hormone that’s trying to do its job. If you have too much sugar in your system, it can kill you. It’s a toxic load, but we don’t notice it because our body secretes insulin, which drives that blood sugar down and shuts down your ability to burn fat.”


“We burn saturated fats cleaner and better than polyunsaturated fats,” Defty explains. “This is esoteric science that’s not in the media yet. You don’t have oxidative stress or the lactate load. Because you’re burning it, it doesn’t accumulate in your arteries or your heart.”


“When you induce the physiological shift back to burning fat as fuel, you’re taking away the energy source your body has adapted to,” Defty says. “When insulin levels get down to where you can release the fat, you can’t access the fuel you want to — carbs. That can be somewhat stressful.”


“Because nutrition is so key to survival, if we’ve been led to believe something and fear other things, it’s really hard to dislodge that,” Defty explains. “We fear fat, we fear salt, we fear not having carbohydrates. Jeff Volek is leading the science. I’ve been saying this for seven years. When you’re way ahead of the science, people think you’re a heretic. It’s tough to convince people there’s a better way out there.”

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