Ketosis and Fat Burning Benefits for Runners with Doctors Art Zemach and Mark Cucuzzella

Ketosis and Fat Burning is it Right for You?

Today we have a special episode with two medical doctors who are also avid runners and personally advocate for the fat burning way of eating that creates ketosis and, for many people, fat loss and increased performance as a runner.

We’re talking with Dr. Mark Cucuzzella and Art Zemach, who have both interviewed on this podcast before. This is an informative and interesting topic for many of you, presented from professionals who know the subject intimately. Both doctors have used the Low Carb /  High Fat concept in their own running and have offered to speak professionally as well as personally to the pros and cons of ketosis as a nutritional concept for runners.

Controversial but growing concept

This controversial but growing nutritional and performance concept is helping many runners see improved results in their training and their racing.

Run for Your Life

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella spoke to us on our September 26, 2018 podcast episode when he discussed his book called Run For Your Life. Mark has been running for decades and holds some amazing race records. His book addresses many of the common questions that runners want to understand: proper gear, motivation, form, and injury prevention. Dr. Cucuzzella describes the book as a “path to self discovery”. In this episode, he focuses on nutrition and specifically Low Carb /  High Fat eating as a way to be healthy and improve running performance.

A perfect protein

Dr. Zemach is a pediatrician, kayak racer, and endurance athlete. We first met him on June 19, 2018 when he talked with us about sports recovery drinks. He has competed in Ironman Switzerland, the Imogene Pass Run, the Double Dipsea run, the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, the Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon, and the Pan American Canoe Slalom Championships.

Dr.  Zemach worked with Tailwind Nutrition founder Jeff Vierling to develop Tailwind Rebuild, the first sport recovery drink based on a perfectly complete protein. He has six children, and lives in Durango, Colorado.

Carbs are not created equal

We will learn how not all carbs are created equally, or bad, when is the optimal time to take in simple carbs for a race and many other enlightening facts about our bodies’ metabolism.

Questions Art and Mark are asked:

4:15 First Four:

  1. How old are you?
  2. Where were you born?
  3. Where do you live now?
  4. What is your favorite race distance or type of race?

6:02 What is ‘Ketosis’?

10:17 How is fat burning related to Ketosis and weight loss?

14:38 How can a ketogenic diet improve runners’ performances?

19:44 Mark, how does heart rate and VO2Max play into fat burning?

23:20 What do your typical diets look like?

25:32 How do units of carbs convert to calories?

26:17 What are the different kinds of carbs and which ones are healthier?

32:28 Is there a place for carb-fueling in Marathons if you’re fat-adapted?

41:55 Are there any long term safety  concerns with ketosis and a ketogenic diet?

43:46 What about eating grains?

48:40 Any final thoughts?

53:56 Final Kick Round:

  1. What is your favorite local training run or outing (location, starting point, parking, distance, terrain and safety issues)?
  2. Favorite running or health related book(s)?
  3. Words of Wisdom or Humor?
  4. Who or what would you like to have featured on the Run To The Top podcast?

Quotes by Art and Mark:

“Almost anyone who eats a healthy diet and lives a pretty healthy lifestyle wakes up a little ketotic every morning. Ketones are a a fuel that your body makes when you’re starting to run out of carbohydrate. And everyone begins to run out of their carbohydrate stores when they fast and most people are in a little bit of a fast after a long night’s sleep.” – Dr. Art Zemach

“The worst thing an athlete can do is right at the starting line have a bunch of simple carbohydrate because if your insulin is up, your body can’t use fat as fuel. So you’ve just vandalized your whole race strategy by throwing some Gatorade in at the start. It takes about 30 minutes for your fat engine to really get going.” – Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

“There’s a clarity of mind you can experience after a number of days of fasting. I think it’s interesting that almost every major religion in the world has some sort of fasting protocol.” –  Dr. Art Zemach

“Fat burning is kind of like a Tesla; there’s no exhaust. Sugar burning, carb burning is much more inflammatory reactant so people who are just burning carbs all day, their fascia is stickier, they’re stiffer. Then when they shift to this type of diet, that little tendinopathy, that Achilles Tendonosis, Plantar Fascia, a lot of these things tend to go away.” – Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

“A diet that emphasizes fat burning can make you a better fat burner, as well” – Dr. Art Zemach

“If you can burn fat, really quickly and efficiently, that heart rate you can run while burning fat is higher; which means a faster pace. Carb metabolism makes us create more carbon dioxide which increases our ventilation. There’s a certain pace where they have to breathe faster; they’re burning sugar right there. So your goal is to run fast while you’re carrying a conversation. That means you’re in the right place” – Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Take a Listen on Your Next Run

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page

Blinkist Homepage

RunnersConnect 2019 Running Retreats

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on Run To The Top

Dr. Art Zemach on Run To The Top

Dr. Timothy Noakes on Run To The Top

Book: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Book: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney

Book: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Stephen D. Phinney and Jeff S. Volek

Book: Run For Your Life – By Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Animas Mountain trail head

Harper’s Ferry National Park

Freedom’s Run Half Marathon

Book: The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain

Follow Art:

Tailwind Nutrition homepage

e-mail Dr. Art Zemach

Follow Dr. Mark Cucuzzella on:

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella’s Blog

Run For Your Life Homepage



We really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Run to the Top and hope to have you join us again soon.

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