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When I did a complete 180 of my diet a few years ago, it was because I learned this simple (yet surprisingly not well-known) fact:
The human body can run on one of two energy sources: sugar or fat.
Which is better?
After brief consideration of some facts, I’ll let you be the judge.
A sugar burner…
- Can’t burn stored fat for energy.
- You know that extra fat around your thighs and tummy? If you’re a sugar burner, it’s likely there to stay.
- Why? When the body is 100% focused on burning sugar, it does just that: it burns sugar rather than those fat stores!
- Thus, a sugar burner may have difficulty losing weight and an increased risk for chronic illness.
- Doesn’t burn dietary fat for energy.
- When a person in the sugar-burning state eats fat, the body doesn’t burn it off.
- Again, the body’s focus is burning off sugar/carbs, NOT fat!
- So, a sugar burner will store the dietary fat, which will likely accumulate and contribute to both weight gain and an increased risk of chronic illness.
- Is constantly hungry and experiences periods of withdrawal (in the form of lightheadedness, headaches, etc.) when not eating.
- If a person in the sugar-burning state goes a few hours without food or skips an entire meal, he or she may become ravenous!
- Humans evolved burning fat for energy, but, as you know from the first two bullet points, a sugar burner burns sugar, NOT fat. Once the blood sugar from this person’s sugar-centric diet is all used up, hunger pangs set in. That’s why constant eating in the sugar-burning state feels like a necessity.
For years of my adult life, I thought I was eating the healthiest diet possible, but I was, in fact, in a constant sugar-burning state. I was hungry allllll of the time! See this blog post to read more about my personal experience.
A fat burner…
- Can burn stored fat for energy.
- A person in the fat-burning state can say SEE YA to any extra body fat he or she has gained (and likely tried over and over to lose!) once and for all!
- So, a fat burner can finally achieve his or her optimal weight and also reduce his or her risk for chronic illness.
- Does burn dietary fat for energy.
- Since the fat burner’s body runs on fat as its primary fuel source, it must burn fat rather than storing it in/on the body.
- If you guessed that this leads to optimal weight and a reduced risk of chronic illness, you guessed correctly!
- Feels fine after not eating for several hours—and even skipping meals!
- A person in the fat-burning state is no longer dependent on the availability of food for his or her happiness or energy.
- When a fat burner skips a meal, his or her body still eats. How? See the points above! This person’s body literally eats up his or her stored fat for energy.
So, to summarize, you can choose between these two options:
You can be the type of person who…
- Easily packs on extra pounds
- Has difficulty losing weight
- Puts him/herself at a higher risk for chronic illness
- Needs to eat in order to avoid lightheadedness, headaches, and/or moodiness
You can be the type of person who…
- Easily drops those extra lbs
- Maintains an optimal weight
- Has a lower risk for chronic illness
- Is not dependent on constant snacks/meals to feel amazing
Sign me up for the latter, please!
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How do you know if you’re currently a sugar burner or a fat burner?
First, consider your diet overall.
What do you predominately eat?
If refined carbohydrates (see a comprehensive list of refined carbs here), sugars (both refined and natural), and grains make up a sizable portion of your diet, you’re likely a sugar burner.
Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I hungry the moment I wake up each morning?
- If I skip breakfast, do I feel lightheaded, unfocused, and/or headache-y?
- Between meals, do I feel hunger pangs and need to eat snacks?
- Do I find myself saying or thinking, “I’m starving! If I don’t eat as soon as possible, it’s not going to be pretty…”
- Do I have to eat before I exercise?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above, you’re likely a sugar burner, which is really no surprise at all.
Currently, most Americans are sugar burners, which is one of the primary reasons—if not THE primary reason—chronic illness is on the rise.
Any American following the government’s MyPlate guidelines and eating foods that fall under the Standard American Diet—a diet centered around processed foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods, vegetable oils, refined sugars, etc.—will inevitably find him/herself in the sugar-burning state.
Note: The “sugar” in “sugar burner” pertains to refined grains, as well, because these lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin after meals. So, you can think of cereal, bread, pasta, pastries, bagels, muffins, etc., as foods that prevent your body from switching into the desired and optimized fat-burning mode.
A few years ago, I chose to take the path to becoming a fat burner—and I’ve never looked back!
I can’t even explain in words how much better I feel; it’s a feeling you’d have to experience for yourself!
Whether you realize it or not, your body is begging to burn fat, NOT sugar.
In this era of fast food and quick snacks, most Americans consume an overwhelming amount of refined carbohydrates and sugar; both throw the body out of whack and create internal havoc.
Enter: the long and ever-growing list of chronic illnesses, including diabetes, autoimmune disease, and heart disease.
In the evolutionary scheme of things, we didn’t have access to these fast carbs/sugars…and we were better off!
It’s no coincidence that the rise in sugar consumption mirrors the rise in obesity:
It’s also no coincidence that the rise in obesity parallels the rise in chronic illness!
Our bodies are evolutionarily predisposed to consume whole foods and healthy fats; they absolutely thrive in the fat-burning state!
Still not convinced? Check out this article by Mark Sisson, the godfather of the primal health movement, for a comprehensive explanation as to why humans are—and always have been!—better off burning fat than sugar.
Are you ready to become a fat-adapted, fat-burning powerhouse?
Ultimately, the goal is to reduce your body’s reliance on refined carbs.
According to Virta Health, “If you are fat-adapted, it implies you have restricted carbs enough to induce an increase in fat burning. Fat-adapted athletes, and sedentary folks, can derive up to twice as much of their energy needs from fat, while decreasing their dependency on carbs (Volek, 2011; Volek, 2016).”
That being said, here’s the recipe for success: EAT healthy fats and proteins in the form of WHOLE FOODS (e.g., 100% grass-fed/pastured meat, extra virgin olive oil, wild-caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, etc.).
When you do eat carbohydrates, make sure they’re the good, “slow” carbs found in fruits and vegetables.
Wanna learn more about “slow” carbs? Check out this video.
However, don’t overdo it on the fruit. Natural sugar is still sugar, and remember: the goal is to reduce your body’s reliance on sugar!
AVOID refined carbs/sugar and processed foods.
It’s that straightforward!
However, since grocery stores are filled with processed crap and other garbage, what should be simple can feel extremely challenging.
Fortunately, websites like dietdoctor.com are chock full o’ resources in the form of visuals and guides to help you on your journey. Here’s one of my favorite images from the site:
Take a close look at the spread above and notice that there’s no space for most bread (made from highly processed wheat no matter which “whole grain” promises it makes), cereal (absolute empty, unfulfilling calories), candy bars, ice cream, sugary granola, run-of-the-mill crackers, etc.
Clearly, the fat-adapted diet is much simpler and less sexy than the Standard American Diet.
Possibly, this fat-adapted recipe for success even seems “un-fun” to you.
Again, you’ll have to experience the benefits for yourself to realize that your improved health, mental clarity, and heightened mood will completely outweigh any perceived sacrifices!
If replacing refined carbs (like cereal) with whole foods (like hard boiled eggs) seems like too much of a sacrifice when doing so could bump you towards the most optimal health you’ve ever experienced, isn’t the real sacrifice actually keeping the cereal in your diet?
When you overhaul your diet, you must also reframe your thinking to focus on what you’ll gain rather than what you’ll lose. (Well, there’s one loss you should focus on: those pesky extra pounds!)
Also, remember that there’s always a time and place for special treats!
Once you’re fat-adapted, the occasional scoop of ice cream will probably not bump you out of your fat-burning state. However, it’s important to be honest with yourself in order to make treats the exception, NOT the norm!
I’m all in! How long will it take me to become fat-adapted?
Really, it depends on several factors. For a thorough explanation, see this article by Dr. David Ludwig: “Adapting to Fat on a Low-Carb Diet”
It can take several weeks, so don’t give up if you don’t experience results right away!
And—unfortunately!—you may feel worse before you feel better.
Since your body will likely need to revamp as it learns how to burn fat rather than sugar, you may experience what some people have named the “keto flu.”
Just knowing that this is a possible—but short-lived!—side effect will help you maintain focus and determination; if you feel terrible at first, it’s probably a great sign that you’re on the right track!
Final thought: Think it’s impossible to exercise in the absence of sugar/carbs?
More and more ultra athletes are noticing benefits when performing in a fat-adapted state.
Chances are you’re not an ultra athlete; you probably spend about an hour or so exercising at a time. Thus, you’ll be just fine!
If an ultra runner can race in the fat-adapted state, you can certainly make it through your hour-long workout in the same state.
The goos, bars, and energy drinks (like Gatorade!) at box gyms are just a tiny piece of a large web of marketing lies.
Don’t be fooled! Your body doesn’t need sugar before/after a workout to “recover,” or whatever that label is promising.
If necessary, grab a handful of almonds and a bottle of water before you hop on the treadmill.
(Or better yet, when you’re completely fat-adapted, don’t grab any snack at all and exercise on an empty stomach. It’s totally possible—and even preferable!—for many athletes!)
Bottom line: Now that I’ve experienced the benefits of living in a fat-burning state, I’ll never look back! If you’re interested in dropping those extra pounds, burning dietary fat for fuel, and reducing your risk for chronic illness, try kicking refined carbs/sugar to the curb for good!
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