We all know sugar burners, or maybe you are one? You can spot them a mile away, or I do. I know them well because I was one once. Sugar burners eat the whole day, and they get hangry. The ones who are trying to eat healthily, carry a massive cool box filled with Tupperware to work. I know, because that was me. I was priding myself on my healthy habits of eating my “clean, small meals” the whole day, keeping my metabolism fast (who told us this silly “fact”?). Little did I know I was doing my body and metabolism a disservice. Let me explain to you how your body uses fuel(energy) and why you don’t want to be a sugar burner.
There are millions of chemical reactions happening in our bodies all the time. The sum and or combinations of all these reactions is called our metabolism. If these reactions are more active, our metabolic rate is higher (faster), and if there are fewer actions, the metabolic rate is lower or slower. You can read our blog post about Intermittent Fasting vs Calorie restriction to understand how calorie restriction also lowers your metabolic rate. Whatever happens in the body, the body needs the energy to get all of this done. And this is why we eat; we eat for energy.
There are three macronutrients in our diet, namely carbohydrates, protein and fat. Protein is a building block while we use mainly carbs and fat for fuel. The hormone insulin determines which one of the two fuels we use for energy. If Insulin determines energy, does the food we eat affect Insulin? Yes, it does. When we eat processed carbs like bread, pasta or white rice, we see a substantial increase in Insulin and Insulin can stay elevated for up to hours. When we eat fat, it has a negligible effect on Insulin.
Depending on the level of Insulin, the body makes a decision. When Insulin is high, it gets energy from carbs and it goes into sugar burning mode. On the other hand, if Insulin is low, the body switches and burns fat for fuel. If we burn more sugar, Insulin won’t let us burn body fat when elevated, and our body fat goes up, we get fatter. So, you can understand in order for you to burn body fat and lose weight, you have to lower insulin levels. Also, if Insulin is too high for too long, it creates insulin resistance.
Why should you care about insulin resistance?
Because insulin resistance is the leading cause of almost any chronic disease out there like high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, PCOS and many others, including certain types of cancers. If you fear chronic disease, you should fear insulin resistance.
What is the answer?
You have to make metabolic flexibility the goal. The concept to switch between carbs and fats as fuel is called metabolic flexibility. Unfortunately, many people today eat so many carbs and sugar all the time, that Insulin gets stuck in a high position, and the body is stuck in sugar burning mode. Insulin is chronically elevated, and the body can’t get access to body fat to burn it as fuel. This situation causes metabolic inflexibility, the body can not switch between burning carbs and fat. Once all the carbs (sugar) are burned up for energy, the sugar burners hit a wall, feel like crap and get hangry if they don’t get food very soon. We need that flexibility to be healthy. The solution is to start reducing carbs and allow the Insulin to come down, and the body to begin using the significant source of fuel, our body fat.
Another great reason to burn high levels of fat for a long time is ketones. The liver starts to produce ketones after a while of fat burning, which is very beneficial for our health. In the presence of ketones, people with Alzheimer’s show better memory, the heart works more efficiently, the muscles have less oxidative stress when exercising, and it turns down inflammation. When the body burns fat, we have a higher metabolic rate. Ketones help the body to be a little bit better.
Prof Ben Bikman who studies Insulin has this great advice: “Prioritize protein, fuel with fat and control carbs. Be smart about your choices.”
Make the best decision for your health today. Decide and take action to be a fat burner.