With all the conflicting health info out there and fad diets coming out every few months, it can be hard to understand which information is real and truly beneficial. One such “trend” is that of being a fat burner or being in ketosis. But what does it mean and why is it so beneficial?
We look at fat burning vs sugar burning metabolism and how you can burn fat instead of sugar.
What is a Sugar Burner?
A sugar burner is someone who’s body uses sugar as the main source of fuel which is the body’s preferred source of fuel since it can be used as energy quickly. Your body obtains sugar from eating starchy foods, grains, vegetables, fruit, candy, etc.
The carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (a sugar molecule) during digestion. Some glucose is then distributed into your muscles and liver to be stored as glycogen and the rest enters your bloodstream to fuel your cells as needed. When these stores are depleted, you feel hungry and very likely crave foods containing sugar to refuel.
What is a Fat Burner?
A fat burner is what the name suggests. Instead of using sugar as the main source of fuel, the body uses fat instead. Sugar burners do use fat as fuel, usually during low-intensity exercise or times of illness and starvation, but these are the only times.
With fat burners, most activities will use fat as the fuel source. According to Healthline, a pound of body fat contains anything between 3436 to 3752 calories. How much body fat each person has varies, but we each have several pounds of it. That’s a lot of energy.
Fat does take longer to convert to energy which is why high-intensity activities such as sprinting or lifting heavy bags still require sugar. Most other activities can use fat as fuel.
The Benefits of Being a Fat Burner
Here are a few reasons to consider making the transition:
Achieve and Maintain a Better Body Composition More Easily
Being a fat burner can be really helpful for losing body fat and maintaining a healthy weight. A 2004 study found that fat burners experience greater short-term weight loss, especially in the abdominal area. This is a problem area for many people, especially men who tend to store more fat in the belly area.
It’s a common myth that if you eat in a way that encourages your body to burn fat as fuel that you will lose muscle or be unable to build any money. This is false. Your body will be getting enough sugar to supply your muscles with the type of energy needed for more intense workouts geared towards gaining muscle. It’s just about training smart.
As long as you eat in the recommended way and train properly, you won’t even hamper your performance in the gym.
Sustained Energy Throughout the Day
Because your body will be burning fat for fuel and there is enough to go around from the food you eat and fat stores in your body, it’s a sustainable source of energy.
Ever notice how you feel when you come down from a sugar high? That fatigue and/or hunger is caused by your body running out of fuel. This is part of the reason why being a fat burner is better for type 2 diabetics. There are no blood sugar spikes and drops.
Being a Fat Burner Can Help to Treat Certain Diseases
Being a fat burner can be beneficial for people struggling with other health conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), metabolic syndrome, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. This is because insulin sensitivity improves, excess weight is lost, and other health markers such as triglyceride (blood fat) levels improve as well.
Health conditions involving the brain, particularly in terms of seizures often involve the inability of the brain to use sugar as fuel. Many parts of the brain can also use fat as fuel and once the body is can use fat as the main source of fuel effectively, many people with these particular health conditions find some relief.
Better Appetite Control
A big reason for the reduced appetite that many fat burners experience is because of stable blood sugar levels. The protein and fat content also keep people fuller for longer. This is because these two macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein are all macronutrients) take longer to digest than sugar.
How to Transition from a Sugar Burner to a Fat Burner
If our bodies naturally prefer to burn sugar as fuel, isn’t it hard to become a fat burner? Yes and no. The hardest part is the transition period, but after it’s much easier. Here are some of the ways to transition and maximize your fat-burning even when you are a sugar burner.
Diet Tips To Burn Fat Instead Of Sugar
For your body to use fat as fuel (ketosis), your carb intake will have to be very low at around 5 to 10 percent per day. The actual amount in grams will vary from person to person based on calorie needs, but this is usually around 20 to 50 grams.
You will need to avoid starchy foods and grains like rice, potatoes, bread, porridge, beans, peas, carrots, yams, beetroot, and exclude high sugar fruits such as apples, bananas, peaches, grapes, etc. It goes without saying that candy, cookies, cakes, and most types of alcoholic beverages will need to be avoided too.
This may sound restrictive, but there are a lot of great-tasting and healthy foods that you can eat as you will see in the diet plan section coming up. Just be aware that you also need to keep your protein intake in check to stay in ketosis. This is around 40 to 50 g for women and 50 to 60 g for men per day.
What About Just a Low Carb Diet?
Low carbohydrate diets contain between 50 and 150 grams of carbs, and can still beneficial, but are unlikely to switch your body over to ketosis. You will still achieve weight loss, have better blood sugar levels, and it will benefit your insulin sensitivity.
It’s easier than it sounds to keep track of how many carbs you eat each day. Using an app (My Fitness Pal or Lose It) to track your food and nutrient intake can be helpful. This may sound tedious, but once you learn the average amount of macronutrients in various foods and/or follow delicious recipes, you will find it a lot less tedious and won’t need to log your foods anymore.
Exercise for Sugar Burners – Strength Training
If you do prefer to eat low carb but don’t want to take on a ketogenic diet, you can maximize your exercise sessions to enhance your fat-burning capability. We’ve always been told that cardio is king when it comes to fat-burning activities, and while cardio is certainly beneficial, focussing on strength and resistance training can be more beneficial.
Strength or Resistance Training
Building muscle ensures not only that your body is stronger and less prone to injury, but in comparison to fat, it will burn more calories overall, helping you to burn more fat. The effect may be small, resulting in up to 30 extra calories burned per day, but along with all the health gains and a body that works more efficiently, you will notice improvements provided you eat healthily.
You can lift weights, do bodyweight exercises, or do circuit training. All of these will help you to improve your physique and strength. Stick to between 8 to 12 reps (example, one squat is one rep), and do two to four sets per exercise. Do a strength workout at least twice a week with at least 24 hours of rest in between.
Strength training often results in what’s known as the afterburn effect. This means that for 24 to 38 hours your body will be burning extra calories. Every time you do strength training, your muscle fibers tear a little bit. As scary as that sounds, it’s completely normal. As they are repaired they come back stronger and depending on diet, gender, and genes, bigger.
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT workouts are very intense and like resistance training results in the afterburn effect. It may seem counterintuitive to exercise for only 15-20 minutes a day, but HIIT can even be more effective than longer periods of cardio for fat loss.
Here are a few examples:
- Walk or jog for 1-5 minutes, then sprint for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Do as many reps in good form as you can for one minute before resting for 30 seconds to a minute. You can do squats, push-ups, overhead presses, lunges, crunches etc. Rest for 2 to 5 minutes between sets of 4 exercises.
- Train for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between. Any exercise is appropriate as long as you do it in good form.
The shorter the rest times, the more effective. You will use sugar during the exercises and burn fat during the rest periods, including for up to 38 hours afterwards. The effect overall is greater fat loss as well as strength, speed, and stamina gains depending on the exercises that you use.
Other Intense Exercises
The more effort you put in, the more calories you burn and the more fat you’ll burn. Here are a few other great ways to burn fat effectively:
- Kettlebell training
- Jumping rope
- Swimming laps in a pool
- Playing sport such as soccer, football, tennis, basketball, etc
Diet Plan for Fat Burners
There are a lot of foods you can eat on a fat burner diet:
- Non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, olives, etc)
- Full-fat dairy (cheese, cream, milk, yogurt)
- Berries (excluding strawberries)
- Fats and oils (butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, etc)
- Unsweetened coffee and tea
- Artificial sweeteners can be used sparingly
- Dry wines and spirits can be drunk sparingly (the same goes for diet sodas)
Here are a few meal ideas
- Bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and mushrooms
- Full fat unsweetened yogurt with nuts and a small handful of berries
- A green smoothie with leafy green veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale, etc) with coconut milk and a small hand full of berries
- Frittata or omelette with veggies and cheese
You can have unsweetened coffee, tea (green tea has fat-burning properties), or full-fat milk with these.
- Greek salad and chicken (keep the skin on)
- Zucchini pasta with a creamy sugar-free pasta sauce with your choice of meat
- Avocado slices, salmon, and Caprese salad
- Steak with vegetables and cauliflower rice
- Lamb chops with mint sauce and salad
- Steak, eggs, mushrooms, and veggies
- Seafood paella on cauliflower rice
- Nuts and unsweetened yogurt with a small handful of berries
- Coconut and nuts
- Cucumbers, celery, and sliced peppers with a creamy avocado dip
- Veggies and cottage cheese
Fat Burning Herbs and Spices
Seasoning your food with these herbs and spices don’t just make your food taste better, but help you to burn fat too. Excess inflammation can both cause and be caused by unhealthy body fat levels. These herbs and spices are all anti-inflammatories:
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
Just remember to include salt and water in your diet. Fat burners excrete water more readily and not including salt in your diet can result in hyponatremia which causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, confusion, and seizures. Stay hydrated.
The Best Foods and Recipes for Sugar Burners
Here are some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet and why:
Vegetables, in general, contain vitamin C, B-vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. Leafy greens, in particular, are full of magnesium, calcium, iron, and folic acid. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, and bok choy have been shown to reduce cancer risk. Both leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease as well.
While starchy vegetables such as carrots and beetroot are to be avoided on a ketogenic diet, if you are only eating low carb, you can get away with adding these into your diet in moderation. They are great sources of vitamin A, antioxidants, and fiber.
When choosing meat, try as far as possible to buy grass-fed meat instead of grain-fed meat. Studies done on beef found that grass-fed beef is higher in omega 3, has a better antioxidant profile particularly for vitamin A and E precursors (nutrients that are used to make these vitamins) and more of the beneficial fat called CLA which has been linked to better heart health and improved fat loss.
Meat is also rich in protein which is essential for muscle health and mental well-being as neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are formed with protein. It’s also a good source of iron which is essential for healthy red blood cells and to transport oxygen to the cells of your body.
Try to keep your red meat intake to one to two days per week. Cut out processed meats.
Poultry like chicken and turkey are better for your overall health. They are a great alternative to red meat. They also contain iron, protein, as well as vitamin E, K, and some of the B-vitamins.
Fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for the health of your brain, skin, eyes, heart, and joints. Fish contains DHA and EPA specifically which are omega 3 fatty acids responsible for brain and nervous system health and lowering inflammation.
Eggs are full of vitamins and minerals as well as protein and fat. Vitamins A, D, and E, B-vitamins, omega 3, iron, selenium, zinc, calcium, and magnesium are all found in eggs.
Dairy is full of calcium and vitamin D which is necessary for healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and immunity.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain essential fatty acids that the body needs and doesn’t make on its own. Walnuts, hemp seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds are high in the plant form of omega 3, ALA. Other nuts and seeds contain protein and are high in minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium.
If you are going to eat grains, eat whole grains. They will be high in fiber and spike your blood sugar less than their processed counterparts.
If you’re looking for a great way to become a more effective fat burner I recommend metabolic cooking.
Metabolic cooking is the best way to boost your health, reach your body weight goals, and improve your body composition. I still use the recipes today!
I found them delicious, filling, and easy to prepare.
There you have it. The info you need on how to transition from a sugar burner to a fat burner. Starting out, the first one to four weeks can be rough with feelings of fatigue and feeling as though you’re in a fog. Once your body switches over to burning fat, that will go away and you will have more energy and lose excess weight.
Just be patient, and stick with it. You will need to maintain the right kind of diet to keep burning fat for fuel. Enjoy delicious and nutritious meals and include moderate exercise into your week and the results will speak for themselves.