Americans are sugar addicts and starch lovers, so in this country, over 99% of the people you see walking the streets are “sugar burners.” This means their metabolism and physiology runs on sugar as the primary fuel source. Less than 1% of us are what is referred to as “fat adapted,” which means fat is their primary fuel source.
Fuel source is never exclusive though, because the human body will always burn a combination of fat and sugar, regardless of the primary fuel source preference, but the emphasis can certainly change drastically from person-to-person, based on the food they eat first, the type of exercise/activity they get second, and genetics third (and that’s a very distant third).
When someone has successfully made the transition to becoming “fat adapted,” they have reached the point in their diet where they are consuming 70 g or less of total carbohydrates each day (with 20 g or less coming from sugar and starch). “Fat adapted” people also eat TONS of fat – most eating 60% or more of their total calories every day from fat. They also eat “moderate” protein, which ranges between 70 and 150 g per day.
Since these people are consuming fat as their main calorie source, they have taught their body that it must run on fat, since that’s the most abundant fuel source available. This is actually the way the body was designed to operate and in my opinion, is the healthiest way to live. This is how we all lived 5,000 years ago, but as the agricultural revolution hit, and starches were introduced into our food system as a primary fuel source, we started getting fatter and sicker.
As sugar hit the scene a few hundred years ago, obesity and major illness really started to take off, but it didn’t turn into a parabolic pandemic until the 1980’s, when high fructose corn syrup became the new kid on the block and the “low-fat revolution” reared its ugly head. Now we are fatter than ever, in the history of our planet, but the solution is simple. The solution isn’t “easy” for most, but it is simple: Eat WAY more fat and WAY less carbs – especially “fast” carbs like sugar and starch.
Fat is the best source of energy, hands-down – even a lean person like me, who is always in the single digits for body fat percentage 24/7/265. I still have enough fat on my body to run more than 300 miles. Carbohydrates on the other hand, are a crummy source of energy. The storage capacity in the human body, even after “carbo loading,” is worth only 20 miles or less.
There are many reasons for fat being the body’s primary and preferred fuel source, beyond just the storage ability, but that could be a whole book in itself. If you would like to read a book about that, click here for a good one.
Sugar burners have taught their body that sugar (which includes starches and all other “fast” carbs) is their primary fuel source, but this also makes it really hard for that person to burn fat for energy. They are dependent on sugar, and when they don’t get it, things get crazy. Energy, mood, ravenous hunger, brain fog, etc. all sets in and takes over, turning that person into somebody they would rather not be and certainly makes them feel uncomfortable, to say the least.
Fat burners on the other hand, can easily burn sugar whenever they want, but their body does prefer fat first and foremost. Fat burners have even energy levels, never reach the point of “ravenous hunger,” do not experience brain fog and have a very stable mood. Heck, I could go all day without food and be fine. I would certainly be hungry, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I usually level off at about a six or seven, regardless of how long I’ve gone without food. A sugar burner starts feeling frantic at around a six and within an hour or two, is at a nine, with fatigue, desperation and mood changes altering their state, productivity, mental functioning and more.
The body and brain does not have to run on sugar. Fat and protein are both essential nutrients. We die without them. In fact, fat is necessary for optimal brain health (and not just because your brain is mostly fat). Fat also helps you absorb key essential vitamins. Fat keeps your lungs healthy and can even help fight off airborne allergens and asthma. Fat promotes liver health – especially saturated fat! Fat is also critically vital for proper hormone balance. These are just a few of the ways fat is more than just essential – it’s HEALTHY – and it MUST be in our diets. The whole “low fat” way of eating is health suicide. For a big long post on that topic, click here.
Carbohydrates are not an essential nutrient however, and we can live just fine without them. Carbs work against the health benefits listed above (and many, many more). If my body needs more glucose for a certain function, my liver simply makes exactly as much as I need. It was created to do that, as one of its primary jobs, so it’s easy for it to do. Processing junk food and sugar – especially fructose – on the other hand, is extremely hard work for the liver because that’s not one of the primary jobs it was designed for.
If you’re wondering if you are fat adapted or not, you’re not. If you are truly fat adapted, you won’t wonder because you will already be enjoying the drastic life-changing benefits. Some of the indications of being fat adapted are:
If less than 15% of your calories come from carbs, more 60% from fat and the rest from protein, AND you answer a resounding “yes” to all four points above, then you’re probably fat adapted. If not, and you would like to be, a good way to get there is to start eating paleo. When you think you have that down, switch to primal. It might take a few months, and if you dive right in 100% cold turkey and get yourself off those carbs right away, you might feel kind of crappy for a few weeks as your body screams out for the sugar it’s become addicted to, but you’ll get through it and when you come out on the other side, you will be much more healthy, energetic, happier and more!
Here’s a vid showing how much fat I eat:
And here’s my book – written back in 2008 – where I discuss it in more detail: crackingyourcode.com.
Not everyone will “get” the title of this post. X Gen’s probably will, but most Millennials and Boomers will only hear a “whooshing” sound as it flies over their head.
So for those mille/booms, I’ll explain: Back in the late 80’s, 90’s and even into the early 2000’s, the slang term “phat” came in and out of popularity. It was synonymous with “foxy,” if you are a Boomer and “MCM” or “WCW,” if you are a Millennial.
Now that we are all on the same page, here are my (recently refined, new and improved) 7 questions to help people decide if a food is unhealthy and fattening, or healthy and phattening.
And here is a vid with me (X Gen) and dad (Boomer) talking about processed foods and why they are so fattening.
And here is a vid featuring another of the thousands of fattening, processed, highly toxic “food like substances” that people are eating instead of extremely healthy, phattening Fitness Chocolate:
There. Now go get PHAT!
OK, I get it. You either really don’t have time to prepare your own food (and there really are some people like that, especially at X Gym), or you aren’t ready to start that committed relationship with your kitchen (which would be my first choice for you, as I pointed out in this post). Well, I now have good news for you. I’ve finally found a healthy, organic meal delivery company that creates meals within PJ-approved nutrition parameters!
I decided to try them out and I’m excited to report they are legit. I had a long conversation with the owners on the phone too and they are my kind of peeps, who really do just want to help as many people as possible.
Here’s why I love Trifecta – besides the fact that it’s organic and comes in the right macro ratios:
Just click the link here to order yourself. I go with the Paleo meal plans, so just scroll down the page to find that option. I also chose with the 1 meal per day plan because I make my smoothie in the morning, then I eat Fitness Chocolate through the middle of the day and then I have a Trifecta meal for dinner. I also eat broiled broccoli (dipped in melted garlic butter) 3-4 times per week, for lunch or a bed time snack.
They have 1-4 meals per day plans, so just choose what fits your schedule, but I would recommend making at least 4 meals a week yourself, in your kitchen, onnaccounta that’s good for you. Click here for the post on that subject.
So if you are hurting for time, or need to work into that kitchen romance slowly, “Try” Trifecta! The sooner you start, the sooner you get that healthy body you want!
X Gym members, clients and friends come to me all the time with continued struggles about eating “bad” foods at home. I first ask them why it’s still in their cupboards or fridge at all. The usual reply is, “Well, my spouse and or kid eats that stuff and when I see it, it’s easy and convenient, so I just grab it because I’m hungry.” Then my advice is to first get the support of that family member, starting with writing up a contract for them to sign that commits them to helping you get healthy. Next, put all that stuff in a lockable box somewhere, with a key that only those family members have access to, so you simply can’t get to it.
My next piece of advice is to clean out the fridge and cupboards of all the foods that do not contribute to your health and fitness Typically, the next comment that comes up is, okay, as soon as I finish all the food in there, I will restock those cupboards and fridge with the foods I should be eating, so I don’t waste that food or the money I spent on it.”
I then reply, “Okay, then how bad do you really want results? Let me know when you are truly ready to do these first two steps and we can continue this conversation then.”
They usually reply, “Okay, you’re right. I’m ready.”
Then I give then the following 3 step pantry purge plan:
1.) Go through the pantry, cupboards, fridge, freezer, garage and anywhere else you keep food, snacks or candy. Put everything that won’t make you healthier into a box or bag. This includes all grains, sugar, starches and processed foods with more than two ingredients, or ingredients that can’t be pronounced or recognized as food. While you’re at it, check for expiration dates and read nutrition facts on everything. This forces you to consider each item in your pantry, not just the obvious junk food. If it’s expired, purge it.
2.) Get rid of it. Obviously, it’s expired, trash it. Then donate non-perishable items to your local food bank. If you aren’t willing to take it to a food bank, just throw it out.
3.) After you’ve purged your home, make sure to change your shopping list so that food doesn’t make it back into your home. The side benefit of purging your home is that your shelves and fridge will be much cleaner, and you have the opportunity to better organize everything. All the expired food and junk will be gone, leaving you with a great foundation to eat healthier and make your new habits stick. Plus, now it will be so much harder to eat those unhealthy foods of the past because if you do, you’ll have to go get in the car and drive somewhere to do it and since that is such an opposite action of your goals and new habits you are forming, the likelihood of that happening is quite low.
P.S. I searched for a “healthy pantry/cupboard” picture on the internet and I couldn’t find ONE SINGLE IMAGE that I would want to use as an example here, so I just took one of my own cupboard. Wow, if that’s not a good example of why healthy, fit and lean people are so rare nowadays, I don’t know what is!
When your blood sugar drops, your brain is hard-wired to eat the nearest, quickest thing and that usually means something processed.
Thinking you can use willpower to wait until you can find something healthy contradicts how your brain is wired.
Willpower is a high energy resource, coming from the highest energy part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – so when your brain senses that it is low on fuel (blood sugar), it does two things immediately:
Bye bye willpower. Hello crummy (and sugary) food choices.
Then, about 15 minutes after you have eaten your crummy food choices, hello guilt and shame. The reason for this is because that crummy food did indeed give you some quick fuel, which enables your PFC and willpower to come back online and say, “Wow, I step out for a minute and look what you go and do!”
Then the cycle repeats (even as soon as an hour later) and you find yourself automatically overeating, bingeing or just eating whatever happens to be in front of you again, without even “thinking” about it (seemingly anyway, but now you know why).
This is what I call the crummy crisis cycle circle. I used to fall prey to it too, but not anymore because I’m “fat adapted” (more on that below), but there are very few of us who are nowadays. 5,000 years ago, we all were, but since the agricultural revolution and especially in the last 50 years, thanks to the sugar explosion, 99.4% of people now are sugar burners. So, since I’m most likely talking to a sugar burner here, below is a 4 step strategy to prevent the crummy crisis cycle circle.
1.) Be sure to have a crisis food pack handy at home and on the go.
Here are some of my favorite snacks I have on hand at home and/or with me at all times:
2.) When you do eat, eat slowly and mindfully. Your hunger/satiety mechanism takes 20 to 30 minutes to register that you are full, so when you eat slowly, you will have eaten less food during that 20 to 30 minutes, making overeating much less likely. Also, studies show that when you eat mindfully (taking time to chew thoroughly, savor the food, sense the taste, texture, etc.), your brain becomes more satisfied, which brings on feelings of satiety faster.
3.) Use the Hunger Scale technique, so you don’t let yourself get to the “frantic” point. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being on the verge of passing out from intense hunger and 1 being stuffed so full you think you might barf, rate your hunger at the moment. If it’s an eight or higher, you’re frantic. If it’s a three or lower, you just overate. I eat when I’m at a six or seven and then stop eating when I’m at a four (which is still a little bit hungry, but 10-15 minutes later, I’m at a three, which is satisfied, comfortable and content). When I do get to a seven, I tend to top out there and can stay there for hours without any mood changes or frantic feelings. How? Because I’m “fat adapted,” which leads me to the next step below.
4.) Become “Fat Adapted.” Once you are fat adapted. Your brain won’t get frantic anymore from sensing blood sugar drops, because it will have learned that it doesn’t need sugar as a fuel anymore. It’s learned that it needs fat instead and even an extremely lean person like me has days worth of fuel on my body sufficient to power my brain and physiology. Sugar on the other hand, has limited storage potential in the body, so the brain is always trying to replenish it quickly whenever it senses it doesn’t have enough. Fat adapted people are no longer slaves to the blood sugar cycle and can always think clearly, with plenty of willpower because they always have access to their PFC. Since fat stores are plentiful, the brain doesn’t go through the shutdown process of the high-energy areas like the PFC. When fat adapted, your hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin are also in balance and working properly, so that is the best long term solution by far!
Thanks to Dr. Hyman for his great post on this subject and inspiration to me for writing my own. Also, be sure to get his amazing book Eat Fat, Get Thin! I’m not getting anything from him to plug his stuff either. I’m just a big fan!