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.