You run on energy. Just like anything else in this world, to move, survive, and thrive you need fuel. The human body is actually capable of gaining energy in a number of ways. We’ll take a look at those ways in just a minute, but right now it’s important to simply understand that the energy your body needs is both created and consumed on a cellular level. Yes, your cells both make and use energy.
Your energy requirements, or the amount of energy that you need on a daily basis, depend largely on what you’re doing. There’s what’s called your BMR or basal metabolic rate. It’s simply the energy that you need to survive. It takes energy to breathe. It takes energy to keep your heart pumping and your brain functioning. That energy is your BMR and it’s often based on your height, weight, age, and gender.
For example, a 45-year-old female who is 125 pounds and 5 feet, 5 inches tall has a BMR of 1,213 calories a day. A male with the same height, weight, and age has a BMR of 1,379. He needs 1,379 calories a day to keep his body functioning.
Here are the basic BMR calculations:
BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) + 5 (man)
BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) – 161 (woman)
Beyond your BMR, you have energy needs based on your activity level. If you’re sedentary, you need very little beyond your BMR. If you’re active, then you need more energy to help sustain that activity. It makes sense, right?
So where does that energy come from? For most people, it comes from sugar in the form of starchy carbohydrates and, well… plain sugar. Americans consume almost 60 pounds of sugar each year. When the FDA recommends no more than 10 grams of sugar a day, it’s easy to see why Americans are struggling with obesity. And let’s face it; if you eat the SAD (Standard American Diet), then you’re likely one of those average Americans who is eating 60 pounds of sugar a year. This infographic over at The Daily Burn shows you just how pervasive sugar is in American foods: http://dailyburn.com/life/health/daily-sugar-intake-infographic/.
What does this all mean?
It means that you, and most people, are sugar burners. You burn sugar for your energy. This isn’t how your body was designed and it causes a number of problems including, but not limited to:
- Fat storage – and weight gain
- Heart disease
- Low energy/chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues
- Attention deficit problems
- And much more
There is an answer and it’s a relatively straightforward one. There are other sources of energy. In fact, your body wasn’t designed to be a sugar burning system. It is designed to be a fat burning system. So the goal is to shift your metabolism and become fat adapted. When this happens you’ll lose weight, gain energy, and enjoy significant health improvements. Let’s look at sugar burners and fat burners in a bit more detail and then dive into how to become fat adapted.
What is a sugar burner
A sugar burner is someone who relies primarily on sugar sources for energy. Most specifically, the sugar source is glucose. The simplest source of sugar for anyone is starchy carbohydrates. They’re readily converted by your body to glucose and burned for energy. The problem is that sugar burning doesn’t last forever, unless you’re eating candy bars while you exercise. And sugar burning doesn’t do anything for weight loss. It doesn’t help you burn fat. So let’s look at that next.
What is a fat burner?
A fat burner turns to fat as a source of energy. It can happen when a few different situations occur. It can happen when you exercise at a specific “fat burning level,” which we’ll talk about. It can also happen with different types of exercise. To help explain it, we’ll talk about the different ways your body makes energy and what it uses.
Sources of energy
Aerobic – 1 Pathway: With your aerobic system you use glucose and oxygen to make ATP, aka energy, for your cells.
Anaerobic – 2 Pathways: Your anaerobic system is the system that your body turns to when sugar burning isn’t enough, or when there isn’t enough sugar or oxygen to facilitate the process. Instead, your body breaks down fat. You actually burn fat at very low intensity efforts and at very high intensity efforts.
We’ll look at those in detain in a bit, next, let’s talk about food and fuel for your body. Because to become fat adapted you have to not only change how you move, but also adjust what you put into your body.
The 30/40/30 principle
The 30/40/30 principle is one that is embraced by many different nutritionists, medical experts, and fitness enthusiasts. It is the ratio that’s suggested to fuel both optimal fitness and health. The breakdown is like this:
- 30 percent of your fuel from protein
- 40 percent of your fuel from carbohydrates
- 30 percent of your fuel from fat
However, before you go out and load your plate up with mashed potatoes and steak in perfect 30/40/30 proportions, let’s take a look at good, fat burning, sources of fuel.
Sources of protein
Protein sources generally include any meat, fish, or dairy. Keep in mind that the leaner the protein, the more you can eat. While 30 percent of your diet can and should come from fat, that amount is not in addition to the fat in your protein source. So if you’re eating baby back ribs for dinner, you’re getting your fat for the day as well.
Leaner meats mean that you’ll have an easier time sticking with this ratio. You’ll also have an easier time if you choose whole foods rather than processed. So cook a chicken thigh or breast rather than eating chicken fingers from a bag or box.
Sources of carbs
Here’s where many people get caught up and make mistakes. A single dinner roll has the same amount of carbs as an entire plate of veggies. So you can have a dinner roll or veggies – which would you think is going to help you become fat adapted? The dinner roll is essentially sugar; it’s a starchy carb that’s immediately converted to glucose in your body and burned quickly. The plate of veggies, while they’re also carbs, takes much longer to digest. Because of this, they don’t support sugar burning. They help you become fat adapted.
Sources of fat
Fat is an important part of your diet. However, like protein and carbs, where your fat comes from is important too. Fat from plants is generally best. For example, nuts, avocados and seeds are all great sources of fat. Fat from animal products… not so much. Fat from fish, however, is an exception and one of the reasons that many people supplement with fish oil. It’s an anti-inflammatory and good for your heart and brain.
If you feel tired and low energy, add a bit of fat to your diet. Eat a half an avocado or some nuts or cashews for a snack. Add some grass-fed butter to your breakfast or lunch.
Fat adaptation generally requires a significant reduction in starchy carbohydrates with a complementary increase in fat consumption. Keep the 30/40/30 ratio in mind. This approach helps your body make the physiological shift to burning fat as fuel.
You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make to your perfomrance. Stay tuned for tips on how you can get started on a fat adapted lifestyle and some great exercises ideas.