Fat burning and sugar burning are two concepts I’ve been geeking out on lately — and I’ve been getting a tonnnnnn of questions about them in my DMs.
Before I dive into the mind-blowing science behind burning fat (and not sugar) for fuel — I need to take the time to say this…
A Quick Look at My Story:
Six years ago, when I came into this business, I was scared out of my mind — literally scared for my life.
I’d fallen in love with the fitness and community aspects of coaching — but I had a relentless history with an eating disorder and the thought of a nutrition plan terrified me.
Would I become obsessed?
Would I spiral back into old habits of striving for control and perfection?
Would the living hell I climbed out of resurface?
At the same time — I knew I needed to go all in to succeed.
Scared — and cautious — I tiptoed into the nutrition plan and I was shocked with what I found: total freedom.
For so long, I lived life 90% free. I was free from the cycle of shame associated with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) — but if I’m being honest, I still had a totally screwed up relationship with food and my body.
The nutrition plan turned out to be just what I needed to get to the place of total freedom — but it’s because my mindset changed along with it too. Instead of obsessing over perfection and the impossible standards I placed on myself — I used the nutrition plan to collect data and pique my curiosity.
For several days, I’d do my best to follow the plan to a tee. Then — I’d let intuitive eating take the wheel, while using the eating plan as my guide. When I started to feel off, not physically my best, or notice disruptions in my mood or sleep — I’d get curious.
So back to the nutrition plan I’d go to see where I may’ve steered too hard in one direction or another. And then I’d adjust and be on my way.
The goal was never perfection. And the guilt and shame that I’d battled for so long wasn’t a part of the equation anymore. (I recorded an entire IGTV about this very subject — click here to watch it if you want more.)
With all of that said — here’s the rundown of fat burning vs. sugar burning, how to tell which one you are, and how to make the changes you need to see the results you’re after.
Fat Burning vs. Sugar Burning: What are they?
The first question I get asked when I talk about this stuff is this, “What the heck does this mean?”
Simply put — fat burning and sugar burning refers to which “fuel” your body burns when you exert energy. If you are a fat burner, your body is burning fat as its primary source of fuel — and if you’re a sugar burner, that primary source of fuel is glucose (or sugar).
Typically, there are some observable signs you’ll notice to help you determine which one you are — but there’s no room for debate: being a fat burner is the way to go.
Fat Burning vs. Sugar Burning: Which one are you?
The tell-tale signs of a sugar burner are more common than you may think. Sugar burners often:
1. Crave carbs and sugar
2. Snack regularly and experience “hanger”
3. Rarely feel sustained energy after even big meals
4. Have stubborn belly fat
The opposite is true for fat burners as they usually:
1. Can go 4-6 hours between meals without experiencing any sugar/carb cravings
2. Don’t feel the need to snack
3. Experienced sustained energy
4. Lose fat easily
Sugar Burning to Fat Burning: How to make the switch
If you read the lists above and thought, “Yup! I’m a sugar burner,” here’s the biggest thing I need you to hear: Don’t suddenly start depriving your body of sugar! The withdrawal from going cold turkey can be brutal — and lead to a cycle of on-again, off-again dieting. That’s SO not what we want.
To make the gradual and effective switch from sugar burning to fat burning, here are my four biggest tips:
1. Ditch the empty carbs. You know those foods and drinks that offer little to no nutritional value? Those aren’t helping you curb your sugar intake.
2. Eat fruits in moderation. When burning sugar, your body doesn’t care where that sugar comes from and fruits are loaded with sugar.
3. Try to limit starchy vegetables. Those yummy potatoes and beets? The carbs breakdown into… yup, you guessed it — sugar.
4. Up your intake of high quality proteins, non-starchy veggies, and allllllll the healthy fats. Think lean meats, greens, coconut oil, and avocado. (How delicious does that sound?!?!)
Sugar burner or fat burner — which one are you?