Saturday, February 23, 2019

Retrospective #7: Are you a “Sugar Burner” or a “Fat Burner”?

A restricted or reduced-calorie, balanced diet, we have all learned ruefully, is a “starvation” diet. It doesn’t work because your body tells you that you are starving. You feel weak and tired and hungry, and your metabolism slows down.  Your body is screaming for more “energy in,” and your hunger eventually overpowers your will power. The result: you shovel “in” more energy, by mouth! The problem, of course, is that you are not allowing your body to get the energy it needs from the body fat you stored for that very purpose.
This would be a good time to go back and re-read Gary Taubes’s 10 “certain conclusions” in Retrospective #4 of this series. If you’re on the website,, just scroll down. If you’re reading this on Face Book, just click on my name, open and scroll down on my timeline. When you find #4, pay special attention to Taubes’s conclusions 2, 8, 9 and 10.
Now, back to The Nutrition Debate. The food we eat is rapidly digested and absorbed -- sugars and starches more rapidly than fats and proteins. Sugars and starches are all carbohydrates and all become “sugar” (glucose) in the blood stream when they are completely broken down by the digestive process. The sugars and starches that break down most rapidly are 1) the smaller molecules (sugars) and 2) the most highly processed foods, like bread.
The body prefers to use sugars and starches for energy because most of them are easy to break down and “burn” for energy. Fat takes a little longer, and has less precedence, as it was designed to be stored for times of famine. Protein takes the longest, remaining in the stomach for several hours. The good thing about fat, though, and protein too to a lesser extent, is that it provides a feeling of fullness (satiety). Carbs give us a quick “spike” of energy, but are then quickly followed by a “crash” and then that “hungry feeling” one gets (on a high-carb diet) between meals. This “craving” is the result of a hormonal signal calling for more energy (from sugars and starches) to quickly supply glucose to the blood stream. Protein or fat would be more satisfying, but sugar and starch will give you that quick “boost.” Some processed foods, like white bread, which converts to 100% glucose, actually digest more quickly than table sugar (sucrose), which is just 50% glucose (and 50% fructose)!
When you eat a diet that is largely comprised of carbohydrates, such as the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is 60% carbohydrate (Retrospective #2), you are, in metabolic slang, a “sugar burner.” You may eat healthy proteins and fats too, but your body is running on glucose (“sugar”) and storing fat. It calls for you to eat more (carbs for the quickest effect) whenever your blood sugar crashes, which is just a couple of hours after you last ate carbs.
Because you are primarily burning carbs for energy, most of the fats you eat, plus any extra carbs, and any excess protein (to be explained shortly), will be stored. The fats (and ultimately the extra carbs) will become triglyceride molecules and will be deposited within the fat cells of the adipose (fat) tissue on your body.
The protein, which all breaks down to amino acids, will be “taken up” by the muscles and other body tissue to repair and restore them within 4 to 5 hours after it is eaten. Any “leftover” amino acids, not taken up by the body, are sent to the liver where they are stored. Later, when there is a low blood sugar signal, the liver will reconstitute some of those amino acids (from the excess protein) as glucose, through a process of called gluconeogenesis.
So, how do you get away from this endless cycle of “sugar” (glucose) spikes and crashes that characterize the SAD? How do we get away from this diet that is making all of us fatter and sicker? And, if you need to lose weight, how do you become a “fat burner” instead of a “sugar burner”?  I think you know where I am going with this, but in the next installment I will first tell you about the consequences of the dietary program our government has advocated and we have now been mainstreaming for over 40 years. It is the story of the emblematic Disease of Civilization first described by Gerald Reaven in 1988 as Syndrome X and now more commonly known as Metabolic Syndrome.

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