THE BLOG

Ask JJ: Sugar Burner or Fat Burner?

03/27/2015 11:08 am ET | Updated May 27, 2015

Dear JJ: Becoming a fat burner has become a hot topic these days. I'm confused. I thought burning sugar was ideal, yet you mention in your book for weight loss, I want to become a fat burner.

A sugar burner is just what it sounds like: Your body's primary source of fuel is glucose, which gives your body no reason to access your fat stores for fuel. Why should it, since your body runs on a steady supply of carbs?

"People who eat a lot of carbohydrates [are] 'sugar-burners,'" Mark Sisson tells Riva Greenberg. "They burn carbs for energy and need a steady supply of carbs to keep their energy up. Always relying on carbs for energy, they have difficulty accessing and burning their stored fat."

You can easily know if you're a sugar burner. A few hours after you eat, you're hungry again. That's because eating higher-sugar impact foods raise blood sugar, which triggers your hormone insulin to pull that blood sugar back down. Problem is, insulin becomes a little too eager and pulls blood sugar too low.

According to Mark Hyman, M.D., chronically elevated insulin levels store fat, increase your appetite, and adversely affect other fat-regulating hormones.

"Insulin blocks leptin, your appetite-control hormone," he writes. "You become more leptin-resistant, so the brain never gets the 'I'm full' signal. Instead, it thinks you are starving."

As a result, sugar burners often feel cranky, tired, irritable, and constantly hungry. You struggle to lose weight, and frequently carry fat around your midsection. A vicious cycle ensues as frequent drops in blood sugar make your body crave more sugar.

Sisson says fewer carbs make you a fat burner, where your "body first goes for carbs to burn for fuel, but after it burns the small amount of carbohydrates eaten, primarily from vegetables, it then accesses and burns stored body fat, which leads to weight loss."

Becoming a fat burner literally means your body shifts from glucose to fat as its primary fuel source. Suddenly, you can go four to six hours between meals. Cravings subside. Your hormones cooperate so you burn fat and stay lean. You discover what it feels like to feel full again.

So how do you become a fat burner? By tapering off high-sugar impact foods and transitioning to a low-sugar impact, low-glycemic diet.

"There are now numerous published medical studies indicating that a low glycemic index diet has a positive effect on not only improving insulin resistance, but managing Type 2 diabetes, retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, and acne vulgaris," writes Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.

The good news is you can shift from being a sugar burner to a fat burner with your very next meal, which should include lean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber carbs.

If you've made the transition to a low-sugar impact diet, have you noticed increased energy, reduced cravings, or other benefits? Share your thoughts below. And keep those great questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.