Nutrition Nugget: Fat-Burning Mode
Bite-Size Reads for Your Health and Your Waistline
Remember the candy factory episode of “I Love Lucy?” Let me remind you of this comedic masterpiece! Lucy and Ethel started a job at a candy factory. It wasn’t going well. Their last chance before being fired was to wrap each chocolate as it came down the conveyor belt and replace the wrapped candy on the belt to go to the next station. Their drill sergeant-like supervisor made it very clear they would be fired if a single candy passed by them. At first, when the conveyor belt moved at a nice, even, slow pace they did a great job! Then it started to speed up…faster and faster… and all hell broke loose. To avoid a single unwrapped candy making it to the next station and to save their new jobs, they pulled chocolates off the conveyor belt and shoved them anywhere they could find. In their mouths, pockets, shirts, hats, candy went anywhere and everywhere. Interestingly, this story doubles as a surprisingly realistic metaphor for our bodies. For real.
When our bodies get fuel at a nice, even, consistent pace, our body produces insulin which carries the fuel to our muscles and our cells to be used for energy. If we eat too much or eat high glycemic foods which spike our blood sugar, the body over produces insulin. Our muscles and our cells can only take-in so much fuel at a time and they close. All that extra fuel and all that extra insulin are stored as fat…because our fat cells never close (UGH!). An example of this is when we sit down to a meal at a restaurant and start with the bread basket. The bread spikes our blood sugar and now, even if we ordered steamed fish and veggies for our meal, our body is storing that meal as fat.
In the opposite extreme, when we eat at inconsistent times, don’t eat enough or go long periods without food, our blood sugar drops and “starvation mode” takes hold. In starvation mode, our body thinks it’s a time of famine and holds on to the fuel it receives to use later…to survive. This is fat. Fat is fuel stored to be used later. This often happens on those days when we’re busy and breakfast doesn’t happen then lunch is late or maybe skipped entirely. We finally sit down for a meal and even if what we eat is steamed vegetables with plain chicken, our body stores it as fat because it doesn’t know when the next meal is coming.
The moral of the story? Both extremes of blood sugar, too high and too low, cause our bodies to store fat! So even if you are getting those lean meats and veggies, it won’t matter if you haven’t eaten all day or if you started with a high glycemic hunger band-aid!
In order to avoid these extremes, for your mental and physical health, focus on eating low glycemic-impact foods and eat regularly throughout the day. Every time you go to eat, meal or snack, focus on protein and fiber. I teach my clients this mantra, “Protein and fiber at every meal, makes removing fat no big deal.” To clarify, proteins are clean, lean protein and you choose if that’s animal or plant based. Fiber is vegetables and sometimes fruit. Choosing these nutrients ensures we aren’t spiking our blood sugar because of the food choices. Eating consistently ensures we aren’t signaling our body to a time of famine. When we eat this way consistently, we are never storing new fat and we are telling your body that it is okay to release fat stores because it’s never a time of famine. We don’t need those survival stores. THIS offers maximum health benefits.
Another important aspect of keeping our bodies in fat-burning mode is muscle. Here’s another mantra for you: “Muscle dictates metabolism.” Muscle is metabolically active. If we want to be burning more fuel when we are sitting, sleeping, chillin’ on the couch watching Netflix and when we are moving our bodies, we must have muscle. Most people think exercise in any way, shape, or form does the trick. However, building muscle requires resistance training. This could be added weight or your own body weight, that part matters less. What’s critical is that we build muscle and realize that most “cardio” activities are not necessarily building muscle. Focus on resistance training to build muscle and maximize fat burning.
Remember, you don’t need keto or some fancy diet to put your body in fat-burning mode. Ironically, by being kinder to yourself and allowing yourself to eat nutritiously throughout the day, you are allowing your body to burn fat, not store it and improve your overall health. I would bet this is probably the simplest and healthiest solution you’ve ever heard. So try it! Take your body out of fat-storage mode and put it into fat-burning mode with this plentiful journey to optimal health, one consistent and nutritious meal at a time.