As I have previously spoken to you about, fat is our primary fuel.
There is nothing special about this; it’s just the way we are supposed to work. But, within the 21st century it’s rare to find a fat burner amongst us, from experience testing our metabolism at rest it was rare to find individuals who used more of their energy from fats than sugar.
So what does it mean to use more sugar than fat for energy. A sugar burner will always access sugar over fat for energy. Obviously we can use sugar for energy, so, what’s the problem? We only store a very limited amount of glycogen (sugar) within our bodies.
“If we choose to use sugar as our primary fuel, we will run out very quickly”.
Our body protects us from running out- as a survival response when we start to accelerate our sugar burn or we run low our body will increase our craving for sugary foods.
A sugar burner is storing rather than using fats for energy, the result being an increased amount of fat on the body- if you’re skinny fat, holding onto to stubborn abdominal fat or carrying too much adipose tissue the likelihood is that you are a sugar burner.
Storage capacity of glycogen is around 500g or 2000kcal of energy within the liver and the muscle- the actual capacity depends greatly upon the individual’s size and lean mass. When training and racing if your primarily using glycogen as your fuel your likely to quickly run down these stores and feel the need for ingestion of sports drinks, gels or snacks to keep you going.
“Essentially, a sugar burner is using up their glycogen reserves for efforts that could easily be fuelled by fats and preserve glycogen”.
Therefore, when a greater effort is needed they are unlikely to have the excess fuel available for the higher intensity efforts that will always be fuelled by glycogen; a hill towards the end of the bike course may be the obstacle to send a sugar burner over the edge.
Also, because of the uncontrollable nature of a rapidly diminishing glycogen reserve, when training or racing a sugar burner will always be at a greater risk of bonking or hitting the wall, a term used to describe the catastrophic feeling of running low on your glycogen.
I mentioned earlier that I test individuals’ metabolism at rest, here I am looking at something called respiratory quotient (RQ). Its basically measuring the ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide during respiration and will give you a score that indicates what fuel is being used, an RQ of 0.7 indicates that 100% of your energy is coming from fats, an RQ of 0.85 indicates and 50/50% split between fats and carbohydrates and any RQ of 1 and over indicates 100% of your energy from carbohydrates.
When you become fat adapted your RQ score will be closer to 0.7 than 1 and the benefits will include all the opposites of the issues of sugar burning pointed out above. Here’s the list, fat adaption-
– Promotes the use of fat for energy in a rested state.
– Increases satiation from foods and decreases hunger.
– Decreases sugar cravings associated with metabolic health issues.
– Maintains a desirable body composition.
– Helps maintain your lean muscle mass through less catabolism.
– Spares glycogen reserves during training and racing so you can rely less upon undesirable sports nutrition products.
– Decreases the metabolic stress of each training session allowing for quick recovery for your next session and better presentism for your family or colleagues post training.
– Makes satiation post session an easier task, instead of an afternoon of opening and closing the fridge you’ll be happy to have your meal and get on with your day.