Can a Lower-Fat Diet Prime You to Burn Sugar?

Does a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet cause you to become a sugar burner? If you’re concerned about health and nutrition, perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Salad with tuna, tomatoes, olives, and hard-boiled eggs
Why Are Low-Carb Dieters Afraid of Glucose?

If you’re concerned about nutrition and health, one of my favorite bloggers is Regina Wilshire of the Weight of the Evidence Blog. She is a professional nutritionist who used to be quite popular among low-carb dieters back when I was in my low-carb weight-loss phase.

After coming down with carbon monoxide poisoning, she stopped blogging for several years, but resurfaced in 2012.

I didn’t discover that she had returned to blogging until I read a comment by Jimmy Moore at his blog, mocking her professional opinion about why he might be having success with his Nutritional Ketosis diet.

I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about, so I went to take a look.

Percentages Versus Absolute Macronutrients

One of the things that has received a lot of attention within the low-carb community is your fat percentage of calories, but percentages can be very misleading. Y

ou can actually lower the number of fat grams per day that you eat and end up raising your fat percentage, depending upon your intake of the other macronutrients: carbohydrates and protein.

For that reason, percentages don’t mean a whole lot.

You can hit target percentages, yet still find yourself nutritionally deficient in certain nutrients because percentages rise and fall in relationship to the other macronutrients you’re eating, as well as the number of daily calories.

Absolute grams of:
  • protein
  • carbohydrates
  • fats
  • calories
are far more revealing regarding your nutritional status and health.

Focus on Nutrient Dense Foods

No matter which diet you choose to follow, good nutrition always focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods.

A weight-loss diet full of junk foods, processed foods, or an excessive fat intake is just as deficient in nutrition and health as a high-carb diet often is.

Just because sugar or refined starches can raise your basal insulin levels, that doesn’t mean that adding melted butter to your coffee or grabbing a bunless burger for lunch at your local hamburger stand every day is healthy for you. 

It’s not just about carbohydrates, fats, or protein. And, it’s not just about points or calories.

It’s about giving your body everything it needs to function at its best.

Tired Woman: Laying on Back with Hat Over Her Face
What good is dieting if you're too tired to do anything?

If your insulin levels are low, but you’re too tired to do anything, how is that more healthy than someone who feels better and is more energetic eating a higher level of carbohydrate and a little less fat?

If you’re tired and hungry, you aren’t going to have the motivation you need to stick with your weight-loss plan. A diet you can’t live with for the rest of your life is useless.

Being a Sugar Burner Isn’t Bad

One of the reasons I originally investigated the Nutritional Ketosis fad was because many people believe that being a sugar burner is a bad thing.

Ever since the Kimkins Diet fiasco several years ago, where it was discovered that Kimmer had never followed a low-fat, low-carb diet before, the focus of the low-carb community has been strongly on burning fats over glucose, even to the point of obsession.

This belief was the only way they could deal with being deceived.

Before then, being a sugar burner rather than a fat burner was never, ever discussed in a negative light because your metabolism doesn’t burn just glucose or fats.

Even on a low-carb diet, that’s not how your metabolism works.

Burning glucose for fuel only became disagreeable once people began looking for something to explain why the Kimkins diet worked so well.

Since the object was to shoo people away from a low-carb, low-fat diet and pull them back into the low-carb, high-fat fold, the low-carb community had to come up with an explanation for the success that people had when they ate lower fat.

This explanation also had to make people afraid of using the body’s normal metabolic pathway.

What they came up with:

A low-fat diet, regardless of the number of carbohydrates you eat, means you’re burning sugar (or glucose) for fuel rather than fats. 

This explanation doesn't make sense.

On a low-fat diet, you actually burn more of your excess body fat for fuel than those who eat a high-fat diet. Still, people swallowed the explanation without reasoning it out for themselves. They embraced the fear and started attacking anyone who wasn’t eating as much fat as they were.

In fact, they embraced this false idea so strongly, that many continue to throw that same accusation at people who choose to eat less fat today, as if they’re doing something unhealthy.

They aren’t, but that’s the way most low-carb dieters believe.

They have a hard time wrapping their brain around the fact that the way they want everyone to eat isn’t necessarily healthy for everyone.

Your insulin levels can actually drop too low on a low-carb diet. If that happens, it will cause your liver to go into a gluconeogenesis frenzy that doesn’t shut off. It all depends on how your body reacts to carbohydrate deprivation.

Body Fights for Balance

When you place your focus on nutrition, health, and nutrient density, rather than:
  • points
  • calories
  • number of carbohydrates
you eat on a daily basis, you can avoid many of the starvation responses the body has to guarantee its physical survival.

Our ancient ancestors did NOT eat a low-carb, high-fat diet.

That’s just as foreign to our metabolism as a high-grain, high-carb diet is.

In fact, when you take the time to really look at the body and how it operates, every body system fights for homeostasis. The body struggles for balance.

To me, that says that extremes are never right!

Focus on Nutrition, Health, and Nutrient-Density

I’ve been playing the weight-loss game for most of my life.

Although I wasn’t fat as a child or teen, that quickly changed when I was 18.

At 18, I had my appendix removed.

Back then, an I.V. wasn’t saline solution. It was pure glucose. My guess is that the glucose caused insulin resistance because I began to quickly put on weight right after the operation.

This is not to say that my diet wasn’t at fault.

Growing up, I ate an extremely high-carb diet and very little protein.

When you combine malnutrition with insulin resistance, the result is almost always obesity, which is exactly where I eventually ended up.

Although Dr. Atkins walked into my life the month I was first married, I didn’t have a supportive husband in 1975.

I was able to get my weight back down to a normal level in as little as 6 weeks, but I wasn’t able to maintain it.

Like most Americans, my now ex was addicted to high-carb, high-fat junk food, so that’s what we had in the house.

It wasn’t until I started attending Weight Watchers meetings back when it was an exchange program that I learned about balanced nutrition and nutrient-dense foods.

In the 1980s, you HAD to eat three pieces of fruit per day. You HAD to eat a minimum of two cups of vegetables. And yes, you ate less fat.

Did that well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet “prime” me to become a sugar burner?

That’s what the low-carb community would say.

But oddly enough, when my family went through a massive cycle of boils and illnesses, I was never ill. I never experienced a boil or any other sickness when I was eating the Weight Watchers Exchanges. I only returned to ill health after I went off the Weight Watchers Exchange Program.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about low carb.

I was never free of sickness when doing a low-carb diet, but that isn’t because low carb is unbalanced. It’s because of the way you implement the diet.

This holds true for any weight-loss plan.

If you make what you “count” more important than good nutritional practices, you’re going to reap what you sow.

It’s as simple as that.