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Carbs vs Fat: What is the Optimal Fuel for Your Body?

food as fuel, ketones, exercise, muscle building

There is a lot of misinformation in the field of health and nutrition. And many of the biggest whoppers have been told about sugar and fat. Today, we expose the truth about your body’s need for energy and what foods fuel it best

The misconception we cover today is one you often hear from fat-phobic vegans and others who promote a carbohydrate-based diet. They will tell you that…

Glucose is your body’s PREFERRED fuel and carbohydrates are your OPTIMAL energy source.

This is absolutely FALSE!

And it’s critical to your health that you understand why.

So let’s begin…

You’ve probably heard that insulin is a “fat storage” hormone… and when it’s elevated “fat burning” screeches to a halt. This is true.

A study published in Obesity Reviews determined that even after an eight-hour fast (following a carb-rich meal) enough insulin is circulating in the blood to reduce fat oxidation 50% from maximal rates. Any increase from there stops fat burning completely!

In the words of Dr. Peter Attia, “Insulin is the master hormone that controls what your body does with the foods you eat – whether you burn it or store it. This is fuel partitioning.”

When glucose is available it will ALWAYS be used before fat…

But that does NOT mean it is your preferred or optimal fuel.

Your body is like a hybrid car. It can run on different types of fuel (and it adapts to the one you give it the most). Your primary forms of energy are protein, carbohydrates and fat.

You can also produce energy from alcohol… but that might not be the best solution!

Your OPTIMAL fuel is determined by the answers to three questions:
  1. Which fuel has the biggest gas tank?
  2. Which fuel provides the most miles per gallon?
  3. Which fuel burns the cleanest?

So, let’s begin with where (and how much) energy is stored in your body.

energy storage

You have a lot of calories stored in protein. And you can easily convert it to sugar (a process called gluconeogenesis) to be used for ENERGY.

But unless you’re starving… you never want to use protein for “energy”!

Protein is for building muscle and bone, producing antibodies, restoring organs, blood vessels and nerves, creating hormones and neurotransmitters. These demands are FAR too valuable to sacrifice for short term energy.

So, what about CARBS?

Most of us have fewer than 1,000 calories stored as glucose and glycogen. That’s a VERY small gas tank!

Carbs are like kindling. They burn bright and help you get the fire started. But they burn out fast and constant refuels are needed to keep the fire burning!

Now, consider FAT

Any trip to the mall or grocery store visually proves that the human body has almost unlimited capacity to store fat. And as the chart above demonstrates, even a person of average weight has enough body fat to power their metabolism for months!

When it comes to the size of your “gas tank” – fat wins by a mile!

Now, let’s answer the next question…

What’s Your Most EFFICIENT Energy Source…
Which Fuel Provides the Highest “Miles Per Gallon”?

Calories are a measure of the amount of “energy” contained in a food.

You’re probably aware that one gram of carbohydrate has four calories, while a gram of fat contains nine. By this measure, fat provides 125% more energy than carbohydrates.

But calories are not the most accurate measure of energy. That’s because they must still be converted to a more basic form of fuel, known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is the “Energy Currency” for every cell… and nothing creates more ATP than FAT!


The number of ATP molecules – therefore the amount of pure cellular energy – produced from various fuels depends on how many carbon atoms are chained together in the fuel source.

  • Glucose and Fructose produce exactly 36 ATP
  • Medium-Chain Fatty Acids produce an average 50 ATP
  • Long-Chain Fatty Acids produce an average 155 ATP

As you can see, the average long-chain fatty acid – like those found in grass-fed beef and wild seafood, eggs, olive oil and avocados – produces 330% more cellular energy than a molecule of sugar!

By this measure, fat is a FAR more efficient fuel than sugar.

And it gets even better, because 95% of the flabby fat stored on your belly, butt, hips and thighs is in the form of triglycerides… and every TRI-glyceride holds THREE long chain fatty acids. That means every molecule of body fat you burn produces 465 units of ATP!

Compare that to the measly 36 ATP you get from carbs and the answer is clear…

You Produce 1,191% More Cellular Energy
From Body Fat than You Do from Sugar!

Considering the extreme differential, it is obvious why the number-one benefit cited by people who become “fat burners” is profoundly more energy! When your body is adapted to produce energy from stored fat…

  • You wake up feeling refreshed in the morning
  • You no longer crave a jolt of sugar or caffeine to fight afternoon drowsiness, and
  • You have all the energy you need for work… play… and exercise.

Energy is currency.

The more you have… the more success you will enjoy in every aspect of life!

So, when it comes to your health, your physique (and your success), the most important question you can answer about your “hybrid” human vehicle is…

Do You Want to Be a “Sugar Burner”… or “Fat Burner”?

If you’re a SUGAR BURNER you train your body to run on inferior fuel.

You draw energy from a tiny gas tank and rely on fast-burning “kindling” that puts your mood… hunger… and energy levels on a constant roller coaster of peaks and valleys. It all revolves around when you can get your next carb fix!

And the calories you do consume add pounds of flabby fat to your body.

When you become a FAT BURNER your body operates on factory-specified fuel.

Your cells are powered by a huge gas tank. And instead of kindling, you rely on dry logs that burn hot for many hours. Energy is high, hunger is low, mood is steady. And your metabolism effortlessly torches ugly flab – transforming your body in record time!

And the great news is that…

Training Your Body to Run on Fat is EASY…
Just Eat MORE Healthy Fat… and a LOT Less Sugar!

By restricting carbs, your metabolism adapts to find an alternative to glucose.

As you enter the state of “nutritional ketosis” fat burning goes into overdrive.

The healthy fats you eat – and the unsightly flab on your body – is broken down and transported to the liver, where it’s converted into compounds called ketone bodies.

And just as they did for our Paleolithic ancestors, these “ketones” become your primary source of fuel…

In the words of Dr. Cherubino Di Lorenzo, noted researcher and neuroscientist at University of Rome, you can think of ketosis as, “The body’s own biochemical liposuction…”

And that might not be the best part, as the doctor continues, “Each molecule of ketone bodies produces more energy than glucose, but less oxidative stress. So the brain and the muscles work more efficiently.”

Did you catch that?

Not only do ketones produce more “horsepower”they burn cleaner too!

And that’s a VERY big deal, because running your “vehicle” on sugar promotes:

  • Inflammation
  • Glycation, and
  • Oxidation (Free Radicals).

These destructive processes are the Pillars of Chronic Disease!

Ketones, however, are the highest quality fuel you can burn. Your muscles and organs function better on ketones. And they produce fewer harmful byproducts!

But it gets even better…

Remember when I said you NEVER want to use protein for energy?

Well, that’s not exactly true.

As you age, damaged “junk” protein and other waste accumulates in your cells. This debris reduces their function, effectively disabling your cells. So, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to clear out the junk?

That’s exactly what ketones do!

Ketones transport cellular waste to a part of the cell (the lysosome), where it is turned into ENERGY! So not only are ketones your highest-quality fuel…

The Keto Diet Performs Deep Cellular Detox
Clearing “Junk” from Your Cells & Turning it into Energy!

It’s no wonder why so many doctors and health experts recommend the keto diet for fat loss.

And the benefits certainly don’t end there…

A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, “Increasing evidence has accumulated that very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diets (VLCKD) could have a therapeutic role in numerous diseases.”

The keto diet dramatically reduces frequency and severity of seizures. It can improve or eliminate acne, migraines, PCOS and digestive issues. And strong evidence shows it can help reverse diabetes… beat heart disease… fight cancer… and build a better brain!

And contrary to decades of dietary propaganda, a fat-fueled life promotes longevity too!

The PURE Study of more than 135,000 adults in 18 countries found that high healthy-fat diets are associated with longer life… while those high in carbs are linked to early death!

Remember this the next time you hear that glucose is your body’s optimal fuel!

Prevent Chronic Disease – The Ancestral, Fat-Fueled Way

Providing your body with its ultimate fuel source – FAT—can help you live healthier and longer, all while enjoying deeply satisfying delights like grass-fed beef, pastured bacon and butter.

To make the metabolic shift from sugar burner to fat burner, here are a few fat-fueled meal ideas to get you started:

Kelley HerringED NOTE: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free, low-glycemic baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and much more. Kelley’s academic background is in biology and chemistry and for the last 15+ years, she has focused on the study of nutritional biochemistry…and the proven powers of compounds in foods to heal the body.

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  4. Stafstrom CE, Rho JM. The Ketogenic Diet as a Treatment Paradigm for Diverse Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2012;3:59.
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