Are you a Sugar Burner?


Or a Fat Burner? Does it even matter?

That’s the $64 million question, isn’t it?

Fairytales and Fitness

Sugar burners rely on sugar for that quick energy burst: think refined carbs, gels, beans, chews. Sugar burners tend to have a quick burst of energy and then a crash (hello, mile 10 slump in a half!).

Fat burners are also called fat adapted, as they believe that they are burning fat for fuel, basically by eating much less carbs: think Paleo, Atkins, Keto. Fat burners claim it helps them to sustain their energy and bring mental clarity.

I am not a coach, a nutritionist — you know the drill. These are just my own thoughts.

Am I a fat burner?
Oh heck no. Consuming 20 gms of carbs a day — seriously, how do you even do that? Fat burners typically report higher energy (I wish!), less cravings, and the ability to go a long time between meals — some days I do go a long time between meals; and some days I’m just inexplicably hungry. And hangry.

In fairness, that’s my post race treat, not pre race (or during!)

Am I a sugar burner?
I usually do rely on sugar for fuel. While I may make some of my own, in general I’m consuming chews and simple carbs for fuel when it comes to running.

Who am I?
I think I fall somewhere in between being a sugar burner and a fat burner. I’m careful about sugar, but it has a way of creeping into my life, which causes me to crave more of the sweet stuff, which in turn causes the scale to slowly and steadily creep up.

I am not afraid of fat — healthy fats like almond butter, avocado, butter (yes! in moderation), coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, whole eggs. We need some fat in our lives, for certain vitamins, to keep us feeling satisfied — but again, the question remains: how much is too much? And the answer is it’s going to vary from person to person.

Most of my carbs aren’t refined (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, quinoa, oats), but the truth is that an excess of anything in our bodies is going to turn to fat.

How to put the damper on a sugar burner
Here’s the interesting thing: I am still working my way through the Eat Live Thrive Diet book (Amazon Affiliate link, hoping to have a review out soon — maybe next week). It is not keto, but it does suggest that most of us that struggle with our weight are probably eating too many carbs — even if they’re unrefined carbs.

I’m always open to exploring, so while going through the elimination phase, I was still running (a little — including that 5 mile race you can read about here) — without eating any grains. I was still getting in plenty of carbs, though — but I was eating less carbs than normal. In addition to no grains, I was also easing up a bit on the fruit (which also helped me to eat less carbs).

Where did my carbs come from? Fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables like butternut squash and carrots, sweet potatoes (occasionally), greek yogurt, protein powders, and a tiny bit of honey or maple syrup. You’d be surprised how many carbs you can get in your diet without ever consuming a grain. I have to admit I was!

So what did I eat for breakfast on race day? I made pancakes with half a banana, a scoop of protein powder, and some egg whites. Which seemed to work just fine. I had meant to bring a snack with me because I knew I’d be going 3 hours between breakfast and the race, but I forgot it. It might have helped with the whole energy thing towards the end of the race but maybe not. Again, we’ll never know.

I did find it interesting that when I embraced this change and eliminated some foods (temporarily); that are problematic for many women, my cravings for sugar did, indeed, go way down and my overall feeling of being full went way up. I could eat less calories — even when running — and still feel satisfied.

Unlike my initial return to running after my last half, I did not have a spike in hunger on the days I ran (read my thoughts about runger here). I almost never dealt with rungries at all.

What is the perfect diet?
It’s highly individual, is what it is. What works for you in your 20s will almost definitely not work for you in your 50s, unless you have really good genes. What works for me may not work for you. I personally believe that carbs are not the devil, that we do literally run on carbs, and cutting out an entire food group is never a wise decision (unless it’s based on real health issues).

Have you ever heard of sugar burners vs fat burners?

Which do you think you are?

Have you found your perfect way of eating?

I don’t think that we need to become fat adapted, but I do believe that most of us would benefit from less carbs in our diets. What carbs we do consume should be *mostly* unprocessed (there’s always room for a few fun foods!). We don’t need to fear fat, either. Sugar . . . that’s a different story. — Chocolaterunsjudy

32 thoughts on “Are you a Sugar Burner?

  1. What works for me is eating more protein, moderate fat, and low glycemic carbs (high fiber, dense). Over the past 2+ years since I’ve had RA, I’ve really adopted a healthier way of eating. It’s been gradual but interestingly when I fall off the wagon and eat something bad, I really feel it. My one vice is still alcohol. I don’t drink a lot but I do like my wine and beer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My journey has been decades! It’s always evolving because it really has to (unfortunately). This has been a really interesting deep dive into how certain foods make me feel — I don’t think I have many sensitivities but it’s still been kind of fascinating.

      Generally the less you eat of a problem food, the more you will feel it if you do indulge.

      Sugar is obviously my Achilles heel, alcohol was very easy for me to give up. We all have our vices, right?


  2. I’m not sure I believe in these categories – at least not as permanent traits. I have learned from work that our bodies are highly adaptable, and learn to digest a given diet more efficiently over time. That said, I definitely feel hungry sooner after eating refined carbs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually do think that it’s true most older women (but not all) tend to gain weight because of carbs (even healthy ones) and over consuming fruit (Stacy Simms, author of ROAR, writes about that subject in her book, too).

      Even though I have good digestion (so far), I would argue that it’s the opposite — you’re more likely to have problems with food as you age because of the aging process & the amount of exposure to food.

      Plus you can develop food allergies at any point in your life — not just food allergies, either.


  3. I swear carbs are my soul mate but according to my Dr and my bloodwork, I eat too many of them and my body cannot digest them effectively. I have been trying to switch things up the last few years but it’s hard. I am a work in progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with Coco here. I have yet to see legitimate science that backs this up — but you make a good point, an excess of anything will cause a gain. There’s no magic foods, although I still remember from WeWa meetings when fruits & veg first went no points and the leader said no one got to WW from too much lettuce. Overeating is the broad issue in our society
    For me personally, it’s what I eat with the carbs. When I fall into sushi it is the rice, but it really is the water I need to counter the rice and soy sauce that bloats. I’m not much of a bread or pasta person to test that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can definitely gain weight from healthy foods — although pretty sure you would never be able to force down enough lettuce to gain weight! But eat a whole bag of grapes a few times a week & you’re gonna have a problem.

      The interesting thing about sushi is the sugar in the rice. It’s sneaky!white rice is not the devil but overeating it will not do you favors.

      I don’t use soy sauce on my sushi. I do happen to like spicy mayo, but most of the time I just don’t indulge in it. I usually find I can do fairly well on sushi.


      1. My attitude toward sushi is “track and move on”, I won’t give it up. a life without sushi isn’t one I’m interested in. I figure the protein in the fish is a nice benefit and offset of the carb issues

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Love to be a devil’s advocate. Are we healthier than our parents? There was no organic food, quinoa or kale in my house?

    And I say yes we are because we are more active not because we eat better foods and eliminate certain foods.

    I am not a fan of these diets and the books about them. But people read them so they will continue to be published.

    That being said, kids today are often overweight. They binge on Netflix and eat popcorn and chips while doing so.

    I believe we can eat whatever makes us happy (in moderation) and get a lot of exercise (in whatever makes us happy – yoga, biking, hiking, weight lifting, tennis, swimming) – just turn off the TV and do not keep snacks in the house.

    Even you have good genes, if you will still gain weight if you eat a lot of sweets and sit around the house. (especially important as you age). But life is short – desserts or alcohol should not be eliminated. Weight is just a number – we need to feel GOOD!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Weight is absolutely just a number & not the whole story.

      But food is, indeed, also medicine. And you can’t out exercise a bad diet — remember Dave McGillavray’s story?

      It’s a combination of both.


  6. I’d say I’m more sugar-dominant than fat…but all of my fasted cardio workouts/runs would indicate something else. I don’t think I have excessive amounts of fat already “stored,” but it seems to sustain me well on my early morning workouts. Like you said, it’s such an individual thing…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m definitely a carb-a-holic but I’m getting better at making smarter choices. I am really trying to up my protein too which is helping. Usually before a run I either don’t eat anything or I eat a piece of dry toast or toast with peanut butter.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As a runner I’m a sugar burner all the way. I have friends who made the switch to fat but it was not easy. In my non-running life I’m much better about sugar intake than I used to be. The cravings definitely do subside if you don’t give in to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Technically, everyone is a sugar burner. All food must be broken down to glucose for the body to use it. Fats, Proteins, and Carbs all break down to glucose in one way or another. That said, since I am trying to limit my fat intake, I am definitely a sugar-burner. I need some carbs to fuel my long runs. thanks for asking the question. You really got me thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I haven’t heard the term before reading this, but I’m definitely more in the sugar category! I eat tons of carbs. And junk food. I have tried to clean up my diet before but I’m frequently on the go and its hard for me to plan ahead. So I just roll with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Have you ever heard of sugar burners vs fat burners? No.

    Which do you think you are? I function better on carbs.

    Have you found your perfect way of eating? Still working on this one.

    My experience has been I lost weight on McDougall Diet & gained weight when I tried Keto for a few months. I felt better without eating so much fat & meat. I did come to the conclusion that we need healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olives for brain function. When I was eating extremely low fat my brain simply did not fire well. Once I added back in some healthy fats I was thing so much clearer. My running was much better on a whole food, complex carb, lower fat diet than Keto. I think everyone needs to determine what works for them. There simply is not a one size fit all when it comes to diet.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are so right. I know that as long as my body keep changing I will always be tweaking my diet. Menopause really makes it difficult too!

        Liked by 1 person

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