Keto Diet Health Benefits: Differences in burning FAT vs. CARBS for Fuel

Look at what you had for your first meal today. No matter what time you first ate today, that first meal broke your overnight fast. Hence the name, ‘break fast’ or breakfast. Now, sort your first meal’s items into these three categories:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fat

That’s it. These are the only options in life that we have. Three types of food. If you had two eggs and buttered toast for breakfast, you would have eaten all three nutrient categories:

  • Eggs = protein and fat.
  • Butter= fat.
  • Toast= carbohydrates.

When thinking about eating a food item, think of these three options and see which category your meal fits in. For example, if you had a bowl of oatmeal with milk, you ate mostly carbohydrates with a splash of protein. There is no fat in that meal.

  • Is it a carbohydrate?
  • Is it fat?
  • Or is it protein?

These three categories fuel our bodies. There’s a whole bunch of geeky science that I can go into to try and explain this. But I’m keeping this simple. All food falls in one of these three buckets.

Differences in Fuel Sources
Let’s begin with the easiest buckets: carbohydrates and fats.

Let’s begin with the most simple buckets: carbohydrates and fats. Referred to as carbs most of the time, are foods that turn into sugar inside your body. Sugar in the blood is called glucose or fructose.

Your daily energy depends on:

  • What type of fuel do you put into your body?
  • What chemistry was happening inside your body before you added that fuel?

My Campfire Analogy Explaining How Different Food Choices Result in Different Energy Types

After you rake a season of pine needles together, put them into a pile. You barely need to add a flame to watch the whole mound ignite. The dead pine needles and leaves curl from the nearby heat and burst into flames. Some even fly into the air because the process happens so quickly. And then it’s over. The fuel is gone.

That’s how carbohydrates fuel your body. They shoot up quickly without much trouble. The energy burns intensely but doesn’t last very long. We call this a sugar rush.

What does this feel like? A sugar rush? What does a sugar rush feel like? This sounds like a silly question, right?

Yes, it may seem silly until you spend time in a clinic with patients who are unaware of their high sugar levels. These patients can drink or eat a tremendous amount of sugar without experiencing a rush. Are you one of these patients?

You may be unaware of your chronically elevated blood sugars. A sugar rush should be felt quickly. Tomorrow morning, after no food or drink for 12 hours, gulp down one cup of orange juice. This should send your sugars soaring. It is like drinking a cup of sugar water. When your blood sugar peaks you should feel a surge of energy. If you are unaware of your consistently high blood sugar, you won’t notice much. Your glucose levels were already high to start with, and that juice added only a tiny fraction to your total.

The price you pay for this cheap, quick fuel is the energy crash you suffer when it runs out.

Fat also fuels your body.

Fat fuels your body the same way a brick or a stable, dense, log feeds a fire. If you’ve ever tried to start a campfire with a thick log as your fuel, you probably spent the night staring at a dark fire pit in the cold. Before the log would burn, it needed the correct environment in the fire pit.

The hard part about using the log is getting it started. Once you finally ignite it, you get a steady source of heat, light, and energy for the rest of the night. That is how stored fat works inside your body.

Fat, like the log, can be a tricky bugger to get going. But once your body starts burning fat for fuel, you get steady, sustainable, and solid energy. The heat from one burning log can spread to the next log releasing even more fuel. Fat provides a constant long-lasting source of energy for your body which is one of the main keto diet health benefits.

How Does Fat Energy Feel?
When you send fat to fuel the body, it transforms into glistening compounds called ketones. Once this fuel begins to burn within your cells’ mitochondria, much like burning logs in a campfire, your fuel source becomes steady and abundant. Over the course of two weeks, your body ads more and more logs to your energy production.

keto diet health benefits

Protein-energy acts like a campfire that uses twigs. The twigs produce enough of a flame to help the log or the brick churn out heat.

Without the log, the sticks quit burning. Fuel from twigs lasts longer than pine needles, but cannot sustain the fire without a log. Sticks need a consistent renewal of pine needles or a continuous supply of heat from a log to

keep the fire going.

If sticks burn without a log present, or without repeatedly adding kindling, the fire runs out. When your protein powers the body without fat as your primary fuel, your energy runs out. If protein molecules are burned without fat the energy runs out.

When you compare the pine needles [carbs] to the sticks [protein], the pine needles and sticks both burn easily but don’t last very long. The fire from the pine needles bursts much higher and faster than fire fueled by sticks, but neither burns for long without help.

When you compare carb fuel to protein fuel, both delivery energy rapidly to the body, but the energy runs out. Both carb and protein fuels crash after their peak-with carbs crashing a lot sooner and harder. The sticks [protein] wear out if there isn’t a log [fat] around to sustain the fire.

What Does Any of This Have to do With a Keto Diet Health Benefits?
If your fuel comes from fat, your body makes molecules called ketones. A chain of fat goes into our cells’ furnace. This cellular fuel house is called the mitochondria. It spits ketones out when fed fat. When the ketones swim throughout the body and your bloodstream, it fuels your cells with a source of energy that is steady, strong, and reliable. Ketones show up in your system when your cells use fat, in the absence of carbohydrates, for energy.

When you eat carbohydrates, glucose and other sugar molecules appear in your blood. After eating carbs, glucose, and fructose flow through your bloodstream where mitochondria suck them into their furnaces. These molecules line up in front of your mitochondria [furnace] and burn rapidly. Glucose, like pine needles in a fire, deliver fast, quick energy. Your cells’ furnaces burn hot and fast when using glucose. This glucose-based energy reaches the highest heat level your body can produce-only to crash when your glucose runs out.

One more time. Carbs go into your body, and mitochondria gobble their fast-burning, pine-needle-like energy, only to leave the system fatigued and tired after the crash. Fat goes into the body and ketones fuel mitochondria producing a steady, strong source of energy-just like campfire logs.

Tips How to Maintain the Keto Diet Health Benefits
Knowing which foods assist in entering and maintaining ketosis is essential. The Pocket Guide & Fridge Chart will lead you step-by-step through this process as you discover how to fit keto-friendly foods into your everyday life. At the grocery store or dining out, these tips will ensure you are making the best choices possible for a new you.

Learn more about what foods to eat through our FOOD GUIDE teaching you the good – better – and best options for ketosis eating.

Mursu J1, Robien K, Harnack LJ, Park K, Jacobs DR Jr; Dietary supplements and mortality rate in older women: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Oct 10;171(18):1625-33. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.445

David R Jacobs, Jr Myron D Gross Linda C Tapsell; Food synergy: an operational concept for understanding nutrition; The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 89, Issue 5, 1 May 2009, Pages 1543S–1548S,

King DE1, Mainous AG 3rd, Geesey ME, Woolson RF; Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun;24(3):166-71.

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