How to Turn on Your Fat Burning Machine

Balancing the hormones insulin and glucagon is essential for transitioning your body into a perpetual fat-burning state. Discover how dietary changes, intense exercise, and intermittent fasting can help you manage your blood sugar levels, enhance insulin sensitivity, and promote overall health.

The Hormones Insulin and Glucagon: Key Players in Fat Burning

The hormones insulin and glucagon are both produced in the pancreas and work in balance. When one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa. This balance was ideal when food wasn’t always readily available. But now it is, for most of us, and that’s where the problem starts.

These two hormones serve opposite functions. Insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas when your blood sugar levels are high. Following a meal that contains mostly high glycemic/high sugar carbohydrates, your blood sugar level shoots up quickly past the normal post-meal level of 140 mg/dl. This facilitates the storage of glucose (blood sugar) in the muscle tissues and especially fat cells.

Glucagon is secreted by the alpha cells of the pancreas when blood sugar is low. This primarily occurs between feedings (fasting) and while exercising. Glucagon causes the liver to release stored energy into circulation.

Insulin promotes storing energy and manufacturing proteins, while glucagon promotes the release of stored energy, both glucose and fatty acids.

If you want to convert your body to a perpetual fat-burning state, it is essential that you keep your insulin and blood sugar levels low. That’s because burning sugar always takes precedence over burning fat. The more carbohydrates in your diet, the higher your blood sugar and insulin levels will be. If you are consistently burning more sugar, you end up storing more fat.

If your body is accustomed to burning sugar for energy, as soon as it is out of the bloodstream, your body will start begging for it again. You will have cravings and even experience a “high” from eating sugary foods. As your blood sugar rises and subsequently crashes, you will become edgy, depressed, and fatigued until those cravings are fed again. This constant process reduces insulin sensitivity, causing your body to need more. You may call it a sugar addiction.

Strategies to Start Burning Body Fat

The ideal way to start burning body fat, instead of storing it, is by eating foods with a lower glycemic index and exercising with high intensity. Eating more protein and fewer carbohydrates is key. When eating fast-burning (high on the glycemic index) carbohydrates, include fiber, protein, or healthy fats to slow down the digestive process, making it a lower glycemic index.

Exercise, especially intense exercise, is very effective at burning the glycogen stores in muscle tissue. Your glycogen (the storage form of glucose in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep and fasting and will be depleted even further during intense exercise. This can further increase insulin sensitivity, meaning that a post-workout meal (within an hour window of exercise) will be most efficiently utilized. Protein should be consumed at this time to help with muscle recovery, as the body is able to utilize more protein following exercise.

Double the Benefits with Exercise and Intermittent Fasting

Interestingly, exercise and intermittent fasting can both achieve some of the same benefits, so why not double up and do both? Some of the benefits include:

  • Decreases blood glucose
  • Decreases insulin levels
  • Increases glucagon
  • Increases growth hormone
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Promotes lipolysis and free fatty acid mobilization
  • Promotes cellular fat oxidation

Intermittent fasting (IF) has tremendous benefits for burning fat and getting off the vicious sugar-burning cycle. During the fasting process, the body isn’t fed sugars and burns off its glycogen stores. This forces the body to go into fat-burning mode for energy.

Additional Proven Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

  • Promotes fat loss and longevity
  • Starves bad bacteria in the intestines
  • Improves brain function, immune system, allergies, cellular regeneration, and repair
  • Reduces inflammation, cravings, blood pressure
  • Fights glucose-dependent cancer cells

Recap

To start burning fat instead of sugar, you want to increase glucagon production and insulin sensitivity by increasing quality protein consumption, while eating fewer carbohydrates (low GI), and keeping blood sugar levels low. Including exercise and intermittent fasting in your plan is the ideal way to get the fat-burning machine going.

Picture of Suzie Huening

Suzie Huening

Certified Epigenetic & Human Optimization Coach| Physcial Therapist Assistant| Figure Pro| Mindset Mastery Certified| Amazon International #1 Best Selling Author| Biohacker

About Me

I am forever in the pursuit of the Art of Well-Being. I started my health and fitness journey back in the early 80s, during college, as an aerobics instructor (big hair, leg warmers and headbands…oh yeah!!). I later became a personal trainer and competitive bodybuilder…which eventually evolved into health club ownership and a variety of jobs within the health and fitness industry, including getting a degree in Applied Science Physical Therapy. However, as a military spouse (now retired Vet spouse), my license was only good in one state, and that career was short-lived due to moves. 

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