How to Unlock Fat Burning Mode: The Ultimate Guide to Losing Weight
I was always an obese dude….
The type that couldn’t fit into any clothes comfortably and started to sweat after walking 10 steps.
Now, this always sucked and it’s something I suffered from since I was a kid. I didn’t know what to do, so I continued to live this way for the first 24 years of my life.
I think I was actually starting to get comfortable with this odd figure. But then, I entered the professional workforce and things started to change very quickly.
I immediately realized how important it was to be in shape and not because of health or anything like that. It was because overweight people were treated differently.
I’d heard studies of this in college, about how overweight people were less likely to be hired because they were viewed as lazy. It’s something I always laughed about and never took seriously…
Until I started to witness these observations first hand.
I can’t say that didn’t suck but I’m honestly glad it happened.
Not because I like being viewed as lazy, but because it forced me to start my journey of losing weight and helping hundreds of others along the way.
The Start of My Journey
I knew I had a lot of work to do all around, but I first started with my diet.
I grew up not really knowing what “healthy” food was, but I knew enough to realize that it wasn’t Taco Bell and Mountain Dew.
So, I started searching around for healthy diets and finally settled on one that followed the traditional “low calorie” approach.
I liked this diet because I knew low-calorie diets were the best way to lose weight and this diet was also pretty flexible.
It told me certain foods to stay away from and as long as I stayed under my calorie limit, I’d be good to go.
After that, I took a test that they’d created, telling me how much to eat based on weight and goal. Then, I went to the grocery store right after.
I immediately stocked up on fruits and veggies, along with a bunch of Weight Watcher’s Meals that would serve as my breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I figured this was the best selection for me as the meals tasted pretty good and they’d help me keep my portions in check.
So, I started on this diet the next day. I set a deadline of 30 days before I was going to weigh myself. I don’t know the exact reason why I picked 30 days, but I knew that weighing yourself everyday would do more harm than good.
During the first 2 weeks, things weren’t really that bad. They were kinda nice actually.
I immediately realized an uptick in energy and started to lose some pounds around the midsection.
I was excited and wanted to weigh myself everyday, but I stuck to the plan and continued to stay away from the scale. However, days 15 to 21 hit and I noticed a huge shift in my mood and willpower.
I had really lost all my energy and I was absolutely hangry.
At first, I thought this was just a normal “correction” as I’d been making changes to my body, but the symptoms kept getting worse and worse.
I tried my best to plow through them and hit day 30, but I was noticing a significant decrease in my work. So, on day 25, I finally caved in and went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch.
Now, I’ve always been a fan of BDUBs, but I’ve never eaten as much as I did on that day.
I completely destroyed a large serving of boneless wings and then had some chips and queso to top it off.
Needless to say, I was absolutely miserable the rest of the day. However, as sad as it sounds, it was still better than being “hangry”.
Then I “Yo-yo’ed”.
Even though I’d had a very large cheat meal during that day, I still wanted to go home and see if I’d made any progress over the last 3 weeks.
Right when I got home, I jumped on the scale and to my surprise, I’d actually lost 11 pounds!
Now, that felt amazing. I’d never been able to really lose weight before and you’d think that would be enough to keep me going. But, like many other “yo-yo’ers”, I told myself I’d jump back on the diet soon. I just wanted to recollect my thoughts before going at it again.
So, I continued to eat “normal” for the next 4 weeks and after that, I was ready to jump back on my diet kick.
I decided to weigh myself on a Sunday before I was going to start. To my surprise, I’ had gained all my weight back…plus 10 lbs!
I couldn’t believe it. I was actually eating a little better than I had in the past so I figured I’d stay a few pounds under my normal weight. Instead, I reached an all-time high.
This was extremely depressing and I thought this was just a “me” problem.
I figured that my slow metabolism was out to get me and that I’d never been able to lose weight. Then, I started to dig into this problem and realized many others were having similar difficulties.
The most publicized examples were actually “The Biggest Loser” contestants. During my research, I came across a lot of articles where they were losing weight during the show. Then, months after the show was over, they were gaining it back and then some!
Now, this obviously intrigued me as I was having similar issues. That’s when I discovered the concept of “ghrelin’ and “fat burning mode”.
We’ll talk about these two concepts throughout the rest of this article, but as a quick overview:
Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” because it helps control your appetite. This obviously has a lot of importance with dieting and can be a good thing. However, when you use the typical “low calorie” diets that are being preached today, then it does the exact opposite.
Because this style of dieting doesn’t lower your ghrelin levels, meaning you have the same appetite as you did when you started losing weight.
Now, that’s bad enough. But, on top of this, your metabolism actually decreases when you start to lose weight.
There are some fancy words for why this happens, but in short, it decreases because you’re smaller and don’t need as much energy….
And that means you have the same appetite but with a slower metabolism, a dynamic duo that essentially guarantees weight gain, whether that be in 1 month or 1 year.
This was an important discovery for me when I came across the concept of fat burning mode. These two are what really helped me kick-start my journey.
What Is Fat Burning Mode?
So, like with everything medical, there’s a lot of geeky terms that go into it. But, in the simplest form:
Our body has two different sources of energy- ketones and glucose.
Ketones are produced when fat is burned and glucose is produced when carbs are burned.
Since we have 2 different sources of energy we can burn, that also means we have 2 different “modes” that we operate in- glycogen burning mode (glucose) and fat burning mode (ketones).
Now, to be 100% accurate, we are technically always in both modes at the same time, but there’s always a primary mode and a secondary mode.
The secondary mode always uses minimal fuel, almost to the point of non-existence. From what I understand, we keep this secondary source alive just so our body knows that the backup source is still available.
Okay, that’s easy enough. But, how do we determine which one is primary and which one is secondary?
That’s actually the easy part of the formula. Glycogen burning mode always trumps fat burning mode.
It’s not because it’s a better source of fuel or anything like that, but because our body has to regulate glucose very closely.
Because glucose is sugar and our blood can only handle so much sugar at one time. Once our blood sugar hits the limit (which doesn’t take much), then insulin has to kick in and start removing sugar from the bloodstream.
Now, this is a good thing but that only leaves so much energy left in our system. That’s why we’re supposed to keep eating small meals while in glycogen burning mode.
Makes sense? Alright, here’s the true kicker.
Guess what happens with the excess sugar after insulin removes it from the bloodstream?
That’s right. It gets converted into stored energy- a.k.a body fat.
Now, that’s bad enough and shows how easy it is to gain body fat. Here’s where things get worse.
The typical western diet is full of carbs and that means we’ve pretty much been stuck in glycogen-burning mode our entire lives.
This is also why people work countless hours to deplete the glycogen in their body and start burning fat or, even worse, starving themselves while doing so.
And to show you the full cycle, that means it’s extremely easy to gain body fat but then you have to work your tail off just to access this stored energy.
Starting to see the problem here?
Alright, so I know that sounds depressing, but here’s the good news.
I’m a minimalist and I wanted to find ways to enter fat burning mode without living in the gym, starving myself or losing muscle along the way.
After years of research, along with the help of some unconventional doctors, I finally found that way.
And in the remainder of this article, I’m going to show you how you can benefit from this research as well:
How to Enter Fat Burning Mode Without Living In the Gym Or Starving Yourself
Step 1: Drink Exogenous Ketones
I actually came across this concept in my earlier days of researching the two different energy burning modes. Through that research, I kept seeing the phrase “exogenous ketones”.
At first, I thought the word sounded extremely fancy and it was some complex subject. However, as I soon learned, I realized that it’s really just a way of saying ketone supplements.
Anyway, when I was doing this research, I came across a story of an individual who started drinking these ketones and began to notice a great reduction in belly fat within a month after she started.
Now, she liked the results. However, she was drinking the ketones for energy and wasn’t quite sure why this was happening. So, she went to the doctor to make sure everything was okay.
It took her a few weeks to find a doctor that actually understood this subject. Once she finally did, he explained to her that by drinking these ketones, she was telling her body to burn fat.
Now, this makes sense as ketones are the source of energy that’s created by fat burn. To be honest, I was a little skeptical to think it was this easy.
So, I decided to test it out and sure enough, within 4 weeks, I had lost 7 pounds- without doing anything different!
Now, that felt great and I’ll show you how to further amplify these results in the next steps. First, you need to make sure you enter fat-burning mode by drinking ketones, so here’s what I advise:
- Buy exogenous ketones. I personally recommend KetoCaNa by Ketosports. Those are good enough by themselves but if you really want to crank it up, buy MCT Oil Powder by Quest Nutrition along with it. This works well as KetoCaNa is exogenous ketones and MCT Oil creates ketones once it hits your liver. So, you’re pretty much getting a military grade dosage when you do this. Helpful hint: might be best to start with just KetoCaNa before moving to the full 1-2 punch.
- Make a ketone shake every morning with a blender bottle full of water along with your preferred ketone source and drink it. I personally use 2 scoops of MCT Oil along with one scoop of KetoCaNa. But, again, it’s going to differ by person.
- Try not to eat breakfast as this ketone shake will be more than enough to get you going.
And that’s it. That’s all you need to enter fat-burning mode.
This trick can work for anybody. However, if you’re diabetic, please consult with your doctor before trying anything out. Insulin sensitivity or restriction can do some funny things with glucose and I want to make sure your body is able to handle both modes before you try it out.
Step 2: Keep Carb Intake Under 20g Per Day
Now that we’ve entered fat burning, it’s important to keep this going.
Technically, you would lose some fat if you just drank a ketone shake every morning and waited to eat until lunch time. But, since we’re already getting into fat burning mode, why not keep it going. And on top of that, the process really isn’t that complex.
As I mentioned earlier, carbs create glucose and that’ll put you into glycogen burning mode. So, the only way to get around that and stay in fat burning mode is by keeping your carb intake low.
Now, everybody is a little different and there’s really not a one-size-fits-all answer, but the one route that does work for everybody is keeping your carbs under 20g per day.
So, why does this differ for everybody then?
Well, because the only time your body turns back into glycogen burning mode is when glucose hits your liver. Some of the glucose that you consume is used up by your muscles, so that’s really where most of the flexibility comes in.
In other words, if you just finished a serious workout and used all the glycogen in your muscles, then you could probably afford a little more than 20g and still stay in fat burning mode.
If you don’t eat carbs, that’s fine, too. Your body can create glucose out of protein. I’m just letting you know why you can have some carbs and still stay in fat burn.
The last thing I wanted to point out is that when I mention 20g of carbs, I mean in general- not any of that “net carb” stuff.
If you’re not familiar with “net carbs”, a lot of people will use the formula of total carbs – fiber= net carbs to determine their daily carb intake.
The logic behind this is that fiber doesn’t turn into glucose and shouldn’t be included as a carb. To some extent, I do agree, but I’ve also seen a lot of people get kicked out of fat burning mode by eating too many carbs in general.
I’ve done a lot of research on this and I can’t really find an exact answer. But, from what I’ve gathered, excess amounts of fiber can turn into glucose.
Again, don’t quote me on that, but I’ve seen what it does so I know it’s important to stay careful with it.
Alright, so since we’re restricting carbs, then what types should you eat?
I always recommend green and leafy vegetables, like broccoli.
It’s important to consume these types of carbs as they’re full of nutrients (like fiber) and they don’t turn into glucose that fast, giving you even more leeway on your total intake.
And that’s really everything you need to know about staying in fat-burning mode, well from a carb standpoint. We’ll cover the rest in the next section.
As a quick recap:
- Keep your daily carb intake under 20g (to start).
- Try and spread carbs throughout your day/meals. Try not to eat all of your daily carbs at once, but if you’re starting at 20g, you’re probably fine either way.
- Get your carbs from healthy sources like leafy vegetables or avocados.
That’s how you stay in fat burning mode. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but once you start to feel the effects and see the results, staying away from carbs gets pretty easy.
On top of that, you don’t have to starve yourself either, you just have to…
Eat A Lot of Dietary Fat (High Fat, Moderate Protein, Low Carb Diet)
Now that we’ve entered fat burning mode and learned how to stay out of glycogen burning mode, it’s time to take care of everything else.
And by everything else, I guess I should just say ghrelin.
Remember that hunger hormone that I talked about earlier? The one that forces everybody to yo-yo diet?
Yeah, that’s never going to go away and if we don’t control it, we’re at an uphill battle.
That’s where this next step comes into play. It’s highly important to not starve yourself and, instead, eat a high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet.
Why exactly does this diet work so well? Let’s break it down into sections, starting with fat.
The first thing I like to mention with fat is that it absolutely has nothing to do with making you fat.
Well, I guess if you ate an absurd amount of it, like to the point of vomiting, then maybe. But, as we discussed earlier, body fat is nothing more than stored energy.
And since it’s stored energy, then there’s no reason why we should believe fat is what causes fat (unless you eat excess amounts).
On the other hand, remember when we talked about how glucose is quickly converted into body fat? And not because it was a lot of calories, but because our body can only handle so much sugar in the blood at one time?
Yeah, that’s also the reason why it’s so easy to gain weight while in glycogen-burning mode. You could easily eat 3 big meals and gain some extra body fat with every meal.
Fat, on the other hand, lasts a lot longer and really doesn’t create any metabolic issues. This is why you’ll hear a lot of people eat a high-fat diet while they’re intermittent fasting, because the sustained energy can last them all day.
In other words, don’t worry about the constant small meals that you’re supposed to eat while in glycogen-burning mode.
Then, in addition to this, fat also helps control ghrelin.
This is helpful for curbing your hunger, but it’s also helpful as it lowers your ghrelin levels as you lose weight. This means you won’t run into the high appetite and slow metabolism problem that most yo-yo dieters incur.
So, how much fat should you eat then?
I’ll give you ratios in a second, but from a practical standpoint, just eat fatty foods until you’re full. Don’t worry about counting calories, weighing out food or any of that junk- there’s no need to do that with high-fat meals.
Because the body is really good about self-regulation when in fat burning mode and it’ll let you know if you need food or not.
At the same time, I realized ratios are easier to follow in the beginning. We’ll get there soon, but, first, I wanted to cover exactly what “fat” is.
I do this because when most people hear fat, they instantly think of snickers and candy-things that make us fat.
When I say fat, I mean healthy fats, like:
Grass-fed beef (any beef is okay, but grass-fed is always better)
Fatty fish (sardines, salmon, etc.)
Pork (pork chops, pulled pork, even bacon)
Butter (just make sure it’s real butter)
Full-fat sour cream
In all honesty, the only fats you really need to stay away from is trans fat and “seed oils”.
I think most people are aware that they need to stay away from trans fat, but here’s the problem…
Food companies are able to hide the fact that their food contains trans fat by titling it “hydrogenated oils” which is the exact same thing.
A Big Fat Recap:
- If you’re counting calories, try and make sure 75% of your calories are from fat.
- Make sure you’re eating healthy fats.
- Avoid trans fats or “hydrogenated oils”.
- Avoid seed oils like vegetable oil, sunflower oil and canola oil as these oils are highly inflammatory and not good for you.
We’ve talked a lot about carbs and fat, but we haven’t mentioned protein yet.
And that doesn’t mean protein isn’t important. That just means it’s a little more flexible than the other two.
Before jumping into the specifics of protein, it’s important to remember that protein’s main function is for muscle repair and growth, not energy.
This is also why bodybuilders love it so much and the exact reason why it’s been so severely misunderstood over the recent years.
Now, people think they can just eat protein all day and make muscle, when that’s simply not the case. Muscle has to be created from somewhere (i.e. breaking down muscle from lifting and repairing it with protein), so please keep that in mind.
The second thing I want to point out is that when you consume too much protein (i.e. more than your muscles need), then the excess protein will turn into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.
Now, this is also a highly debated issue. Some health bloggers make it sound like one bit of chicken creates glucose in the blood while other bloggers offset this by saying 100% protein will keep you in fat burning mode.
And I’m here to tell you they’re both wrong. I’ve tested both analogies and both strategies have kicked me out of fat burning mode.
Here’s how you can cut through the noise and avoid this.
Protein is important and something you should consume. Unless you’re lifting every day, then you probably don’t need to eat 300g of it.
Like everything else, the amount will vary by person. As a 6 ft, 175-pound male, I try and stay under 100g per day.
With all that said, from a practical standpoint, if you can eat at least 1 gram of fat for every gram of protein, then you’re probably okay.
I know this can be hard at times, especially when you’re eating a lot of meat-heavy meals. So, to offset that, I’ll usually melt a bunch of butter and dip each bite of meat into it- problem solved!
- Try and consume 20-25% of your calories from protein.
- Too much protein can be a bad thing, but it takes a lot to get there.
- Just try and eat at least 1 gram of fat for every gram of protein, and you should be okay.
- Protein is important, but not the saving grace that many think it is.
We’ve already talked about this subject and I don’t have too much more to add. But, there are some other things I wanted to relay for the purposes of clarity.
As we discussed earlier, we can only convert back to glycogen-burning mode after glucose hits the liver. That can only happen when the muscles don’t use all the glucose that you’ve put into your body.
In other words, if you eat some extra carbs right after lifting heavy weights, then you’ll probably be okay as the muscles will soak it up.
On the other hand, as we discussed with protein, your body can also make glucose with protein so you really don’t need to eat carbs. That’s why there’s no such thing as an essential carb.
But, if you are going to still eat carbs, just try and eat them from healthy sources, like berries and veggies.
These foods will help provide other nutrients and be helpful overall. Just make sure you’re careful with how much you eat. Some foods, like apples, can add up in a hurry!
- Try and stay under 20g of carbs each day.
- Try and get your carbs from healthy sources.
- You really don’t need carbs, just up protein if you don’t.
- These amounts will vary by person and how active you are.
Feel the burn…
And that is your complete guide to burning fat.
If you follow these simple steps and stick with it for a few months, I absolutely guarantee you’ll love your results and keep going.
As with any hard changes in your diet, it might feel weird at first. But, with the help of everything I’ve put in this guide about the best way to lose weight, I have no doubt that it’ll help you progress with your weight loss goals.