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Eating Fat vs Burning Stored Body Fat?

by (987)
Updated November 25, 2014 at 3:45 AM
Created October 11, 2012 at 4:37 PM

I know eating fat is an important part of a healthy diet, and I am not at all fat-phobic when it comes to diet.

I am somewhat overweight, however, and I find I lose weight fastest when I cut the fat out of my diet (which reduces my overall calories).

This got me thinking about the difference between eating fat (which the body uses for energy) and burning stored body fat. Is there a significant difference in the way the body metabolizes each? Or, if I cut the fat out of my diet to reduce calories and my body uses its stored fat to make up the energy difference, is that essentially the same if I were eating fat and using that for energy? If not, what are the differences?

Don't get me wrong... I'm not suggesting that a low fat diet is healthy for people who are at or even near an ideal body weight. But for people carrying around a large portion of extra fat on their belly, doesn't it make sense to basically eliminate fat from the diet to prompt the body to tap into its own fat reserves?

If there is no essential difference between eating fat and using stored body fat for energy, I would think I could and should eat a VERY low fat diet, prompting my body to metabolize body fat for energy...

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943 · April 09, 2013 at 3:16 PM

I do have an eating disorder and previously I did try to perform in that state. My point was simply that some people need to get the energy from diet and can't tap on the body. Again, I don't disagree with you.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · April 09, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Why would you want to perform in a calorie restricted environment if you're only 110lbs (unless you have an eating disorder). Also, you can burn fat in a surplus. If not, I would be a fat ass as a result of gaining 90lbs, which is far from reality.

Ed0cb30f40daff568778b776b2a5a81d
943 · April 09, 2013 at 1:58 PM

I agree with your post. But, as I've realised, you can't weigh 50kg and expect to perform 'in a calorie restricted environment'. Just saying that the each situation is different.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 14, 2012 at 4:51 PM

^ ROFL LOL .

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79
5150 · October 14, 2012 at 4:19 PM

^Some people DO need to be slurping on fat. Fat deficiency is a real thing.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73
20908 · October 12, 2012 at 1:08 AM

That's not how "toxins" work. First, only PUFAs are unstable. If you're eating good SFA then you don't need to worry about instability (and it's better because the SFA is displacing the excess PUFA that's already there). And fats aren't bad or dirty, they may have "toxins" dissolved in them (fat soluble toxins), but if you eat anything that is a fat soluble toxin, it'll dissolve in the SFAs you create on your own. Best is to eat clean forms of good fats from pastured beef, pork, bison, and wild caught fish.

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3180 · October 11, 2012 at 11:26 PM

Some of both, lots of ways to prepare.

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649 · October 11, 2012 at 8:15 PM

I love the idea of being able to swap out bad fats for "healthier" ones. However, since we keep hearing that fats are quite unstable and store toxins and such, would it not be most preferable to use carbs to synthesize our own fats. Would those fats not be "cleaner". (Who knows if any of this is even possible anyway?)

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8
7592 · October 11, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Skins or no skins akman?

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0
2688 · October 11, 2012 at 7:47 PM

See this for explanation http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/02/perfect-health-diet-weight-loss-version/ You may be right about some vitamins but there are some things like Choline that are not stroed in adipose tissue.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · October 11, 2012 at 7:44 PM

I also don't think this is true, fat soluble nutrients like vitamin D (as LLM stated), vitamin E, and carotenoids are commonly found in decent amounts in human adipose tissue.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · October 11, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Hmmm you raise some good points.

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717 · October 11, 2012 at 7:03 PM

I'm not sure how the message that fat really isn't that bad for you got contorted into you need to be constantly slurping ghee/heavy cream/coconut oil/bacon grease, but apparently it did.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 11, 2012 at 6:07 PM

^ I see. I didn't read the whole post. Eliminating fat from one's diet entirely would be silly. But reducing fat is not a problem at all. IF he's eating 50% fat, 30% protein and 20% carbs, reducing fat would cut down on his calories, and allow him to burn more fat. Reducing carbs or protein further would have little effect, and could be detrimental, because preserving muscle mass allows you to burn more fat in the long run.

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78422 · October 11, 2012 at 6:05 PM

I don't think this is true. I know we store Vitamin D in bodyfat. We certainly know that toxins can be stored in bodyfat and we know that Krill oil and game meats have large amounts of vitamins, minerals and caretenoids in the fat. Why would they store them in fat and we wouldn't?

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78422 · October 11, 2012 at 6:02 PM

It is nice to hear this! Well said, both of you!!!

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5775 · October 11, 2012 at 5:50 PM

There has to be some personal responsibility. I think the whole idea of eating high-fat has been hugely overblown. Sure, it can be great to have the liberation of eating fat, but that is more of an extreme reaction to the fat-phobia that we have endured for years. Like you said, stuffing yourself with dietary fat isn't necessarily doing you favors. Is it better than loading up with processed carbs and sugar, yes. Is Paleo a free pass to gorge on fatty foods, no. You still have to understand the effects of everything you put in your body.

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11478 · October 11, 2012 at 5:49 PM

I agree. But there is a difference in sustainability between "a little bit hungry" some of the time, and "a lot hungry all of the time". The OP was suggesting cutting out fat from his diet so that he can burn body fat instead.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 11, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Yeah, just a couple eggs- it is as simple as that. That's less than 10 grams of fat.

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987 · October 11, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Thanks! That's an important consideration. I'll be sure to check out that blog post.

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14877 · October 11, 2012 at 5:21 PM

You know, it is okay to feel a little bit hungry and just suck it up. There seems to be some unwritten paleo law that goes like this "thou shall never let myself be modestly hungry." I'm sure our ancestors learned to deal with hunger quite well. In fact, supplement companies have made a fortune exploiting at least one ancient technique (hoodia).

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9 Answers

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
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14877 · October 11, 2012 at 5:42 PM

There is wide spread confusion among the paleo community about what it means to be a fat burner. You can be a fat burner because what you ate was primarily composed of fat, or because you are in a calorie deficit and creating an environment in which fatty acids are liberated. You're not metabolically healthy if you cannot access your fat reserves for energy. If you are drinking bullet proof all day long and loading on the butter, MCTs, coconut oil, etc for energy, you're simply not allowing yourself to become metabolically fit. If you're healthy, you should be able to get the energy without the coffee, butter, oil, etc, and perform in a calorie restricted environment.

Point being, drinking bulletproof is half-assing it big time. You need to go without food to burn body fat and be a hard fat burner in that sense of the word. You can eat 10,000 calories of butter a day and be a soft fat burner in that sense of the word.

I'm sure you knew this already though, but have just been lulled to sleep by some clever marketing from the likes of Sisson and Nikoley. You can wake up now though.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78422 · October 11, 2012 at 6:02 PM

It is nice to hear this! Well said, both of you!!!

211d4075d68b24cd0aa7ebfa94262bb9
717 · October 11, 2012 at 7:03 PM

I'm not sure how the message that fat really isn't that bad for you got contorted into you need to be constantly slurping ghee/heavy cream/coconut oil/bacon grease, but apparently it did.

68294383ced9a0eafc16133aa80d1905
5775 · October 11, 2012 at 5:50 PM

There has to be some personal responsibility. I think the whole idea of eating high-fat has been hugely overblown. Sure, it can be great to have the liberation of eating fat, but that is more of an extreme reaction to the fat-phobia that we have endured for years. Like you said, stuffing yourself with dietary fat isn't necessarily doing you favors. Is it better than loading up with processed carbs and sugar, yes. Is Paleo a free pass to gorge on fatty foods, no. You still have to understand the effects of everything you put in your body.

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79
5150 · October 14, 2012 at 4:19 PM

^Some people DO need to be slurping on fat. Fat deficiency is a real thing.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 14, 2012 at 4:51 PM

^ ROFL LOL .

Ed0cb30f40daff568778b776b2a5a81d
943 · April 09, 2013 at 1:58 PM

I agree with your post. But, as I've realised, you can't weigh 50kg and expect to perform 'in a calorie restricted environment'. Just saying that the each situation is different.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · April 09, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Why would you want to perform in a calorie restricted environment if you're only 110lbs (unless you have an eating disorder). Also, you can burn fat in a surplus. If not, I would be a fat ass as a result of gaining 90lbs, which is far from reality.

Ed0cb30f40daff568778b776b2a5a81d
943 · April 09, 2013 at 3:16 PM

I do have an eating disorder and previously I did try to perform in that state. My point was simply that some people need to get the energy from diet and can't tap on the body. Again, I don't disagree with you.

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73
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20908 · October 11, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Don't view it as an either-or situation: dietary fat vs body fat. There is always fat going into and coming out of fat cells. When insulin is high, more will go in than come out, when insulin is low more will come out than go in (roughly speaking). Think of it like a restaurant. People are always coming in and going out. If the food is especially good, more may come in so the restaurant gets more full. If the food is bad more will leave so it becomes empty. But there are sill people going in and coming out. The count of people is probably pretty static but the exact people in the restaurant is different.

Why do I bring this up? There will be fat (technically triglycerides) floating around in your blood, that fat can be burnt or stored or used for something else (like building cell walls, making neurons, etc.) Your body doesn't care where it came from, body fat or dietary fat. It'll just use it.

Granted if you're eating less fat then the source of that fat is your body and you'll lose weight which appears to be "burning fat". And that's a generally good thing. However, remember the fat you are IS the fat you ate. What does that mean? Well, you body doesn't do to much to change the nature of the fat you eat, so if you need it for something useful (like building cell walls or neurons, for example) then your body uses the fat floating around for that. If you eat a SAD diet of high N-6 PUFA and trans-fats, then you become high in N-^ PUFA and trans-fat. Long story there about brittle cell walls, brain problems, etc, but I'll skip that.

So if you eat good fats while you're trying to lose weight, you'll have the opportunity for your body to swap out the bad fats for the good fats in the structural stuff. It'll probably mean slower fat loss since you are supplying yourself with fuel rather than using it all from your body. But I like the idea of repairing by eating good fats rather than starving and not giving your body any new good building blocks to work with.

I guess the summary is that the naive analysis is right: eat less fat to burn your own fat, but it may not be the best solution and you may want to give your body good building blocks to work with.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · October 11, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Hmmm you raise some good points.

Fa666905e4ed72858084dbcfed164daf
649 · October 11, 2012 at 8:15 PM

I love the idea of being able to swap out bad fats for "healthier" ones. However, since we keep hearing that fats are quite unstable and store toxins and such, would it not be most preferable to use carbs to synthesize our own fats. Would those fats not be "cleaner". (Who knows if any of this is even possible anyway?)

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73
20908 · October 12, 2012 at 1:08 AM

That's not how "toxins" work. First, only PUFAs are unstable. If you're eating good SFA then you don't need to worry about instability (and it's better because the SFA is displacing the excess PUFA that's already there). And fats aren't bad or dirty, they may have "toxins" dissolved in them (fat soluble toxins), but if you eat anything that is a fat soluble toxin, it'll dissolve in the SFAs you create on your own. Best is to eat clean forms of good fats from pastured beef, pork, bison, and wild caught fish.

Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0
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7380 · October 11, 2012 at 8:08 PM

Personally, I have always come to it from the perspective that I need to still burn more calories than I consume, and that more fat is simply more satisfying when doing this. I can burn through 2000 calories of carbs like it's nothing, and still feel hungry. If I eat 800 calories of fat, I'll feel great and not hungry. I'll still burn fat, because I take in 1200 calories and burn way more each day walking and exercising. All those numbers are just examples, btw.

Certainly, if you eat enough fat that your body doesn't NEED to go to your stores, yeah, it's probably not going to bother.

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2688 · October 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM

One significant difference between eating fat and using stored fat is body fat has no fat soluable vitamins stored in it. So even if restricting dietary fat in order to burn body fat, its important to make sure you get enough fat intake to get the minimum required micronutrients. Jaminet has a good blog on how to eat for weight loss that outlines this.

A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3
12702 · October 11, 2012 at 7:44 PM

I also don't think this is true, fat soluble nutrients like vitamin D (as LLM stated), vitamin E, and carotenoids are commonly found in decent amounts in human adipose tissue.

6da7ce6a4a250c46a6e78b5b4e22da83
987 · October 11, 2012 at 5:35 PM

Thanks! That's an important consideration. I'll be sure to check out that blog post.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78422 · October 11, 2012 at 6:05 PM

I don't think this is true. I know we store Vitamin D in bodyfat. We certainly know that toxins can be stored in bodyfat and we know that Krill oil and game meats have large amounts of vitamins, minerals and caretenoids in the fat. Why would they store them in fat and we wouldn't?

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 11, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Yeah, just a couple eggs- it is as simple as that. That's less than 10 grams of fat.

7f8bc7ce5c34aae50408d31812c839b0
2688 · October 11, 2012 at 7:47 PM

See this for explanation http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/02/perfect-health-diet-weight-loss-version/ You may be right about some vitamins but there are some things like Choline that are not stroed in adipose tissue.

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723 · January 31, 2013 at 12:24 AM

The whole "high-fat" idea of paleo doesn't mean eat fat until you can't move. It means that a greater percentage of your daily caloric needs should come from fat. You can't eat thousands and thousands of calories worth of fat and expect to burn your body's stored fat.

By eating a greater percentage of your daily caloric needs from fat, your blood sugar will be more stable since fat doesn't cause a spike in insulin.

All in all, you don't need to nit-pick as much about your calories as someone trying to lose weight while on a low-fat high-carb blood sugar roller coaster. However, you still need to be mindful of your caloric intake if you want to burn body fat. If you grossly exceed your daily needs, you won't burn body fat.

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3180 · October 11, 2012 at 7:51 PM

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread67137.html

Some brave souls are bucking all paleo CW and pigging out of potatoes and losing weight fast! Apparently the act of eating high carb/low fat potatoes, and nothing else, puts you at a huge calorie deficit with just enough exdogenous fat and protein to tap straight into your fat stores.

I've done this myself twice now, several weeks apart, and lost an average of .5 to 1 pound per day which did not rebound after resuming normal eating.

Fat Loss Tip of the Day: Eat only potatoes for 7-14 days and you will lose fat fast.

7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8
7592 · October 11, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Skins or no skins akman?

61a27a8b7ec2264b1821923b271eaf54
3180 · October 11, 2012 at 11:26 PM

Some of both, lots of ways to prepare.

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5792 · April 09, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Perfect Health Diet actually recommends exactly what you said: reducing fat intake to allow your body to burn stored fat. More info here:

http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/02/perfect-health-diet-weight-loss-version/

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11478 · October 11, 2012 at 4:53 PM

I don't think that there is any difference between metabolising dietary fat, stored body fat, or excess carbohydrate that has been turned into fat via de novo lipogenesis (Jaminet reckons this starts to happen above 160g of carb a day for most people).

The essential difference between eating fat, and starving yourself so that you burn fat is that the latter doesn't satisfy your appetite. If you can't regulate your appetite, then you'll end up filling the calorie difference with carbs and protein instead of fat, which will spike your insulin and make you less effective and metabolising any fat.

If you want to burn gasoline, don't fill your tank up with diesel.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 11, 2012 at 5:21 PM

You know, it is okay to feel a little bit hungry and just suck it up. There seems to be some unwritten paleo law that goes like this "thou shall never let myself be modestly hungry." I'm sure our ancestors learned to deal with hunger quite well. In fact, supplement companies have made a fortune exploiting at least one ancient technique (hoodia).

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc
14877 · October 11, 2012 at 6:07 PM

^ I see. I didn't read the whole post. Eliminating fat from one's diet entirely would be silly. But reducing fat is not a problem at all. IF he's eating 50% fat, 30% protein and 20% carbs, reducing fat would cut down on his calories, and allow him to burn more fat. Reducing carbs or protein further would have little effect, and could be detrimental, because preserving muscle mass allows you to burn more fat in the long run.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d
11478 · October 11, 2012 at 5:49 PM

I agree. But there is a difference in sustainability between "a little bit hungry" some of the time, and "a lot hungry all of the time". The OP was suggesting cutting out fat from his diet so that he can burn body fat instead.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
-1
78422 · April 09, 2013 at 12:21 PM

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