You Burn What You Eat

Science by Dr. Ben Bikman

The following is an edited transcription based on the above video to provide additional context and support. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Quick fat loss is not anywhere near as beneficial and healthy as sustained fat loss. With quick fat loss, you typically see a yo-yoing of weight up and down. That’s what happens when you base fat loss on a caloric restriction. When you’re starving yourself to lose weight, you WILL lose weight, but it’s almost never sustainable. There’s a good reason why this happens, and it’s because hunger always wins .

Most of these starvation diets focus on an improper blend of macronutrients in improper amounts. Often these diets have some carbohydrates, some protein and are typically low in healthy fats and very low in calories. While you can starve yourself for some period of time or to reach some kind of short-term goal, once that motivation goes away, people tend to rebound and often gain even MORE weight because they’re getting less healthy and are simply fatigued of the severe caloric restriction (which isn’t natural or good for you) [1].

Stop thinking about quick fixes and focus instead on the concept of sustainability with your weight. Basically, we do this by reminding the body how to shift its primary fuel use, by reminding the body how to burn fat rather than just constantly burning glucose. And you do that by feeding the body the right mix of macronutrients. The beauty of this approach is that you typically won’t be hungry, and you’re far less likely to overeat [2].

There’s an old adage, “You are what you eat.” That’s a catchy, but highly inaccurate statement. The truth of it is that “you BURN what you eat.” [3] If someone is basing their diet on carbohydrates (as most Americans do), then you’re only ever burning carbohydrates. Any of the body fat that you’re gaining, or you already have has no chance of decreasing because you’re burning the readily available glucose. And any that isn’t being immediately used for energy is being stored as future energy – in body fat.

However, if you focus your diet to use fat as your primary fuel, now you’re burning body fat. That’s the magic of the sustainability of the fat loss that so many people are seeing by avoiding carbohydrates and consuming more protein and healthy fats. You are allowing your body to remember how to burn body fat. For example, newborn babies burn body fat very readily for their energy needs [4]. So can we – we just have to remind our metabolism how to do.

Fortunately, this isn’t opinion – there is abundant data reflected across all biomedical literature. As shared previously, the prevailing paradigm of fat loss is a low-fat, low-calorie diet. There have been roughly 70+ clinical studies in humans that have put humans onto low-fat diets or low-carbohydrate diets. Not once has the low-fat diet resulted in greater fat loss than the low-carbohydrate diet. Shockingly, that is what we’ve based our modern dietary advice on – the one that keeps failing.

Don’t rely on dogma. Rely on data. Restrict carbohydrates, prioritize protein, fuel with healthy fats and you can shift your metabolism to predominantly rely on fat as a fuel [5]. This way of eating is not only incredibly nourishing to help you optimize long-term health and help achieve and sustain a healthy weight, it’s something you can do for life because of how satisfying the lifestyle and way of eating can be.



  1. Fothergill, E., et al., Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2016. 24(8): p. 1612-9.
  2. Chandler-Laney, P.C., et al., Return of hunger following a relatively high carbohydrate breakfast is associated with earlier recorded glucose peak and nadir. Appetite, 2014. 80: p. 236-41.
  3. Rubini, A., et al., Effects of Twenty Days of the Ketogenic Diet on Metabolic and Respiratory Parameters in Healthy Subjects. Lung, 2015. 193(6): p. 939-45.
  4. Lister, G., J.I. Hoffman, and A.M. Rudolph, Oxygen uptake in infants and children: a simple method for measurement. Pediatrics, 1974. 53(5): p. 656-62.
  5. Walton, C.M., et al., Improvement in Glycemic and Lipid Profiles in Type 2 Diabetics with a 90-Day Ketogenic Diet. J Diabetes Res, 2019. 2019: p. 8681959.


This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.