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Ask Pat #107 “We have two fuel sources –a big one and a little one. Which one are you burning?”

Ask Pat columnEverything I know about health and nutrition I have learned from a large and growing number of scientists, doctors, and researchers. One of those is Dr. Benjamin Bikman. Dr Bikman is a professor running a research lab at Brigham Young University. His lab particularly focuses on obesity and metabolism. 

In my view, Dr. Bikman is exceptionally good at  comparing two things for the purpose of explanation. This is called making an analogy. 

I watched and listened to him do just that on an Instagram video post a few days ago.  Because his analogy was so good I am about to steal his stuff and share it with you. 

To the best of my ability the following represents his message comparing the human metabolism to a fuel truck tanker. While I have used quotation marks, it isn’t perfectly exact. 

If you would prefer to see Dr. Bikman first hand, this link, , will take you to the video directly. Should work even if you don’t use Instagram. 

“One way to look at human metabolism is to compare it  to a big fuel truck tanker. You will recall we have three macro-nutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrates in the diet. Fat and carbohydrates are actually used as fuel. So at any moment our bodies can be burning either carbohydrate or fat to varying levels.  

Note that every tanker truck has a small little gas tank that runs the truck and then there is a massive fuel tank that it is hauling.  It works hard to move that fuel. That small little gas tank is like our carbohydrate (glucose) storage working hard to move our massive fat storage. 

If our “engine” is running on carbohydrate (glucose) this is a small tank that is going to run out. We have to stop and fill it up, stop and fill it up. This is like the person that has to eat every two to three hours.

But tragically this same person is spending so much energy moving this other energy around. We all have fat stored on our bodies waiting to be used. Once we can shift this fuel source and stop relying on the little bit of glucose that we have, we can switch to burning the energy in the  big fat tank. 

Now we finally don’t have to stop and fill up every two or three hours. We got enough energy to keep going. We can go further down the road before we have to top off this really big tank.

This all depends on one single character. The hormone insulin dictates which fuel the body uses. If insulin is elevated the body is stuck in sugar burning mode. If insulin is low the body switches to fat burning mode.

Now to be metabolically healthy we have to be able tap this fat tank that we are hauling around. That happens when insulin comes down”

This link, ,will take you to Dr. Bikman’s video if you go directly there on the internet. Should work even if you don’t use Instagram. 

Don’t get all hung up on how fat you are. Even the most slender person has many thousands of calories stored as fat. But of course, the fatter you are the more you have in storage. 

The more often you consume carbohydrates that increase glucose in your blood, the more insulin is generated. Part of insulin’s job is to store excess carbohydrates (glucose) as fat. Fat alone in your diet has minimal impact on insulin. Protein alone in your diet has minimal impact on insulin. It is the carbohydrates that require insulin.  

Finally, excess carbohydrates in your diet will be from fruit juices, soft drinks, and starches – all arriving in huge quantities in commercially manufactured food. The diet that allows you to tap into your fat stores includes low carbohydrate whole vegetables and fruit growing out of the ground and meat/eggs/dairy products.

So, yeah.  It’s All About the Food. The book is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle. And the paperback version is also available at Bob’s Food City, Marilyn’s Old Country Store, the Mount Ida Pharmacy, and the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center.    

 Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. She can be contacted at, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is  Her website is 

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