It wasn’t long ago that we thought a high-fat diet was one of the largest contributing factors to obesity in America. As it turns out, though, it’s more likely that excessive sugar intake is what contributes the most to rapid weight gain in the form of fat.
But the answer as to why and how that sugar turns into fat is elusive. The process is likely well-known among the medical community, but it seems to be a challenge to make the steps between sugar intake and fat storage clear to the public.
For that reason, we have written out the process of sugar turning to fat step-by-step. Use these steps and a better understanding of fat storage as a guide to eating better and understanding why diet and exercise are important to healthy weight loss.
How Sugar Turns into Fat: The Steps of Sugar Intake to Fat Storage
Storage of energy as fat is a survival response left over from a time before food was readily available in developed countries. Our bodies developed a process of energy creation and storage to help us live long periods without eating.
So how does sugar turn into fat? The process follows these steps:
- Sugar Consumption – This may also be called food consumption. Our bodies break down most foods into various components, but one of the most readily available sources of energy is sugar. We now have sugar at our disposal, and since our bodies crave it, we tend to consume it in large amounts.
- Digestion – Food or sugar we consume has to run through our digestive system before it can reach the bloodstream. It is further broken down after swallowing in the stomach, then pushed to the intestines where nutrients can be absorbed by the body.
- Pancreatic Reaction – When the pancreas detects a spike in sugar, it signals the body that it is preparing to have energy at its disposal. In response to the presence of sugar, it releases insulin.
- Insulin Reaction – Insulin’s job is to push sugar (glucose) into liver, muscle, and other cells for use as energy. In the short-term, that glucose can be used to power your ordinary movements and exercises.
- Energy Use – Depending on your lifestyle, hobbies, and needs, you may or may not use immediately available sugars. Those who do use energy quickly may experience enhanced performance during their activities.
- Energy Storage – If you don’t exercise or don’t use all the available energy after consuming food or sugar, your body must then store the leftover energy somewhere – this is when sugar turns to fat. Most often, it is stored as adipocytes, more commonly known as fat cells, around muscle tissue and organs.
Note that eating and exercising are not intended by nature to be activities that occur back-to-back. Digestion takes time to occur, often at least seven hours. Your body processes food in a way that allows you to access the energy when you need it, but has evolved to do so with an assumption that all lifestyles are highly active.
How Do I Combat Fat Storage?
Sugar does cause weight gain if not managed correctly. The best way to keep too much energy from being stored as fat is to ensure that you exercise every day and minimize your intake of excess sugar. Added sugars that don’t occur naturally have the highest chance of triggering an exaggerated pancreatic and insulin response that you won’t be able to exercise away.
If you’re struggling with holding back on some of your favorite foods, you may consider trying to curb your cravings for unhealthy foods. Even while taking appetite control supplements, sugar can still turn into fat, so it’s imperative to eat enough healthy food to fuel your workouts, and to exercise on a disciplined schedule.