Yep, you read that right. Your body doesn’t care which product it has to burn out to get the required energy. As snack choices, both a Snickers bar and a banana have very similar macronutrient profile (the ratio of carb to protein to fat).

You might say that one is generally considered the healthier choice, however both products are sugar-based. A banana is full of fructose, just like a Snickers bar is full of refined sugar. The fact is, your body does not care which of these two snacks you consume, because both will be treated the same and converted into glucose by your liver. This then leads to a spike of digestion hormones such as insulin, which on its own will result in weight (fat) gain.

In short: a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate, and it’s going to be broken down into glucose regardless of its source[1].

 
A common misconception is that bananas make for a good and healthy snack. However, aside from its rich electrolyte profile (potassium) and some fibre, a banana is indeed a Snickers bar for your body. This same principle applies to almost any other fruit out there. Thus you might have heard quite a few experienced nutritionists and dieticians warning people that they’re eating too much fruit and not enough vegetables. Once again however, even some vegetables don’t differ much from a Snickers bar once they’re being digested in your body. For example, a beetroot will give you some extra benefits, but on the whole your body wouldn’t tell it apart from a Snickers bar. 

There’s a lot more misconceptions around fat-burning and energy that you might have been told, but this article isn’t about hashing those out. Instead, let me introduce you to genuine and simple nutrition hacks which you can implement today, that will put your system into fat-burning mode.

Because of such macronutrient profile that is dominant in sugar, both items will be broken down the same by your body. Continue on reading to find out exactly why.

Looking deeper

By now you know that glucose can be derived from almost any snack you would consider ‘healthy’ and that from this bigger picture standpoint, all food items are on the same range of scale. What really matters is (1) the caloric input, (2) your body’s output via exercise or other physical activity, and of course (3) the macronutrient profile of the food item you’re opting for.

Let’s look at the case of Snickers bar vs. a banana:

snickers-banana-snack-comparison-diet

Now, you could say that there are way too many variables, which can still make banana the better snacking choice. That is true, however in this instance let’s cover the initial effects the meal will have on your body. As is often the case in life, we must look past first impressions as something that seems good & healthy at a first glance could have consequential side effects. As you can see in the pictures above, I highlighted the carbohydrate load of both food items. Bananas have less carbohydrates so you might think it’s better, however it is not the amount of carb that’s problematic.

What matters here is how those carbohydrates break down into sugar and fibre. Whilst there’s plenty of sugar and some fibre in both food items, you could argue that a banana has less of both. But when we look at the macronutrient ratios in a banana, its appeal quickly fades.

The macronutrient ratio (or ‘macros’) is the split of carbohydrates, protein and fats per meal broken down in percentages. For example to increase muscle mass, your split of daily macronutrients could be around 60% carbs, 30% protein and around 10% of fat. This means that 60% of the food you consumed in a day would be of carb content, 30% would be protein, and so on. In this case, both the banana and the Snickers bar have a similar ratio with a small amount of fat, moderate protein and a huge amount of carbohydrates (most of which are sugars rather than fibre). And this is exactly where the answer lies to the question from the start of this article: why does the body see a banana and a Snickers bar as one and the same.

Because of such macronutrient profile that is dominant in sugar, both items will be broken down the same by your body. The effect is clear: if you are going to consume either item in excess of your daily caloric ratios you will store fat.

 
I used to believe that fat consistency is what makes people fat, however the opposite is true. Have you noticed how many people preach eating low fat food, yet struggle to stay in shape? There is a clear correlation AND causation there. Food advertised as low-fat is also often loaded with carbs. People with insulin sensitivity who blindly follow such low-fat diets, could end up with type 2 diabetes. In fact, diets low in sugar and carbohydrates have been shown to completely reverse diabetes in recent studies [2], but this is a topic worth its own article.

What’s clear is that sugar-loaded items can be catalysts for weight gain and deteriorating health. Worryingly, you can find such items in the ‘healthy’ aisles of a store (think fresh and dried fruit or berries) as much as among the shelves with highly processed foods.

 
Now that we’re clear on why a Snickers bar isn’t the only devil out there, let’s discuss how you can choose your foods more wisely the next time you’re in a grocery store or grabbing a snack on the run.

 

Choose better snacks and turn your body into fat burning mode

Avoiding carbohydrates is an easy yet unconventional way to lose a lot of fat in a short amount of time. Whilst it’s not a sutainable way of eating, you can do it cyclically – eating low-carb for a couple of months then back to a more even macro profile for the next couple of months. There are however less harsh ways of achieving a better macronutrient profile that don’t involve sacrificing one nutrient group completely. 

Now that you know that a banana is, much like a Snickers bar, just a stick of sugar, you should take more care to read the labels on your food. Most people (including myself back in the day) think that it takes too much time to check every label and understand what it means for your body, but this isn’t true. We as people are repetitive organisms living in patterns: we thrive on repetitions, schedules, rituals, and because of that we eat almost identically every single week.

Because of such habitual behaviours, introducing just one truly healthy and nutritious snack will make a huge difference to your diet and health. By picking it up again and again, you’ll build a habit that will have a tremendous impact on your lifestyle. 

 
To begin with you don’t even need to read the whole label of every food you add to your cart. Simply focus on noticing how much carbohydrate there is in the specific item. If the item doesn’t have a label, as vegetables and fruits often don’t, search it on Google or use an app like MyFitnessPal which will do that for you. Like with the two snacks we discussed above, carbohydrates are usually split into two categories:

  • Sugars. The more of sugars a food item has, the worse it is for you all-around. This doesn’t just include your teeth, but also your cardiovascular system and your potential six-pack too! Sugar (causing diabetes) is responsible for almost 1.5 million deaths per year worldwide [3], and it has been linked to a whole range of other illnesses.
  • Fibre. The more of fibre an item has, the tougher it will be for your body to break down. Simply put, it is indigestible. So the more fibre there is in your carb, the less insulin spikes you will get; this equals less fat gained.

So what are some truly healthy snacks, that are high in fibre rather than sugar that you can start munching on from tomorrow? Also which one of them you can simply buy on any corner store or nearby market? 

Note that depending on which part of the world you are from, the availability of these snacks might vary. However, by now you should have a good understanding of what type of snack can tick your body into storing fat.

 

coconut chunks healthy fat burning snack good for brain

Coconut chunks is my go to snack I recommend to my clients, friends and high achieving colleagues.

The Better Snack to Push Your Body into Active Fat-Burning Mode

Higher in fat:

Fresh coconut chunks

My personal favourite snack, which has also transformed several of my clients’ lives. The white nut meal is chock-full of fibre and good fats. It’s also convenient to be eaten on-the-go as most supermarkets sell it freshly cut in snack-sized packages.

Pine Nuts

Very high in good fats and a tasty addition to a salad bowl. They’re also great as a standalone, healthy snack. Easily found in almost any grocery store, they’re my go-to snack in the quick and busy situations.

Macadamia Nuts

My personal favourite nut, because of its creamy texture and sweet taste. This is a kind of nut with a high amount of good fats, lots of fibre and just traces of carbohydrates. If you ever go the low-carb diet route, this is a perfect snack. Because they’re so fatty, macadamia nuts are extremely satiating, so you’ll feel full after just a handful of them. High amount of good fats and no sugars will push your body to burn and use own fat instead of carbohydrates for energy.

Coconut milk yogurt

A rarity, however if you can find one with lower carbohydrate profile this is a superb snack/meal. Some supermarkets in UK just introduced this type of yogurt and it has just traces of sugars.

Goat’s Cheese

A delicious addition not only to the meals, but as a snack itself. If you happen to have a chance to get some leafy green – simply top it up with goats cheese and you have a simple and delicious snack. This type of cheese is also lowest in lactose, thus if you are intolerant this might be the least harmful milk byproduct you could use.

Higher in carbohydrates, still good in moderation:

Almonds

A handful of these will be satiating enough for at least couple of hours. Although high in carbohydrates these pack a good amount of good fats, fibre and taste great. Just don’t overdo it.

Sweet potato crisps

Some stores in UK sell dehydrated sweet potato slices as crisps (US English: chips). These come with absolutely no additions and can be a superb snack before high amounts of activities, e.g. before and after training to replenish some of the glycogen burned during the exercise.

There are countless of good example you can discover, however as mentioned before being patient and introducing small changes will lead to greater consistency thus bigger success achievement.

Adding just one or a couple of these daily into your diet will push your body into incremental fat burning mode. This is one of the best shortcuts to flat stomach, feeling good looking good way of living, and most importantly does not consume any of your time.

Next time you are headed to work and have no time for breakfast grab any of the ones listed above. One of my personal favourites which not only keeps me full but also maintains a well oiled mind and gut is fresh coconut chunks. Majority of it is fiber, just a little bit of sugar and good fats to balance it all out. It is a go-to snack for my daily runs from a place to place, as well as a good movie snack you can bring with you. Furthermore people I coach have it almost everyday as a snack and or breakfast go-to item. The best part of it? It is a truly healthy and guilt free and delicious snack, which beats both bananas and snickers in their response to your body.

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References

[1] Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats all Contain Calories. University of Illinois extension. 2014 – http://extension.illinois.edu/diabetes2/subsection.cfm?SubSectionID=2

[2]Diabetes UK. LOW-CARBOHYDRATE DIETS FOR PEOPLE WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES (MAR 2011) https://www.diabetes.org.uk/About_us/What-we-say/Food-nutrition-lifestyle/Low-carbohydrate-diets-for-people-with-Type-2-diabetes/

[3] Diabetes. key facts – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/

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