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“Quick, Get Me Some Sugar Before I Start Burning Fat.”

As ridiculous as it sounds, that's what it boils down to for millions upon millions stuck in the sugar crack-house.

"Hypoglycemia" has to be the most overused, misunderstood condition in existence, perhaps with the exception of "I got the flu" (most of what people identify as "flu" is simple food poisoning).

I had an interesting experience over the weekend, when I took part in a fairly rigorous hike, about 4.6 miles round trip, but with three miles of that on an average 15% grade. To make it more interesting, we were camped up top, so it was first about 3/4 mile on pretty flat terrain, then the descent for 1.5 miles. It was steady, as though along a canyon wall, not a switchback trail.

I took along about 3/4 of a pint bottle of water, no food. Others had their hydration packs and other supplies. Three of us reached the bottom 10 minutes ahead of the group of four behind us. I wasn't thirsty, so I didn't take on water. Once the other four arrived, out came the Cliff Bars, nuts, fruit, and other things. I was offered, but politely declined. What those hikers did, but probably didn't realize they did, was to foreclose on their body's ability to get any fat burn going for the rest of the hike. Even if you're skinny, it's still a good idea to keep your body familiar with the process.

We all left at the same time, and it was immediate ascent. I started out on a slow, even pace, gradually increasing it. As I began to break a good sweat, I removed my shirt. Instead of wiping sweat (coolant) away, I spread it with my bare hands over my face, torso, and arms. I did this two or three times with surprising results in terms of a bit of an energy boost. Being able to cool is a huge advantage. At no time was I even slightly hungry, or even thirsty until the very end when I took in about 8 ounces. Nor did I need to stop for rest. The climb was grueling in the sense that the grade was so steady, with nary a flattening.

I outpaced one hiker by 20 minutes, and the rest of them by 30. The rest of them were among those who had to have their mid-hike "energy," and I heard that along the climb, one got "hypoglycemic" and had to chew on an orange. I kept my mouth shut, but it's more likely that this hiker simply never wanders out of sugar-burning mode, and since she never does, her body knows just how to scream bloody murder when she even gets close.

I think it's very appropriate to challenge yourself on short hikes like that. I once tried to do Half Dome in Yosemite while in ketosis some years back. That's about 12 miles or so, round trip, ascending from about 4,000 to 9,000 feet and back. Very tough, and I got leg cramping and had to turn back about 3/4 in. A year later I made it handily on white-bread bologna & mayo sandwiches and water.

Oh, yea, and I did it all in my Vibrams, of course (this hike; they weren't invented when I did Half Dome).

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

6 Comments

  1. Kyle Bennett on October 2, 2008 at 17:12

    I don't know about your friend's claim of "hypoglycemic", but it's a really serious condition. I used to get it a couple of times a year, until I noticed the pattern that it would always happen when my breakfast consisted of pancakes drenched in syrup washed down by several cups of coffee with 4 tsps of sugar in each one – then went out and did something physical. This was before I had ever heard of low-carb diets and all of this stuff, in my teens/early twenties.

    What I didn't know then was how truly serious it could have gotten, but I did know how serious it felt, at least temporarily. It's not something you can mistake for a run of the mill sugar craving, which of course was the dominant mode I was in, day in, day out, in those days. It required immediate attention that at times felt nearly bad enough to justify an emergency room visit (I'd be literally on the verge of passing out, with uncontrollable shakes, cold sweats, severe disorientation, and blurred vision), except that it was always "cured" by a slice of bread, or a piece of candy, almost instantaneously.

    What I know now is that it is *caused* by an excess intake of sugar, and the chronic hypersensitive insulin response that is a result of a diet high in carbs. If that is what your fellow hiker truly experienced, it was probably triggered by the little sugar break she took at the bottom of the trail.

    I've had sugar cravings on occasion since, but can't remember the last truly hypoglycemic incident I've had. It's a condition that's curable, for good, by avoiding the pancakes and four spoons of sugar per cup of coffee.

    By the way, I'm down about 7-8 notches on my belt since the end of June, and that's without yet having gotten real serious about planning a proper diet or exercise, just from avoiding grains and sugar. Can't say what that translates to in pounds, since I don't really care about pounds at this point. I'm just happy with the increased energy level, improving flexibility, reduced aches and pains, and Sally's thrilled about the end of my snoring.

  2. Kyle Bennett on October 3, 2008 at 09:11

    Rich,

    I'll tell ya how I went back, the other times. Holidays and Road Trips. I kept believing two things about them: that I couldn't fully enjoy them without my usual "comfort foods", and that I could quit anytime afterward without a problem.

    The pattern will be familiar to any alcoholic.

  3. Richard Nikoley on October 3, 2008 at 08:23

    Kyle:

    I was wonderin' how you were coming along. Thrilled to see you've stuck with it. Really, once you get past a few months, it is to me incomprehensible how anyone could ever go back.

    It's a way of life.

  4. Adam Cilonis on October 3, 2008 at 12:31

    I officiate high school basketball and as you can imagine those kids can run, which means I run…a lot! I often do 2 games of 1:20 with a 15 minute break in between. This weekend I am working a tourney and will work 4 in a row (20 minutes running half/5 minute halftime/20 min. second half) with 10 minutes between games. I bring water and some gum to chew. My partner for that set of games will often have a Gatorade or two, power bar, banana, etc. The worst was a guy how made a kool-aid like drink pre, half and post game and a king-size snickers at the half (of both games)! I drank water and kept my mouth shut also…always do. Some day they will ask.

    My wife used to be that person that would feel "sick" at about 10am every day (after a carb heavy breakfast). She fought me on the EVOFIT way of life for a few months but came around in June. She uses the eating window technique and goes from dinner until lunch 6-7 days a week with out the any problems. Eats lunch at 1'ish, snack and dinner.

    This is the good life!

  5. Suzanne on October 4, 2008 at 07:16

    LOVE the title of the post..made me chuckle 🙂

  6. Erik on August 3, 2010 at 05:56

    I seem to recall reading somewhere that water was a byproduct (along with CO2) of the fat metabolism process, as opposed to lactate with sugar metabolism. Now I can’t find any information on that and I’m not sure why but would that account in part for your lack of thirst (something that I’ve noticed similarly in myself)?

    Maybe I just got some bad information thrown into the mix, but if you’re able to clarify that’d really help.

    Thanks,

    Erik

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