Only 1/8 of adult American are “metabolically healthy”. The remaining 7/8 can drastically improve quality of life, health, weight loss, energy, and stay youthful for longer.
Do you experience any of the following?
- Getting sleepy after eating carbs
- Insatiable appetite between meals
- Fasting for more than a few hours is painful
- Snacking to stay alert
- Energy crashes in the afternoon
- Strong urge to binge food late at night
- Unable to function without coffee, tea, or other stimulants
If so, you’re likely metabolic inflexible. But what is that and why does it matter?
In today’s post, I will breakdown the science of metabolic health. The basics of metabolic flexibility, how to optimize the metabolism, and my favorite tool to make the process easier.
Your Metabolism Explained
Have you heard the term metabolism thrown around? It’s often used in the context of the ketogenic diet or an intermittent fasting protocol. So what is it, and how does it work?
Your metabolism is the name for a group of organs and bodily systems that convert food and calories into usable energy. A healthy (flexible) metabolism can transform any type of food into fuel. Tapping into stored body fat during times of caloric scarcity. Unhealthy (inflexible) metabolisms default to storing calories as body fat and cannot access body fat as needed.￼Metabolic Flexibility: 5 Steps to Peak Health & Fitness Click To Tweet
An optimal metabolism is like a car that can run on gasoline, diesel, or electricity. When energy levels drop, the body can turn to any of several alternate fuel sources. Making it highly resilient.
The metabolism is key for:
- Burning body fat
- Building muscle
- Generating energy
- Preventing disease
- Enhancing cognition
And much more as you’ll learn later.
Metabolic flexibility (MF) supports long-term health and keeps the body performing at its peak.
Do You Have Metabolic Syndrome?
There are five markers of metabolic health:
- Waist circumference above average
- Fasting blood sugar above average
- Prediabetic or Type 2 diabetic
- Pre-hypertension or hypertension
- Low HDL or high triglycerides
How many of the above apply to you?
Answering yes to three or more of the five criteria above indicates metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is a reversible state of severe metabolic inflexibility. Your body loses the ability to burn its own fat, and needs a constant stream of carbohydrates for fuel.
Do you often get “hangry”? Inflexible metabolisms need carbohydrates around the clock to get by. Other serious health conditions also become more likely. Boosting metabolic health optimizes the brain and body.
The Benefits of Improving Metabolic Flexibility
Luckily, you can significantly improve metabolic health in just nine days.
Greater metabolic flexibility is associated with:
- Mental sharpness
- Burning stored body fat
- Chronic disease prevention
- Overall health improvements
- Easier weight loss
- Optimized workout performance
- Greater lean mass
- Enhanced sleep
- Stronger immune system
- Stabilized blood glucose (anti-aging)
- Boosted physical and mental energy
No ingredient, supplement, or pill alone will reverse metabolic syndrome. These are the major components you should understand.
How to Become Metabolically Flexible
Two main factors underlie determine how you’re able to use different fuel types:
Insulin. The hormone responsible for determining whether calories are burned or stored as body fat. It’s like the drawbridge into cells. Once your cells are topped off with sufficient calories, they stop listening to the insulin signal and “raise the drawbridge”. Insulin resistance makes fat burning harder and the energy generation processes less efficient.
Mitochondria, also known as the “powerhouses of the cell”. Mitochondria are your energy generators powering every cell in your body. Without them, you die (which is how cyanide poisoning works). The mitochondria of metabolically unhealthy folks don’t generate as much energy.
Most metabolic optimization tips improve your body’s insulin signaling, mitochondria, or both.
It all starts with establishing your baseline. To know what fuel source your body is burning, I prefer a new tool called Lumen. Lumen is a device that accurately measures whether you’re in fat-burning or carb mode. Check it out here:
Once you know your current status…
These are the best ways to increase metabolic flexibility:
- Practice time-restricted eating (TRE). Compressing your meals into a shorter window increases your body’s ability to burn stored body fat.
- Exercise. Burns stored glycogen, builds mitochondria, and sensitizes your body to insulin. Daily physical movement is one of the top (and fastest) ways to improve metabolic health.
- Become fat-adapted. People turn to low or zero-carb to teach their body to burn stored fat. When this happens, insulin can drop. Then your fasting blood sugar stabilizers and you avoid the mid-day energy slump.
- Targeted nutrition. Build healthy mitochondria by increasing your intake of magnesium, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids. Avoid industrial sources of omega-6, and ruthlessly eliminate fried foods. For example, fish & chips contain a mitochondrial poison called aldehyde at levels 200 times above what the WHO deems safe.
- Remove processed foods. Sugar is really a nutritionless appetite stimulant
. Triggering hunger, cravings, and moodiness. Refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, and other ultra-processed foods often spike blood glucose and insulin higher than table sugar. Reduce bread, pasta, and rice where possible.
- Add clean veggies. Non-starchy vegetables support mitochondrial health, contain a class of powerful antioxidants called polyphenol, and promote proper insulin signaling.
- Healthy fats. Natural sources of clean fats optimize hormone levels, make you feel full, and promote blood sugar stability.
- No snacking. Insulin rises after every meal containing protein or carbs. The less insulin fluctuation throughout the day, the faster your metabolism can recover. Unless you’re snacking on pure “fat bombs”, snacking slows down the adaptation.
- Continuous glucose monitors (CGM). If you’re deadset on improving quickly, this special technology helps. CGMs like Nutrisense show your around-the-clock blood glucose trends. Since insulin levels correspond with glucose, CGMs can help you identify the factors hindering fat adaptation.
- Cold stress. Spending a few minutes in extreme temperatures can stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis and improve insulin sensitivity. Take a cold shower, ice bath, or whole-body cryotherapy to capitalize on cold stress.
- Sleep. The body has an intricate connection between sleep and hormonal and metabolic processes. Sleep is key to minimizing hunger and cravings while keeping willpower high. In addition, a study found that a 40 percent reduced glucose tolerance from six nights of inadequate sleep.
After establishing your baseline with Lumen, work on the above metabolism enhancers. Then test again to track your progress. You can make noticeable progress in less than two weeks.
Biohacking Your Metabolism to Burn Fat & Live Longer
Metabolism may be a mysterious and dauting word, but it’s core to optimal health. Simply put, your metabolism is the biological machinery that transforms food into fuel usable by your body.
The five generally-accepted markers of metabolic health include:
- Waist circumference
- Fasting blood sugar
- Prediabetic or Type 2 diabetic
- Pre-hypertension or hypertension
- Low HDL or high triglycerides.
To build your ideal body, all-day energy, maximum performance, and to help prevent disease, use the above tips to optimize your metabolism. My favorites include:
- Eating the day’s meals within a shorter timespan
- Exercising daily
- Minimizing processed foods
You’ll start to feel better as you optimize your metabolism.
Self-quantification aficionados can gauge progress either with blood work, or via non-invasive technology like Lumen.
Whichever route you choose, prioritizing metabolic flexibility upgrade your health as a whole.