What Does it Mean to be 'Metabolically Healthy?'

What Does it Mean to be 'Metabolically Healthy?'

Most of us have heard that metabolism is somehow connected to weight loss, but that is a small part of the larger role metabolism plays in our bodies and overall health. Metabolism is the energy created by physiological processes that keep us alive. More simply put, metabolism is a process that your body uses to convert the food you eat into energy. You can think of it as a conductor in a busy train station, delivering the right nutrients to the right cells at the right times to create the energy needed to keep the whole place (your body) running smoothly. The goal is to achieve a high rate of metabolism in order to maintain an ideal weight, optimal energy, chill AF moods, mental clarity, and a body that is inhospitable to pathogens & viruses.

Optimal metabolism also involves an ability to switch efficiently between its two fuel sources: glucose and fat – this is metabolic flexibility. Metabolic flexibility is key to avoiding physical symptoms—fatigue, irritability (ever get “hangry?”)—when the body uses up the glucose in the bloodstream and has to switch to fat to keep going. Here's the thing, most people today are unknowingly maintaining a blood glucose level that is way too high by eating high carb snacks & meals every few hours. So, if weight loss is a goal, you WANT the body to have to switch over to burning fat for fuel.

If you blame your expanding waistline on “slow metabolism” or just a “normal part of aging” – it's not. It’s just that over time your metabolism ‘forgets’ how to effectively put fuel to use and it becomes sluggish in its processes (metabolic inflexibility). Some of the signs of a sluggish metabolism (aka metabolic dysfunction) manifest as fat around the midsection, rising blood sugar & insulin, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and poor immune health. These are essentially red flags the body is sending out to let you know you’re putting yourself at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, or even cancer. Your job is to pay attention and be proactive.

Back to aging really quick. Aging naturally causes a decline in your metabolic rate. So, as we age, it is important to give “optimizing metabolic health” a much, much higher priority in order to cruise through mid-life and into our elder years without significant health issues (and the prescription drugs associated with those issues). No one wants to be on blood pressure meds or statins for cholesterol, and injecting yourself with insulin? No thanks. All of these are preventable conditions!

Onto hormones and the role they play. Think of hormones as the trains in my previous train station analogy. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that house hormones, which are essentially chemical messengers that tell various processes around the body how to function and when. They regulate all metabolic processes, direct growth & development, help us run away from tigers, tell us when to eat and when to stop, they get us in the mood for love, help us reproduce, regulate sleep cycles, our moods and so much more. So, what does the endocrine system not do? Not much, really. The optimal functioning of this biological powerhouse is vital to metabolic health.

Tips to optimize your metabolic health

Hydrate. Hydration supports everything from your immune system to your muscle function. Adequate hydration promotes regular bowel movements to clears out toxins.

Try intermittent fasting. Fasting can help train our bodies to be more metabolically flexible. Research suggests it can also help reduce inflammation, fight obesity, and improve cardiovascular health because in a low-insulin state, the body can stay in fat-burning mode.

Don’t snack. Snacking may seem harmless but it causes dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which lead to more cravings, then more snacking…now you’re on the “blood sugar roller coaster.” Instead, try to focus on eating nourishing, balanced (fat + protein + fiber) meals designed to stabilize blood sugar.

Ditch sugar. Excess sugar (and carbs that turn to sugar) wreaks havoc on metabolic processes (detoxification, hormones, immune function, the microbiome, etc.) and contributes to inflammation & weight gain. If you have your levels tested, a fasting blood glucose of less than 90 mg/dL is considered 'normal,' but an optimal range is around 70 or 80 mg/dL.  Over a prolonged period, elevated glucose levels lead to excess insulin in the blood, a dysregulated state that could lead to insulin resistance then, Type 2 diabetes.

Feed your gut-bugs. A flourishing, balanced microbiome can optimize metabolism by helping your body obtain nutrients from the food that you eat more effectively. The microbiome is also critical in the function & health of your immune system. Eat a variety of foods and incorporate ferments and a high-quality, spore-based probiotic.

Prioritize sleep. Diet isn’t the only thing that can mess with your hormones. Sleep deprivation has been linked to decreased levels of circulating leptin, which is a satiety hormone. Aim for 7-9 quality hours of sleep each night, then step out into the sunshine first thing in the morning to sync up your circadian rhythm – the body’s master clock.

Work out. When you move your body for at least 20 minutes a day you are:

★ reducing stress hormones

★ supporting cellular respiration

★ strengthening bones, joints + muscles

★ relieving anxiety

★ increasing lymphatic flow

★ strengthening your heart 

★ boosting confidence

★ reducing inflammation

★ sweating out toxins

Get chilly (or hot). One of Mother Nature’s most powerful metabolic boosters is the weather. Hormesis (or eustress) is when we intentionally shock the body with extreme temperatures (hot or cold) or even high doses of nutrients (like sulforaphane) to elicit a positive response to minor stressors. The body responds by increasing its ability to repair and slow down the aging process—making us MORE resilient to stress. The body thrives on this type of stress as it helps to optimize our metabolic processes.

Chill out. The foods we eat, the shows we watch, the websites we visit, the people we surround ourselves with, and ALL the other things we subject ourselves to — ALL contribute to our stress bucket. Stress affects our digestion, increases fear, it can make us gain weight, and perhaps one of the worst effects of stress is that it keeps us awake at night. Poorly managed stress is toxic to the body and ongoing high cortisol can affect your brain, your microbiome, and all of your metabolic processes. Make it a priority to take regular time-outs to relax and activate your parasympathetic nervous system (chill state). (I can also check for indicators of chronic stress with an Adrenal Panel).

While most of us know that we should take better care of ourselves, we often put it off until we’re ready to take on a challenge. In the meantime, metabolic dysfunction could be building up in your body. The good news is that keeping your body running efficiently might be easier than you think, you just need to take daily steps towards healing your body and begin to let go of harmful habits, comfort foods and parts of your lifestyle that are contributing to the symptoms you’re experiencing. By making simple changes to the way you eat, move and live, you can help your body become more metabolically healthy. Of course, you could do this on your own, but if you need an accountability partner, I can absolutely help you lose weight, build resilience, boost energy, de-stress and make recommendations to give your body what it needs to come back into balance.

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