Ever heard of someone complaining of a slow metabolism? We all have. In fact, you may be one of those people. We all look to those blessed with ‘fast metabolisms’ with envy. They seem to be able to eat anything and not gain a pound.
Your metabolic rate is defined as the number of calories your body expends each day just to sustain yourself. If you did nothing but sat in bed all day long, your resting metabolic rate would account for how much energy you needed to stay alive.
Those who have fast metabolisms typically tend to speed up the number of calories they burn to match their total calorie intake. If they overeat for instance, they tend to release more heat, hence burning up more total energy overall. This results in them being able to self-regulate their body better.
On the other hand, someone with a slow metabolism who overeats doesn’t have the ability to do this and instead, they tend to start converting that extra energy to body fat storage.
While everyone seems to always be on the hunt for ways to boost their metabolic rate, one thing that often gets left out of the picture is what’s referred to as metabolic flexibility.
Let’s go over what this stands for, why it’s important, and what you can do to maximize yours.
What Is Metabolic Flexibility
First let’s go over what metabolic flexibly is. This is essentially your body’s ability to shift between using various fuel sources.
For instance, you may already know that the body’s preferred source of fuel is glucose. This means that when you eat carbohydrates, you are directly giving the body the fuel it needs.
The brain and muscles tend to work best running on carbohydrates for fuel, especially if you are doing intense physical exercise. In fact, you are unable to utilize anything but carbohydrates for fuel during very intense exercise as the body cannot break down the other nutrients fast enough to meet demand.
This said, at times when carbohydrates are not present, if you have good metabolic flexibility, this means you can easily transition to utilizing dietary fat and stored body fat as a fuel source instead.
While you may not use fat as fuel if you are doing intense sprinting activities (once again, the high intensity nature of this prevents your body from doing so), those who do have good metabolic flexibility can use the fat as fuel when doing activities such as walking, working, or just going about their day to day lives.
Why Metabolic Flexibility Is Beneficial
So why is this beneficial? Why is it important to not only have a fast metabolism but also have this metabolic flexibility?
When you have a good level of metabolic flexibility, there are a few benefits you’ll reap.
Stabilized Energy Levels
The first big benefit to note is stabilized energy levels. If you lack metabolic flexibility, once your preferred source of fuel runs out, you’re going to find that this is met with an energy crash. Your body simply does not transition to another type of fuel easily, so you’re left feeling far less than optimal.
When you do have good metabolic flexibility however, you can seamlessly make the transition from carbs to fats without a problem so often you won’t even notice a slump. You’ll feel good all day long.
As most people do complain of low energy levels on their diet plan, this is making it all the more evident that many do not have the metabolic flexibility they need.
Superior Fat Utilization
The second key benefit is superior fat utilization. If you are able to utilize both carbs and fat as a fuel source, this makes it easier to utilize a lower carb diet plan for maximum fat loss with ease.
Some people who try lower carb, higher fat diet plans to maintain control over their insulin levels and as such, burn fat faster feel miserable right from day one. Their body does not transition to using fat as fuel well and as such, they have low energy levels, may feel foggy minded, and may also notice they are seeing their gym performance decrease significantly. They may not even be burning fat as quickly as well.
While it can be normal to not adjust right away, if good metabolic flexibility is in place, after a few days on the low carb diet, their body will transition and they will feel just fine.
Those who have poor metabolic flexibly however don’t ever transition and instead usually have to come off the diet plan entirely, going back to a higher carb approach.
While you can lose fat using a higher carbohydrate diet plan, it may not always be optimal. Being unable to have this option available however does put you at a significant disadvantage.
Flexibility In Planning Your Diet
Finally, the last benefit you’ll get when you can achieve optimal metabolic flexibility is the ability to have some flexibility in planning your diet overall. If you are someone who tends to run best only when eating a higher carb menu, you’ll need to ensure that your meals are always based around carbs, while also making sure that you get in sufficient protein and fiber to slow down the release of those carbs into the bloodstream.
If you have good metabolic flexibility however, you won’t have to worry as much. If you eat a meal that is rich in protein and healthy fats while low in carbs, it isn’t necessarily going to dramatically decrease how you feel. You’ll be able to eat that meal and continue on as normal.
This can allow for more overall food variety in your program, helping to reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies and ensures that you are going to stand the best chance of sticking with the program overall.
So as you can see, there are some great benefits to improving your overall metabolic flexibility that are important to note. How can you adjust your metabolic flexibility to optimize it?
Let’s look at a few things to know and remember.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Metabolic Flexibility
The good news in all of this is that there are definitely things that can be done to help improve your metabolic flexibility. By taking these steps, you increase the chances that you are going to notice the above benefits and be on the path to a healthier body weight.
Here is what you need to focus on.
1. Improving Insulin Sensitivity Through Weight Lifting Activity
Perhaps the most important thing that you’ll want to be doing is making sure that you are improving insulin sensitivity by performing regular smart exercise activities. Weight lifting tends to be the most beneficial here and will have a direct influence on how well your body is able to handle glucose consumed. When your insulin sensitivity is increased because of this, your body will be better equipped to handle both carbohydrates and dietary fats coming into the body.
If you aren’t keen on strength training, interval cardio training would be your next best option. Just do keep in mind that steady state cardio training is lowest on the totem pole as far as boosting insulin sensitivity goes. If that’s the only exercise you feel comfortable doing, then by all means, do it because something is better than nothing. But do note that there are superior choices out there.
2. Enhancing Glucose Utilization Through Smarter Food Choices
The second thing you can start doing is improving your food choices to enhance glucose utilization and insulin sensitivity.
One of the best ways to do this is to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet plan. These fatty acids are proven to help enhance insulin sensitivity and may even help you ward off diabetes as well. In addition to that, they are also going to offer a number of other added benefits such as lowering heart disease risk, reducing inflammation, and possibly even warding off depression.
Getting enough of them in you diet is a must. Turn to foods such as salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
In addition to that, you’ll also want to limit your intake of refined and highly processed foods that include simple sugars. These foods are going to reduce insulin sensitivity, setting you up for the opposite – insulin resistance.
Consuming adequate protein in your diet is a final step that should be focused on to improve your metabolic flexibility. Protein is not only good as it actually can increase your overall resting metabolic rate, but in addition to that, protein has very little influence on blood sugar levels so can further enhance insulin sensitivity.
By making a few changes to your diet plan, you can really impact how your metabolism is functioning.
3. Including Sufficient Variety Of Foods In Your Diet Plan
If you eat the same few foods every single day over and over again, it’s to be expected that you are going to struggle to utilize other foods when you eat them.
What some people don’t realize is that your body is a highly dynamic machine. If you for instance cut all the carbohydrates out of your diet plan for a few weeks or adopt a very low fat diet, your body is going to stop producing as many of the enzymes needed to break these foods down properly. It isn’t receiving those foods, so why waste energy producing the enzymes to just go to waste?
As such, when you do introduce these foods, you’re going to notice that you simply don’t break them down like you should. This in turn is what can lead to metabolic inflexibility.
If you are instead making sure that you are including some meals that contain carbs and others that contain just fat in your menu, you’ll force your body to keep making those enzymes, making it easier for you to transition between the two nutrients for maximum energy.
Do keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to eat a balanced diet of all three macros. If you want to be on a lower carb diet to help accelerate fat loss for instance, this just means that every so often – once per week or so – do have a higher carb meal so that your body is still making those enzymes as needed.
4. Taking Digestive Enzymes
Speaking of enzymes, this brings us to our final point of taking digestive enzymes on a regular basis as well. Using a high quality product such as Masszymes can help provide all the necessary digestive enzymes you need for every type of food you consume. This can help ensure your body has all the tools and resources at its disposal to transition between fuel types without a problem.
Guidelines For Diet Optimization
Before we leave, let’s look at a few of the top guidelines to remember for diet optimization.
If fat loss is your goal, you should be including a good mix of cardio training along with weight lifting to ensure improved insulin sensitivity along with a higher level of total calories burned, which will then lead to superior fat loss results.
With this, focus your meals primarily around leafy greens, lean proteins and healthy fats, taking in complex carbohydrates and/or fruit around the workout period. It’s during this time that your body most needs those carbohydrates.
All simple sugars and refined foods should be removed from your diet plan.
If muscle building is your primary goal, you’ll want to place more focus on doing resistance based activities. At least 4-5 sessions per week will be most ideal coupled with possibly 1-2 cardio workouts as well.
Your diet should contain a nice balance mix of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins, with most of the carbohydrates being taken in immediately before and after the workout as well. Don’t be afraid to really overload the body with carbs post workout. It’s at this time your body is primed to use those carbohydrates, and they will benefit you the most. A good number to aim for here is a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.
So there you have some of the key facts to remember about metabolic optimization. It’s not enough to just focus on having a fast metabolism. While that’s certainly good and helpful, you also want to ensure that you have a good level of metabolic flexibility so that you can structure your nutrition plan as you want to without having to worry about feeling unwell because of doing so.
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