The illusive metabolism, every wants a faster one, right? But what even is the metabolism and how does it determine if you get to eat donuts all day long and then still stay lean?
The human metabolism is a complex system of hormonal responses. Hormones such as leptin, insulin, glucagon, ghrelin and incretins are often discussed, along with growth hormone, adrenaline, cortisol and your thyroid hormones.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to discussing metabolic hormones, because outside of these ‘sexy hormones’ every single thing you eat, drink, think, inhale and every movement you make, or don’t make, effects your metabolic rate. And this is on top of all of the things that you can’t control, such as your genetics, and the environments that you were exposed to in utero and in childhood. Talk about analysis paralysis!
Even the most well versed functional endocrinologist can be overwhelmed when tackling this system, and that is precisely why we see many diet books focusing on only one hormonal system at a time. This is also why I see metabolic fatigue as the MOST common type of fatigue in professional women.
Despite all of this though, the research nerd and eternal puzzle solver in me loves investigating and treating the metabolic system, specifically because each and every other system of the body plays into it! That’s right! Optimizing your metabolism for energy production means getting down and dirty with all of your personal fatigue factors.
- Your intestinal tract and microbiota (ie digestion)
- Hormonal balance
- Thyroid health
- Mitochondrial health
- Stress and adrenal health
- Neurotransmitter balance
- Nutrient deficiencies
Lifestyle Factors Affecting Metabolism
To address the metabolism we also need to look into your daily rhythms and habits. Do you sleep at a regular time, wake and exercise at the right time, are you not only eating the right diet, but at the right time, for you? Things such as light exposure, timing of light exposure and how much you sit during the day will also give important information into your current state of metabolic function, and how it can be optimized.
What is the key to all of this?
Don’t get overwhelmed!! That is step one. I like to look at this incredibly long and complicated list with immense hope, excitement and anticipation. Why? Because, there is so much that can be done to optimize each person’s individual rate!
When we work together on the puzzle that is you, you can find your personal metabolic obstacles that when addressed can bring you the empowerment and inspiration you need to live your ultimate life!
Personal obstacles aside, what can everyone do to improve their metabolic rate?
- Abide by a daily rhythm. This means going to sleep at the right times, getting enough sleep, eating at appropriate time intervals and getting light exposure in the morning, but not at night. Even one day of less sleep, and an altered circadian rhythm can decrease our metabolic rate, decrease our insulin sensitivity and increase our cravings for processed, sweet fat meals. (Think about the post bar poutine or pizza of your 20s!)
- Each person’s ideal macronutrient ratio will be different! That is right, ketosis doesn’t work for everyone, paleo doesn’t work for everyone, high carb doesn’t work for everyone. What is important though is that you experiment with different diets that are nourishing. Focus on three major areas – colourful, high fiber (unless you have a GI condition), and balanced with protein and fat.
- Move in small ways. Although I would love for everyone to be able to include physical exercise into their lives, I get that when you are totally exhausted going to the gym or doing intervals is just not likely to happen regularly. What can happen though is small breaks through the day where you get up and walk to the water cooler, move in your chair or get a standing desk, go for walks, play with your kids/pets/significant others, all of this is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and it can determine up to 15% of your metabolic rate!
- Get checked out. Although this may sound like a ‘book with me’ plug it is truly meant to provide you with the best possible results, no matter who you see! I spent years, decades even, with an unnecessarily broken metabolism and debilitating fatigue. I was inflamed, had horrible gut dysbiosis, nutrient deficiencies, infections and was stress out the wahzoo! I also have a pretty strong genetic predisposition towards insulin resistance and stress induced metabolic perturbations. I was suffering and being told that I was fine, and there was nothing that could be done. This is so not the case, not for me, not for anyone! And with a proper metabolic work up, and targeted interventions you to can trust in your body again, and trust in your ability to be well!
As you go through the above steps, and the other steps that I outline throughout the website, you will inevitably see positive changes in your body, mind and sense of vitality. Through this process though, you will also see plateaus. I think this is a great place to discuss plateaus, as I believe they are truly just a sign that either your circumstances have changed, or you have uncovered yet another metabolic obstacle. We are all a work in progress! Try to stay positive when these things happen, and reach out! That is what our Facebook community is for! To keep each other motivated, empowered and inspired!