Metabolic flexibility is just what it sounds like: having flexibility in your metabolism. It’s essential to feeling our best and helps us steer clear of health problems. When we’re low in metabolic flexibility, we’re more likely to experience fatigue, cravings, irritability and the dreaded hanger. Not to mention, long term metabolic inflexibility can lead to serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you want to know how to improve metabolic flexibility, check out our best tips and hacks.
What is Metabolic Flexibility?
Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to adapt and use whatever fuel is available to it (sugar or fat). Sugar/carbs offer a quick hit of energy but fat is a much more efficient fuel source for your metabolism.
Everyone has their unique crossover point when they go from burning primarily fat to carbs. If you’re metabolically inflexible, you’ll switch to burning carbs early, meaning your body rarely taps into stored fat, making it more difficult to lose weight.
If you’re metabolically flexible, you can easily switch between fuel sources to maximize efficiency. Your body can quickly adapt to burn what it consumes. When you go for long periods without food, your body will continue to burn its fat stores for energy, meaning you’ll snack less, have better weight maintenance, increased energy levels, improved sleep, and have better health overall.
Why is Metabolic Flexibility Important?
Metabolic flexibility is important for good health. It can help you achieve boosted energy levels, a healthier weight, more consistent glucose levels, improved sleep, optimized workout performance and lower odds of developing a metabolic disease. You’ll also notice fewer blood sugar roller coasters, fewer cravings and increased fat burning. On the flip side, when your body becomes metabolically inflexible, problems like high blood glucose can affect your metabolic health and wellness.
How Can You Measure Your Metabolic Flexibility?
There are a few metrics that can give you an idea of your metabolic flexibility. First is your ease of fasting. When you wake up in the morning, do you need to eat right away or can you go a couple hours without eating? If you can wait a while, it’s a good sign you’re metabolically flexible. This also goes for being able to wait longer periods of time between meals. Second, look at your energy levels throughout the day. If you have good, stable energy when working and have good mental focus and clarity, it’s a sign your have good metabolic flexibility.
It’s also a good sign if you can eat a carb-rich meal and feel good afterwards. If you feel like your energy crashes, you need to take a nap and are super bloated, you may not be utilizing those carbs efficiently. Exercise performance can also be a sign of metabolic flexibility. If you’re able to exercise in varying intensities (low, moderate and high), it’s definitely a good sign!
How to Improve Metabolic Flexibility
Getting enough exercise is so important to your overall health, and a lack of physical activity is one of the leading causes of metabolic inflexibility. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn controls glucose levels. Switching up the types of workouts you do can also help improve metabolic flexibility. A mix of aerobic cardio and strength training is the best combination.
2. Reduce Your Refined Carbs
When you eat lots of refined carbs (white pasta, pastries, breakfast cereals ), your body gets used to looking for carbs for energy. When carbs go missing, your body craves them and you end up with fatigue, cravings and distractions until you can refuel. This can lead to weight gain and other health issues. Lowering your carb intake can help to reduce your glucose and insulin levels, put less stress on your cells, and improve metabolism and metabolic health.
3. Focus on Whole Foods
Focus on eating whole foods and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. Even with regular exercise, a bad diet puts stress on your body at a cellular level. Eat a diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, dark leafy greens, healthy fats like avocados and chia seeds, black beans, chickpeas, eggs, fish, nuts, and meat and poultry without antibiotics or hormones.
4. Balance Your Blood Sugar
The ultimate goal is to have moderate rises in our blood sugar throughout the day, while minimizing the high spikes and crashes. To do this, choose to eat protein before carbs at meals, for instance, eating eggs before your fruit for breakfast, or eating your chicken before taking a bite of quinoa or sweet potatoes at dinner. You should also focus on properly balancing your meals. Half your plate should be leafy green vegetables, about 6 oz should be cooked protein and fill in the rest with healthy carbs or fat.
5. Consider a Ketogenic Diet
The keto diet can help your metabolic health and flexibility. This eating plan is a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps you transition to burning fat for fuel. When your body is in ketosis, it starts to burn fat for energy and produce ketones. In this ketogenic state, your metabolism more readily burns dietary and stored body fat for energy. Check out this keto diet weight loss plan if you’re interested in getting started.
6. Good Sleep Hygiene
Sleep doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Sleep deprivation can lead to chronic health problems, such as diabetes and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Quality and length of sleep are both essential to metabolic health. Even partial sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance, affect hormone levels, and increase inflammation and weight gain. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of restful sleep per night.
7. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is when you restrict food for a certain period each day, usually a period of 8 to 12 hours, for example, fasting between 8 PM and 8 AM. It helps combat insulin resistance and improve metabolic flexibility. Intermittent fasting allows you to burn enough fat to use for energy, while releasing a level of toxins that your body can handle. It also preserves lean muscle, reduces cholesterol levels, reduces oxidative stress, minimizes inflammation and increases dopamine levels.
Use these tips to improve your metabolic flexibility and improve your health and wellness levels.
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