Metabolism… we know we want it working, and we want it fast, but what is it- really? With so many diets, fasts, detoxes, and cleanses out there claiming to speed up our metabolism, how do we know what really works? And what’s healthy and safe? This month we’ll dive into the topic of metabolism, giving you the real scoop! This week we’ll give a brief overview of what metabolism is and provide you with some of Simply Nourished’s favorite tips to speed it up. Next week we’ll do a deep dive into the topic of intermittent fasting and I’ll share my own personal experience with one of these methods. In case you don’t know, intermittent fasting is more focused on WHEN you eat as opposed to WHAT you eat. It’s a time-based meal plan that cycles between periods of eating and fasting and studies are showing it can have powerful effects on your metabolism, weight, energy, and even longevity!
WHAT IS METABOLISM?
In a nutshell, metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions in the body. From digestion to energy production, metabolism is like an orchestra conducted by the master glands such as the adrenals, the thyroid and the pituitary gland. Our metabolism is what is responsible for taking the food we eat and converting it into energy. When metabolism is functioning properly, weight, energy, and mood are stable. When the metabolism is sluggish, every system is negatively affected. Long term, this leads to weight gain, low energy, and possible depression.
WHAT FACTORS AFFECT METABOLISM?
The metabolism’s rate is dependent upon your age, sex, genetics and unique biochemistry; however, the predominant factor contributing to metabolic optimization is hormone balance. Hormones are the body’s messengers. The key hormonal players for weight optimization are cortisol, insulin and leptin. These three hormones dictate whether the body’s metabolism burns sugar or fat as fuel. When triggered correctly, fat is the preferred source of fuel. Therefore, fat loss begins with hormone balance.
WHAT FACTORS LEAD TO HORMONE IMBALANCE AND WEIGHT GAIN?
It’s normal for hormone levels to shift during your life. Puberty, pregnancy and menopause are all normal, healthy reasons your hormone levels change over your life. Your monthly menstrual cycle is another example. Even during the day hormone levels rise and fall. And it’s not just women who are experience these changes. Men’s hormone levels cycle as well. While these cycles are expected, sometimes hormones can get out of balance, which is not so healthy. Imbalances can lead to problems with energy, weight gain, brain fog, and changes in mood and sleep.
Stress, a poor diet, and lack of sleep are the main factors that create hormone imbalance.
HOW DO I CREATE A MORE FLEXIBLE METABOLISM?
The way you eat, manage stress and exercise are the chief means of balancing your hormones and accessing the fat burning potential of your metabolism.
Instead of focusing only on the weight or jumping right into a metabolic lab panel to determine what kind of “hormonal issue” you may have, it is better [and easier] to tune into the way you eat, move and sleep.
SIMPLY NOURISHED’S TOP 6 TIPS FOR LIGHTING THE METABOLIC FIRE
1. Choose Carbs Wisely: One of the best ways to rev up your metabolism is to toss out those refined carbs like sugar, white bread, rice and pasta. These foods cause your blood sugar to spike and offer little nutritional value. Opt for nourishing whole food carbs like fruit, roasted root vegetables, squash, beans, legumes, and quinoa.
2. Embrace Fast as Fuel: Many of us still fear fat, we think eating fat will make us fat, but more and more research is showing this is not the case. Sure slapping butter on everything or deep frying it is far from healthy but our bodies NEED fat in the diet. We function best when we include healthy fats as part of our meal. Incorporate healthy oils such as coconut, olive and avocado oil into your cooking. Consume fatty fish and Eat eggs. Not only will these essential fats help to balance your hormones, fat helps keep you full so you’re less likely to feel hungry shortly after a meal.
3. Spice it up! Spices like cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and nutmeg will all naturally sweeten your foods, reduce cravings and offer many additional health benefits such as reduced inflammation, blood sugar regulation and improved memory. Sprinkle spices any place you would have traditionally added sugar. When you avoid sugar you’ll see less spikes in blood sugar and the accompanying changes in insulin levels. Here are some simple ways to SPICE things up! Cinnamon in coffee; Cayenne on roasted veggies; Ginger in your smoothie; Nutmeg in your yogurt; Turmeric in tea [see golden milk recipe for a daily metabolic boosting delight with HUGE anti-inflammatory benefits!]
4. Consider Adaptogenic Herbs: adaptogens are substances that can help balance the hormones that your adrenal glands secrete. Hormones like cortisol are responsible for your fight or flight response and our high daily stressors can keep these hormones in an unhealthy elevated state. Ashwaghanda is one of my favorite adaptogens. Traditionally used in Indian culture in Ayervedic medicine this herb is has been safely used for centuries to help support the adrenal glands.
5. Set aside time for self-care: Sleep is the metabolism’s NUMBER ONE source of repair + renewal. Make this a top priority! Get time in nature: stress increases cortisol and cortisol wreaks havoc on blood sugar regulation and metabolic efficiency. Getting out in the fresh air has a powerful effect on lowering stress levels. With spring around the corner there’s no better time to dust off your hiking boots and get outside. Find some you time! Find time to read a book, get a massage, meditate or take a hot bath. Whatever nourishes your soul, find time and do it! Put it on your calendar. Your relaxation time is just as important (if not MORE important) than your to-do list.
6. Sweat… Daily! Get moving! Take a walk, go for a bike ride, try yoga. Just get moving! Every day. Activity releases endorphins – those feel-good hormones and helps regulate blood sugar to boot. Now who doesn’t want more of that?