How to Heal Your Metabolism
Lately, as many of you know I have been deep in reading and researching about the systems of the body, healing the body, nutrients, foods that heal and how they are all related in increasing metabolic function. I think we can agree that we would all like to increase our metabolism…right? As we get older we are led to believe that our metabolism will just naturally slow down. We will have to work harder and eat less just to stay thin and feel good about ourselves. Do these statements ring true to you? They certainly did for me…of course, until now.
You see, for many years, I believed the only way that I could increase my metabolic expenditure (increase calories burned) was to add more muscle to my body and/or to exert more energy through increased exercise load and intensity. However, there is actually a third way to increase your metabolism. One that is not discussed very often, either because people do not know about it or they just do not understand it. Are you wondering what it is? Oh, I bet you are…
Over the last few years of my studies, I have begun to look at the body and its functions very differently. I have realized that the health of our metabolism is more than just how much we move and how much muscle we have; a healthy metabolism is about what is happening in every cell of our body and the actual respiration of every cell of our body. Thus, if we can increase cellular respiration we can increase metabolic function.
First, what is cellular respiration?
Cellular respiration is the set of the metabolic reactions and processes that take place in the cells of organisms to convert biochemical energy from nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and then release waste products.
Basically, it is what happens when glucose (sugar) enters the cells and converts to usable energy. Without getting too scientific, it’s the most efficient way for cells to harvest energy stored in food.
Cellular respiration has three main stages: glycolysis, the Kreb’s cycle, and the electron transport chain. For all the geeks, here is a basic explanation of each, for everyone else, skip ahead…
- Glycolysis is the metabolic process occurring in the cytosol of your cells that converts glucose (sugar) into two pyruvate molecules. Glycolysis is an anaerobic (does not require oxygen) reaction that has an end production of 2 ATP (ATP is usable energy) molecules.
- Kreb’s Cycle (Citric Acid Cycle) is an aerobic (requires oxygen) reaction that occurs in the mitochondria of every cell in your body. The mitochondria are referred to as the cell’s power plant because they produce most of the cells supply of ATP (energy). Once oxygen is present, Acetyl Co A is produced from the two pyruvate molecules. Through an 8-step process 6 NADH, 2 FADH2, and 2 ATP are formed (yes, I know you have no idea what this means…but keep reading, it will all make sense soon).
- 3. Electron Transport Chain (ETC) is also an aerobic reaction occurring in the mitochondria. The ETC transports electrons from donors (like NADH and FADH2) to acceptors (like Oxygen). When working properly the Kreb’s cycle and the ETC produce most of the cells energy. The end result is an additional 34 ATP. As you can see we need adequate amount of glucose, oxygen and a healthy mitochondria to produce sufficient amounts of energy…without these our cells become inefficient and eventually die.
Have I lost you with all this scientific jargon? Stick with me; things will start to come together soon…
What I want you to see is when everything is working optimally and our cells are getting adequate glucose and oxygen we produce lots of energy (increased cellular respiration). With increased cellular respiration our metabolism increases. A great running metabolism means we are meeting our body’s energy needs, we are repairing tissue, we are detoxing properly, we have proper hormone function, we have good energy, we feel happy and life is good.
Did you ever have a friend when you were young who was thin, didn’t workout and could eat whatever she wanted and never gain a pound? You know, that friend you hated… we will call her Britch. Britch had great cellular respiration. It is not the amount of muscle she had or the amount of exercise or activity she did that kept her thin. Her increased metabolic function came from great cellular respiration. However, if Britch continued to live her crappy-eating, non-exercising lifestyle her cells would become damaged and her lifestyle would catch up to her.
Many of us would attribute this phenomenon to great genes. This is partially true since our mitochondria has its own set of DNA. However, we can help or harm the health of our cellular respiration through the foods we eat, the lifestyles we choose and the decisions we make. So even if you were not born with great mitochondrial genes you can still improve OR worsen your cells energy production.
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Here are ELEVEN things that will help increase cellular respiration and help heal your metabolism.
- Decrease polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). As I have discussed before PUFAs are highly unstable and oxidize easily in the body. PUFAs cause mitochondrial damage and reduce respiration. PUFAs also bind to the same protein receptors that transport your thyroid hormone, reducing thyroid usage…which, once again, has an adverse effect on your cells respiration. Some examples of PUFA’s are vegetable oils, corn oils, seed oils, nut oils, fish oils, most nuts and seeds and most conventional meats.
- Decrease phytoestrogens (soy). An increased level of phytoestrogens increases free fatty acids (FFA) in the body. FFA acids are known to inhibit the thyroid function and disrupt glucose metabolism. Soy, like PUFAs, lowers cellular respiration.
- Increase saturated fats. Yes, you heard me. Increasing the right types of saturated fats like coconut oil, organic butter or ghee, cocoa butter, raw organic dairy, and grass fed meats can be very beneficial for your cells. Saturated fats are stable. Unlike PUFAs, saturated fats bind to proteins in the correct way. They are used properly and do not break down causing damage to mitochondria genes (DNA).
- Eat the right types of carbohydrates (sugars). I know everyone is scared of the words carbohydrate and sugar these days. You would think by telling you to consume them, it is like telling you to go jump off a bridge. We must understand not all carbohydrates (sugars) are created equal. When I say the right types of carbs or sugars, I am referring to ripe fruits, root vegetables, organic raw dairy, pulp free OJ and some low starch above ground vegetables. I am not referring to processed cookies, crackers, grains, breads and candies. Sugar is the bodies preferred source of energy. When we use the right sugars to fuel our cells they produce the most energy by using the least amount of our own bodies resources. When we use a less optimal fuel (like protein or fat) our body uses more resources to produce less energy.
- Eat the right type of protein. Consuming easily digestible proteins like organic beef broth, gelatin, white fish, eggs, dairy and shellfish help support the liver and thyroid. Increase thyroid hormone increases mitochondria respiration and increases CO2 production.
- Increasing Carbon dioxide (C02). C02 helps increase cellular respiration. You can increase your C02 levels by living at high altitudes (Denver, you are all set), bag breathing, ingesting or bathing in baking soda and increasing your intake of carbonated water.
- The right exercise. Stressful exercise increases mitochondrial damage. Long duration cardio is incredibly stressful to the body. Endurance athletes, although fit, have decreased cellular function, you can see this in their very low pulse and low body temperature. According to Dr. Ray Peat “concentric” weight training is actually restorative to the cells mitochondria. This means lifting with a load and relaxing without a load. Burst training (short burst of exercise followed by rest) is also supportive of a healthy metabolism.
- Get more Sunlight. According to Dr. Ray Peat, “It turns out that day light stimulates our ability to use oxygen for energy production, and protects our tissues from some of the free-radical toxins that are produced by normal metabolism, by stress, or by radiation.” This does not mean lay in the sun for 10 hours/day. Refer to my blog on Vitamin D to help decide how much sun you need.
- Get more Sleep. Getting restorative sleep helps with proper cellular function. This can mean anywhere from 6- 10 hours depending on the person. Deep sleep is better than more sleep. Best hours for sleeping are between the hours of 10:30PM -6:30AM. When the body is at rest its primary energy source should be fat. Burning fat while sleeping is far less harmful to the cells than oxidizing it while working out. Remember to optimize energy production sugars should be used while awake and fats should be used while asleep.
- Stop dieting. Dieting, starvation, and detox programs may all help you lose weight fast and help you feel better in the short run. However, long term they are all doing the same thing…they damage your mitochondria and decrease cellular respiration. Have you ever wondered why ever time you “diet” it gets a little harder to lose weight? It’s because “dieting” deprives our cells of proper energy and nutrients, damaging our cells and decreasing metabolism.
- Reduce all other toxins. Remove as many toxins from your life as possible. This includes processed foods, trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, additives, preservatives, carrageenan, hormones, anti-biotics, drugs, alcohol, environmental toxins, fluoride, pesticides, herbicides, mercury, radiation, etc. All toxins will disrupt and interfere with proper cell function. All toxins will lower cellular respiration.
Okay, you got all that? Yes, I know this is a lot to take in. And yes, I know some of you may think I am crazy. This is totally okay with me. However, what you should know is everything I write about is based on the physiology of the human body, scientific research and my own self-experimentation. I am not here to tell you what you should or should not do. My intentions for giving you this information is to only share with you what I am learning, and how it is helping not only myself, but also many of my clients.
Please understand the recommendations I am giving are not person specific. Every person is different, is at a different state of health and has different needs. You must also understand that healing the body on a cellular level takes time, a real commitment to wanting to get better and a belief that you are doing the right thing. There is so much misinformation on health and nutrition out there, it is hard to know what to believe anymore. In fact, you should question everything you learn, including me. It is important that you investigate on your own, find out what works for you, ask lots questions, and get help from a professional if you feel you need it. For more information on how to heal your metabolism…Buy The BOOK.
Your Optimal Health Coach,
“Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles. I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them. I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body. If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”
- Mitochondria and Mortality. Dr. Ray Peat
- Energy structure and carbon dioxide: A realistic view of the organism. Dr. Ray Peat
- Using Sunlight to Sustain Life. Dr. Ray Peat
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