Is your metabolism working at an optimal level? Do you know?
Lately, It has come to my attention that most people’s metabolisms are operating at a below optimal level of function. They’re trying to lose weight and get healthy, while their body’s internal system for weight loss is… well… broken.
Trying to lose weight with a low metabolism or broken system is like trying to run a race with a broken leg. You could do — but it will be much harder, and in the end you will most likely do more harm than good. Therefore, wouldn’t it make more sense to heal the leg first, and THEN run the race? I think so. The problem is most people don’t go through this healing process when trying to lose weight. They try running the race (try losing weight) with the broken leg (low functioning metabolism). And yes, with a lot of persistence, willpower, and food deprivation, some end up losing a little weight — only to find in time that they cannot live with this deprived lifestyle for long. So they put all the original weight back on — and then some.
I think Diane Schwarzbein, MD (author of The Schwarzbein Principle) said it best: “You have to get healthy to lose weight — not lose weight to get healthy.”
Health is not defined by weight loss, how lean you are, or how fast you can run. True heath is defined as being free of illness, injury, or pain. If you have a damaged metabolism, then you are not healthy. If your metabolism is damaged, you need to focus on healing if first — then try to lose weight.
So, how do you know if your metabolism is running at a sub-optimal level?
Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Here is the abbreviated list:
1. Weight. You have a hard time losing weight, and/or you gain weight easily. If you’re eating a low-calorie diet (1200- 1500 calories), you should lose weight easily if your metabolism is running at a high, optimal level. Unfortunately, most people who have been on a low-calorie diet are already metabolically damaged. So when they continue to diet further, they only lower the metabolic rate more. As to why highly calorie-restrictive diets never work long-term.
2. Body temp. You have a chronically low body temperature. In the book, Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness, the author (Broda Barnes, MD) explains how measuring body temperature is a fairly accurate way to judge optimal metabolic function.
Try this simple test:
Get a body thermometer. Digital is best — mercury is fine. First thing in the morning before you get out of bed, check your body temperature. Your morning body temperature should be between 97.8 and 98.2 degrees. Then check it again about 20 minutes after lunch — at this time your temperature should be around 98.6 degrees or higher. I will bet most of you will be below these temperatures. Before I started to heal my body, I was 96.5 to 97.0 in the morning and never above 97.5 mid day. It took me months of decreased activity and the proper diet to heal my metabolism. Honestly, it’s a never-ending process. But finally, my body temperatures now stay at a healthy 98.6 degrees.
3. Pulse. You have a low pulse. Broda Barnes, MD and Dr. Ray Peat both state that an optimal pulse is between 75 to 85 beats per minute (BPM). “Huh? I thought a low pulse was better? Don’t most athletes have a pulse rate below 60 BPM? I think super-fit Lance Armstrong has a pulse of like 45 BPM.” Yes, Lance is “super fit”, and yes he had a very low pulse rate. Yet, let’s remember, he had testicular cancer at the ripe age of 25. We must remember — “fit” does not equal “healthy”. A healthy metabolism induces a higher pulse rate and body temperature — two things you will frequently NOT see in endurance athletes.
Other symptoms that may occur with a sub-optimal metabolism are:
4. Cold hands and feet
8. Skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, and acne)
10. High cholesterol
11. High blood pressure
12. Low sex drive
13. Low energy
14. Edema (swelling/water weight)
15. Constipation or diarrhea
17. Muscle pain
18. Joint pain
19. Pale skin
20. Brittle nails
21. Poor liver function
22. Digestive issues
24. Food intolerances or sensitivities
25. Heart disease
27. …the list goes on and on
Whew! As you see, a lot can happen when you are running at a subpar metabolic level. I am sure many of you would admit that you have many of the above issues — right? I did. In fact, before my healing process, I had the following: Low body temperature, low pulse, cold hands and feet, anemia, high cholesterol, low energy, digestive issues, muscle pain, joint pain, allergies, and the “blahs” — good times. And yes, at the time, I considered myself VERY healthy. I had no idea the damage I had done (overtraining and under-nourishing), until all the things I was doing just were not working anymore.
I know many of you are identifying with what I’m saying. I know so many of you are depressed, getting sick, feeling like crap, and can’t seem to lose weight. And, I know how you feel when everything you are trying so hard to do (all the “right” things) and nothing seems to be working — right?
The good news is you can heal your broken metabolism. There are many things you can do now for healing your metabolism and getting back on track. And as always — don’t expect it to be instant. It’s a process and it takes some time.
Here is a basic list of how you can heal your metabolism:
1. Saturated fat. Eat more saturated fat (organic butter, coconut oil, ghee, cream).
2. The right proteins. Eat the right amount and right kind of protein for you. At least 80 grams, but could be upwards of 200 grams depending on your lifestyle, exercise, size, stress, and goals. This includes shellfish, white fish, eggs, dairy, grass-fed meats, gelatin, and broth.
3. Avoid PUFA. Remove polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) from your diet. This includes (but is not limited to) soybean oil, sesame oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, nut oils, and margarine. All PUFAs are anti-thyroid.
4. Root veggies. Eat more vegetables that are grown below the ground. Mainly root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets, etc).
5. Avoid additives, processed foods, and grains. Remove all toxic food additives, hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, food chemicals, processed foods, fast foods, alcohol, soy, and grains and grain-based foods.
6. Organic, raw dairy. Drink organic whole milk and diary. Raw if it is available
7. Sugar-fat-protein balance. Consume the right sugars with the right combination of fat and protein to help heal the pancreas and liver. This includes ripe and in-season, non-starch fruits, honey, organic dairy products, and orange juice.
8. Eat organic often. Eat quality organic food in small frequent meals.
9. You-tailored exercise. Do the right kind of exercise that’s tailored to your body to help it heal. For some, this may mean weight training, short intense interval training, yoga, or walking. For others this may mean doing nothing at all. Since exercise is stress, if your system is overburdened, then even the smallest amount of exercise can be too much. Remember, exercise is a prescription.
10. Smart supplementation. Take the right supplements, if any. Food is always best, but in some cases supplementation is essential.
Now, I understand I am going to get some flak for some of my suggestions for healing the metabolism. Eat sugar? Drink juice? Consume whole-fat dairy? Don’t avoid saturated fat? Eat potatoes? What?! I can hear what you’re thinking, “This is the opposite of everything I have been told!”
Yes, I am very aware that many of these recommendations go against what is being taught today in terms of weight loss and health advice. However, when you really start to understand the physiology of how the body works, my recommendations make perfect sense. (I will fully explain this in each of my programs). In addition, let’s remember — in today’s world we have the highest rate of obesity, metabolic issues, depression, pain, inflammatory disorders, and so on. Thus, is what we are doing really working?
I am certainly not here to convince you to go against what you believe in — especially if it is working for you. I am only here to share with you what I have been learning, what I have found that is working for me, and what I am using to help many of my clients. Only you can decide if you are ready for change and ready to try a new approach.
Sometimes to get better, we must unlearn so much of what has been hammered into our minds and become part of our belief systems. We must actually take a few steps back before we can move forward. Like I said in my last blog, obtaining optimal health is a journey — there is no clear path and it’s not instant. Yet it can be obtained if you are open to learning, growing, and being patient. A little confused? Good — this means your thoughts and beliefs are being challenged. And only then can you actually be open to learning something new.
Please understand the recommendations I have given here are VERY general. Every plan I develop is far more comprehensive, educational, and person-specific (customized to you and your body and lifestyle). If you are interested in learning more on how to heal your metabolism and get on the right track to optimal health, please contact me.
Here’s to Your Health,
Hypo-thyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness. Broda Barnes, MD
Hypothyroidism Type 2. Mark Starr, MD
www.Raypeat.com Dr Ray Peat
Eat Move and Be Healthy. Paul Chek
www.eastwesthealing.com Josh Rubin
The Schwarzbein Principle. Diane Schwarzbein, MD