How To Heal Your Metabolism

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…

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 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.

Want to know how?

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Don’t worry, you know me, I’m here to provide you with FREE usable information…

Here are ELEVEN things that will help increase cellular respiration and help heal your metabolism.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

Happy healing!

Your Optimal Health Coach,

Kate

“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.”

References:

  1. Mitochondria and Mortality.  Dr. Ray Peat
  2. Energy structure and carbon dioxide: A realistic view of the organism. Dr. Ray Peat
  3. Using Sunlight to Sustain Life.  Dr. Ray Peat
  4. The acute phase response and exercise: the ultra marathon as prototype exercise. Clin J Sport Med. 2001 Jan;11(1):38-43.
  5. Systemic inflammatory response to exhaustive exercise. Cytokine kinetics.
Suzuki K, Nakaji S, Yamada M, Totsuka M, Sato K, Sugawara K.  Exerc Immunol Rev. 2002;8:6-48.
  6. Inhibition of NADH-linked mitochondrial respiration by 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal.
Humphries KM, Yoo Y, Szweda LI.  Biochemistry. 1998 Jan 13;37(2):552-7.
  7. 4-Hydroxy-2(E)-nonenal inhibits CNS mitochondrial respiration at multiple sites.
Picklo MJ, Amarnath V, McIntyre JO, Graham DG, Montine TJ.  J Neurochem. 1999 Apr;72(4):1617-24.
  8. Effect of high plasma free fatty acids on the free radical formation of myocardial mitochondria isolated from ischemic dog hearts.
Kamikawa T, Yamazaki N.  Jpn Heart J. 1981 Nov;22(6):939-49.
  9. Acrolein inhibits respiration in isolated brain mitochondria.
Picklo MJ, Montine TJ.  Biochim Biophys Acta. 2001 Feb 14;1535(2):145-52
  10. Acrolein, a product of lipid peroxidation, inhibits glucose and glutamate uptake in primary neuronal cultures.
Lovell MA, Xie C, Markesbery WR.  Free Radic Biol Med. 2000 Oct 15;29(8):714-20.
  11. Thyroid hormone action in mitochondria.  C Wrutniak-Cabello, F Casas and G Cabello UMR Différenciation Cellulaire et Croissance (INRA, Université Montpellier II, ENSAM), Unité d’Endocrinologie Cellulaire, INRA, 2 Place Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 1, France

Is Your Workout Making you Fat?

 

Is your workout making you fat?

Lately, I have been bombarded with calls and emails from women and men, who are doing tons of cardio AND gaining weight! Correct, they are doing loads of cardio exercise (1-3 hours day) and are gaining, not losing weight.

Is this possible? My first thought is, perhaps they are simply gaining muscle? Well, maybe? However, if they are doing tons of cardio, trust me when I tell you, this is NOT an anabolic workout (a muscle-building workout) this is a catabolic workout (a muscle-breakdown workout). Thus, a high amount of cardio usually results in muscle loss, not muscle gain. Have you ever seen a really muscular marathon runner? I certainly have not. Most elite marathon runners look emaciated. They are super lean yet have very little muscle. You see, long distance endurance activities are very catabolic. They end up breaking down muscle — not building it.

Over time, this means:

Lots of cardio=catabolism=Less muscle = lower metabolism = Fat gain

Most people think the opposite:

Lots of cardio = more calories burned = weight loss

Shouldn’t this be the right equation? Well, it would be, however, you are leaving out one very important component — hormones.

Lots of cardio = elevated cortisol, decreased T3 (active thyroid), and increased estrogen (fat storing hormone) = Muscle breakdown + lower thyroid function = FAT gain and muscle loss.

Is it really possible to gain fat while doing tons of exercise?

Yes. Here is what is really going. After about an hour of exercise, your cortisol levels increase and stay elevated until you have finished your extended cardio workout. Cortisol is a major body stress hormone. Exercise is stress. Thus, long duration exercise elevates cortisol for extended periods of time. Elevated cortisol is very catabolic, it breaks tissue down. Once your glycogen stores (long-chain sugar stored in the muscles) are used up, cortisol starts to mobilize (burn) not only fat, but also other tissues: muscle, organ, and bone. The longer your workout session, the longer cortisol stays elevated, the more tissue breakdown can occur.

In addition, about 30-45 minutes after you start your workout your thyroid hormones plummet.  The thyroid senses the bodies increased metabolic needs so it starts slowing many metabolic processes down (immune system, hormones, digestion) to conserve energy.  As thyroid drops, the stress hormones rise so the body can start using its own energy stores (fat, muscle, tissue).

Now, don’t get me wrong — initially the long cardio sessions will help you lose “weight”, since you will be burning fat (AND burning some muscle). But at what cost?  The cost of valuable muscle, bone, and tissue?

You are losing muscle, so your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR/how many calories your body will burn at rest) drops. Although you are burning many calories during your extended workout, you actually start to burn fewer calories while you are not working out.   Which long term means less calories burned in any given day.

Your body starts to adjusts to the longer workouts by becoming more efficient.  Which means an increase endurance fitness level, but an overall slower metabolic rate at rest. Eventually, you find you have to workout even longer to burn the same amount of calories — or you start gaining fat again. Does this sound like something you may be going through? Do you feel you have to work out longer to stay thin — or if you miss a workout the fat and weight gain is a really fast process?

To make matters worse, like I said above, without proper nutrition, during your long cardio sessions, your active form of thyroid (T3) plummets. T3 needs sugar to work properly. If you utilize all your body’s stored sugar (glycogen) for exercise and do not replenish these stored glycogen stores, T4 stops being converted to T3 in you liver. Once T3 can not be converted, your metabolism slows and your body then releases more cortisol and the cycle continues.

If your workout is making you fat…

Here are 10 things you can do to make sure you will be losing fat — not gaining — in your workout:

  1. Shorter workouts: Keep your workout sessions under 60 minutes — especially if you are a beginner.
  2. Lift: Engage in weight training to build muscle, which will increase your metabolism.
  3. HIIT: Try high intensity interval training (20-30 min workouts that are short but very intense).
  4. Eat right: If you want to train for an endurance event, make sure your nutrition is in check. It is imperative to eat the right combination of carbs, protein, and fats before, during, and after the workout to help replenish your glycogen (sugar) stores and keep your metabolism working optimally.
  5. Intensity: Work harder — not longer. Stop using long cardio sessions as a way to lose fat. Longterm, it does not work.
  6. Sleep: Get plenty of REST to help your metabolism heal.
  7. No dieting: If you are dieting while doing long cardio sessions…STOP immediately, this is killing your metabolism even more!
  8. Essential nutrients: A good diet will contain all your vitamins and minerals.  ONLY take supplement if food is not available to meet mineral and vitamin needs.
  9. Ask for help: If none of this works, or you are a little confused, ask an expert for help.
  10. Patience.  Healthy fat loss takes time, and commitment.

Do yourself a favor — allow your body to start working for you, not against you.

Get off the cardio wheel of insanity. There are far better methods for long term fat loss and leanness.

Your Optimal Health Coach,

Kate

* I do want to make a side note that there are many competitive, endurance athletes out there that are lean, muscular and fit. However, 99% of these athletes have never used their sport as a weight loss tool. They workout to compete NOT to lose fat. They eat five to ten thousand calories a day to support their metabolism and all their activity. They train at a very high aerobic threshold, usually 80-85% of their max heart rate, their sport is their life, yet trust me, if they ever stop…they will gain fat!