Last weekend at the FitSocial Conference I was fascinated by the discussions of metabolic flexibility, primarily in the context of losing weight and keeping it off. Having a faster metabolism is a direct result of moving more and eating smarter (among other things), and believe me, it’s worth it to get your metabolism humming. Here are a few key points.
When people blame their inability to lose weight on their metabolism, there is apparently a great deal of truth to this. While it’s energy in/energy out that determines whether you gain or lose weight, another critical component is your body’s ability to adjust to food coming in (metabolic flexibility). When your metabolism is inflexible, you’re stuck in a fat-storing mode rather than a fat-burning mode.
People can lose weight with a broken metabolism but they can’t keep the weight off, according to Dr. James O. Hill, executive director of The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, professor of pediatrics and medicine, and current director of the Center for Human Nutrition.
Since your metabolic rate goes down when you lose weight, “there’s a biologic pull to regain weight,” says Dr. Hill and Dr. Holly R. Wyatt, authors of State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet. “It’s when you stop moving that your metabolism slows down and your appetite goes ‘haywire.'”
That’s why activity is so crucial to keeping weight off and gaining a faster metabolism. Dr. Hill and Dr. Wyatt recommend 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day for weight maintenance.
Since 9 out of 10 people regain at least some of the weight they’ve lost, it’s about time we look at how to maintain weight loss, not just lose weight. If you want to fix your metabolism you need to be systematic about it, and that’s what State of Slim dives into.
Dr. Iñigo San Millán, one of the top and most experienced applied physiologists in the world, spoke to us about the role of mitochondria in fat storage. Dr. Millán is also director of the Exercise Physiology and Human Performance Lab at The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center and on the faculty of Family Medicine and Sports Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
When you have more mitochondria, lactate is cleared from your system more efficiently, which helps you burn fat more efficiently. Dr. San Millán maintains that low-intensity, steady-state cardio has been wrongly abandoned in recent years as we’ve become more reliant on high-intensity interval training to boost metabolism. While HIIT burns more calories as “after burn” (thereby increasing metabolism), it does not increase mitochondria as well as steady-state endurance cardio does.
Not only that, but low-intensity exercise is more sustainable over the long term (and even short term). Many people just can’t get to the intensity needed to benefit from HIIT, and burnout is a risk if they do.
Of course, muscle is metabolically active tissue, so strength training is also crucial for attaining a faster metabolism. (Check out this post to see how a 111-pound chick can eat 2,600 calories while maintaining her weight.)
How Much You Eat – It Matters
Dr. Hill considers weight loss a three-year process that involves creating new neuro-connections in your brain. Getting the right number of calories is the first priority, along with a positive attitude and a change in eating patterns. He ramps up activity with his clients in stage two as they learn smart eating and new habits to keep the weight off forever in stage three (described in State of Slim).
Dr. Hill recommends a low-fat diet (less than 30 percent), and low sugar that includes a lot of fruits, veggies, and protein. He notes that diets that are already low in fat aren’t as adversely affected by sugar as high-fat diets. And did he say fruit? Yes, he did.
One fact I found particularly interesting: When you overeat, how soon do all those calories turn into fat? According to Dr. Hill it happens very quickly, right after the meal (scary). The extra energy is stored in fat cells, which can expand and expand to accommodate all the energy we add to them.
So if you’re thinking of taking that next step to lose weight, start with moving more and eating smarter. A faster metabolism will follow.
- Understanding Metabolic Flexibility and the Role of Insulin
- How to Increase Mitochondrial Density For More Efficient Fat Burning
- Demystifying Metabolism, Part 1
- Demystifying Metabolism, Part 2
This post originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.