In today’s diet culture, a “healthy metabolism” is often synonymous with a healthy weight. While optimizing metabolism can help support a client’s body composition goals, there is a lot more to metabolism than weight management.
As a refresh, metabolism is the vital process by which our bodies turn what we eat and drink into energy. The metabolic system includes multiple organs, hormones, and enzymes working together. A disruption in the metabolic process can cause a metabolic disorder, which is a result of having too much or too little of some of the substances needed to stay healthy. You are probably aware of the unfortunate truth that metabolic disorder, or metabolic syndrome, is on the rise around the world. Because the process is gradual, much metabolic dysfunction goes unrecognized and undiagnosed.
5 Metabolic Risk Factors
There are five factors that define metabolic syndrome, all of which can easily be checked with standard blood work and all of which can easily creep out of optimal range if left unchecked. These factors often show up together and a “diagnosis” of metabolic syndrome is made for individuals having at least three of the criteria below:
A large waistline or excess weight (waist circumference over 40 in. (male) or over 35 in. (female))
High triglycerides (over 150 mg/dl)
Low HDL cholesterol (under 40 mg/dl (male) or under 50 mg/dl (female)
High blood pressure (over 130 mmHg systolic or over 85 mmHg diastolic)
High fasting blood sugar (over 100 mg/dl)
The good news is that certain modifiable lifestyle changes can help you manage metabolic health and also significantly reduce the burden of related complications. Basic lifestyle modifications like upgraded nutrition, increased daily activity, improved sleep, and stress management can all play a role in increasing a person’s resting metabolic rate and contributing to the desired energy balance for managing weight. Weight loss is a common side effect of improved metabolic health, but the benefits do not stop there.
Improving your metabolic health is like running an update on your smartphone; small bugs are repaired, vulnerabilities are attended and your overall performance improves. Many clients don’t realize how sub-optimally they have been operating until they begin making changes to their metabolic health. Feeling sluggish or fatigued? You will likely notice more energy throughout the day. Weak muscle tone and loss of strength? You may also find it easier to gain muscle mass as your body relearns to send the “right” hormone signals to your metabolic system. Feeling anxious or moody? There is strong research supporting an improvement in mood disorders when your brain is properly fueled and your metabolism is well balanced. Struggling to get your zzz’s? Poor sleep quality can contribute to metabolic disorders, and the flip side is that boosting your metabolism can support improved sleep. Dull, itchy, or prematurely-aging skin? Glucose metabolism plays a role in that, too.
Nourishing your metabolism is nourishing your health. Start by focusing on the basics: good clean nutrition, regular daily activity, proper sleep hygiene, and supportive stress management. Test at least once a year and pay attention to lab results to detect any gradual trends (and to track your progress once you do start making changes!). If any of this feels overwhelming, seek the support of your doctor or a board-certified health coach. A metabolic boost just may be the best gift you can give yourself this holiday season.
With love, in health,