This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I’d lost weight, yes, but I’d also lost my energy and vitality. Something was clearly off. How could my body look so good, and yet I felt so bad?
When I talk to my clients about nutrition initially, the first question I ask them is,
“How frequently are you eating?”
They usually say not frequently enough and some even admit to waiting up to five hours between meals.
Could the key to a healthy metabolism really be as simple as food frequency?
I find it’s the most underestimated factor in most people's nutrition programs. Many people are simply not eating enough throughout the day.
Maybe it’s our busy stressful lives or fad diets (like intermittent fasting and keto) that promise instant results or maybe we’re just totally distracted and forget to eat all together.
Whatever the reason is, the consequence of doing this over and over again will lead to a metabolic slow down. And trust me, when that happens it’s hard to get back up.
Let me explain… the issue is blood sugar regulation.
I think eating clean organic foods is incredibly important, but if your metabolism is slow and you’re not already eating consistently enough to balance your blood sugar (to avoid hypoglycemia) on a daily basis, you’re simply not going to be able to meet your body’s metabolic needs (energy requirements).
This creates inflammation and a perfect storm for metabolic slow down.
It’s a problem because chronically stressing your systems day in and day out (with a byproduct of adrenaline and cortisol) leads to a whole cascade of symptoms. Many of which you’d be pretty surprised to know.
Muscle mass loss
Rapid heart beat
Diminishing ability to recover
Low thyroid function
Can’t gain weight (depleted state)
Severe issues, like fibromyalgia, diabetes, MS, etc.
And the list goes on
The simple act of not eating frequently enough puts you at risk for chronic hypoglycemia. This sets the stage for hormonal imbalance, severe mood swings (we call this getting hangry at our house) autoimmune disease and hypothyroidism which can make it basically impossible to lose weight.
Dr. Broda Barnes talked about this in his book, “Hope For Hypoglycemia”. He discovered after seeing many people who had been turned away from their doctors (telling them either nothing was wrong with them or that they were clinically crazy) that it had more to do with blood sugar regulation and supporting the liver by supplying it with enough glucose for hormonal conversion.
Glucose is also our major fuel for the brain.
Your brain only runs on glucose so it makes sense that you begin to lose cognitive abilities and get irritable when you need fuel.
When you get foggy brain, your brain is talking to you. It’s telling you it needs more fuel.
There's a chance you may drop some weight with diets like intermittent fasting and keto, but it’s due to you putting your body under an unnecessary stress that will slow your systems (digestive, thyroid, metabolic rate) down to conserve energy (because your body thinks it’s starving)
There’s then a greater chance you’ll gain the weight back and it becomes harder to keep it off because now you’ve damaged your metabolism.
It’s a pretty significant sacrifice with dire consequences if you if you ask me.
I’m here to tell you there’s an easier way to do this.
I think what sounds like a more viable solution is to heal your metabolism by gradually training your body use energy more efficiently again (like you did when you were a kid).
If you do this first, excess weight will come off when the metabolism and thyroid are healed and the liver is working efficiently again. You can do this simply with the right foods in the right amounts and at the right times.
Here’s my simple strategy for increasing your metabolism
1. Eat Frequent smaller meals:
I know you’ve probably heard this one before but it’s true. The quickest and most easy way you can begin to raise your metabolic rate it to eat every two hours or add a snack between your meals.
When you’re training your body to run on glucose (for more efficient energy production) instead of adrenaline it’s important to eat every two hours until your body is able to run more efficiently. If you go too long without food you run the risk of going into a stress hormone mode, raising your cortisol levels. Doing this too often and you can slow your thyroid which regulates your metabolism. You can avoid this hormonal fluctuation by eating frequently enough to meet your body’s metabolic needs on a daily basis.
2. Eat Breakfast:
You’ve probably heard this one too.
Eating breakfast will break the fast of the night and help you curb your cortisol response so it's at a manageable level for the morning time. If you drink coffee, eating food with your coffee in the morning helps you offset the adrenaline response after you've consumed caffeine.
Adding organic heavy cream or half-n-half and gelatin to your coffee will slow down the adrenalizing effects of the caffeine. The fat you get from the heavy cream and the protein you get from the gelatin will help your body better metabolize the caffeine and you’ll reap the benefits.
3. Food Prep:
I can not stress this more. Getting prepared ahead of time can be what saves you in the end.
Plan ahead so you’re prepared for anything.
Prepare your meals and snacks for the week. So many times we end up in a situation where we find ourselves unprepared with no food (aka, hangry)
You can easily avoid those moments where you find yourself suddenly in a panic with nothing to eat. By planning ahead, shopping on the weekends and having enough snacks on hand to keep your blood sugar regular throughout the day you’re golden.
I also suggest organizing and cleaning out your kitchen from time to time or even seasonally. Cleaning out your fridge and pantry pretty often so you can reset and feel more clarity when it comes to your food preparation.
4. Don't skip a macronutrient
This one you may not have heard before but I assure you it’s one of the most important factors.
Mainly because there’s so much promotion in the way of cutting a macro out to gain quick results (example, cutting your carbs)
The simple truth is that your body needs all three to function optimally. Now can you make better choices when it comes to the types of macros you choose, yes you can.
Mind you, the better choices for carbs that will not fluctuate blood sugar are fruits, roots and dairy (not grains).
My recommendations regarding macros initially are to include 1 serving of protein from clean animal sources (not just meat, dairy and eggs too), 1 serving of saturated fat and 1 serving of the carbohydrates I listed above in every meal.
As you get to know your metabolism, you can begin to play around with the ratios a bit. Keeping a balance of macronutrients helps you avoid any unnecessary blood sugar fluctuations.
Fun fact: You can get lots of accessible protein from white potatoes and mushrooms too.
5. Keep your body fueled when you exercise:
This is important because your blood sugar will drop when you workout.
Eat before, during and after your workout.
Exercise has the potential to create inflammation and lactic acid in the body and cause a temporary drop in blood sugar. In order to minimize this response I always suggest eating a small easy to digest meal 30 minutes before your workout.
You could even sip OJ with gelatin added to it during your work out and eat a meal right after.
Some suggestions for what to eat before your workout can be:
Fruit and milk (smoothie)
Eggs, Cheese and fruit
Cottage cheese and fruit
Greek yoghurt and fruit
Coconut oil is one of my favorite super foods. With natural anti-oxidants which protect your body against free radicals, it’s my top choice for a healthy fat.
Veggie oils like soy and canola tend to increase free radicals in the body because of the extremely high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids they contain. This can noticeably speed up the aging process and create inflammation.
Why coconut oil is healthy for you...
Unlike destructive veggie oils, coconut oil can actually slow down the aging process and prevent free radicals from being released through free fatty acid oxidation.
Coconut oil has the potential to balance hormones by boosting metabolism naturally and stimulating the thyroid. Since the thyroid is the master regulator of the metabolism, stimulation of the thyroid can lead to weight loss.
It’s a great saturated fat which is solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are needed throughout the year and especially when there is less sunlight available. Coconut oil can help your body absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and D, which can only be absorbed with saturated fats.
Coconut oil has also been proven to lower cholesterol naturally. A healthy cholesterol level is needed in order for the body to make essential hormones that keep you young and healthy.
The many ways I use coconut oil...
I enjoy cooking with it, but you can a spoonful of it or even brush your teeth with it. It’s an excellent choice to use with higher heat cooking too.
Coconut oil acts as a natural anti-fungal and anti-viral in the body. You can use it on your skin and as a mouth rinse.
I mix it with vitamin E to create my own natural toxin free lotion. Use it as a sunscreen in the summertime since it naturally blocks the harmful rays and lets the healthy rays in.
Buying coconut oil...
When buying coconut oil make sure you get organic. Sometimes the processing of coconut oil can be toxic so if it's organic they don't use petroleum to refine it.
When I talk to a client for the first time I always ask them, “How frequently are you eating?” They usually answer with, some days I wait up to 5 hours without eating. I'm always blown away by this and at the same time share compassion. We live in a busy time, this is why some people put off eating or taking care of themselves to get things done.
But can you really get things done when you have no energy? Nourishing yourself has to be a top priority if you're going to strive to have more energy and a healthy well functioning metabolism. Contrary to popular belief, your body needs food on a regular basis in order to regulate your blood sugar and keep all systems functioning optimally.
If you have trouble losing or gaining weight you may want to start by nourishing the body on a daily basis. Eating a small meal every two hours then tapering off once your metabolism begins to function more efficiently.
Even though food frequency seems like such a simple solution, I find it’s the most underestimated factor in most people's nutrition program. People are just not doing it. Maybe it’s because of our busy stressful lives or maybe it's because calorie counting has been drilled into our psyche as the best way to lose weight and get healthy. Whatever the reason, at some point our bodies are going to slow down if we’re not giving them enough fuel.
I think eating clean organic foods is really important, but if you’re not eating frequently enough to balance your blood sugar each day, you’re simply not going to be able to meet your body’s metabolic needs, thus slowing your metabolism down and storing more calories as fat.
This can also sets the stage for hormonal imbalance and thyroid slow down which can make it basically impossible to lose weight.
The goal is to heal the metabolism first. Excess weight will come off when the metabolism and thyroid are healed and working efficiently again. You can do this simply with the right foods in the right amounts and at the right times.
5 Simple Things You Can Do To Heal Your Metabolism
1. Eat every 2 hours. When you’re training your body to run on glucose instead of adrenaline it’s really important to eat every 2 hours until your body is able to run more efficiently. If you go too long without food you run the risk of going into an adrenaline mode and your body can go into it’s cortisol reserves. Doing this too often can slow down your thyroid which is what regulates your metabolism. You want to avoid this hormonal fluctuation by eating frequently enough to meet your body’s metabolic needs. This will depend on the person.
2. Eat food with your coffee in the morning. It’s ideal to eat food with your morning coffee to avoid a blood sugar spike. I also recommend adding organic heavy cream and/or gelatin to your coffee to slow down the effects of the caffeine. The nutrients you get from the heavy cream and gelatin will help your body metabolize the coffee.
3. Be prepared. Plan ahead for your meals and snacks for the week. You can easily avoid moments where you realize you have nothing to eat. Because you waited so long to eat your body rebounds by overeating at the next meal. You can avoid this by simply planning ahead. Shopping on the weekends and having enough snacks on hand to keep the blood sugar regular throughout the day.
4. Eat balanced ratios of macronutrients in every meal. What are macronutrients? It's your protein, fats and carbohydrates. Each one should be represented at every meal to avoid blood sugar fluctuations.
5. Eat before, during and after your workout. Exercise can create inflammation and lactic acid in the body as well as cause a temporary drop in blood sugar. In order to minimize this response I suggest eating a small meal 30 minutes before your workout. You could even sip OJ with gelatin added to it during your work out and eat a meal right after.
Could sugar intolerance, your inability to metabolize sugar and carbohydrates, be the problem instead of sugar itself? Sugar intolerance is a malabsorption issue, leading to fatigue, bloating, gastrointestinal distress and anemia.
Consider the issue could be you’ve been oxidizing free fatty acids for some time now, producing too much lactic acid and thus slowing your energy metabolism down over time. Caused by eating too much protein and not enough healthy carbohydrates, eating the wrong fats and by doing too much activity without replenishing your energy reserves. Basically burning yourself out.
I’ve been one of those people. Years ago when I was experimenting with the low carb diet, I eliminated dairy, fruit, root veggies, grains and anything that contained sugar. This was my "so called" solution to what I thought was candida.
I felt great at first, but it didn't last long. Eating soon became a joyless experience and I quickly fell into a state of depression and chronic low energy. After doing some research, I discovered cutting carbs was the last thing I needed to do if I wanted to heal my candida and fungal issue. More surprisingly I realized that I may have even made my issues worse by trying to fix the problem by cutting all sugars.
I’ll explain why….
It was a real shocker because since I could remember (since the 1970’s) sugar was seen as a junk food and something that’s incredibly harmful for your health. So cutting it all out is good right? Well not exactly.
Looking back on it, I'm not sure what surprised me most, the fact that I'd been working so hard at something I thought was healthy but was really making me sick or the fact that I now needed to consider eating sugar again.
It took me a really long time to process this but I eventually realized I needed to redefine what "I believed was healthy", not what had been marketed to me as healthy. I was on a path to discover my truth about what was healthy for me.
There wasn’t a whole lot of information about it so I kinda felt like I was heading into uncharted territory. At that time the consensus was that sugar was bad and the recommended advice was to go low carb. To be honest that's still the case, but what's changed is my experience and perspective. Now I see sugar as a food that can aid the metabolism in it's function if used to deliver nutrients.
What I found out...
We produce higher serotonin and adrenaline levels when we either skip meals (fast) or skip any of the three macro-nutrients (protein, carbs and fat) in your meals. A significant and frequent blood sugar drop can create an addiction to dieting (just by chronically raising serotonin levels), low energy, low metabolism and muscle wasting (catabolic state).
The simplicity of this was surprising to me. Although the biochemistry can get really complex, the therapy doesn't have to be. I've found we can easily make the therapy more complex than it needs to be. It surprisingly comes down to proper blood sugar regulation and replenishing your body with enough fuel (food) on a daily basis.
If you’re cutting your essential macro-nutrients out or fasting, your energy will consistently come from adrenaline and cortisol instead of glucose. You can survive for some time off of adrenaline (which is a by-product of fat oxidation) but ideally glucose is our body’s preferred fuel for the brain, energy metabolism and recovery. Since glucose gets stored in the muscles and liver, your body doesn't have to take resources from the tissue itself to produce energy.
Glucose is also what your thyroid and liver rely on to function well. This sets the stage for anti-aging protective hormones to be produced like pregnenalone, progesterone and DHEA and more reserves for energy production and better recovery. Not to mention better brain function and hair and skin, since your body's not in a hyper adrenaline state. It's the best way to slow down the aging process.
On the other hand, if you lack reserves (glucose storage in the liver and muscles), there's absolutely nothing you can do to motivate yourself to workout, eat healthy and take care of yourself. The energy is simply not there. This is why I think most people feel they've failed, you just can't will your way through it because it simply comes down to a lack of energy.
The science behind sugar intolerance….
If you’re producing too much lactic acid from low carb eating, the cell begins to favor the oxidation of fat rather than glucose, which doesn’t produce as much carbon dioxide (needed to transport and liberate oxygen). Leading you down a path of reduced function, low energy and hormonal imbalance. A similar process happens in cancer cells – Lactic acid turns into fat then the body oxidizes the fat.
We’re supposed to be able to metabolize sugar well, but instead the foods we’re presented with have missing parts, like separated macronutrients and manufactured/modified sugar. This could be why our bodies have such a hard time metabolizing sugar. Not because sugar is bad, but simply because our metabolisms are not functioning at their best.
The good news is there's a way to get your body back on track if you’ve hit an all time energy low. Considering the type of carbohydrate you choose is the most crucial factor. Getting your healthy carbs from fruit, root veggies, squash and dairy instead of grains with sugar added and high fructose corn syrup can make all the difference in the world when it comes to repairing your metabolism.
Too much starch inhibits digestion and promotes endotoxins in the gut. Energy from starch (grains and legumes ) is pure glucose which requires insulin to metabolize. Energy from fructose and sucrose has been proven not to require insulin to metabolize your food, therefore, does not create insulin resistance.
If you're constantly requiring insulin to metabolize the food you eat you damage your metabolism over time and your body’s energy systems become less efficient affording less energy production.
Begin by taking in more beneficial real food carbohydrates, like the ones I mentioned above, to offset the lactic acid and free fatty acid production. Doing this slowly (if you've been avoiding them) as to give your body time to adjust and acclimate so your body can produce enzymes to break down the carbohydrates. Always eat clean protein, saturated fat and healthy carbohydrates together, never leave one out.
In addition trade out foods that contain high polyunsaturated fatty acid (vegetable fats - canola oil, soybean oil, etc.) concentration for those that have a high saturated (animal and fruit) fats content. Saturated fat is a major contributor to blood sugar regulation as it aids in this process and helps you recover from stress.