Being flexible comes in handy in all sorts of situations. Your favourite gym is shut down due to a government wide lockdown? Go online with their incredible trainers until you can see them in person again. Took a wrong turn while driving? Simply find another route.
Your body’s metabolism benefits from being flexible, too. Rather than only being able to use carbohydrates or fat for energy, a flexible metabolism can switch between both with ease. This state is called metabolic flexibility, and there are a host of different reasons why improving your ability to utilize multiple fuel sources can help support your overall health and wellness.
Benefits of Metabolic Flexibility
When you’re metabolically flexible, your body doesn’t have to keep your food-seeking mechanisms constantly “on.” Instead, your body is able to burn whatever fuel is available, seamlessly shifting from one fuel source to another—without you even noticing.
You will benefit from:
- sustained energy
- fewer blood sugar roller coasters
- fewer cravings
- improved fat-burning and,
- less need to micro-manage your diet
How to Become Metabolically Flexible
The fastest way to become metabolically flexible is to EXERCISE. Regular training—both strength and aerobic—directly counters metabolic inflexibility by addressing the two main offending factors. In the metabolically inflexible, it increases insulin sensitivity and restores the ability to burn fat. Certain types of training, like intense intervals and long, slow, easy aerobic work, actually increase mitochondrial biogenesis—the creation of new mitochondria. Between improved insulin sensitivity, restored fat burning, and more (and better) mitochondria, exercise of any kind is the first thing you should be doing to regain metabolic flexibility.
Your next best step is to get your diet under control and vary up what you do so you become what is called ‘fat adapted’. Most of us can burn carbs pretty easily, we’ve had years and years of training! Not all of us are adapted to burn our body fat stores as easily. Time Restricted Eating (TRE) is one of the fastest ways to do this. This simply means, restrict the amount of time that you spend eating in a day and increase the amount of time you aren’t eating. The easiest way to do this is to stop eating 3+ hours before you go to bed and limit how many snacks you have in a day so, if your body needs fuel, it goes to your fat stores instead of your easy to access sugar.
Want to take your bodies ability to burn fat up a notch? Try limiting your carbs to less than 30 grams in at least one meal a day, forcing your body to use body fat for fuel once again.
How do you know if you are metabolically inflexible?
If you answer yes to any of these questions you are metabolically inflexible.
- Get sleepy after eating carbs?
- Need to eat every 3 to 5 hours?
- Get energy crashes in the afternoons?
- Get shaky or irritable if you miss a meal?
Metabolic flexibility is proof positive that diets aren’t one-size-fits-all and there are benefits to phasing between different styles of eating to support your overall health. As always, be sure to incorporate the pillars of a healthy lifestyle, too, such as exercise training and physical activity, eating nutrient-rich whole foods, drinking water and managing stress.