What is Metabolic Flexibility? by Functional Nutritionist Andrea Nicholson

Metabolic flexibility is a process by which the body can switch between using glucose and fat as energy sources. This ability to adapt allows for more efficient fuel usage. The article will explore how this concept of metabolic efficiency plays into your health.

Metabolism is the sum total of all chemical reactions in the body – it’s really not simply about how many calories you burn in a day.

What is Metabolic Flexibility

Metabolic flexibility refers to the body’s ability to use either fats or sugars for fuel when needed. Many people think that this means being able to eat carbs without gaining weight, but it actually means being able to turn on fat burning when we need more energy than sugar provides (like during exercise or when we’re in a fasted state). When our cells are used to only using carbohydrates for fuel instead of stored fats and ketones, we end up hungry more often because the sugar doesn’t last very long. Being able to efficiently and effectively switch between glucose and fat for fuel makes your body run like an energy-efficient hybrid!

How does metabolic flexibility affect your health and well-being?

Being metabolically flexible is important because it helps regulate blood sugar, insulin levels, and inflammation. When we are in a state of metabolic inflexibility, these three factors can lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and much more.

Metabolic flexibility allows an individual to use either glucose or fat/ketones for energy. People who have metabolic inflexibility, often feel hungry as a result of limited energy and therefore desire to eat more food, more often.

Being metabolically inflexible is not a good thing because it means that the body is unable to use fat as fuel. All incoming food gets converted to fat for storage, but the storage can’t be used. This also leads to weight gain and obesity, which further increases our risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc.

How do I know if I’m metabolically flexible?

When you are metabolically flexible, your blood glucose and insulin levels are stable. Your body is able to use fat for energy and therefore not rely so heavily on sugar. Metabolically flexible people lose weight easier, don’t gain weight as easily, have reduced inflammation, increased mental clarity, improved sleep duration, and quality.
  • Cravings for sweets are gone or minimal
  • Moods are stable and generally positive
  • You can eat a variety of foods without feeling worn down or even hungrier after eating
  • Your mind is clear even if you miss a meal or don’t eat for many hours
  • You can easily skip a meal without feeling ill, shaky, or weak.

Ways to improve your metabolism’s ability to switch sources quickly

  • Intermittent fasting or time-restricting eating: being in a fasted state can lower insulin levels and help repair insulin sensitivity. This doesn’t have to be extreme, every hour you are not eating provides benefit and healing!
  • Change up your macros: go lower carb some days. Blood sugar elevates the most with carbohydrates. When blood sugars go up, the insulin goes up to help shuttle the sugar out of the blood and into the cells, where it can be used for energy or converted to glycogen or fat for storage.
  • HIIT training: short bursts of high-intensity exercise can help repair your muscles and provide a metabolic boost.
  • Consuming protein before bed:This is the time when cells are repairing themselves. Protein will fuel some of this process, which means you’ll have less muscle breakdown during sleep.
  • Build and maintain your muscle:Key to metabolic flexibility. If you’re not lifting weights, start now!
  • Quality and quantity of sleep: at least eight hours a night. Being sleep-deprived is one of the worst things you can do to slow down your metabolism.


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