Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to Fix Your Metabolism

[Re-posted from another site, behind a paywall.]

As a follow-up to this post of mine from a while back:

Food Politics and Obesity

And in light of the discussion in this post:

Now, for the First Time Ever! My Weight Loss Secrets … Revealed!

I thought I’d go over some of the stuff I’ve learned about this topic in the last five years I’ve been researching it.*
Your motor—one of them, anyway.
Your motor—one of them, anyway.

You the reader might want to stick with this post because, in my opinion and in that of a growing number of researchers, the “Diseases of Civilization”—aka the chronic diseases including the Metabolic Syndrome that now plague a large majority of Americans—may well all have one basic cause.
It turns out that there is a way of predicting who will gain or more easily lose weight. And it’s a pretty simple one, although not one that your local doctor will perform in the lab. It’s called the respiratory quotient—and don’t worry, this is it for the math!:

RQ = CO2 eliminated / O2 consumed

This tells the researchers, based on the proportion of (evil) carbon dioxide you exhale, what fuels your body is running on. If your RQ is 0.7, you’re burning nothing but fat for fuel, and if your RQ is 1.0, you’re burning nothing but carbohydrates for fuel.** Most of us are somewhat in the middle, naturally, but it turns out that if your RQ is at or near 1 all the time, it predicts two things: that you’re going to become obese, and that you’re going to have a hard time losing weight.
Which makes perfect sense, because an RQ of 1.0 all the time tells us that you’re unable to burn fat for fuel.

You’ve become a bathtub with a plug in the drain. You cannot lose fat mass because there’s nowhere for it to go.

What’s worse, if you reduce calorie intake, because your body is dependent on carbohydrates for fuel, your body is going to go to its major store of carbohydrates: your muscles. So you may wind up losing mostly muscle but little fat, if you’re in a really bad state.

Essentially this happens because your ability to burn fat atrophies from disuse. I came across one study a few years back that explained that in really hard-up obesity cases the fat stores inside the muscle cells actually move away from those motors in the picture above in your mitochondria, which are the engines of your body. Literally, they’re physically unable to burn fat.

And this is a bit of a problem.

As you can see from this graph, the available fuel stored in your body—and this is a lean person—is overwhelmingly in the form of fat. Assuming you’re lean, you have about 2,000 kilocalories of carbohydrate stored in your body, and about 40,000 kilocalories of fat.

So what do our Progressive overlords tell us our body runs on? Carbohydrates, of course! And they attempt to force our bodies to run on carbs through the dietary recommendations, which affects the foods available in our schools and markets.

They make a few recommendations, and they each have specific, predictable effects on our bodies.
  1. Eat lots of carbs. The recommendations say 55-60%. This bolus of glucose (carbohydrates are for the most part just glucose, a simple sugar, in various forms) causes your body to release insulin, which tells your body to get rid of the glucose—which is toxic—any way possible. And insulin turns off fat-burning, because the body has a sudden requirement to dispose of glucose, and using fat for fuel gets in the way.This creates a cycle of glucose surge and glucose shortage, as your body’s ability to burn fat atrophies through disuse, which leads to that feeling known as “hangry” a few hours after a meal: the glucose has run out and your body goes into a panic. This is the typical post-lunch period of low energy.
  2. Eat regular meals. They don’t mean three a day, they mean every couple hours. So when your body runs low on glucose you give it another dose. This keeps insulin elevated all the time, and since insulin turns off fat burning, guess what!
This advice to continuously eat a high-carb diet with a high percentage of omega-6 fats (see the first link at the top of this post) has been tested in rodents. It reliably makes them fat and diabetic—the Metabolic Syndrome. The simple measure of only allowing the rodents to eat during an eight-hour window prevents this, because they can use stored fats during the rest of the day, even if the same amount of calories is consumed.

This doctrine has even overtaken the athletic world, where we’re told that, since our bodies run on carbohydrates (see chart above again) you must consume carbs during sport. Perhaps you’ve heard of “the wall” that recreational marathoners hit at around 20 miles? This is “bonking”, where over-fat athletes run low on carbohydrates and sometimes collapse because they’re unable to switch smoothly to burn the massive amounts of fat they have stored. It even afflicts elite athletes.

And there’s another side to this story. It’s not just being overweight; scientists are beginning to recognize that many of our common chronic diseases feature malfunctioning mitochondria. This includes diabetes (of course), heart disease, and cancer, but also Alzheimer’s (often called type III diabetes) and other neurological diseases. Do you want to damage your mitochondria? Run them on glucose all the time.

So if, like me, you were a good Progressive drone and followed the advice of your betters, only to find yourself fat and paradoxically out of energy, what do you do?

Your fix your metabolism. You stop running your motor on glucose, which damages the motor, and you start running it on healthy, non-Omega-6 fats, which actually encourages your body to build more motors. You let it run the way it’s supposed to run.

Happily, this can be addressed by correcting two things: poor diet and lack of exercise. Yes, the doctors are right!—actually, not really.

We’ve already seen that their dietary recommendations cause the metabolic syndrome that afflicts the majority of Americans. Their exercise recommendations are similarly ill-considered. Rather than focus on strategies that help people to recover their lost ability to burn fat, they focus on high-intensity activities that simply promote using fuel from carbohydrates, as the body uses increasing amounts of carbohydrates the more intense the activity.
So we want to do two things: run the motor on the right fuel, and push the motor to produce more energy while using the right fuel. Just as the ability to use fat for fuel atrophies with disuse, so can it be trained up to high levels of capacity, and in surprisingly short order.

The result is the very definition of health: fitness.

Then maybe you too can set a sports record that will stand for decades.

This has run way longer than I thought, so maybe I’ll follow up with specific recommendations if folks are interested.

* I’m not a doctor, or a scientist, just curious and had my own weight problem that melted away five+ years ago and hasn’t returned.

** It’s a bit more complicated than that, but the complications don’t matter here.

[This was originally posted on Ricochet.com]