Your Fitness - for the Metabolically Challenged
"Metabolically Challenged" means that you weigh more than you'd like to and that one or more of the following is true:
- Your waist measures more than half your height
- You have elevated levels of fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin, hemoglobin A1C, triglycerides, hsCRP, fibrinogen, and/or elevated blood pressure
I love creating a partnership with folks who want to improve their health, and it can be really exciting if the goal is fitness on all levels - mental, emotional, and physical. Focusing just on physical fitness, many different variables are tweakable. We could just imagine that we're focusing on improving healthy muscles and cover all the bases. To optimize the health of your muscles and avoid the debilitating effects of sarcopenia a good program will get you on the road to losing excess fat, providing proper nutrition, stimulation, and rest to the muscles, and do it all by starting with optimizing the metabolic environment in which your muscles live.
Metabolic environment, what's that? When you have a regular check-up and go in for blood tests, we are evaluating your metabolic environment. Your blood is the elixir bathing every cell of your body, carrying nutrition to the cells, and ferrying to both liver and kidneys the end-products and waste products of metabolism and detoxification. Making sure that you have healthy blood can be thought of as a first step towards improving your muscles' health.
The way to make your blood healthy blood is by careful dietary and lifestyle choices. If you have one or more of the conditions above, you have some degree of insulin resistance, inflammation, or both. The best way to remedy those conditions, singly or together, is by limiting the amount of carbohydrates that you eat, and by making sure that the food you are eating is of the highest quality.
- Limit carbohydrates. There are a few different ways to orchestrate this change in your eating plan, though for everyone I recommend eliminating at least gluten and preferably all grains - it's the best test you can do for gluten or grain sensitivity. The Paleo Diet eliminates all grains, legumes, and dairy, and if you remember to also avoid sweets, you can eat vegetables and fruits (the remaining carbohydrates) as you wish. The Weight Loss Eating Plan will ensure that you do lose weight, that it is fat loss preferentially, and that your metabolism can heal itself at the same time.
- High quality food for metabolic repair starts with good protein (grass-fed meat, wild fish, chicken from free range eggs) in adequate amounts. As a shorthand calculation to support healthy eating, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.6, and eat that many grams of protein a day. If you weigh 150, that means 90 grams of protein daily. Think of 7 grams of protein in each whole egg and in each ounce of meat or fish. A 4-ounce burger? 28 grams. 6 ounces of wild salmon? 42 grams.
- Eat the fat that comes with the protein, and be generous with butter, avocado and olive oil. Butter is okay for most folks even on Paleo - thankfully, I say.
Lifestyle choices include minimizing stress while maintaining an adequate but not excessive amount of both activity and sleep. You can repair your metabolism and lose body fat without exercising, but you will prolong a higher quality life if you can find some form of exercise that you like doing.
- Stress comes in many forms. Personal stress is in your ballpark - you probably know what aggravates you and can think of creative ways to reduce either the stimulus or your response to it. Peaceful acceptance of things we can't change (traffic jams or noisy neighbors) is a wonderful stress reduction exercise and challenge. But here's the news: weight loss is a stress (asking your body to re-arrange the furniture in a major way, think about it!) as is strenuous exercise. So the old school way of weight loss (eat nothing and run around the block) raises stress, and stress contributes to more inflammation and interferes with fat loss.
- For the metabolically challenged, moderate exercise is better than either none or lots. Exercise provides a stress that is beneficial so long as it is not too intense or too frequent. Two sessions a week of high intensity intervals, described in the Lifestyle section near the end of Solutions for Diabetes Type 2, is the most intense exercise to include. Another concept to consider would be Body Weight Exercise as described by Mark Sisson on his site. Walks, strolls, relaxing yoga, dancing - as much as you want!
- Sleep is so important, and for some folks so challenging. Sleep deprivation increases inflammation and interferes with weight loss. Plan to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, in a well-darkened room. Restorative sleep usually includes some dreaming, whether you remember them or not, and allows you to wake refreshed and ready to start the next day. Check out the insomnia tips if refreshing sleep is a challenge for you.
How does setting goals work for you? Goals for the metabolically challenged include normalization of abnormal blood tests (that internal environment that nourishes and supports the normal function of all your body's cells) and a smaller belt size. For most folks that will include weight loss, but not necessarily. Drop a couple pants' sizes, feel great, and I bet you won't care that much what the scales say!
Then you move into the next group of people with different fitness challenges, strategies and goals. Check back next week for those!
If you missed the first article in this series, you can read it here.