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Metabolic Flexibility

Metabolic Flexibility

And why you want it!


Metabolic flexibility is when cells in our body switch easily back and forth from burning carbohydrates (carbs) for energy, to burning fat for energy.  Believe it or not, this isn’t a new thing, this is actually considered normal metabolism!  Unfortunately, many of us are suffering from metabolic IN-flexibility—a condition that often accompanies obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease among others. 


When someone has a flexible metabolism, their cells can select fuel depending on what is available (AKA what they ate for lunch!)  If they eat carbs, the body burns them for energy; if they eat fats, the body burns them for energy; and if they don’t eat at all, the body burns stored fat for energy!  Today, as a result of an abundance of food in our diets (most of which is highly processed and excessive in simple carbohydrates), we have less of a need to go into a fasted state or use fat for fuel because we have carbs in the bloodstream ALL THE TIME.  This results in elevated insulin levels, which under normal circumstances helps usher glucose into the cells to use for energy, but in this case it makes the body hold onto fat.  This also explains that #hangry feeling some of us get in the afternoon when three o’clock hits – it’s a result of an inflexible metabolism that isn’t good at using the energy the body has stored up!  Instead, the body wants its preferred fuel source – you guessed it: carbohydrates.


Curious about your own metabolic flexibility?  Ask yourself this: are you feeling tired often or feeling depressed?  Do you have an inability to focus or frequently desire caffeine?  Are you having trouble sleeping too?  If you answered yes to more of these questions than you answered no, then you may want to try to “stretch” your metabolism with these tips:    

  1. Move more!Just 30 minutes of walking, especially after a meal can help turn your body to burning fat for fuel. It may improve your mood too!
  2. Lose weight.Losing just 10% body weight can be effective in increasing your metabolism!
  3. Eliminate processed foods.Instead focus on meals made from fiber rich whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and lean protein.
  4. Stretching time out between meals may be for you!


Published May 1, 2021

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