From eating habits to sleeping patterns: Here's how several factors impact metabolism and ways to overcome it

An easy guide to understanding cellular functioning and ways to make it work in your favour

Luke CoutinhoUpdated: Sunday, December 11, 2022, 03:19 PM IST
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Metabolism has become a buzzword, and everyone seems to be talking about it for the right reasons. But what most people don’t understand is that metabolism is beyond obesity, digestion, and fat gain. Even people who appear healthy on the outside can have a metabolic dysfunction brewing on the inside. So, there is a deeper meaning to metabolism. 

Every single function in our body relates to our metabolic health, and so a dysfunctional metabolism can affect every process. Even if one develops one or two of these, it is a perfect cocktail to pave the way for others. This means, that what may start as just diabetes can eventually lead to the development of hypertension and cardiovascular condition. All of this is for something that went wrong at a cellular level, which is the inability of cells to either metabolise sugar and lipids or handle inflammation. Metabolism, in simple terms.

What cripples your metabolism? 

Metabolism is not purely genetic and not God-gifted as people say. While genes can play a role, it is your lifestyle that ultimately defines how those genes are expressed or suppressed. The right lifestyle changes can improve your metabolism whereas the wrong ones can cripple it. From your eating patterns and habits to activity levels and the way you train (exercise), water intake, sleep habits, and even your emotional health hugely impact your metabolism, directly as well as indirectly.

Crash or fad dieting 

Under-exercising or over-exercising

Chronic stress and suppressed emotions 

Lack of sleep and rest 

Sedentary lifestyle 

Overconsumption of refined and ultra-processed foods

Chronic and overuse of medicines 

Toxins in the body (which is why a body cleanse feels great!)

More body fat and less lean muscle 

Age 

Hormonal imbalances (e.g.: thyroid dysfunction)

Low water intake 

Lifestyle changes to improve metabolism 

Deep Sleep

Lack of sleep is the easiest way to crash your metabolism. It can slow down nearly every single function in the body as it doesn’t give our body and cells enough time to rest and rejuvenate, resulting in slow function. Sleep is when we also undergo the detoxification process, so a lack of sleep means toxin overload. A toxic body is bound to have a super slow metabolism. Lack of sleep can also increase inflammation in the body, which is another red flag for port metabolic health. 

Living by circadian rhythm

Eating in alignment with our circadian rhythm can also hugely support our metabolism. According to the circadian rhythm, our metabolism is at its peak during the afternoon, and hence it’s easier for us to digest and metabolise a meal (which is lunch) around noon. However, as the day proceeds, our metabolism then starts to dip towards evening and night. So, if one wishes to eat an indulgent meal or a dessert, the best time to do so is lunchtime. On the other hand, a heavy meal at night can be an uphill task for our body to digest because our metabolism doesn’t support it. This is also why, fasting according to our circadian rhythm, wherein one starts the fast just after sunset and continues until sunrise is one of the most strategic ways to eat to aid your metabolism.

Adequate water intake

Even a 1% drop in your hydration status can cripple your metabolism and slow you down. Keep yourself adequately hydrated. Take it a step further and drink warm water. Warm water increases the body temperature, which therefore increases the metabolic rate. One can also prepare structured water by adding a pinch of pink Himalayan salt, as the minerals in it ensure hydration at a cellular level.

Build lean muscle mass

Muscle is metabolically active tissue. The more muscle you have, your body also produces a hormone called HGH, which is a human growth hormone, and the more you have of that the higher your metabolic rate is. This is why you will constantly burn fat at any given period when you have that amount of lean mass or muscle fibre.

Eat good fats

Your body needs fats, the good ones to maintain optimal metabolism. Good fats like ghee, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados – help produce more energy because it is your mitochondria’s most preferred fuel. MCT-rich oils like coconut oil are fantastic for that. The quantity and type can vary based on his health condition and goals, but some good quality fats boost metabolism.

High-intensity interval workouts (HIIT)

HIIT to spike your metabolism. Interval workouts can truly put your body in a fat-burning mode by activating your metabolism. The beauty of such workouts is that they can keep your metabolism high for quite some time compared to a workout done at a steady rate. For example, Tabata, the four-minute Japanese workout is one of the simplest and most effective HIIT.  

Good quality supplements

While this is never a replacement for lifestyle, if there is a serious clinical condition where metabolism has taken a hit and boosting it will help an underlying condition, then the preferable supplements are: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), alpha-lipoic acid, N-acetyl-cysteine, carnitine, B-complex vitamins, and omega-3 fats. Please note: Always discuss with your health expert before consuming any supplement/food.

Besides that, even foods that create drastic spikes in blood sugar levels like carb-heavy or fibre-deficient meals can create metabolic dysfunction in the long run. This is why we recently came up with a unique flow of eating, which guides us on the sequence of eating that supports our metabolism instead of crippling it. Thus, unique flow allows you to eat anything you want to but in a particular order. The order is:

Raw salads, veggies first

Cooked veggies, next

Protein and fats, next

Carbs, grains, or starches, at last 

Eating this way ensures that your gut is lined with fibre from the salad and vegetables first before you eat your carbohydrates. This way the glucose dump and spike aren’t as drastic, which favours metabolic health. 

This allows us to eat anything we want to but in a particular fashion. Craving pasta? Follow the flow. Eat a portion of raw salad first. Then stir fry vegetables and finally pasta. This flow is simple and can be followed anywhere - while travelling, at a buffet, and even on a flight. 

Your metabolism is everything. And just by targeting it, you can transform your overall health. 

So, if there was ever a time to start paying attention to your metabolic health, it’s now. Most people today have metabolic syndrome even before they know it. Move to action now. 

(Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care - All about YOU)

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