Your body can run off of carbohydrates or fat. Different kinds of cellular machinery and processes are used if your body is burning fat vs. carbohydrates, and vice versa. Your body’s ability to switch from using carbohydrates as fuel, to using fat as fuel, and then back to carbohydrates as fuel (or any combination of this switching) is a reflection of your body’s metabolic flexibility.
Metabolic inflexibility, or a poor ability to switch from one fuel source to another is predictive of weight gain and weight regain. Like many things metabolically related, there is a strong genetic component to one’s metabolic flexibility. About 32% of your metabolic flexibility can be predicted by your genetics. However, this leaves you 2/3 of your metabolic flexibility to be determined by your diet and actions.
Here are some things that you can do to increase metabolic flexibility.
- Exercise: This consistently increases metabolic flexibility.
- Exercise under a variety of conditions: After a meal, fasted, etc. Force your body to adapt and perform in a variety of situations.
- Eat a carbohydrate restricted diet: Metabolic inflexibility is strongly linked to a decreased ability to burn fat. Restricting the total amount of carbohydrates in your diet forces your body to rely more heavily on fat as a fuel source, thus increasing fat burn, and strengthening those pathways in your body. I’m not talking about carbohydrate removal, just reduction. Start with refined grains, sugar, and calorie containing beverages. Then allocate just one meal per day to contain starches/grains.
- Supplement with Curcumin – IL-6 is a compound released from your fat cells that can impair your body’s ability to burn fat, particularly after a meal when metabolic flexibility is the most difficult. Curcumin, an extract from turmeric, is a well studied safe and anti-inflammatory compound that has been shown in a variety of cellular studies to reduce IL-6. Curcumin is one supplement that I have consistently taken every day for the last 7-8 years.
Keep your body metabolically flexible and you’ll have a better chance of keeping the weight off after you’ve lost it.