I recently attended the NASM Optima Conference, where I took a course on Biohacking Your Metabolism. Simply put, your metabolism is how your body regulates itself from the inside out. For an official definition, you can visit Google.com, which defines ‘metabolism’ as “the chemical processes that occur within a living organism to maintain life,” or Dictionary.com, which defines ‘metabolism’ as “the complex of physical and chemical processes occurring within a living cell or organism that are necessary for the maintenance of life.” The two biggest factors which affect your metabolism are your diet and exercise routines, however, simply changing these things is not always enough. If you exercise regularly and eat a nutritious diet, but are still suffering from a lack of energy, excess weight, or any other metabolic issues, then you should consider taking the time to biohack your metabolism. There are six different things you need to consider when biohacking your metabolism - Sleep, Psychological stress, Environment, Exercise, Diet, and Supplements. Think of the acronym SPEEDS to help you remember.
The most important factor to consider when looking at your sleep is how much you get on a regular basis. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, and without proper sleep hygiene, your body will begin to resist the much needed hormone insulin. Insulin resistance can be temporary or increase to a more permanent state. You can get yourself out of an insulance resistance state and getting enough sleep will play a factor in that. Additionally, poor sleep hygiene will alter the mental aspect of controlling your appetite. Appetite control is not just what you’re feeling physically in your stomach, but also based upon what’s happening mentally, and that comes directly from your sleep or lack of sleep. Far too often, people associate obesity simply with diet and exercise, when in fact it has a lot to do with what’s going on in your brain. We lead busy lives and if we don’t put an emphasis on getting enough sleep then the reality is that we just won’t get the amount needed for our bodies to function at their best. If getting enough sleep is hard for you, work to make your sleep routine habitual by Eliminating the use of tv, computers, and cell phones directly before bed. While they may seem relaxing since the physical effort to use them is very minimal, the screens on these objects use a blue light which actually awakens part of our brain. You can also Incorporate relaxation techniques, such as meditation or prayer, into your sleep routine or use the supplements melatonin (start with 1-3 mg) and valerian root (450mg), which are specifically for sleep. Your body will absorb as much of these supplements as needed and excrete what it doesn’t need, so you can start with the amounts above and increase a little at a time until you find the right amount for you. Every body is different, but making a few changes to your sleep routine can have a bigger influence on your health than you realize.
Psychological stress is linked directly to the chronic hyperactivation (HPA) within our bodies. Our bodies go through three different stages when dealing with Chronic HPA. The first stage is our alarm reaction, where our ‘fight or flight’ instincts kick in. The second stage is resistance or adaptation. Our body tries to adapt to the stress through hormone changes. You may recognize this in the form of anxiety. It’s important to know that even if you don’t outwardly recognize or experience any symptoms, your body is still fighting to adapt to these changes on the inside. The final stage in Chronic HPA is exhaustion. This is when your body decides that it cannot adapt anymore and is completely exhausted. When this happens, your immune function becomes compromised because your resistance to stress is reduced. External factors will have a greater impact upon you and are more susceptible to getting sick. Chronic HPA can cause visceral fat deposition (the fat surrounding your organs), insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, altered lipid profiles and coronary artery disease. Psychological stress can affect you years after the initial impact and it’s important to find ways to relieve and manage this stress before it takes too much of a toll on your body. Activities such as meditation, prayer, massages, acupuncture, and walking are all great and can be used to help your body both during the stress as well as pre-emptively to combat the onset of psychological stress.
Your environment refers to the products you use in and around your home as well as on your skin. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are synthetic and can be found in plastic, pesticides, antimicrobials, flame retardants, cleaning agents, emulsifiers, and self care products such as lotions and makeup. It’s important to use items which are all natural, or which use as little synthetic chemicals as possible. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has created an App for your smartphone called Skin Deep, which rates products to help you make informed decisions about using different brands and the pros/cons associated with using it. This app is convenient because it is simple to use and the research is already done for you. Please don’t look around you and suddenly stress out, thinking you need to replace everything you use with a more natural alternative at once. Take it little by little and assess one part of your life at a time. Think about your environment and keep this in mind when purchasing new products.
As a personal fitness trainer, I could talk about exercise and the benefits it has on the body all day long, and often I do. (wink, wink) I will keep this short, as biohacking your metabolism is really intended for those who already have a regular exercise routine going, and it’s just not enough. The one thing I want you to keep in mind when exercising is your resting metabolic heart rate (RMR). Keeping this elevated, keeps things working, and the best way to keep it up is through weight training. Cardio exercises will boost your RMR and keep it up once you’re done exercising as well. If you are not already lifting weights then you need to be. Get in touch with me and I can certainly get you started lifting weights regardless of your fitness level.
As we examine how our diet affects our metabolism here, I want you to think about the environment from which your food comes. Non Organic produce is treated with pollutants and pesticides, which are poisons used to kill the bugs. These pesticides (or poisons) are proinflammatory within your body, causing cell damage and producing free radicals. Thin skinned produce will absorb the pesticides and pollutants more than those with thick skin, so when you’re purchasing, think about the thickness of skin on your purchase. If able, refer to this list, known as the Dirty Dozen. These foods carry the highest amount of pollutants and pesticides and should always be purchased organic: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, lettuce, cherries, kale, potatoes, grapes. On the other hand, the following produce is categorized as the Clean Fifteen and is okay to purchase non organically: onions, avocados, corn, pineapples, mangos, peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato, and honeydew melon. Regardless of whether or not your produce has thick or thin skin, it’s always important to wash your produce before consuming. Remember that even if you’re not eating the skin, you will be cutting through it, and can cross contaminate your produce if you don’t wash the pesticides off first. If your current diet isn’t working for you, make sure that you are getting enough macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) throughout the day. You should have protein at each meal or snack, as it is essential for the body and easily overlooked.
There are several different supplements that you can take daily to improve your metabolism. 200mg prn of L-theanine, 400-500mg of green tea extract, and whey protein are three supplements that I use personally. The professor who taught at NASM also recommended 300-500 mg of Ashwagandha and 500 mg of berberine. It is always important to do your own research on anything you are putting into or onto your body, but I can definitely vouch for the three supplements that I use. You want to add one or two into your diet at a time, so you know if it is or is not working well and then you can add more or take away from there.
I can certainly understand that there is a lot of information provided here, but, the truth is that the body is a complex machine that works similarly with most but definitely not the same for all. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions. I want you to best understand your body so you can optimize your health and live life to it’s fullest!