Metabolic Flexibility

What is Metabolic Flexibility?

Concomitantly lose fat and gain lean muscle, while eating fats AND carbs! That’s what metabolic flexibility does for you, along with enabling you to enjoy food from many sources. But what does it mean?

Metabolic flexibility is the ability to switch from predominantly using one fuel source to the other. It’s an innate process that ensures humans are able to use all fuel sources based on supply and demand. Our main sources of fuel are:

  • Carbohydrates (stored as glycogen)
  • Fat
  • Protein

Protein is only used for fuel in extreme conditions so when talking metabolic flexibility (MF), we focus on fats and carbs.

Fed vs. Fasted

The fed state is around meal and snack times. When food is being consumed, insulin levels are higher and this puts the body into carb burning, fat storing mode. During the fasted state—between meals—the body is in fat burning, carb sparing mode.

You need both for basic human function and for exercise. The type of physical activity you’re engaging in will affect which fuel source is predominantly used.

If you’re metabolically flexible, you’ll be using the right amount of fuel from the best source. This aids in supporting your levels of activity while burning excess body fat.

Are You Metabolically Flexible?

Test 1

Consume an easily digestible protein source (chicken breast, whey protein) with simple carbs on an empty stomach. If you crash afterwards and feel like passing out or having a big nap, your insulin levels are probably high (from eating too much simple carbohydrate). If you feel good, you’re good!

Test 2

Fast a bit. This could be simply skipping a meal or snack. If you find that you can’t get by at least two hours without holding up your local convenience store, you are probably not relying on using fat as a fuel in the fasted state. If you get by five hours without committing an offence, you’re good!

Becoming Metabolically Flexible

  • Add some intermittent fasting in to your dietary habits
  • Train at both high and low intensities
  • Gradually increase the time between meals and snacks
  • Have some “treat” food some of the time while eating good most of the time.

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