5 Ways to Improve Your Metabolic Health
Do you suffer from fatigue, unexplained weight gain, sugar cravings and/or difficulty maintaining a healthy waistline? Whether this is a recent or recurring problem that you struggle to overcome – know that we’re here to help.
There are 5 simple things you can start doing today which will help you improve your metabolic health, appetite control and cravings whilst also supporting easier weight loss and/or maintenance.
Remember, this article is here to support you in your journey to better health – but nothing beats the one-on-one guidance from a qualified healthcare practitioner. For a tailored program and/or weight loss support, book an appointment or choose from our all-inclusive packages here.
1. Get Enough Sleep & Keep Your Stress in Check
High stress and lack of sleep can lead to an increase in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and hunger hormone Ghrelin.
Cortisol wreaks havoc with your metabolism, increasing sugar cravings whilst also decreasing insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that helps foods be converted into energy. With insulin resistance, we convert less foods to energy and more to bodyfat (our backup energy reserve). Studies show that reduced insulin sensitivity in the brain due to sleep deprivation, stress or other factors, causes weight loss diets to be ineffective.1,2
What’s more, the University of Gothenburg discovered that hunger hormone Ghrelin appears to impact decision making and increase impulsivity.2
So, in summary, with high stress and poor sleep you are craving carbs and sugar (but unable to use them as energy), you’re tired, hungry and feeling impulsive – leading to poor dietary choices and difficulty losing weight.
Note on Stress: At SCN we understand that self-care is last on the list when stress is at its peak – and we’ve been there too! We are passionate about providing health advice that is not only effective, but also is achievable and sustainable– in times of high stress this means keeping it simple, focusing on small, realistic goals that help you to survive this whirlwind and come out in one piece. If you need help navigating a difficult time, please reach out.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced, varied diet is one of your best tools for improving your metabolic health. A healthy diet includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.
There are many approaches which are proven to be effective for restoring metabolic balance – the key to success is ensuring that you personalize your approach to suit your unique requirements.
Some techniques that we use at Sydney City Nutritionist are:
Modified Mediterranean diet – rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and quality protein.
Ensuring adequate calories to stimulate the metabolism, with periodic high nutrient fasting to ensure optimum nutrition for improved thyroid health and blood sugar control.
Balancing calories and macronutrients to suit the needs of the individual – taking into account the level of activity, age, gender, body composition and any underlying health conditions.
Identifying and reducing any problem foods which may impact general and metabolic health.
Incorporating treats and learning how to balance intake for best results in the long term – not just a quick fix.
3. Be Physically Active
Physical activity helps to boost the metabolism, decrease cortisol, improve insulin signaling, reduce comfort eating and cravings. Oh yeah and you burn a few calories too – but that’s just a nice side effect really.
Studies show that all types of physical activity demonstrate improvements in metabolic health – with physical inactivity considered to be the leading cause of metabolic syndrome. Be mindful however that consistency is key, so opt for types of exercise you enjoy and are likely to stick to. Don’t just go for the latest fashionable exercise regime – particularly if you find it stressful or unenjoyable.
Getting started on a healthy exercise regime however can be difficult when you are stressed/overwhelmed/exhausted. In this instance it’s sometimes best to simply focus on decreasing inactivity whilst you work on correcting your diet and getting onto a good supplement regime to boost your energy and resilience. If this is where you’re at right now, you could begin by setting some small achievable goals such as to stand and stretch each hour and take brisk 10-15minute walks 2-3 x daily (to/from work plus lunch/coffee breaks).
4. Quit Smoking & Limit Alcohol
Smoking is one of the major risk factors for metabolic disorders – increasing the risk of heart attacks, stroke, insulin resistance, nutritional deficiencies and difficult weight loss. Zinc deficiency is particularly common in smokers which is problematic given that this important mineral is essential for thyroid hormone production and insulin sensitivity.
Quitting smoking can lead to significant improvements in metabolic health, thyroid function and weight loss success. As with any addiction, it can be difficult to quit smoking. There are great government resources to aid the process of quitting. Click here to read a guide from the Department of Health on how to set yourself up for success or Call/Text Quitline on 137848 to speak to a qualified counsellor today.
Most healthy lifestyle plans recommend limiting the intake of alcohol due to the associated health risks such as increased risk of strokes, heart attacks, liver disease, insulin resistance, nutritional deficiencies - not to mention the acute effects of anxiety, impulsivity and sleeplessness.
Again, we want to have a realistic and sustainable plan here though. So, rather than giving up alcohol in the pursuit of health – only to rebound later – consider what may be a sustainable and achievable change for you. A daily glass or two of wine doesn’t give your body much opportunity to reset and recover – and this seemingly small volume could be enough to trigger poor dietary choices, along with insulin resistance, increased production of hunger-hormone ghrelin and nutritional deficiencies (magnesium and B Vitamins are depleted by alcohol).
If you are going to drink, opting for red wine may prove beneficial. Red wine contains health-promoting nutrients such as resveratrol – a natural antioxidant found in the skin of grapes which has been shown to have heart-promoting and anti-aging effects. The polyphenols (an antioxidant and prebiotic) in red wine have been linked to improvements in appetite regulation and the procyanidins (plant compounds present in grapes, cacao, cinnamon and more) have been shown to improve the elasticity of arteries.
These benefits of course, whilst promising, must be weighed against the negative impacts of alcohol consumption – not least, the mental health effects and that it is addictive. We must also remember that many of these beneficial plant compounds are readily available in other food sources such as grapes, cinnamon, dark berries, green and black tea – and of course if we want a higher dose without any of the side effects of alcohol we can take a nutritional supplement.
So, if you’re going to drink, choose high quality red wine, drink responsibly and most importantly – drink infrequently. If alcohol results in negative mental health effects, impulsivity and addiction for you – skip the wine in favour of a supplement and/or eat more grapes, blueberries, dark chocolate, cinnamon, green/black/earl grey tea and olives/extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
5. Get Regular Checkups
Try as we might to support optimum health, there will be life events that get in the way. The best way to ensure optimum metabolic and general health is to see your health provider for regular checkups. A checkup with your healthcare practitioner will help you adapt your diet and lifestyle plan to suit you and help you navigate through difficult times with your health in tact.
Routine checkups should also include testing. Prevention is better than cure. Be sure to visit your health provider for routine blood testing and, if you have concerns or personal/family history of metabolic conditions such as thyroid dysfunction, insulin resistance, diabetes or metabolic syndrome – it’s important to insist on a comprehensive testing panel. Unfortunately, there are some limitations to the available testing options via Medicare (click here to read more on this) so at times private testing is essential.
At Sydney City Nutritionist we are passionate about helping people to feel younger, stronger, happier through optimum nutrition. Recognising the importance of metabolic health, we include a comprehensive panel of metabolic and nutrient testing in our Fresh Start Program - the ultimate in personalized nutrition, including a tailored diet and lifestyle program designed according to the results of your test results. With improved metabolic health you’ll see easier weight loss and, most importantly, maintain the results in the long term.
Did you enjoy this article? Leave us an emoji in the comment box below.
Until next time, stay deliciously healthy.
Jennifer May BHSc(Nut.Med).Adv.Dip.Nut.Med.ATMS
Stephanie Kullmann, Vera Valenta, Robert Wagner, Otto Tschritter, Jürgen Machann, Hans-Ulrich Häring, Hubert Preissl, Andreas Fritsche, Martin Heni. Brain insulin sensitivity is linked to adiposity and body fat distribution. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15686-y
Roberts CK, Hevener AL, Barnard RJ. Metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance: underlying causes and modification by exercise training. Compr Physiol. 2013 Jan;3(1):1-58. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c110062. PMID: 23720280; PMCID: PMC4129661.
Rozita H Anderberg, Caroline Hansson, Maya Fenander, Jennifer E Richard, Suzanne L Dickson, Hans Nissbrandt, Filip Bergquist, Karolina P Skibicka. The Stomach-Derived Hormone Ghrelin Increases Impulsive Behavior. Neuropsychopharmacology, 2015; 41 (5): 1199 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2015.297