Have you ever wondered why we do the same thing over and over when we know it’s bad for us? Why is it so hard to change behaviour, attitudes and habits? Why is losing those last few kilograms or building muscle such a challenge?
When your metabolism (energy system) isn’t working properly, the body doesn’t have the energy it needs to change, so it gets stuck in a rut -doing the same thing over and over and over and…
The term metabolism is commonly referred to as the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy. Metabolism defines the range of biochemical processes that occur internally, from anabolism (the build-up of substances) to catabolism (the break-down of substances).
As the body adapts to life, it needs to breaks down the old and no longer useful cells and rebuild new and better ones. Your metabolism is the determining factor of how much energy you have to do this.
What type of energy do you run on?
Now you might be wondering to yourself, “I have plenty of energy, so why won’t my body change?”
To simplify things I have divided our energy source into two categories
- Nervous or adrenalized energy
- Adaptive or cellular energy
Can this energy be making you fat?
Your health is directly related to your level of adaptive energy, NOT your nervous energy.
Nervous energy is like a high-interest loan or credit card. You get energy as needed but it’s never really yours and comes with a price.
Adaptive energy is like cash under the mattress. It’s yours to spend freely but if you don’t put it back you will run out, which then forces you to borrow “money” to live.
The more adaptive energy you have, the more secure you feel.
Your body feels light and relaxed, you fight less, accept more and are able to manage conflict in positive and constructive ways without too much effort.
Life becomes easier without the circumstances ever changing.
When the body is running low on adaptive energy it feels tight, rigid and on edge. Low energy forces the body into saving mode, storing energy as fat.
If you struggling to lose those extra few pounds you may need to rest more rather than gym harder, food for thought isn’t it?
The energy dilemma
I believe modern society is in an energy crisis. Our reserves are so low from over stimulation and we live mainly on nervous energy, with extreme fluctuations between fully charged and empty.
The more exhausted a person is, the more they rely on stimulants like exercise (runner’s high), emotions (anger), caffeine, nicotine, sugars and alcohol to try and control their energy.
As we neglect to restore the adaptive energy we go deeper into debt which eventually leads to the slow degenerative process that speeds up aging, injury and disease.
Rebuilding the adaptive energy system is possible but you need to learn how to take control of your life and responsibility for your choices.
The process is both a physiological and psychological adventure.
The science of building adaptive energy.
Your body’s metabolism is controlled almost entirely by the hormones that come from the endocrine system.
The endocrine system includes the:
- Thyroid gland
- Parathyroid glands
- Adrenal glands
- Pineal gland
- Pituitary gland
- Sex glands ( Ovaries in women, testes in men)
While the endocrine system is predominantly regulated by the Hypothalamus and Pituitary gland in the brain, the two most important organs that produce close to 98% of the body’s energy are the thyroid and adrenal glands.
Working on optimising their function will help restore the balance between adaptive and nervous energy.
The organ that keeps your warm
The thyroid gland is located just below the voice box, sitting like a little bow tie. The two main hormones it secretes (T3 and T4) affect virtually every cell in the body.
The most important functions of T4 (Thyroxine) is the stimulation of the production of enzymes for glucose metabolism. T4 also controls
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
- Cellular Oxygen consumption
- Heat production
- Triggers the release of digestive juices involved in fat and protein metabolism
- Helps the liver produce cholesterol for transporting fats
- Regulates tissue growth for bones, nerves and reproductive organs
- Keeps the skin moist and promotes normal secretion of skin cells
- The secretion of a hormone called calcitonin that helps regulates calcium levels in the blood.
Do you have TT? (No, not the Audi kind)
TT or thyroid trouble generally happen if there is an imbalance in these hormones. When T4 is too low the metabolism takes a nose dive resulting in:
- Low body temp
- Reduced heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Intolerance to cold
- Decreased appetite
- Weight gain
- Lack of concentration
- Skin turns, pale, thick and dry
- Hair becomes coarser and thins out, while nails become hard and thicker (usually due to calcium being removed from the blood and stored in other body tissue).
“Hats off” to these energy producers
On top of each kidney sits a small pyramid-shaped gland called the Adrenal. Imagine two bean-shaped kidneys wearing a little top hat.
These two glands determine how well you manage allergies, inflammation and infections. The adrenals also determine your capacity to handle stress and contribute to your sex drive.
Aldosterone, one of the energy producing hormones produced by the Adrenal glands, regulates sodium and potassium levels. These minerals regulate the flow of electricity in your nerves and cells.
Aldosterone regulates the rate at which your body excretes sodium from the body and helps retain water. Too much Aldosterone eventually leads to high blood pressure.
When sodium levels rise, potassium levels drop to compensate for the change. Losing too much potassium can lead to nerve damage, muscle weakness and paralysis.
Cortisol, a well-known stress hormone, plays a major role in your stress response.
Cortisol stabilises blood sugar by converting fat and protein into glucose and prevents the release of inflammatory chemicals from the cells.
If you are under constant stress, your body is continually releasing cortisol elevating levels in the blood.
These excessive levels can lead to depression, fatigue, insomnia, high blood sugar, loss of muscle and bone, poor wound healing and impaired immune function.
The “Big Boss” of energy
The most famous adrenal hormone is of course adrenaline. Adrenaline and its buddy norepinephrine are the main providers of nervous energy.
- Adrenaline stimulates the heart to beat faster and widens the air passage for better oxygen consumption
- Norepinephrine increases tension levels by constricting blood vessels and regulates blood pressure
- Together these hormones increase production of glucose (from protein and carbohydrates) in the liver for energy production
Excessive amounts of these stress hormones increase the metabolic rate which results in high blood sugar levels, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nervousness, insomnia and sweating.
Are you killing the horse that pulls your cart
As you run low on adaptive energy, your body becomes dependent on nervous energy. Nervous energy allows you to respond to life-threatening situations at the blink of an eye but is designed to function best in short bursts. In the long run, relying on nervous energy puts strain on those poor adrenal glands
Eating sugary foods, drinking coffee or picking a fight stimulates your adrenal glands and when you are tired, it’s like flogging an exhausted horse to keep pulling your cart.
What happens when the horse runs out of juice?
A few simple solutions
Ways of boosting your metabolism are two-fold.
1) Increase your body’s access to quality nutrients to support energy production.
2) Reduce your exposure to the things that slow your metabolism down and deplete your reserves.
- Too much or too little iodine will cause a problem for the thyroid. Your iodine intake from all sources should be below 600mcg per day.
- Make sure you cook all goitrogens (foods that affect iodine absorption like turnips, cabbage, mustard and broccoli) for 30 minutes if you eat them regularly. While regular consumption of these foods has many other benefits, people with low thyroid function need to be more cautious.
- Limit iodized salt. Rather use sea salt or Himalayan salt for flavouring.
- A good Kelp supplement is great for iodine supplementation (1800mg per day). Kelp has many other detoxification benefits so if you are going to take it, start slowly and give your body a chance to get used to it. Please note: If you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease, DON’T use Kelp.
- Glandular products are also helpful when it comes to rebuilding the thyroid and adrenal glands and supporting their function.
- The most important dietary recommendation for adrenal health is to restore the sodium-potassium balance. According to Dr. Paul Eck, biochemical balancing scientist and founder of Analytical Research Labs, the ideal ratio for Sodium (Na) and Potassium (K) is 2.5:1. Eating more vegetables high in potassium (yams, spinach, Swiss chards mushrooms, fennel, parsnip, bok choy, etc.) can help.
- Other nutrients like vitamins B5, B6, C, zinc and magnesium are also necessary for adrenal function.
Some good advice
Limit your exposure to the stressors that negatively affect your metabolism and don’t rely on stimulants to keep pushing yourself when you know you need to rest are the simplest and most immediate things you can do.
- Reduce or limit your exposure to unnecessary stressors
- Eat real food
- Slow down when you are tired
- Sleep 8-9 hours a night