metabolic programming

Our metabolism conditioned by what we eat, when we eat, as well as how often we eat and what we do both before and after eating with our bodies (and with the nutrients and energy in the foods we eat). And our metabolic rate is also determined by our body composition, the health of our thyroid gland, our age, and our emotional state (as well as if we are ill).

Put simply, if we wake up and begin moving in the morning (by saying doing 20 minutes or more of exercise) we increase our metabolic rate and how we are using energy. If we then set our metabolic clock with what we eat, we determine our ability to both lose weight, and also to keep insulin, blood sugar and cholesterol within healthy ranges. Here are some guidelines for how this works.

Metabolic Clock

This is what our body is opting to use to fulfil our energy requirements and it is set by our first meal of the day. Essentially, if we include significant amounts of dietary fat in our breakfast, our body is conditioned to use fat. However, if we eat carbohydrates, such as a packaged cereal or bread, we program our body for carbohydrate metabolism which results in blood sugar imbalances, arterial damage (from excess blood glucose) and high cholesterol (to repair arterial damage).

Eat breakfast

People who eat high fiber breakfast cereal (eg oats) have been shown in studies to have lowest cholesterol levels, whilst those who skip breakfast have highest cholesterol levels. So Eat Breakfast! Also include healthy dietary fat (eg oats / porridge and coconut oil) in order to program the body for fat use (ie set the metabolic clock), thus avoiding carbohydrate conditioning and consequential blood sugar damage to arteries

  • Carbohydrates – the problems of carbohydrate in the blood (blood glucose) are principally to do with the damaging effects of blood glucose to blood vessel walls. A low blood glucose results from a diet low in refined or simple carbohydrates (ie sugar) and high in complex carbohydrates (eg rice, pasta, fiber)
  • Carbohydrate conditioning results from high carbohydrate intake – the body becomes conditioned to using carbohydrate for energy use, thus carbohydrates predominate in the blood, causing vascular damage and fat storage / accumulation
  • Metabolic programming – if the body is fed fat in the morning, it becomes conditioned to using fat as an energy source, leading to less carbohydrate in blood

The danger of high carbohydrate breakfasts

Simple or refined carbohydrates at breakfast cause high amounts of glucose to be released to the blood. Meanwhile, elevated blood glucose triggers the release of insulin to encourage glucose uptake (from blood) and glucose storage (as fat). Carbohydrate conditioning leads to metabolic programming that is dysfunctional – the body learns it needs to release high amounts of insulin after each meal. The result is increased insulin resistance and fat storage – both of which create an inflammatory spiral toward Auto-immune disorders, Diabetes and Heart Disease.

The danger of no breakfast

No breakfast results in the body being starved of energy which results in the break down of fat for energy use. When the fast is broken (ie the first meal is at lunch) depending on the effect of the meal on blood sugar, insulin may be released in high amounts. The result is hypoglycaemic conditioning – whereby the body is conditioned to produce excess insulin. The danger here is that the body losses sensitivity to insulin (ie insulin resistance) as well as weight gain / inability to lose weight.

A similar principle applies to people who Yo-Yo weight loss. Dramatic weight loss through calorie controlled diets results in energy starvation and break down of fat. After the diet, if the effect of foods eaten on blood sugar is not monitored, excess blood sugar levels from those foods will result in insulin acting to store that glucose – as body fat. The result is conditioning the body to maintain body fat at pre-dietary levels through replacing body fat after the diet is over. Another way of looking at calorie restriction diets is that these diets program the body to restock body fat lost during the diet to ensure it has sufficient energy stocks for future periods of starvation (ie calorie restriction).

The benefits of small meals

Insulin spikes that result from high carbohydrate diets or infrequent meals cause insulin resistance and weight gain. This can be avoided by eating small, frequent meals that result in stabilised blood sugar levels as well as normalising cellular sensitivity to insulin and allowing for sustained weight loss. And key to this is eating breakfast – to ensure proper metabolic programming.

Go to work on an egg

Protein is needed at each meal for crucial metabolic functions such as immune health. And eggs for breakfast are excellent – as they an excellent source of the mineral Choline. Choline is needed to mobilize fatty tissues (especially those in the liver) as well as being crucial for brain and nerve function (ie in forming the neurotransmitter acetylcholine). Eggs also contain a high amino acid complement / good protein content, and a protein content that has high bioavailability / is readily digestible and absorbable. Meanwhile daily consumption of 1 egg has been shown to have little effect on blood cholesterol levels – despite the high saturated fat and cholesterol causing content of eggs.

The bottom line

Eat balanced meals – equating dietary fat with dietary protein and complex, fiber rich carbohydrates

Program metabolism – for fat use (and loss of body fat) as well as insulin sensitivity with breakfast

Set and program your Metabolic Rate for energy use – by doing at least 20 minutes of brisk exercise as soon as you wake up and before breakfast

Nutrient assistance

Coconut oil – increases Metabolic Rate and promotes weight loss

Adapted from:

Murray, M. (2005). Encyclopedia of Healing Food. New York, N.Y.: Atria Books

Rakel, D. (2007). Integrative Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders

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