Stop Weight Loss Resistance by Improving Metabolic Health by Lauren Papanos, MS, RD, CSSD

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ARTICLE AT-A-GLANCE

đź•‘ 5 min read | Lauren Papanos, MS, RD, CSSD

How many times have you decided that this is the year that you’re going to take control and lose the weight? You count calories, exercise more, eat healthier and still, minimal results for all of your hard work.

This is the number one reason why people quit weight loss goals.

Not because of willpower, but because the work invested isn’t worth the end result. Many will lose hope that weight loss isn’t in the cards for them or continue to follow their diet and workout plan but do so at 80% compliance.

We must now get to the root cause of why we’re stagnant, and take action that supports an improvement to our Metabolic Health.

 

Our bodies are incredibly intelligent. They are constantly working to pull us back to homeostasis or where we should be, despite the many variables we might throw at them: lack of sleep, undernutrition, intense exercise and even, illness. You name it, our bodies are prepared for it.

Because of this, the function of the metabolism is to adapt. As a result of adaptation, processes might become less effective along the way.

For example, hormones may become downregulated, organs might start working at a lower capacity and processes become sluggish. For so many people, weight loss fails because there is a kink in the system somewhere.

We must now get to the root cause of why we’re stagnant, and take action that supports an improvement to our Metabolic Health.

There are four factors I like to assess when discussing metabolic health for weight loss:

  1. Metabolic Flexibility
  2. Blood Sugar and Insulin
  3. Digestion and Detoxification
  4. Thyroid Health

1 Metabolic Flexibility

Metabolic flexibility is seen as the ability to efficiently burn both carbohydrates and fats, even at rest.

In healthy individuals, about 80-90% of the carbohydrates eaten are stored as glycogen, while the other 10-20% is converted to fat.[1]

In Type 2 Diabetics and others who display degrees of insulin resistance, it is possible to see twice the conversion to fat when compared to healthier individuals with better insulin sensitivity.

How do you know if you fit in this compromised category and if you do, how do you change it?

Exercise is a good place to start. Studies suggest that even moderate aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce insulin resistance.

From a dietary perspective, cycling and timing of carbohydrates is an effective tool. This can be done by only eating starchy carbohydrates 2-3 times per week and/or by eating 60-75% of your total daily carbohydrate intake around the time of your workout (between your pre- and post-workout meals).

Pre- or post-workout starchy carbs example: Metabolic Meals’ Oven Roasted Turkey Breast with Savory Herb Gravy and Smashed Sweet Potatoes, 32g carbs

I find both to be effective strategies for improving metabolic flexibility in individuals.


2 Blood Sugar and Insulin

As mentioned above, some individuals have a more difficult time with carbohydrates than others. I strongly encourage all people to regularly test their fasting insulin and fasting blood glucose.

Insulin is a hormone released by our pancreas that helps lower blood sugar when it is elevated. What many people don’t know is that insulin will become elevated far before you will ever notice complications with your blood sugar. Since insulin is synergistic with other hormones, we begin to see other problems develop downstream if left unchecked and Metabolic Health starts to become compromised.

Managing insulin and keeping blood sugar in a safe range is best accomplished with your diet.

  • Eating fat, protein, and fiber every time that you eat (no naked carbs).
  • Going on short walks after higher carbohydrate meals.
  • By eating ample magnesium through leafy greens, nuts and seeds.

Chicken burger with avocado and zucchini fries meal in container.

Metabolic Meals’ California Chicken Burger with Avocado and Roasted Zucchini Fries offers a good balance of healthy fats, protein and fiber.


3Digestion and Detoxification

Research has shown that our gut bacteria play a critical role in how we extract energy from the foods that we eat. The ratio of bacteria called firmicutes and bacteroidetes specifically, has even been associated with a higher risk factor for chronic disease and obesity.[2]

Many people are living with digestive symptoms that go untreated for years and would greatly benefit from healing and repopulating the gut with the right bacterial balance.

This can be done by correcting issues of intestinal permeability through increasing zinc and amino acids in the diet, and including foods called demulcents that help heal the gut lining.

Zinc and amino acids are both found in meat, fish, and nuts.

Examples of demulcents include aloe vera, marshmallow root, and slippery elm.

Once the gut has been healed, increasing the variety of fiber in the diet and removing foods that feed bad bacteria helps change the environment.

You can change your bacterial makeup by aiming for 8-10 cups of fibers daily (vegetables, fruits, legumes, tubers, herbs) and avoiding sugar, refined grains, alcohol, and processed meats.

Utilizing a premade meal delivery service makes it easier to ensure you have healthy meals ready to eat, with plenty of fiber and vegetables.


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4 Thyroid Health

Finally, focusing on the thyroid is the last step in rewiring your metabolic rate. Many people will wonder if the cause of their “slow metabolism” is due to their thyroid being sluggish.

You might go to your doctor and ask for them to test your thyroid. They will test your TSH as a screening tool and when it comes back in range, send you home with “everything is normal.”

However, a standard TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test is simply not enough to provide insight here. I recommend requesting a full thyroid panel, salivary cortisol and inflammatory markers so that you can get to the root cause of where the kink in the system might be happening.

If you are struggling with weight loss, it is common to have a normal TSH, normal T4, but low T3 and high reverse T3.In this case, it’s likely that you may not be converting T4 to the active, usable form of thyroid hormone (T3). We need (T3) for metabolism of food and weight loss. You are producing the hormones but they are sitting outside of the cell, unable to make their way inside and turn the pilot light on to your metabolic fire.

Nutritionally, we can support the thyroid in the following ways:

  • make sure that your daily calorie intake isn’t too low
  • eat some carbohydrates, but time them appropriately
  • make sure and consume enough iodine, Vitamins A, B2 & B12

When eating less and exercising more doesn’t work as well as it once did, I encourage you to work on improving metabolic health through the four steps we’ve covered.

Calories in vs calories out is certainly part of the process, but let’s pay equal attention to what and when you’re eating.

Lauren Papanos is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a board certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. She holds both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Nutritional Sciences from Stephen F. Austin State University. During her masters degree she concentrated study in functional nutrition and conducted research on body composition and dietary behaviors in elite athletes.

She is the owner of Functional Fueling Nutrition, a Los Angeles based private practice specializing in women’s hormones, metabolic health and performance nutrition.

Her passion is in helping individuals get to the root cause through advanced laboratory testing and personalized functional nutrition to bring them to their highest expression of health.

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[1] https://www.jbc.org/content/274/39/27497.full.pdf

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5933040/

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