As a young boy, I was fascinated by the exploits of super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Holmes, a fictional detective who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century, was created in the imagination of author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. As a London detective, Holmes was famous for solving mysterious crimes which puzzled the renowned Scotland Yard police. He was always accompanied by his lifelong friend Dr. Watson, a physician by trade, and one who always saw the mystery through the eyes of science, while Holmes could look beyond the scientific facts to reveal the truth solving the mystery. Dr. Watson would question Holmes at the end of each mystery asking, “Holmes how did you know?” Sherlock’s response was always the same, “It was elementary my dear Watson.”
I share with you my passion for Sherlock Holmes to set the stage for unraveling the Mystery of Metabolism in true Holmes like fashion. To look beyond the scientific facts to reveal the truth about metabolism. Why is metabolism a mystery to so many? Answer, because of it’s many facets which effect all chemical processes in a living organism.
What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the phase metabolism? If your like the thousands of clients I’ve interviewed you would probably say the rate in which my bodies burns calories. If this is true of you, this is your first clue in un-raveling the mystery of metabolism. Get your focus off of metabolic rate and switch to metabolic state. Your metabolism is much more than resting metabolic rate, food induce metabolic rate and exercise metabolic rate. Though these are the three standard measurements of calorie expenditure, they alone do not represent the state or condition of your metabolism.
The word metabolism comes from the Greek metabol, which means to change. This change refers to all chemical reactions by which complex molecules are broken down for energy, or simple molecules built up to create complex molecules. In general terms all metabolic reactions fall into two categories, catabolic and anabolic reactions. A catabolic response refers to the breaking down of a molecule or tissue, and anabolic provides the building up of a molecule or tissue.
Your metabolism is immense, and is regulated by network of glands called the endocrine system. These glands operate like a well managed ball team, each one a star at it’s position. The endocrine system includes the pancreas, pineal, thymus, thyroid, pituitary, hypothalamus, adrenal and testes or ovaries. These glands release an array of hormones that perform as chemical messengers to control every facet of metabolism. There are several endocrine glands that have non-endocrine regions. The pancreas for example has an endocrine region which produces the hormones insulin and glucagon to control blood sugar levels, and a exocrine region that produces digestive enzymes for digestion. No matter what the metabolic function, the endocrine system plays a direct or indirect role in performing it. These metabolic reactions includes a vast number of bodily functions like; energy expenditure, cellular repair, mineral regulation, inflammation, reproduction, digestion, immune system, and the functions of all organs like; heart, kidneys, liver, stomach and intestines.
This is your second clue in the mystery of metabolism. All human metabolic functions are either anabolic or catabolic, and they are influenced by a hormonal response. It is counterproductive to have anabolic and catabolic reactions occurring in the cells at the same time, so hormones signal the anabolic process on and the catabolic process off and vice visa.
The human body is magnificently designed to maintain a homeostasis or balance between catabolic and anabolic metabolism. If the balance becomes unstable metabolic disturbances can occur. Go back to our analogy about the endocrine system being an all-star ball team, and one of the players is performing poorly which effects the whole team.
There are numerous metabolic disturbances like hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, obesity and the list goes on. The question is, what causes this metabolic shift, and in which direction, anabolic or catabolic? In most metabolic disorders the answer is catabolic. This is the third clue to the mystery of metabolism, as we age our metabolism shift catabolic.
Now I know what your probably thinking, I can’t stop the aging process. That’s true if your talking about chronological aging, but there’s wide body of scientific evidence that prove we can slow down or reverse how we biologically age. I meet many clients who are chronologically 40 years old and biologically 60 years old and vice versa. Our bodies have astonishing abilities to repair and regenerate, to tap into this power the goal is to reduce the aging catabolic damage and restore the youthful anabolic repair.
If this sounds to good to be true, it gets better, not only can it be accomplished it can be measured. Oasmu Nishikaze a Japanese endocrinologist testing the urine of hospital patients, found as the patient recovered from illness or trauma a anabolic metabolite called 17 ketosteroid sulfate showed up in the urine. This discovery proved when the body shifts into anabolic metabolism or super repair mode the 17 ketosteroid sulfate shows up as a by-product in the urine.
Now that there was a way to verify anabolic metabolism, the next question became could it be nutritionally induced. Enter the Anabolic/Catabolic Index (ACI), the discovery of a research group led by Stephen Cherniske. Cherniske, a nutritional biochemist has spent over 30 years researching and developing strategies to put the brakes on catabolic damage and shift into anabolic repair. Cherniske’s group developed a clinical trial where a double blind test giving a placebo to half the participants and a anabolic nutritional formula to the other half. The nutritional formula consisted of DHEA, 7 Keto DHEA, L-arginine and several herbal extracts. After 30 days the placebo group had a slight rise in catabolic activity, where the nutritional formula group had an increase in 17 ketosteroid sulfate, which conveyed a rise in anabolic activity . This proved that anabolic metabolism could be nutritional influenced. This is your fourth clue in the mystery of metabolism. As we age the anabolic-catabolic balance can be nutritionally influenced. So what steps can be taken to nutritional to keep the metabolism youthful?
Consume Four to Five Meals Daily
Optimum nutrition starts by eating four or five meals that supply our body’s sufficient nutrients to maintain balanced anabolic and catabolic metabolism. Each meal should consist of 30% protein, 50% high fiber low glycemic carbohydrates and 20% from fat. The macro-nutrients protein, carbohydrate and fat provide the cells with micro-nutrient vitamins, minerals, photo-nutrients. These micro-nutrients are essential for every facet of cellular metabolism.
A popular theory of metabolic decline points out mitochondrial damage by free radicals through oxidation results from micro-nutrient deficiencies. Each cell has large number of mitochondria that produce energy for metabolic reactions, as this energy is released reactive oxygen and free radicals attempt to damage the mitochondrial DNA.
The human body has sophisticated defense mechanisms to minimize this oxidative damage. If micro-nutrient deficiencies occur these defense mechanisms diminish and catabolic metabolism increases, which over time lead to metabolic disturbances.
Professor Bruce Ames from the University of California at Berkeley has identified deficiencies in the following micro-nutrients; Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, Vitamin B2, B6, B12, niacin, zinc, iron, magnesium and manganese lead to oxidative damage. Professor Ames, estimates that 90% of American are deficient in one or more of these micro-nutrients. The shame is these micro-nutrients are found in a well balanced nutrition regiment of eating whole grain, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, dairy and nuts. The following is a list of foods providing adequate sources of these micro-nutrients.
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits
Vitamin E: Raw nuts, flax seeds, unprocessed oils (olive oil)
Folate or Folic Acid: Whole grains, citrus fruits, dark green vegetables and dried beans
Vitamin B2: Dairy products, whole grains, meats
Vitamin B6: Whole grains, meats
Vitamin B12: Dairy products, meats, whole grains, shellfish
Niacin: Asparagus, green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains
Zinc: Shellfish, fish, meat and pumpkin seeds
Magnesium: Legumes, raw nuts, dried beans and shellfish
Manganese: Whole grains, green leafy vegetables and raw nuts
If You Need to Lose Weight Cycle Calories
If you live in America, there’s a 66% chance as you read this article your over-weight and a 33% likelihood to the extent described as obese (30 lbs. above ideal weight). This is the condition 90% of the 10,000 clients I have personally counseled are in. Numerous scientific studies have proven that even a balanced diet, that includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables will result in the metabolism shifting catabolically, if the calories are reduce too much and for too long. This is the problem with any diet that does not cycle calories the anabolic/catabolic balance is broken.
So how do we cycle calories? What works best, is to reduce calories by 250-500 under daily metabolic expenditure (resting metabolic rate + exercise metabolic rate) for two days, then replenish back to your daily requirement on third day. The reduction in calories on the first two days should come from carbohydrates.
The theory here is when carbohydrates the muscle cell’s prime energy source, is depleted this trigger fatty acids stored in adipose tissue (fat cells) to be released into the blood and through a process called gluconegenesis to be converted into energy for the muscle. Unfortunately, this also depletes the glycogen (glucose and water) in the muscle. If the glycogen is not replenished, it would cause a loss of muscle tissue and shift the metabolism catabolic. This is why you add back the calories in the form of carbohydrates on the third day. The beauty of this is you have two fat burning days, then a recovery day. This will allow you to lose fat without the loss of muscle and maintain balance in catabolic/anabolic metabolism, which is essential for long term weight loss.
Eat Slowly to Improve Digestion-Maintain Good Intestinal Health
Digestion begins in the mouth and continues in the stomach and is completed in the intestinal tract. Digestion is a catabolic function where proteins are metabolized into amino acids, carbohydrates into glucose and fats into fatty acids. Digestion is both a mechanical and chemical response. Eating slowly and thoroughly chewing, allows foods to be partially broken down, while stomachs acids and pancreatic, intestinal enzymes complete the process. Once the nutrients are small enough to pass through intestinal walls a series of hormonal responses start the anabolic process delivering the nourishment to the cells.
If the intestinal walls become compromised with impacted fecal matter and mucus, some of the nutrients from the digested food are prevented from entering into the blood system. Here again, the metabolism swings catabolic, because of poor intestinal health. A nutritional lifestyle where the foundation is built on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, provides adequate amounts (30-40 grams) of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber is vital in formation of stools and decreases the time waste is eliminated from our system. Insoluble fibers prevent the buildup of mucus and fecal material on intestinal walls which lead to poor absorption of nutrients into the body, which can lead to deficiencies such as anemia or osteoporosis. The best sources of insoluble fiber come from whole grains like; rye, wheat berries, barley, millet, flax and spelt. Those that may have been diagnosed with wheat or gluten allergies another good whole gain is quinoa.
Maintain Normal Blood Sugar Levels Throughout The Day
One of the most mis-understood factors in the condition of our metabolism’s is the state of our blood sugar. Normal blood sugar levels should range between 70-110 mg/dl, with ideal being around 90 mg/dl. This is something your doctor will check for during your next physical and it indicates your fasting glucose level. That’s where the confusion begins, unless it is above the normal range it won’t get either the doctor or your attention. What is just as important is your blood sugar levels throughout the day, especially 1-3 hours after eating.
We now know all metabolic reactions are either catabolic or anabolic and influenced by a hormonal response. When blood sugar levels raise after meals the pancreas produces the hormone insulin, which delivers it out to the receptor sites on the membrane walls of the millions of cells entering into the cell. This is an anabolic process. As the blood sugar levels gradually decline the pancreas produces glucagon, which now retrieves back from the cells to re-enter the blood. This is a catabolic process. Maintaining this delicate balance of slow rise and gradual drop is essential to the condition of your metabolism.
If the rise in blood sugar becomes too fast, the pancreas produces more insulin and drops blood sugar too fast. The three most common side effects will be weight gain, poor energy and hunger. Surprisingly, side effects most clients I meet are willing to accept. A lifestyle of elevated blood sugar is producing metabolic reactions far more damaging called glycation and insulin resistance.
Glycation occurs during high levels of blood glucose, some of the excess glucose binds to blood proteins called hemoglobin. This binding forms a substance called glycosylated hemoglobin, which disables the protein, rendering them less capable of carrying out their many essential metabolic functions throughout the body. Insulin resistance occurs when cells diminish there ability to respond to insulin transporting glucose from the blood to the muscle cells and other tissues throughout the body.
So what nutritional steps of action in addition to eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables to prevent or reverse glycation and insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome)? Start by improving the quality of the fats you consume.
A medical study at Federico University in Naples, Italy showed trans fat, and saturated fat decrease insulin sensitivity and mono-unsaturated fats improve insulin sensitivity. Remove all trans fats, found in hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine and replace with mono-unsaturated fat found in olive oil, flax oil and fish oils. Limit the amount of saturated fats found in red meats and whole dairy products, and switch to unsaturated fats found in poultry, fish, legumes and vegetable proteins.
Trace minerals chromium and vanadium act on the cells receptors and increase insulin sensitivity lowering glucose levels and reducing glycation. The best food sources of chromium are found in onions, turkey, broccoli and tomatoes. The best food sources of vanadium are found in shellfish, mushrooms, parsley and most whole grains.
There is no such thing as boring all natural whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables foods, the problem lies in the boring cooks who prepare them. Learn to spice up your foods, while maintaining normal blood sugar. In a study reported by The Department of Human Nutrition at Agricultural University in Peshawar, Pakistan, showed spices like cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves and turmeric displays insulin enhancing activity. The study showed these herbs improved glucose metabolism, but also improved lipid metabolism, had antioxidant properties and improved capillary function, minimizing the effects of glycation. The study demonstrated that 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day reduced serum glucose, triglyceride, LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
In closing it would be irresponsible to suggest that nutrition alone can keep the anabolic/catabolic balance in metabolism. Its a sobering fact we are all aging, however the more anabolic you remain the slower you age. The best plan to reduce catabolic wear and tear and hold on to anabolic repair is a lifestyle that includes balanced nutrition, regular exercise, recuperative sleep, proper hydration and reduction in physical and emotional stress. Though it was beyond the reach of this article to address each of these factors, they all must be in place to hold onto as long as we can the metabolism of our youth. It has been my life passion to help thousands to return back into bodies they had given up on many years ago. If this article has open your eyes to re-think how you see your metabolism, and you ask how did I know? My response would be, “it was elementary my dear reader.”
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