For individuals who do not have metabolic goals (weight loss, reducing metabolic disease risk, increasing exercise recovery), simply eating healthy foods is enough. The body does just fine adjusting to practically any healthy diet that is thrown at it. However, when you have metabolic goals that are proving challenging to fully achieve, it becomes critical to consider what nutrients might be limiting to the body. Central to this thought process is the fact that our cells need nutrients continuously, regardless of how much we eat or don’t eat, so it is just as important to consider the value of eating as it is to possibly implement restrictions. While it makes sense that to lose weight there must be a Caloric restriction, it also makes sense that if that restriction undercuts meeting the body’s nutrient needs it starts to shut down, inhibiting weight loss and quality of life. There are four fundamental aspects of nutrition that underlie our metabolic rate:
Caloric flow: while cutting Calories can be central to accelerating weight loss, cellular health, and slowing the aging process, even just a few hours in extreme Caloric deficit is enough to do the opposite. It is therefore important when restricting Calories to consider when the body transitions from fasting (with health benefits) to physiological starvation (with increasing potential of health detriments). The body is most starved physiologically when we are the least likely to perceive it, right after waking and right after exercise, leading to a tendency to eat nothing at moments when even just a small snack would benefit us tremendously.
Protecting Lean Tissue (PLT)
Protecting Lean Tissue (PLT): our cells need a continuous trickle flow of water, amino acids (protein) and blood sugar. While these needs are slow and relatively small, an absence of these for many hours at a time inhibits cellular growth and function, reducing our metabolic rate.
Nourishment: food quality is most important with the foods whose quality breaks down the fastest, which applies most to vegetables and omega fats. These food groups provide massive benefits to cellular healing, reduced inflammation and gene expression, providing the bedrock nutrient foundation for metabolism.
Meal and snack design
Meal and snack design: ultimately, the ideas of nutrient flow must come together to create a practical strategy for managing eating in our everyday lives. This is done by simply putting together food groups like building blocks, with as much of a focus on meeting metabolic (cellular) needs as on any restrictions.
This section walks you through the simple initial thought process of nutrient flow to drive metabolism. Exercise creates unique additional needs discussed separately in the Recovery section.