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How to Boost Your Metabolic Flexibility

Dear reader You already know this, we are an aging population. As we age our metabolism slows. I hear women say all the time, "Oh since menopause...", but you have the power to change things. Coach Tim gives us 3 ways to stimulate our metabolism, it comes back to fundamentals, doesn't it;

  1. Physical activity

  2. What you eat

  3. The ancient tradition of cold exposure

You may remember receiving a newsletter about the benefits of cold exposure here. You know the expression, "Knowledge without action, gets you nowhere". So here's another gentle reminder.

How to Boost Your Metabolic Flexibility We don’t have to look too far to find the underpinnings of declining metabolic flexibility. Most scientists boil it down to factors like: Physical inactivity (i.e., sedentary lifestyle) Excess caloric intake A heavy reliance on processed foods (containing high glycemic refined grains and sugars) A high meal frequency (i.e., eating more often and/or throughout a greater portion of the day In other words, metabolic inflexibility is regarded as almost exclusively driven by lifestyle factors. That’s good news because it means boosting your metabolic flexibility is very much under your control. To do just that, we really don’t have to look much further than the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

At this stage in the game, we can distill that healthy metabolic flexibility hinges on two things: Insulin sensitivity. In simple terms, insulin sensitivity is the antithesis of insulin resistance, and along those lines, healthy insulin sensitivity is synonymous with metabolic flexibility. Mitochondrial density and function. Mitochondria are the tiny furnaces inside cells that burn fat and carbohydrates. Generally speaking, the more mitochondria you have and the bigger and more efficient they are, the greater your metabolic flexibility. To that end, the very things we need to be doing to boost metabolic flexibility are very effective at improving insulin sensitivity and enhancing mitochondrial number and function. 3 Tools to Boost Metabolic Flexibility 1. Physical Activity and Exercise. It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that a physically active lifestyle is a linchpin for healthy metabolic flexibility. After all, a sedentary lifestyle is often cited as the primary culprit of metabolic inflexibility.9 Along those lines, exercise is an extremely effective tool for improving insulin sensitivity and promoting an increase in mitochondria content and function. In Dr. San Millan’s words, “The only medication that increases mitochondrial function is exercise.” Traditional cardio, high-intensity interval training, and strength training all have their place because each tends to rely on a different mixture of fuel. So, it’s a good idea to include a variety of types of exercise to optimize metabolic flexibility. Having said that, exercise alone is unlikely to be the answer to boosting metabolic flexibility. After all, it’s pretty clear that exercise can’t undo the detrimental effects of a sedentary lifestyle. To that end, a better idea is to move toward a hunter-gatherer fitness plan, which features a wide range of physical activity. 2. Intermittent Fasting. Research shows that intermittent fasting (IF) is quite an effective tool for improving metabolic health. IF has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, which is science speak for increasing the size and number of mitochondria. Although not the magic pill some may lead you to believe, IF is also an effective strategy to promote weight loss (via calorie restriction), and calorie-restriction-induced weight loss is also effective at improving insulin sensitivity. There are several variations of IF, including time-restricted feeding, alternate-day fasting, periodic fasting, and fasting-mimicking diets. 3. Cold Exposure. For many on the metabolic inflexibility end of the spectrum, you can see how boosting metabolic flexibility may require you to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And strategy number three may be the epitome of that for quite a few people, as it means stepping outside your 24/7 temperature-controlled environment. Cold stress—such as cold water immersion (i.e., ice-cold baths), cold showers, and whole-body cryotherapy—is an effective way to stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, enhance insulin sensitivity, and ultimately, boost metabolic flexibility. It seems that one way cold exposure seems to flex its metabolic muscle is by activation of brown adipose tissue. In fact, cold exposure has been investigated by scientists as a potential tool to help combat both obesity and diabetes. The good news is that you don’t need to run around in your skivvies at the North Pole to reap the rewards—although those types of extreme measures would probably do the trick. Recent studies have shown that exposure to temperatures ranging from 50 – 62˚F for 2 – 6 hours per day for 10 days to 4 weeks can significantly boost activity of brown fat (by 45 – 65%). Of course, how much and what you do (and don’t) put into your mouth also influences metabolic flexibility. On one hand, excessive caloric intake drives metabolic inflexibility. On the other hand, caloric restriction (e.g., intermittent fasting) and/or equilibrium promotes metabolic flexibility. Not surprisingly, the typical Western-style diet and its reliance on processed foods (fortified with high glycemic, refined carbohydrates and poor-quality, inflammatory oils) pushes the body toward metabolic inflexibility. Conversely, a diet founded on whole foods (particularly one rich in plant-based polyphenols and healthy unsaturated fats) that contains minimally processed, low-glycemic carbohydrates in appropriate amounts (for activity levels and body type) is a surefire recipe to boost metabolic flexibility. How to Boost Metabolic Flexibility: A Recap Like many things in life, the right amount of discomfort leads to learning and growth, and the same holds true for boosting metabolic flexibility. That is, to improve metabolic flexibility, you have to expose your body to the right types and amounts of metabolic stress, which require the body to adapt in healthy ways. Scientists often refer to this healthy dose of stress as hormesis, or hormetic stress, which usually falls right into the “Goldilocks” zone (neither too comfortable nor too harsh). Simply put, if you want to boost metabolic flexibility—which should be important to virtually everyone—then you may need to step outside your comfort zone (but you don’t have to go too far). After all, that’s where the magic happens. As always... Here's to your best health! Dr. Linda

Dr. Linda Berry Healing Arts Chiropractic Nutrition Trauma Healing Please note: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical care. Always consult with your healthcare provider for advice before you begin taking new supplements. You are responsible for all of the health choices you make.

FUN FACT While your height stops growing after one hits puberty, your ears and nose are constantly lengthening, and gravity is to blame for this phenomenon.

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