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One of the signs of metabolic health is that we can adjust our metabolism to burn whatever fuel is on offer. When we eat a carbohydrate rich meal, we should be able to efficiently switch to carbohydrate burning to take advantage of the influx, and when fat is the primary source of energy available we should be able to utilize this effectively. Such a state is known as metabolic flexibility. It enables an individual to effectively dispose of incoming carbohydrates or fats (when within caloric needs) without metabolic consequences.

However, when one is metabolically inflexible, the metabolism adjusts more slowly and less completely to changes in fuel provision. The body continues to burn yesterdays’ rapidly declining fuel type, rather than quickly adapting to the bounty of today.  A higher reliance on carbohydrate as food between meals means that these individuals fail to tap into adipose stores as effectively as the metabolically flexible. Such a metabolic profile predicts future weight gain in normal weight individuals as well as weight regain in formerly overweight individuals.

Every individual has a level of carbohydrate intake that they can tolerate before showing signs of metabolic disturbance.

Signs that an individual is exceeding their carbohydrate tolerance are

  • Gaining weight easily
  • Difficulty burning fat even with a good exercise program
  • Carbohydrate craving
  • Fatigue/sleeplessness after a carbohydrate meal
  • Fatigue especially during exercise
  • Elevated glucose and insulin
  • Increased waist circumference
  • low HDL, high LDL, elevated triglycerides
  • Hypertension
  • Skin tags
  • Adult acne

The most common adverse effect of intake of carbohydrates beyond an individual’s tolerance is their conversion to fat which is stored as adipose tissue predominantly around the abdomen.

A person can become more metabolically flexible by initially breaking down the carbohydrate burning habits in their body and teaching their body how to burn fat. This is done initially by severely restricting the carbohydrate intake for a short time and introducing good fats and protein as the primary fuel source.  Once the body has been educated to use fat as an alternate fuel source (has restored its metabolic flexibility) then starchy carbohydrates can be reintroduced into the diet in sensible quantities without rebound or future weight gain.

To learn how to restore your metabolic flexibility contact

Carolyn Richards

Adv Dip Naturopathy, Diploma Nutrition,
Dip Remedial Massage,  Dip Sports Therapies

Living Well Natural Health
Clinics at West Gosford, Hornsby and Kenthurst

phone 0409191595