Understanding how to fuel and light up your metabolic fire so that you are feeding your body what it needs, feel satiated and full of energy for your everyday needs can be a complicated subject with all sorts of advice out there.
In this article I’ll paint a picture of how the metabolism works, breaking it down into its component parts and hopefully simplifying the process into a more understandable principle.
Imagine the process of lighting a fire. You’ll need paper, kindling, firelighters, sticks, and logs. We start with lighting the paper, which in turn sets fire to the kindling that burns slightly longer and causes the sticks to catch fire. These burn long enough to get the logs burning and these logs burn much slower, so you can shut the furnace door and it’ll keep you warm for a long time.
So our bodies’ metabolism works in a similar way and fuels our longer-term energy needs if we get the furnace lighting process right. Stead of paper, kindling, firelighters, sticks, and logs our bodies use vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
The vitamins and minerals get the process going as did the paper and kindling. The Carbohydrates are the firelighters and whilst they quickly catch fire they only have a limited potential to burn. This then lights up the protein (the sticks in the above example) that keeps the fire burning long enough for the fat to catch fire with a slow steady burn. At this point, as with the logs in our example, you can close the door on your metabolism. It’ll keep you warm for a long time.
Our bodies need all these elements in order to effectively fire up our metabolism. So getting your balance on macro-nutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) as well as providing supporting vital vitamins and minerals is crucial to long term health. We can play tunes on these macro-nutrients and you’ll see various plans out there promoting specific macro-nutrient balances (e.g. 60% or more from Fat, 30% from protein and no more than 10% from carbohydrates for a ‘keto’ diet). But we all need all the elements to effectively work on our metabolism.
Why Carbs Alone Won’t Fuel the Fire
Imagine now eating just carbohydrates and expecting your metabolic fire to burn for a long time. It would be like lighting firefighters directly under the log and expecting it to catch fire before the firelighters burned out – it just doesn’t happen that way.
Many people do exactly this every single day. Starting the day with cereals or toast and fruit juice effectively throwing only carbohydrates on the fire and expecting them to keep their metabolism going. These carbohydrates burn out quickly leading to cravings and loss of control. That often means a choice of quick to grab carbohydrates again to keep going. Repeatedly doing this promotes rising and falling blood sugars and can result in tiredness, energy slumps, difficultly concentrating, and more. At the extreme this rising and falling of blood sugar promotes the production of the body’s fat-storage hormone, insulin. This may lead to weight gain and even type 2 diabetes.
Balanced for Best Results
Getting the balance right for breakfast and starting the day right makes this meal possibly the most important one of the day. You’ll have heard that before right?
We can then play various tunes on the balance of the macro-nutrients across the day to achieve various results. As we are all individuals and a little different, we might need to tweak these compared to someone else. The basic needs of the body though remain broadly the same for all of us. We need balance across our diets to ensure we get the appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It starts with breakfast. How we choose to do that, be it with a vegetarian, vegan, keto, paleo, or another diet structure gives us the flexibility to provide our body with its daily needs in a way that suits us.