I happen to recently visit San Diego and while on the Old Pacific Highway, we crossed the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). SONGS was a Nuclear Power plant that operated from the 1960’s and had to be decommissioned in 2013 due to safety concerns.
My mind was amazed at how nature had packed such amazing volumes of power in such miniscule molecules, such that human intelligence could unlock that power and supply energy to millions of households and cities. Truly awesome, isn’t it?
A moment later, a question flashed up about who was providing energy to the trillions of cells in the human body.
Do you know that our body has potential energy that can fuel the power needs of an entire city for at least a week?
Yes, you heard me right! A weeks’ worth of energy needed to run a city is stored within “This POWERHOUSE” our amazing body.
Within this amazing “Nuclear reactor”, our human body, energy is effortlessly derived from the raw materials, called food, which provides fuel for the body’s machinery.
This “Nuclear reactor,” our metabolism, determines how we handle food, how we store it and also get rid of the unwanted or toxic stuff, which, if not handled properly has the potential to cause disease.
There is a beautifully synchronised and orchestrated series of processes that is supplying energy to the dance of life in our bodies. This “Intelligence” is truly percolating every life form of nature.
Eating food is the most direct expression of our intimate connection with nature. Each time we eat, we process food thru a wonderfully sophisticated series of biochemical events that transforms that material from nature into our physical being.
The physical health of this Nuclear reactor, the metabolism, in our body’s context, determines our health, our fitness, our optimal weight and our vitality.
Sluggish metabolism attracts disease, obesity and dull headedness, while an optimal metabolism is the key to health and vitality. Our metabolism and our ability to maintain an optimal weight are intimately linked.
Here are some key lifestyle mistakes to avoid that most of us make, causing us to gain weight and stay dull.
Eating Too Few Calories
Eating too few calories can cause a major decrease in metabolism. Although a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, it can be counterproductive for your calorie intake to drop too low.
When you dramatically lower your calorie intake, your body senses that food is scarce and lowers the rate at which it burns calories.
Bottom Line: Cutting calories too much and for too long lowers metabolic rate, which can make weight loss and weight maintenance more difficult.
Skimping On Protein
Eating enough protein is extremely important for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that, in addition to helping you feel full, a high protein intake can significantly increase the rate at which your body burns calories.
The increase in metabolism that occurs after digestion is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). The thermic effect of protein is much higher than the thermic effects of carbs or fat.
Indeed, eating protein has been observed to temporarily increase metabolism by about 20–30%, versus 5–10% for carbs and 3% or less for fat.
The key question is what is the best source of protein?
Traditionally it has been assumed that a vegetarian or a vegan diet is deficient in proteins, however this is now being proven to be untrue.
Studies have shown that vegan and vegetarians get more than enough of their daily allowances of protein, however what animal based protein misses out on is FIBRE.
Fibre is the only ingredient that has been associated with a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and developing metabolic syndrome, which are the starting points of other serious ailments.
Bottom line: Increased plant based protein intake helps preserve metabolic rate during weight loss and maintenance
Not Getting Enough Good-Quality Sleep
Sleep is extremely important for good health. A healthy adult should have at least 6-7 hours of good quality sleep.
Sleeping fewer hours than you need may increase your risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Several studies have found that inadequate sleep may also lower your metabolic rate and increase your likelihood of weight gain.
A five-week study found that prolonged sleep restriction combined with circadian rhythm disruption significantly decreased participants’ resting metabolic rate by an average of 8%.
Bottom Line: Getting adequate, high-quality sleep and sleeping at night rather than during the day can help preserve your metabolic rate.
An Imbalanced Gut Microbiome
Our Gut Bacteria may hold the key to our metabolism.
The last and the most crucial factor is our Gut Microbiome. Our gut microbial flora is critical in breaking down the food that we consume into smaller “bite size” particles that the body is able to absorb.
Researchers speculate that people are more likely to gain weight when gut bacteria are more efficient at breaking down food, enabling the body to absorb more calories. These “unfriendly” bacteria are more fat storing in nature than fat burning.
In an obese individual, we see an overgrowth of these fat storing, “chubby” bacteria. These “chubby” bacteria extract even the last ounce of energy from the food consumed, which causes the individual to pile on weight, even if they didn’t eat more than others.
Studies carried out on obese individuals reveal that they have less overall diversity of the gut microbial flora and primarily the “chubby” bacteria prevail. These bacteria have also been associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Bottom Line: A varied plant based wholefood diet is the best way to build healthy, balanced and diverse gut microbiome. These prebiotic foods suppress the growth of the “Chubby” bacteria and assist in resetting our metabolism.
You can read the FULL version of this article in our quarterly eZine, ‘Holistic Living Magazine,’ look for Edition 8 on this archive page. There’s many more articles waiting for you too!
Dr Arun Dhir,FRCS,FRACS – Gastro Intestinal Surgeon, Health & Wellness Advocate