Hangry No More
What’s metabolic flexibility and how can it help you become a fat-burning machine
Drew Manning lost 75 pounds in six months. But six months prior to that he had gained 75 pounds. On purpose. That’s putting on more than 10 pounds of fat a month. It put an extreme amount of stress not only on his physical state, but on his mental state as well. Both his blood pressure and cholesterol shot up; he had brain fog and his mood was lethargic.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy physically, but I never thought about the emotional battle I’d be facing,” Manning told TOTI Media.
Manning is a health and fitness expert and the best-selling author of Fit2Fat2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and
Losing 75 lbs on Purpose. Known for his straightforward and empathetic fitness and health coaching, Manning has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, CNN, and Good Morning America. He is also the creator of the A&E Network show Fit to Fat to Fit.
He has been a fitness coach helping those who wanted to lose weight, yet he had no idea what it was like wanting or needing to lose a large amount of fat. So, he stepped into his clients’ shoes and embarked on the “fit to fat to fit” journey. Manning says losing all that weight wasn’t easy, but it may have been easier for him than most people because of his metabolic makeup.
In the same way our brain has memory, so do our muscles—remember the old adage, once you learn how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget. Your body remembers. Manning had been athletic his whole life. Because of his healthy lifestyle choices, he is metabolically flexible, and his body has adapted to use fat when carbohydrates aren’t available.
Metabolism is the body’s mechanism for providing energy
for its existence. Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to switch between using carbohydrates for energy and using fat for energy. It has been encoded in our biology throughout evolution. When our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have food for days at a time, their bodies wouldn’t shut down; instead they would tap into their fat storage for fuel, so they could still have energy to escape in case of danger. A lot has changed since then. Our 24-hour access to snacks and processed foods has made us metabolically inflexible, which has grown into an obesity epidemic. Our bodies crave carbs every two to three hours. Many people get “hangry” (angry/hungry) if they have to skip a meal, and there’s that 4 p.m. slump and brain fog. We experience these because the human body burns through carbs quicker than fat, only to crave them again right away. Fat tends to keep us satiated for at least four to five hours. Think of it this way: There’s a campfire; if you put paper on it, it burns through it in a matter of seconds, but when you throw wood on it, it can burn for hours. That’s your body on carbs (paper) versus fat (wood). Studies have shown that the lack of metabolic flexibility in our society today is a hallmark of many metabolic diseases, including cancer and insulin resistance, which could lead to type 2 diabetes. Becoming metabolically flexible, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Manning says it takes time to adjust. “Give yourself a good 30 days to adapt,” he said. “And, stay on top of your salt intake.” Salt is worth mentioning, because once you lower your intake of carbs and processed foods, which are
often very sodium-heavy, you’ll lose both fat and water weight and will flush out electrolytes as well, so it’s important to keep up your mineral intake.
Signs You’re Metabolically Inflexible
• You crave snacks every two to three hours.
• You get angry when you have to skip a meal.
• You have to eat as soon as you wake up.
• You wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
• You’re not losing weight.
• You have a slow metabolism.
How Can You Become Metabolically Flexible?
• Incorporate some form of fasting. Eat within a window of 8 to 12 hours and fast in the remaining 12 to 16, mostly overnight. Or do a 24-hour fast once every other week.
• Eat more fat and fewer carbs. Make sure the fat you eat is good fat, such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs or fatty fish and meat.
• Reduce processed foods. Stay away from foods that are prepackaged and precooked; they are often filled with sugar, vegetable oils and additives.
• Eat whole foods. Stay on the outer circle of the grocery store and reach for whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, beans and quality meat.
• Exercise. Physical activity, especially high-intensity interval training, helps your body empty its glycogen storage. Glycogen is your body’s way of storing glucose in the liver and muscles to use later. When you exercise and use up all your stored glycogen, your body won’t have a choice but to burn fat for energy.
Our 24-hour access to snacks and processed foods has made us metabolically inflexible, which has grown into an obesity epidemic.