Converting Food to Energy: Learning How Metabolism WorksMay 31, 2023 ● By Linda Sechrist
Metabolism is the process by which the foods and drinks we consume are converted into energy. We may not notice the cellular mechanisms that transform fat and glucose into the oomph in our step, but when they start to wane, we definitely know something is wrong. We may feel lethargic and weak, our brains may get foggy or we may start putting on weight around the belly, with blood pressure, blood glucose and triglyceride levels on the rise. In most cases, modifying our diet is the most powerful way to regain vitality and get those biomarkers back on track.
“Metabolic imbalance occurs when the body stores fat but can’t access it or burn it as efficiently,” says Alan Christianson, a naturopathic physician and author of The Metabolism Reset Diet: Repair Your Liver, Stop Storing Fat and Lose Weight Naturally. “In one year, our bodies manage about 1 million calories in and out. We never get exactly what we need on any day, so we must be able to store and release energy in a healthy fashion. However, people get better at storing and poorer at releasing. This is a big part of gradual weight gain and accompanying fatigue.”
Christianson describes good metabolic health as having steady energy levels and maintaining a good body weight. “When there’s too little energy available and the body can't make energy that well, I see symptoms of metabolic imbalance as mental fatigue and poor memory, less muscular endurance, less recovery from exercise, weight gain and resistance to weight loss,” he explains. “If not addressed, metabolic imbalance can develop into obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, insulin resistance, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
According to Christianson, certain lifestyle choices can throw our metabolism out of balance, including the overconsumption of carbohydrates, processed foods and caffeine; frequent snacking and late-night meals; and poor sleep routines. Too much stress creates a hormonal cascade that promotes storing fat instead of using it.
James Forleo, a doctor of chiropractic and author of Health Is Simple, Disease Is Complicated, recommends the elimination of certain foods that wreak havoc on our metabolism: “The inflammatory agents in much of the food consumed in the Standard American Diet—high-glycemic refined carbohydrates, high-fructose corn syrup and other sugars, and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats—are the biggest offenders of metabolic health.”
Correcting Liver Function
“The key mechanism to correct and maintain metabolic health is helping the liver to function well. Once corrected, it is not difficult to maintain metabolic health if people eat reasonably healthy,” Christianson advises. “The liver is the main site for storing the body’s fuel. It does this in the forms of glycogen and triglycerides. When things go wrong, there's too much of one relative to the other. We need some glycogen, which comes from carbohydrates, to burn triglycerides—kind of like how you need kindling to burn a log. The problem is triglyceride buildup in the liver.”
Fixing the liver is the central focus of Christianson’s 28-day metabolism reset. “To correct a fatty liver, you need adequate protein and adequate nutrients, but a low enough amount of total carbohydrates and healthy fats,” he says. “You also need adequate levels of glucose, a simple carbohydrate that we get from the food we eat. My metabolism reset guides you in eating less refined and processed foods, and more real, nutritious food; pairing carbohydrates with protein; exercising; managing stress levels; and avoiding sugar.”
Personalized Diet Plan and Nutritional Coaching
Metabolic Balance, a German-based company with certified nutrition coaches around the globe, helps people optimize their health with personalized diet plans and follow-up coaching sessions. “The program was created by Dr. Wolf Funfack, a specialist in internal and nutritional medicine, whose research revealed that every human body can produce all the hormones and enzymes it needs for healthy metabolism. We need to give it the necessary nutrients with the right food, which is precisely what Metabolic Balance does,” says Sylvia Egel, CEO and director of coaching and education.
"Based on an individual’s personal medical history and blood levels, we determine what substances the body lacks to produce all the enzymes and hormones necessary for their bodily functions,” she explains. “The personal roadmap recommends the right combination of foods to keep the various bodily functions in balance. The foods aren’t based on their caloric content, but rather on their essential components such as vitamins, minerals and trace elements, and the relationship between carbohydrates, fats and proteins.”
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, participation in the Metabolic Balance program led to long-term health improvements due to a high degree of adherence by the participants. According to the researchers, “The emphasis of any dietary program should be set on both the aspect of nutrition as well as the aspect of motivation.”
Linda Sechrist has been a contributing writer to Natural Awakenings publications for 20 years.
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