Everyone wants their own “perfect plan” for personal health and fitness goals. Wouldn’t it be helpful, after all, to have in hand a plan that easily and succinctly dictates how often you should exercise, which exercises you should do, how much food you should eat, and what types of foods are best for you, etc.?
The difficult part? You won’t have these answers or a “more perfect plan” until you understand your metabolism. Everyone’s metabolism is remarkably different, and what works for one individual may be detrimental to another.
In order to have certainty that a plan is right for you versus guessing it might be, you need to know more about your metabolism. Until you’re truly healthy on the inside, you can’t look or feel your healthiest on the outside. Because you can’t see those inner dimensions of health, they must be measured. By knowing more about how your body functions, you’ll be able to more perfectly nourish and move your body to get the results you seek, making the most of your time and efforts.
You’re working out too hard.
Don’t be surprised if your results show that you’ve been exercising too hard to lose fat – most people do.
Exercising without personalized assessment data to guide your program can help you get a little more physically fit, but don’t expect to see radical change in body composition.
During exercise your body burns two main types of fuel: fatty acids or carbohydrate (glucose). Burning one (fatty acids) will make your body leaner and more efficient, while burning the other (glucose) may simply lead to a bigger appetite or even cravings.
Many people I’ve tested are surprised at how much easier their workouts become (initially). You see, the harder you work (compared to your “all out” effort) the more total calories and more carbohydrates (less fat) you expend. Additionally, these high-effort bouts can also stimulate a surge of catabolic hormones (cortisol) and induce measurable inflammation, which often results in muscle loss rather than fat loss.
An Active Metabolic Assessment tells you - in great detail – how metabolically flexible you are and which intensities to target for maximal fat metabolism. It helps you answer those pesky questions about how much, how long, or how vigorously you should exercise with the time you have. It turns an exercise program into your exercise program.
You’re not eating enough.
Your resting metabolism accounts for the vast majority of your calorie expenditure each and every day and is influenced by your nutrition and exercise habits, muscle mass, stress, hormones and lifestyle. It’s your greatest metabolic resource, so you should know how you can optimize your body’s energy use and nourish a healthy, maintainable metabolism.
If properly nourished (abundant, wholesome nutrients and adequate rest/recovery after bouts of stress or exercise), your metabolic rate can hum along late into life. If fuel or nutrients are restricted or exercise is always strenuous (as in chronic dieting and/or harsh exercise), metabolism can and often does downshift.
The Resting Metabolic Assessment will allow you to understand how much to eat every day to meet baseline needs (rather important to know so you aren’t over-eating and gaining fat or undereating and slowing down your metabolism).
More importantly, this info indicates which types of fuel you are able to burn at rest. (Hint: it should be fat). If it’s not…
You may have sub-clinical issues to address.
Subtle shifts outside of optimal metabolic function often stand between us and our goals. Common metabolic barriers to fat loss often go undetected until it’s time to treat disease, which can take years to develop.
The great (and often surprising) news is that metabolic testing can point to the all-too-common issues like dysfunctional cortisol rhythms, insulin resistance patterns, functional anemia (inability to carry adequate oxygen), and even sluggish thyroid function.
I’ve had many experiences with this - where metabolic testing data reveals unexpectedly low resting metabolic rate, spurring me to refer a client to his/her physician for detailed thyroid testing (or testing through our direct-to-consumer labs).
Additionally, I’ve observed otherwise “healthy” people be completely inept at burning fat during low to moderate intensity exercise. In these cases I recommend they get their glucose and c-peptide checked to find out if they are more than just “borderline” diabetic.
It’s unexpected to find these results because “healthy” people who join a gym are not supposed to have abnormal metabolic markers! Nevertheless, metabolic testing allows you to identify early deviations from normal physiologic function.
You go from following “a program” to following “your program.”
There’s no shortage of exercise and diet protocols available. We live in the era of canned exercise programming – from YouTube daily feeds to DVD home exercise programs to the always popular magazine cover belly-blaster workouts. But do they work?
Will they make you look like the models shown?
To look cover-ready, those folks followed highly-individualized programs that may or may not have used the protocols being hyped.
Which workout program would you feel more confident following?
Without metabolic testing data to help you plan a smart balance of exercise volume and intensity into your lifestyle, most plans end up feeling as random as workout plan A.
Your confidence gets a boost.
I often ask people if they are confident their existing exercise and nutrition habits will produce the results they are seeking. Sometimes the answer is “I think so.” Too often, however, the answer is “No.” Seldom is the answer an emphatic “Yeah!”
Do you ever walk into the club confidently thinking, “I know exactly what my workout is today, and I know exactly the purpose of this session”?
Perhaps your norm is to decide what exercises to do on a particular day based on which pieces of equipment are available. How likely is it that this plan would match your body’s ideal program that day?
When you get to know your own metabolic information - the very reason behind certain exercise and nutrition recommendations - you tend to rapidly increase the faith you have in your program. Each workout session, meal prep task, and recovery strategy takes on a new level of purpose. All of this enhances how consistently compliant you are with your program – which is a great thing!
You might need to hire more help.
As empowering as metabolic testing information can be, facing the truth in numbers may reveal the need to hire some expert guidance, accountability or support to carry out the plan.
Oftentimes when I deliver test results, I see people get excited for the knowledge and power they gain, then watch as they start to question whether or not they can actually execute the plan I’m laying out for them.
This is a totally normal reaction. Very few people arrive at their optimal nutrition or exercise strategy without some level of coaching, mentoring, accountability or support from an expert. In other words, self-directed fitness and lifestyle programs fail more often than they succeed.
Don’t be surprised if you go through a battery of tests, learn a ton about your metabolism and what you can do to influence it, and still end up feeling adrift when it comes to executing those intentions. Plan to capture your individual data and to apply what you learn as best you can, but also expect to reach out for additional guidance for help designing an optimum program and for invaluable support to stay on track.
What have you learned about your individual metabolism through metabolic testing? What more would you want to know? Don’t wait any longer! Team up with one of our trained metabolic experts to uncover the possible barriers you can’t see using the mirror or the scale. Thanks for reading, everyone.
In health, Paul Kriegler - Corporate Registered Dietitian
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.