Metabolic Flexibility is a term that is being tossed around a LOT these days. It’s trendy right now as people try to wrap their heads around using fat for fuel, which I’ve been pioneering for the past 22 years and counting.
Like other trendy buzz words, I struggle with the term Metabolic Flexibility because it is simply not an accurate portrayal of what is really happening. More importantly, it is NOT where you want to go.
Biological systems are complex and dynamic, which is my point on the term metabolic flexibility, like the term ‘bio-hacking’- it’s misleading and inaccurate. Rather than lose you this time with a deeper dive into the science, I am coining a term that does a much better job of describing what YOU want to develop: METABOLIC CAPACITY.
Why is Metabolic Capacity so important?
This term did not simply pop into my head last night as a marketing term but has been an evolving concept over several years. It’s origins come from reading scientific journal publications, online blogs or articles, and real world anecdotal evidence which often contradict each other. Trying to finding a unifying conceptual model to come to terms with these contradictions, as a result the term Metabolic Capacity was born.
Why is this so important? Because Metabolic Capacity is individualized, contextual and dynamic. It’s not simply being able to switch between burning fat and burning glucose. You have to start where you are, to get where you want to go. While that seems obvious people forget this when starting the latest diet, training or lifestyle program.
Here are some takeaways to think about:
You can be metabolically flexible but if you don’t have the metabolic capacity that flexibility is very limited….see what I mean about the inherent limitations of Metabolic Flexibility?
On the other hand, developing your metabolic capacity, by default, enhances your metabolic flexibility.
Developing one’s metabolic capacity slows aging to a crawl because it increases the capacity for beta-oxidation, the primary fat burning pathway, thereby minimizing oxidative stress and lactate load.
Why Building Carb Tolerance Is a Short Term Fix
Some might suggest you can build your metabolic capacity for burning lots of carbohydrates. This works in the short term, but not the long term because constant and chronic use of concentrated forms of carbohydrates eventually compromises your Metabolic Capacity through oxidative stress, lactate load and hormonal imbalance, resulting in less than optimal fat metabolism.
The point is if you really want to achieve your peak potential of health and performance it is incumbent to develop your Metabolic Capacity not flexibility…and how do you do this? . . . through optimizing fat metabolism, OFM for short. You see, fat metabolism is the ONLY pathway to build robust cells, increase mitochondrial density, achieve hormonal balance and minimize oxidative stress. So, why not optimize it?
Glucose, on the other hand, is simply a quick burning energy source……literally your “Fight or Flight” fuel. Save it for those times you really need it, again by optimizing fat metabolism. This builds your metabolic capacity to push at and over your threshold when it counts. Or in other words, building your metabolic capacity gives you those extra matches to burn when you really need them.
By building your metabolic capacity you give yourself Metabolic Freedom to live Life to the fullest!