Metabolic Flexibility > 24/7 KetosisAug 22, 2019
Being in a state of ketosis is amazing when it comes to optimizing brain function, improving mood and energy levels, reducing hunger pangs, treating disease states, reducing inflammation, and so much more.
But, is being in ketosis 24/7 necessary or even optimal for most people?
In my opinion, there’s another state that’s even better for long-term health -- the state of Metabolic Flexibility.
Metabolic Flexibility is simply the ability to respond or adapt to conditional changes in metabolic demand. In basic terms, this just means that your body has the ability to efficiently shift back and forth between the two primary fuel sources: fat (in the form of fatty acids and ketones) and carbohydrates (in the form of glucose).
Think of it this way -- if you’re sitting at your desk working on your computer or taking a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, then your body’s preferred (and ideal) fuel source should be fat and ketones.
If you’re at the gym sprinting on the treadmill or performing some sort of high-intensity interval training, then glucose is your gal.
In pre-industrial times, before we had access to food and modern transportation 24/7, humans were metabolically flexible by necessity. We were able to quickly and efficiently switch back and forth between using glucose and fat for fuel.
Nowadays, with a grocery store and Starbucks on every other block, Amazon at our fingertips, and Delivery Dudes knocking on our doors, most of the population is metabolically inflexible and relies solely on being high-performance sugar-burners.
If you need to eat every few hours to prevent feeling ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry), unfocused, or low-energy, then the simple truth is that you’re probably relying way too much on being a sugar-burner rather than thriving as a fat-burner.
What’s the difference? I’ll break it down for ya:
I don’t know about you, but the right side of the above table is sounding a lot more fun to me.
So, getting back to ketosis…
After you’ve been in ketosis for a while and you’ve effectively trained your body to utilize fat and ketones for fuel, your metabolism more readily burns dietary and stored fat for energy when it’s supposed to (while you're sitting at your desk, taking a leisurely stroll, etc.). You have transitioned from solely being a sugar-burner to becoming a more efficient fat-burner and you can slip in and out of ketosis while reaping all of the benefits of metabolic flexibility.
And once you’ve trained your body to do this, you can (and probably should) start to play around with introducing carbohydrates to continue to reap the benefits of metabolic flexibility.
Here's the thing, if you go strict keto and stay there for a long period of time, your body can adapt in the opposite direction. Meaning, if you completely cut out carbs for an extended period of time, your body will downregulate the processes it uses to efficiently metabolize those carbs and you can actually become metabolically inflexible in the opposite direction.
The above scenario is much less common in our modern world, but I have seen it many times in my coaching practice and experienced it myself.
With ketogenic diets gaining more and more popularity over the years, many people have taken it to the extreme opposite side of the spectrum and are becoming what I call "carb-phobic" and "protein-phobic." They are trying to stick within the "standard keto" protocol and might be doing more harm than good.
See below for a breakdown of the different types of ketogenic diets.
From years of working with clients and experimenting with the different protocols for both them and myself, I’ve found that in general, following a strict keto diet and ‘being in ketosis 24/7’ is probably only necessary for three reasons:
- If you’re a newbie and have never experienced ‘being in ketosis’ for long periods of time.
- If you’re trying to treat a specific disease state (i.e., epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, cancer, severe insulin resistance, etc.).
- If you personally feel and perform better in all areas of your life by sticking to a strict keto diet 24/7.
For most of us, especially those seeking fat loss or body composition improvements while optimizing brain function and overall general health, following a strict keto diet forever may not be the best goal to shoot for.
So, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are my long-term health goals?
- What are my short-term health goals?
- What do I see myself adhering to and sustaining as a lifestyle while still reaching the above goals?
Personally, my main goal is to optimize my health and brain function long-term. I am also at the stage in my life where I want to achieve specific body composition changes and improve my performance in the gym.
I choose a metabolically flexible lifestyle because having the ability to easily switch between using ketones and glucose for fuel is beneficial in many different aspects of my life -- mental clarity and focus, ease of fasting when it’s warranted, reduced inflammation, steady energy levels throughout the day, and much more.
I choose to implement different types of nutritional protocols that include higher protein keto, targeted keto, and especially carb-ups when warranted so I am able to efficiently use carbs (glucose) for fuel when I do need them -- more intense training sessions, hormonal regulation, and more freedom to consume certain higher carb foods that I enjoy such as sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, and occasional other treats that are just part of ‘real-life’ joy and contribute to long-term adherence.
In my Keto For Women program, we implement the different protocols mentioned above to help you become more metabolically flexible while also improving and optimizing your overall health and body composition goals!
If you take just one thing away from this post...take this:
There is no 'one way' that works for everyone when it comes to implementing specific nutrition protocols. However, the more you can efficiently utilize the full spectrum of your metabolism (AKA living a MetFlex Life), the easier it will be to reach and maintain your health and fitness goals.
Check out my podcast MetFlex & Chill to learn more about the power of metabolic flexibility!
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