Do you know the metabolism and setpoint are intimately connected? It’s true. Your metabolism is responsible for helping to raise your lower setpoint weight. You won’t often hear metabolism and setpoint mentioned in the same sentence, though. Many people aren’t yet familiar with the setpoint. But they do know quite a bit about the metabolism — or so they think.
Everyone knows about the metabolism and its effect on weight gain or loss. If you have struggled to lose weight and keep it off for most of your life, you’ve probably said, “I have a slow metabolism” a time or two. You probably also know at least one thin person who eats anything they want — in any quantity they want — and never gain an ounce. You’ve probably often thought, with more than a touch of envy, that naturally thin people have fast metabolisms.
Underlying both statements is the feeling that the metabolism is fixed, that some people are destined to be heavy and some destined to be thin. This is incorrect. Although there is a genetic component to overweight and obesity, the metabolism and setpoint are changeable.
You are not doomed to fight a weight-loss battle all your life because you have a “slow” metabolism. There are scientifically proven steps you can take to speed your metabolism and lower your setpoint weight.
Before you can do this, however, you need to know how the metabolism works.
The Metabolism: An Amazingly Complex Process
In simple terms, the metabolism is the body’s conversion of food/fuel to energy. But there is nothing simple about this process.
Here’s a brief overview of how the metabolism processes the nutrients you consume.
Nutrients that provide calories (energy) to the body are called macronutrients, and our bodies need them in large amounts for growth, repair, energy, and survival. The three macronutrients are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
When you eat food, enzymes in the digestive system break fats down into fatty acids, protein into amino acids, and carbohydrates into simple sugars (glucose.) These compounds are then absorbed into the bloodstream, where they go to the cells. Enzymes within the cells regulate the chemical reactions needed to metabolize them. For instance, the cells can choose to release some of these compounds for energy or store them in body tissues. When these compounds are not released for energy, they are commonly stored in fat cells, liver, or muscles, depending on metabolism.
Factors Involved in Metabolism and Setpoint
There are three factors that influence or control the metabolism, which in turn affects your setpoint: the brain, digestive system, and hormones. Let’s discuss each of them in turn.
1. The Brain: Control Center of Metabolism
The hypothalamus, a gland located in the center of the brain, is responsible for regulating the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system operates without your conscious control. It and your hypothalamus regulate heart rate, blood pressure, gastrointestinal activity, core body temperature, and more. One of its most important jobs, however, is to regulate metabolism.
The hypothalamus balances calories in and calories out, ideally keeping your weight within a healthy range. Its action is regulated mainly by the hormones leptin and insulin. Leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells, continually signaling the hypothalamus your level of fat. The hypothalamus then adjusts your appetite up or down depending upon how much fat it “thinks” you have or need, thus modulating your food intake. Insulin is the energy storage hormone. It tells the body to store glycogen or fat.
Depending upon the signals the hypothalamus receives from leptin and insulin, it activates certain hormones to bring or keep your fat levels at what it “thinks” is your healthy level. Besides adjusting your appetite, the hypothalamus also regulates your energy expenditure. For instance, if it receives the signal that you’re carrying too much fat, it will make you fidget more so that you subconsciously exercise off those extra calories. If you’ve not been getting enough calories, it will make you tired or lethargic to conserve energy.
2. The Digestive System
The digestive system, particularly gut bacteria, has a huge effect on the metabolism. There are 100 trillion bacteria living in your digestive system. Throughout our lives, we ingest these microscopic bacteria through the foods we eat and drink. We also ingest or absorb them by things we put in or near our mouths and noses. For instance, we can and do routinely obtain a massive amount of gut bacteria by touching something in the environment and then putting our hands in or near our mouths or noses.
Research shows that an estimated 500 species of bacteria live in the adult human intestine. However, the majority of gut bacteria belongs to just two categories of species: the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes.
Not too long ago, researchers believed gut bacteria’s only job was to aid in digestion. Research now shows gut bacteria does much more than that. In fact, having the proper mix of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes bacteria is essential for proper metabolism. Having an imbalance of Firmicutes bacteria has been linked to weight gain.
Proper Bacterial Balance in the Gut Matters!
Scientific studies indicate Firmicutes bacteria may promote weight gain because they do something other bacteria can’t; namely, they digest complex carbohydrates and turn them into glucose and fatty acids. The intestine then absorbs these compounds into your bloodstream. Thus, Firmicutes bacteria not only “help” you obtain more calories through your diet, but they also increase glucose levels in your bloodstream. This glucose triggers a release of insulin, encouraging fat storage.
Studies show obese individuals tend to have a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes bacteria. Obese individuals also have significantly fewer Bacteroidetes bacteria than normal weight individuals. But Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are not the only bacteria affecting metabolism and setpoint. Helicobacter pylori in the gut have been shown to regulate hormones, such as ghrelin, the “hunger hormone.” The proper operation of your metabolism, then, depends upon the health of your gut bacteria.
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel throughout the body coordinating many complex processes. They control most major bodily functions. There are several main hormones that affect metabolism and setpoint weight.
Leptin: As previously mentioned, leptin modulates food intake. It signals the hypothalamus when you have had enough to eat.
Ghrelin: This “hunger hormone” is triggered if the hypothalamus needs you to eat more calories.
Insulin: This hormone is responsible for clearing excess glucose from the bloodstream. Insulin usually transports insulin to the cells. However, if the cells will not open to accept the glucose (insulin resistance), the insulin transports it to the fat cells. Also, if a large amount of glucose is dumped into the bloodstream all at once, insulin will take most of it to the fat cells to avoid dangerously high glucose levels.
Stress Hormones: Cortisol is the most influential stress hormone on metabolism and setpoint.
Cortisol triggers the release of insulin to get glucose into the cells for energy to deal with short-term stress. If you’re attacked by a lion, you’ll have the extra energy you need to run or fight this beast. During the confrontation (or flight), you’ll burn off the excess glucose. After you’ve dealt with the lion, the natural relaxation response of your body sets in. Your systems return to normal.
The stress response is designed to save our lives. But most of us are not faced with actual life-or-death struggles. Our stress comes from mortgages and bills and work and children and traffic jams…and…and…and. But our bodies act as if it is a life-or-death struggle. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol that triggers insulin.
Chronic stress results in chronically elevated cortisol levels. This causes chronically elevated insulin and glucose levels because psychological stress doesn’t burn off glucose. This affects metabolism and raises setpoint weight.
How Metabolism Raises Setpoint
Your brain, digestive system, and hormones talk to each other through various feedback loops to synchronize the activities that automatically maintain body fat at a specific level. This is your setpoint weight.
If the conversation goes well, you’ll never be to fat or too thin. When you eat more calories than your body needs, your hypothalamus will increase the calorie burn of several processes, including the following:
- Base metabolic rate
- Unconscious activity (fidgeting, pacing, etc.)
Instead of storing these extra calories as fat, a lower setpoint will increase the calories burned to balance more calories in with more calories out.
The Hormonal Clog and Setpoint
If a hormonal clog occurs, the conversation between your brain, digestive system, and hormones do not go well. The body does not receive correct signals and does not know how much fat you need. It responds by giving you more fat because its mission is to keep you alive at all costs. It also raises your setpoint. Thus, the metabolism is responsible for raising or lowering your setpoint.
Your setpoint determines your weight regardless of how little you eat or how much you exercise. For at least half a century, people have been responding to their extra weight, this hormonal clog, by eating less and exercising more. Starving your body, the “experts” say, creates a calorie deficit that forces your body to lose fat. That’s true in the short term, but as you probably know from your own experience, the weight doesn’t stay off. Studies show more than 95% of dieters regain every pound they lost and then some within a few years.
Starvation Dieting: A Losing Weight-Loss Battle
That’s because any time you cut calories while consuming the same low-quality foods, your body sees this as nothing short of starvation. It responds by increasing your hunger and making you cold, weak, and irritable. It also prevents the body from burning fat and converts most of the calories you consume into fat. The body even slows your metabolism to conserve energy.
If you manage to withstand the hunger and other unpleasant symptoms and lose weight, you’ll start gaining the weight back as soon as you start eating normally again. That’s because, as many clinical research studies show, starvation dieting lowers the metabolism and increases your levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. So, your metabolism is not only lower than it was before the diet, but your hunger is also higher than it was. You are likely to eat more food than you did before you started the diet, guaranteeing a larger calorie intake.
The research is clear: starvation dieting is not the way to achieve long-term weight loss. If you want to end yo-yo dieting and lose weight permanently, you must lower your setpoint. When you do that, your body will work as hard to keep you at your lower setpoint as it once did to keep you at your higher setpoint weight.
Lowering Setpoint with SANE Setpoint Diet
SANE setpoint diet is an easy, enjoyable way to lower your setpoint to lose weight long term. There are no complicated foods or menus to remember, no calories to count, and no hunger or deprivation.
One of the most important aspects of the setpoint diet is its focus on whole foods, meaning foods as close to their natural states as possible. Whole foods provide nutrition to the cells, and they are more filling than refined carbs, sugars, and heavily processed foods. When you consume whole (SANE) foods, you’ll be so full you won’t have room for inSANE foods.
SANE foods prevent blood sugar spikes, trigger fat burning hormones, and provide all-day energy. The four SANE food groups are non-starchy vegetables; nutrient-dense proteins; whole-food fats; low-fructose fruits. Be sure to eat foods from the first three food groups together at every meal, as they work together to remove the hormonal clog and lower your setpoint weight.
Once you start eating SANE setpoint-lowering foods, you’ll be amazed at how delicious they taste and how great they make you feel. You’ll be even more amazed when you see how effortless weight loss can be when you eat SANEly and lower your setpoint.
Next Step: Learn More about How Your Metabolism and Your Setpoint are Connected with the SANE
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