Metabolism: How We Turn Food Into Energy

Episode 69

Metabolism, it’s a word that we all know, yet like most things, metabolism can be a very complex subject.  Researchers get their PH.D.’s in various aspects of metabolism. Metabolism covers numerous processes in the body, but the one we attribute to the word the most is the generation of energy from food.  How we effectively generate energy determines much of our overall mental and physical health.  There are numerous reasons why our metabolism may be dysregulated, but fear not, there are several things we can do to improve our energy generation and overall health.  This episode dives deep into the process of metabolism, what regulates our metabolism, how the system gets out of whack, and what we can do to help improve the machinery that turns food into energy.  This is a transformational episode so grab your favorite single ingredient, the nutrient-dense snack, so you have the energy to listen to it all!

Lifestyle Medicine With Dr. Harris:

The Ultimate Wellness Course

How You Can Benefit From Rootine

CBD Health Collection

Podcast References:

Aerobic Glycolysis Krebs Cycle Anaerobic Glycolysis Oxidative Phosphorylation

Episode Transcript:

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Welcome to this episode of the Strive for Great Health Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Richard Harris. And today, we’re going to be talking about something that is probably one of everybody’s favorite subjects, but also one of the most misunderstood. We’re going to be talking about metabolism. [00:04:00] So what is metabolism, metabolism is the process in our bodies that converts what we eat or the energy stored in us, you know, stored as fat, stored as glycogen, or creatine into energy.

And so metabolism actually has three parts. That’s just one part of the metabolism, the conversion of food to energy. And that’s so we can run processes in the cell, do what we need to do to survive. There’s also the conversion of food to the building blocks for life, like DNA, the parts that make up ourselves, the parts that make up proteins.

And then the third part of metabolism is the elimination of waste products. So typically, when people say metabolism, they’re only talking about the first part, the part of how do we convert food into energy to sustain ourselves, to run the processes in the cells that sustain life. So this podcast is going to focus on that part.

We’re not going to talk about the conversion of food to building blocks, and then we’re not going to talk about the elimination of waste products. We probably should do a podcast in the future on elimination of waste products cause that’s a very important topic that goes into toxin removal. But this time, we’re going to focus on energy generation.

So any conversation of energy generation, we first need to outline what the heck is a calorie. So a calorie is a unit of measurement, specifically how much heat is needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. So what does this mean for take-home purposes? So when you see a calorie, the calorie is letting you know about the energy content of the food, how much energy is in that food.

However, it’s not a one-to-one conversion. Like if there’s 10 calories in the food, that means it generates 10 calories of energy in our bodies. That’s not the case. There’s no hundred percent efficient thermodynamic system. In fact, our bodies are not very efficient at turning the calories in food into energy.

So our gross metabolic efficiency, or GME, how much of the calories we eat actually gets turned into energy is about 20 to 25%. So a fourth, the rest is lost to the external environment as heat. RMR, TDE. What are these terms? You’ll hear these terms a lot when we’re talking about metabolism. So RMR is what we burn at rest.

So this is basically when you’re just sitting around on the couch, watching TV; this is how much energy we need to sustain those functions. The basal metabolic rate and sometimes you’ll hear these two used interchangeably, RMR and BMR, basal metabolic rate is what we need to sustain life function. So if you were just on life support, this is how much energy you’d need for that, which is a little bit different than how much energy we would need

if we’re just sitting here at rest, like right now, I’m doing this podcast. I’m sitting here in my office; for all intents and purposes, you can use them interchangeably. And that’s why you’ll see both in the literature. The difference for our purposes is very small. The basal metabolic rate, on average, is about 60% of our total calorie expenditure, the TDEE, which is the total daily energy expenditure.

So that’s the calories that we burn when we add-in energy expenditures, basically movement. This is what you’ll see when people use to calculate how many calories they’re burning per day. And there’s two factors that go into the TDEE; there’s non-exercise thermogenesis, which is neat. And then there’s exercise, which is what we do when we’re actually lifting weights or running.

[00:08:00] And that NEAT, the non-exercise thermogenesis, is about what we do when we’re just walking around or when we’re moving or just our daily activities, the non-exercise movement time. And that’s something we’ve talked about on this podcast a lot; how important non-exercise movement time is to maintaining health.

And then non-exercise movement times about 20% of our total energy expenditure per day. So how do we measure these things? The easiest way, unfortunately, is not very accurate. And this is the Harris-Benedict equation. So the Harris-Benedict equation, you can go online, you can Google this, you can plug in your demographic information, and then it will spit out a number for you.

And that number is about 37.5% accurate when compared to the gold standard, the gold standard is something we call direct calorimetry, and this basically measures the loss of body heat. Now, the problem with this is that it’s very expensive to build and maintain, its a hundred percent accurate, but it’s very expensive.

So what is the way that we recommend that’s accurate and inexpensive and fairly cheap to do, indirect calorimetry? And what this does is it measures oxygen consumption. So how much oxygen the body’s using and then carbon dioxide production. And based upon that, you can measure your caloric expenditure, and it’s about 90% accurate.

And so what’s the whole point of this podcast. Well, first to learn about metabolism, second is something we hear all the time. Well, I need to boost my metabolism, or I have a slow metabolism, or I just don’t have the metabolism that I used to yada, yada, yada. And then I’d ask people, okay, well, what does metabolism mean?

And I got a well, but, uh, you know, uh, so people are saying this word, but we really don’t know what it means. And it’s not really that you boost your metabolism. There’s a couple ways that you can go about making the system in general work a little better. And how do we do that? Number one, you can add more substrate, meaning you can add more things that our body makes or turns into energy.

So that’s adding more substrate, right? That’s like if you’ve got an assembly line and you add more product onto the assembly line, you’re going to turn out more in results. You add in more raw materials; you’re going to get more product at the end. The second way is you can increase the machinery effectiveness so you can either get new machinery, maybe there’s new technology, or you can get the machines that you have to work a little bit better so that they turn out more product per raw material added.

You can also increase the number of machines in our case; this would be increasing the number of mitochondria in that previous reference. Increasing the machinery effectiveness would be increasing the ability of the machines, the function through the co-factors that they need. And we’re going to talk about those co-factors here in a minute.

And then the last is by increasing waste or clearance because if you’re making all these products and then there’s waste or byproducts that happen because of that because again, no system is a hundred percent efficient and sometimes you get these byproducts that are made that need to be detoxified or removed.

So if you remove those, you can increase the effectiveness of the system. Now we’re going to be talking about the first three ways. Again, the waste and clearance function, the waste and clearance metabolism. We’ll talk about that on a different podcast. So types of metabolism, the first and foremost that most people are familiar with, is glycolysis, and glycolysis is burning carbohydrate in the form of glucose.

So there’s many different types of sugar out [00:12:00] there. Now, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, all these different types. Our body basically turns all the sugar we consume all those different types into glucose, and glucose is what gets burned for energy. And so there’s two ways that we do this. There’s aerobic glycolysis and anaerobic glycolysis, and all glycolysis means is breaking down sugar. Aerobic means in the presence of oxygen. Anaerobic means without oxygen. So let’s talk about aerobic glycolysis or breaking down sugar in the presence of oxygen. This happens during periods when blood flow and oxygen are plentiful. So when we’re just sitting here at rest, I’ve got great blood flow to my organs.

Oxygen is plentiful. And then this happens in cells that have mitochondria that have to happen in cells that have mitochondria. Red blood cells don’t have mitochondria. I don’t know how many of you knew that. So red blood cells do anaerobic glycolysis because they don’t have mitochondria. Where does this happen in the cell? It happens in the cytoplasm of the cell, which is not the inside or inner portion of the cell called the nucleus. This happens in the cytoplasm, which is the part of the cell that’s inside the cell wall, but it’s not the inner- inner portion of the cell is the best way I can describe it.

This is, times like this, I wish I had a whiteboard. I just, you know, draw behind me, but then I’m a horrible artist, so no one would get it, and it probably be even more confusing. So I’m going to post links on the website that you can take a look at these processes so you can understand them better. One molecule of glucose is then converted, and this doesn’t happen in one step to two molecules of, and again, this will be posted on the website. If you want to go back and do some basic biochemistry, feel free to nerd out on that. The process actually consumes two ATP. And what’s ATP. ATP is basically the fundamental thing that we use for energy. It’s what we’ll use to catalyze reactions in the body to pump things inside our cells.

It is what we absolutely need to move. Movement uses ATP, contraction of muscles uses ATP. It’s the end byproduct of metabolism. It’s how things get done is through ATP. In order to make energy, we have to actually spend some energy. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more when we talk about the thermic effect of food.

The process in glycolysis, of turning glucose into pyruvate, consumes two ATP, so uses some energy to generate four ATP. The process also generates two NADH and two molecules of water. Now we’ve talked about NAD and NADH before we talked about that on the longevity podcast, NAD serves as a co-factor for certain reactions, it also serves as an acceptor of electrons, and these electrons get bound to NAD, and then that becomes NADH and NADH then goes into the oxidative phosphorylation cycle.

But we’re going to talk about oxidative phosphorylation here in a minute, but I just want you to know that generating NADH is a way of generating energy. So we need NAD. The NAD takes up, electrons becomes NADH, and then in NADH goes to the mitochondria and then gets turned into, well not turned into then gets utilized to make ATP.

We’ll talk about that in a minute. So in the presence of oxygen, the pyruvate is turned into something called, and we actually talked about acetyl-CoA [00:16:00] also on the longevity podcast, acetyl-CoA, then enters something called the Krebs cycle. And of course, there will be links on this, on the website, again, for people who need to see this, who can’t just hear it and understand it.

So the first acetyl-CoA enters the mitochondria, then it combines with something called oxaloacetate to form citrate. And then it goes through a cycle where it gets turned into different intermediates. The Krebs cycle actually consumes this acetyl-CoA and water to produce more NADH. The cycle also creates two molecules of carbon dioxide, and it creates some more water.

The net reaction creates three NADH, one FADH, which is similar to NADH. It goes into the mitochondria to be utilized to make ATP and also one GTP. GTP is similar to ATP; it can be used as a catalyst for certain reactions in the body. And then, at the end of this, the oxaloacetate is regenerated. So the cycle can start again.

That was a quick overview of the Krebs cycle. Now we just talked about sugar. I’m sure. You’re thinking. Well, what about proteins? And what about fats? How do they fit into this? And then, proteins can enter this pathway by being converted to acetyl-CoA, they can be converted to pyruvate, or they can be converted to other Krebs cycle intermediates.

So that’s how proteins can enter this energy generation pathway. So proteins aren’t necessarily completely used as building blocks. Some of them are used for energy, and again, there’ll be a diagram or a link on the website. So you can take a look at that as well. Now, anaerobic glycolysis, this pathway activates during time periods when blood flow or oxygen supply is limited.

So what’s a common situation where blood flow or oxygen would be limited, weightlifting. That’s a very common situation where all of a sudden, you don’t get enough oxygen to the muscle. There’s not enough blood flow coming to the muscle, but the muscle still needs to move. And then when like we talked about earlier, red blood cells don’t have mitochondria.

So they use this pathway. And it’s usually active for about 10 to 30 seconds during maximum effort. And so what happens is you convert the glucose to pyruvate, but like we talked about before, pyruvate is not going to be converted to acetyl-CoA without oxygen. So what happens here is the pyruvate is actually converted to lactate.

And this is something that we’ve heard about before, you know, lifters will always say, Oh, you know, I had a really hard workout, and I built up some lactic acid, and I’m sore. Well, it’s not really the lactic acid that makes you sore. It’s actually the fact that the lactic acid is an acid, and the pH change causes inflammation, which makes you sore.

And the fact that you’re breaking down your muscles was causes inflammation. It makes you sore, but the lactic acid, it’s kind of a surrogate for that. So the anaerobic glycolysis pathway net produces two ATP molecules per glucose molecule. So overall, we’re not going to get as much energy produced from this pathway because the intermediates aren’t going towards oxidative phosphorylation.

We’ll talk about that in minute. Most of the ATP we generate comes from oxidative phosphorylation. It doesn’t come from aerobic or anaerobic glycolysis, but anaerobic glycolysis is about a hundred times faster than oxidative phosphorylation. So if we need energy on the spot, boom, this is how we’re doing it.

And also [00:20:00], during the process, we actually regenerate NAD because electrons are transferred from NADH to pyruvate in order to convert it to lactate. Why is this important? Because this is saying, okay. This is a quick generation energy pathway, but I’m also going to regenerate the NAD. That’s necessary to do that Aerobic glycolysis when oxygen and blood flow improve. And then there’s something called the Cori cycle. What happens with the Cori cycle is lactate goes to the liver, where it’s turned back to glucose. And so then it can actually be used for energy. The problem is that the process actually consumes six ATP.

So in total anaerobic glycolysis costs us four ATP. And so this is constantly running in the red, you know, we’re not able to sustain anaerobic glycolysis forever because eventually, we’ll run out of ATP. So if we’re generating two, but it’s costing us six, that’s a negative transaction, but that pathway is there to sustain us until we can get the aerobic glycolysis back in place.

Okay. So oxidative phosphorylation, we’ve mentioned this already. This is what happens after glycolysis. So the glycolysis remember generates the NADH the FADH. And so what happens is there are things that start to happen in the mitochondria when this happens. So in the mitochondria, electron donors, which are the NADH and FADH, transfer electrons to electron acceptors in a series of what we call redox reactions, which is basically transferring electrons and protons.

So basic biochemistry stuff there. And it’s catalyzed by protein complexes in the membrane of the mitochondria, the NADH, FADH that are generated in the cytoplasm of the cell then goes into the mitochondria and then donates the electrons they picked up because of the metabolism, because of breaking down the sugar, the glucose into pyruvate, and then through some cellular machinery that NADH and FADH the electrons that they carry are transferred to what we call terminal acceptors.

And in this case, it’s oxygen and hydrogen or protons. So every NADH generates 2.5 ATP, and every FADH generates 1.5 ATP. So the total ATP produced for one molecule of glucose is about 30 to 34. This is various per person. It varies for numerous reasons. We’re going to talk about those, what disrupts the system, and then what you can do to help it.

So the movement of electrons generates a potential energy by creating two gradients. There’s a pH gradient, and there’s an electrical potential. There’s an electrical gradient. And the whole purpose of this is to allow the electrons to move through the transport chain and also to move hydrogen ions.

And so these hydrogen ions, the movement of them creates energy that allows us to make ATP. So protons are driven from the negative side of the membrane to the positive side of the membrane through things called proton pumps. And if you’re wondering, where have I heard proton pumps from or why they sound [00:24:00] familiar? Proton pumps are the target of inhibition for acid-blocking medications like Protonix.

This is why these medications have wide-reaching side effects. Why they’re associated with heart disease, why they’re associated with kidney disease because they’re not specific for the proton pumps that are in the stomach, so they cause dysfunction in this whole energy generation system, which is why they’re only approved for use for two weeks.

They’re never approved to be used long-term. And we talked about that on our functional approach to acid reflux podcast. So protons are driven from the negative side of the membrane to the positive side of the membrane through proton pumps, ATP synthase, which is the final enzyme in this pathway. Or sometimes, it’s known as complex five, allows the release of the stored energy by allowing the protons to flow down their gradient.

So they’re pumped against the gradient. They’re pumped against their will. They don’t want to go in the direction that we make them go. And then complex five says, you know what, guys, I’m going to let you go the direction you want to go. Just give me that energy you stored up, and I’m going to make some ATP.

That’s a fair trade-off. Let’s talk about the individual complexes. Complex one or NADH coenzyme Q oxidoreductase; that’s why it’s easier to say complex one. You know, I wonder about who named these things, right? Because when I was studying biochemistry, I wanted to punch him in the face. It was why the heck do I need to know all these complex names and who named these things, but then you realize once you start to actually understand the function of them, you realize they were named because of the function, you have to understand the complex biological function to understand the name.

So for the average person, it just looks like this was named by a bunch of jerks who never wanted you to remember this stuff. But anyway, complex one releases two electrons of NADH. And this actually works with coenzyme Q10, which causes protons to move. So again, coenzyme Q10 is very important for our energy generation.

And this is one of the reasons why a lot of us holistic providers don’t like statins because statins deplete coenzyme Q10. Complex two, which is succinate Q oxidoreductase. It’s part of the electron transport chain. It’s also part of the Krebs cycle. So in the Krebs cycle, one of the intermediates is succinate and succinate, it gets turned into fumarate, and this actually doesn’t help with the electron transport, meaning it doesn’t move in NADH and it doesn’t help with the proton gradient, but it’s still part of the cycle to help the overall process.

Now, again, if you want to know more about the biochemistry, there will be a link to this on the website. So complex three, also known as Q cytochrome C oxidase reductase. As the electrons move through this chain, the protons are moved, and this complex three FADH is transformed to ubiquinone and then ubiquinol, which then goes into the ETC at complex three.

Etc is the electron transport chain. So complex three just keeps it moving. And this is where FAD can come into the process to donate its electrons, and then complex four is cytochrome C oxidase. In complex four, electrons are transferred to hydrogen and oxygen. And so, like we talked about earlier, oxygen is the final acceptor, and this complex four is what generates the most energy.

So in this process, water is made from this reactions from hydrogen and oxygen, [00:28:00] but this is also where the reactive oxygen species come from. Oh my gosh. How many times have we said ROS on the podcast? Now you finally know where ROS comes from. Well, partially where they come from, they’re also made by our immune cells when they’re doing their thing to fight off infection, but ROS reactive oxygen species come from metabolism.

So these ROS can be generated if the wrong amount of electrons are given to oxygen. So four electrons are given and four protons, we get water, which is beneficial, but sometimes only two electrons are given, which creates superoxide or creates peroxide ions. In this case, just think about bleach, just like we wouldn’t want to ingest bleach.

It’s toxic. We wouldn’t want bleach around ourselves. So these things will go and try to pull free electrons from things which can damage DNA, can damage proteins, and leads to inflammation. So this is where some things that we’ve talked about on the podcast come into play. Vitamin C, antioxidant, vitamin E, antioxidant.

Superoxide dismutase gets rid of that superoxide. Catalase, these all work to decrease the amount of reactive oxygen species generated. They do so because these components like vitamin C and vitamin E can donate a free electron without themselves becoming unstable. And then the enzymes do the same. They make these reactive oxygen species whole; if you’ve ever wondered how cyanide works, cyanide works by blocking complex four.

So it blocks the major generation potential for energy in ourselves. If you’ve ever wondered how carbon monoxide works, carbon monoxide also affects this pathway because carbon monoxide has a much higher affinity. It binds much more strongly to electrons than oxygen does. So carbon monoxide gets here, says, Hey, this is one heck of a party.

Oh, oxygen’s here? Oxygen is a pushover, boom, knocks the oxygen out the way hogs, all the pretty girls for himself. That’s carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a big bully, and that’s how it damages us. That’s why carbon monoxide poisoning, cyanide poisoning it can be fatal because it stops our ability to generate ATP.

While we have some muscles that constantly need to be moving for us to be alive, heart muscle lungs, we need to breathe. No ATP. We don’t breathe. No ATP; our muscles don’t contract. So that’s oxidative phosphorylation, a quick overview. Let’s talk about creatine next. And this is something that’s important during high-intensity exercise.

So we store enough ATP for about eight to 10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. Now, people who exercise regularly are able to do a lot more than eight to 10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. Why? Because we have pathways like anaerobic glycolysis, and we have another system. Our body makes so many redundant systems.

Aren’t you so glad that God blessed us with redundancies? So creatine is made from the conversion of arginine and glycine. We talked about creatine on one of our,  was it Rootine? No, it wasn’t Rootine. We talked about creatine on one of our supplement Saturdays. So you can go find that on our YouTube channel.

So creatine is made from the conversion of arginine and glycine; it travels to the muscles where a phosphate is added by creating kinases. So creatine phosphate. Transfers a phosphate to ADP, which ADP is a precursor to ATP [00:32:00], and it makes ATP and creatinE. So basically, what’s the difference between ADP and ATP, one phosphate group.

And that’s what the P means in these things. I mean, it’s phosphate. In periods of excess energy, we’re able to regenerate some of the phosphocreatine because we’ll take ATP, and we’ll convert it to phosphocreatine and ADP. So this is just a redundant system again for high-intensity exercise that allows us to create more energy.

And this is a reason why creatine has a lot of benefits. We dive more into it in the creatine supplement discussion. And we also, I just remembered, had an article review where we talked about creatine. So you can go find that in a previous episode. There’s another thing called the purine nucleotide cycle. So this cycle occurs during periods of strenuous exercise, fasting, starvation, or when ATP reservoirs run low again another redundant system.

And so what this system does is it recycles ATP by combining two ADP into an ATP plus an AMP. So you have a two phosphate molecule and another two phosphate molecule. You pull one phosphate from one to the other. So now you have a three phosphate molecule and a one phosphate molecule. And in that ATP, that three phosphate molecule can go off and do what it needs to do.

So the AMP is converted to ammonia, ultimately, which gets excreted. And fumarate and the fumarate we talked about earlier goes back into the Krebs cycle, or it’s also known as the TCA cycle. So we talked about proteins. We talked about carbs. And, uh, you know, we’re about halfway done with this.

What did we not talk about? Lipid metabolism. So lipid metabolism, we call beta-oxidation. It generates about 14 ATPs. And so what happens is you have the conversion of fatty acids into acetyl-CoA, which then enters the Krebs cycle. And some of the fatty acids, if they’re what we call long-chain fatty acids, just meaning they have a longer carbon tail, need something called carnitine.

Carnitine is something that I take. It’s something that a lot of lifters take. It helps you generate more energy because it helps shuttle long-chain fatty acids into the mitochondria. They can’t get there unless there’s carnitine, and then free fatty acids, fat that’s liberated from our fat cells, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier.

So this brings us to one of our favorite things. How many times have we talked about ketones on the Strive for Great Health Podcast? A lot. This brings us into ketone metabolism. So if we’re doing a lot of beta-oxidation in the liver, the liver is causing a lot of this process to go on to generate energy from fat.

Well, that means that we’re in a starvation mode or carbohydrate or glucose intake is low. Well, we need a certain amount of glucose in the blood to function. Normally, if your blood glucose drops too low, you die from that. So we need a certain amount of blood sugar to function. And so what will happen is the liver will start a process called gluconeogenesis, and this is the making of sugars.

Again, this is a different arm of metabolism. We’re not going to talk about it, at least yet, maybe one day in the future. I’ll do that. So, if you are in the process of doing gluconeogenesis, oxaloacetate, remember, which has regenerated at the end of the Kreb cycle, is not being available for energy generation.

It’s going to making sugar to go elsewhere. So what happens then is that [00:36:00] acetyl-CoA, which bounds at oxaloacetate to make citrate, is now diverted into ketones, primarily beta-hydroxybutyrate and then it’s sent out to the body for energy. So beta-hydroxybutyrate is taken up by cells and then converted back to two acetyl-CoA.

And then that acetyl-CoA can go through the Krebs cycle and the heart; it actually prefers fatty acid metabolism and ketones for energy. Is this something that we’ve talked about on the podcast before? So why is ketone metabolism great? Well, ketone metabolism generates less free radicals. And it generates 22 ATP, but you’re saying, wait, that seems like it generates less energy than the 30 to 34 you mentioned for aerobic glycolysis.

You’re smart listeners. You’re paying attention. However, the Delta G the change in energy is actually double that of one molecule of glucose. Well, how is that? Ketone metabolism uses less substrate uses less NAD molecules than glucose metabolism. So it helps preserve that NAD NADH ratio glucose metabolism requires four NAD, ketones require one in NAD.

So basically, ketones are more efficient at generating energy with available resources. And that’s actually one of the main reasons we see benefit for people intermittently getting into ketosis. Or using ketosis as a therapeutic tool for certain disease states. So shout out to my friend, Pierre Cohen, friends since seventh grade used to live on the same street together.

This is a topic that we’ve talked about a lot, the thermic effect of food. So what is the thermic effect of food? It’s how much of the calories we eat go into burning the food week. As we’ve learned earlier in this podcast, it takes energy to make energy, and it’s different for each of the types of food.

So proteins actually require the most energy to digest; proteins require the most energy to turn into energy. And about 20 to 30% of the energy contained in protein is used to digest that protein. Carbs. It’s about five to 10% in fat; it’s about zero to 5%. So this is one of the reasons why you see a lot of people rightfully suggest that if you are trying to have body composition changes if you’re trying to lose adipose tissue, prioritize your protein intake because you utilize more of those calories that are coming in just to metabolize the proteins. On average, for a mixed meal, you’re going to see the thermic effect of food to be about 10%.

And this can be affected by a lot of things. So these are some of the things that are going to affect our overall metabolism. Age, so there’s a drop in 1% by the thermic effect of food if you compare 65 to 88-year-olds versus 18 to 35-year-olds. If you’re physically inactive, that drops the thermic effect of food.

Thermic effect of the food is 45% higher in active young adults and 31% higher and active older individuals. This is why movement is so important. This is why physical activity is so important to body composition. Eating bigger meals, this is one of the biggest reasons why nobody should be eating six meals a day.

The only person, the only group who benefits from you eating six meals a day, is the food company. We’re not meant to eat that often. So eating bigger meals actually increases the thermic effect of food. It’s about 0.26 calories per hour for every 24 calories of energy intake, bigger in that [00:40:00] meal. And this is why some people are huge advocates of the OMAD system, one meal a day because of the higher thermic effect when you do that; I usually eat twice a day. I feel really good when I eat twice a day. Higher protein intake, 17% higher with higher protein intake. If you have a high intake of MCTs, medium-chain triglycerides, and this is why a lot of the ketogenic products, a lot of people who are ketone experts suggest intake of MCTs.

Number one, they get directly converted to ketones. Number two, there’s a 43% higher thermic effect of food. High fiber intake increases the thermic effect of food. And that’s because high-fiber meals take more energy to digest and then processed foods. If you eat unprocessed food and this was specifically looking at unprocessed grains versus processed grain.

So a bowl of cereal versus a bowl buckwheat. The bowl of buckwheat, the thermic effect of food was 46.8% higher. This is one of the reasons why. When you look at some studies where they had people isocaloric meaning the same amount of calories, eat whole foods versus processed foods. They ate the same amount of calories, yet the whole food group lost body fat.

So if it was all about calories in calories out, that wouldn’t be the case, but it’s more complicated than that. It’s about energy in energy out. And so, if you’re eating whole foods, your energy expenditure is higher because it takes more effort to digest those foods. Also, those foods have more nutrients that are important.

And we’re going to talk about that in a minute. So you can’t talk about metabolism without talking about hormones. So what are the hormones that are involved with metabolism, thyroid. This is one of the first things that people think about thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate thermogenesis, which is heat generation.

How do we generate heat? We burn calories to generate heat. It regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Thyroid hormones have influence on insulin sensitivity; go back and take a listen to our insulin resistance podcast and why we get sick podcasts, and then overall, it’s a key signal in the pathways that control energy balance and energy expenditure.

It also helps regulate metabolism through brain feedback. And that works with leptin. Leptin is the hormone that lets us know that we’re full. That we’re satiated also does. So through controlling some of the enzymes involved with fat and metabolism in the liver and in the pancreas with insulin release, cortisol, cortisol is a catabolic hormone, meaning it’s a hormone that says break down the stored calories.

And so it signals the release of glucose, free fatty acids, and then amino acids. So, this is good. If I need to run from a tiger, I need energy. This is bad in chronic situations because it’s going to lead to insulin resistance. It’s going to lead to deposition of central body fat, and it’s going to lead the muscle wasting.

None of those things are things that we want. So chronic elevations in cortisol are associated with a decrease in lean body, mass associated with insulin resistance associated with increased fat mass, and increased appetite and food intake. Ask anyone who’s ever been on steroids; they tell you they are starving.

Cortisol also counteracts insulin; it stimulates gluconeogenesis. So making more sugars and inhibits collagen formation, which is going to affect our joints, our bones, our muscles, it decreases amino acid uptake in the muscle, and inhibits protein synthesis. Sex hormones are involved with our metabolism, and no surprise there. Estrogen, lower [00:44:00] estrogen levels are associated with a decrease in energy expenditure.

They’re also associated with a decrease in physical activity. So lower estrogen levels are associated with not wanting to go out and be active and also associated with an increase in food intake. So there’s some; estrogen basically helps sensitize our bodies to leptin, the hormone that says we’re full, and then low estrogen levels are associated with body fat distribution to the trunk.

It’s also associated with an increase in adipose generation in the fat cells. And then, estrogen is also shown to help with insulin sensitivity. Testosterone deficiencies in testosterone are associated with increased central fat mass, reduced insulin sensitivity, making fat cells called lipogenesis, impaired glucose tolerance.

So testosterone is important in regulating glycolysis, glycogen synthesis, which is a storage form of glucose in our muscles and liver, lipid metabolism, and also helps regulate oxidative phosphorylation. Progesterone, progesterone helps the thyroid hormones function correctly. It helps with insulin sensitivity.

It helps promote satiety when balanced with estrogen and then proper lipid metabolism. Vitamin D we talked about this a little bit in the vitamin D podcast. You know, vitamin D is not a vitamin; it’s a hormone steroid hormone D is what should be called. Important in the regulation of inflammation, insulin resistance, lipid metabolism.

Of course, insulin and its antagonistic hormone, glucagon. Insulin resistance is associated with abnormal protein, fatty acid, and glucose metabolism. Insulin (resistance) helps decrease glucose uptake by cells, increases the conversion of glucose to fat and adipocytes. If insulin resistance is there, the extra sugar is not going to be taken up as efficiently. It’s also going to go more to fat cells, which are going to make more fat, increase the adipose tissue.

So insulin resistance is a key dysregulation of our metabolism. And 30% of people have insulin resistance subclinical. About 10% of the population is diabetic. So you’re looking at about 40% of the population total who is insulin resistant. 40% of people have a main cause of dysregulation to their metabolism.

Glucagon, glucagon, is a hormone released by the pancreas to raise glucose and fatty acids in the blood. So it basically has the opposite effect of insulin. Whereas insulin drives these things in the cell, glucagon gets them into the blood. It’s stimulated by epinephrine, which is adrenaline and hypoglycemia.

And then the sympathetic hormones, which are fight or flight hormones. Typically here, we’re thinking about epinephrine, which is adrenaline, or norepinephrine, which is noradrenaline. And what these do is they increase fatty acid release and oxidation. This is why exercise helps burn fat, burn more calories than sitting at rest because you get an increase in epinephrine and norepinephrine.

You get an increase in demand for energy. So there’s an increase in demand for energy. So, of course, your body’s going to say, Hey, uh, energy promoting hormones and molecules, get to work. You get an increase in glucose uptake and then an increase in glucose utilization. So the cells are taking it in, and they’re burning.

What are the nutrients important to metabolism? Carnitine, we talked about that earlier; it shuttles fatty acids to the mitochondria for beta-oxidation. B vitamins. Why are B vitamins associated with energy? Because they’re co-factors for many of the enzymes in the Krebs cycle, I should have led with this.

If you are not eating single ingredient and nutrient-dense foods, you’re going to be deficient in these co-factors. If you want to know why you’re tired and you’re eating McDonald’s all day, [00:48:00] you’re tired because you’re eating McDonald’s all day because it doesn’t have the co-factors. It doesn’t have the right nutrients that are needed for us to generate energy.

So we live in a calorically saturated world. There’s tons and tons of calories everywhere, but nutrient deficiencies are not abnormal. So if you don’t have these nutrients, if you don’t have these, co-factors the machines aren’t going to work as well. Try driving to work on three tires, not going to happen.

We need all four tires to make it to our destination. We need all of these nutrients to generate energy. And this is why so many people are fatigued because their bodies literally cannot efficiently generate energy. And when we started this podcast, we talked about, you know, either get more raw materials, get the right raw materials, single ingredient, nutrient-dense foods.

That’s the right raw materials, make the machinery more effective, get the right nutrients on board that makes the machinery more effective. And then we’re gonna talk about in a minute, how you can add more machinery. So magnesium, magnesium is a co-factor for many enzymes in glycolysis and the Krebs cycle.

It’s also important for complex four. Zinc is a co-factor for many enzymes, including complex four. Manganese is very important for the Krebs cycle. Iron is a co-factor for enzymes in the Krebs cycle and the electron transport chain complex one through three. So enzymes are the cellular machinery. These are the things that make things happen.

Enzymes take one thing and turn into another, just like manufacturing. But these enzymes oftentimes need co-factors; sometimes, there are several co-factors. Co-factors are what allow these machines to do what they need to do. There are parts of the machine that help catalyze or help make a reaction happen.

Copper, it’s part of complex four. Sulfur is part of complex one, two, and three. So again, these are things that we’ve talked about on our Rootine series, and these are things, many of these things that we’ve talked about, these deficiencies are not rare. Zinc deficiencies, not rare. Iron deficiency is not rare.

B vitamin deficiencies, magnesium deficiencies, they are not rare. So all of these things are necessary to work in concert for us to generate energy. And deficiencies in these things are going to lead to deficiencies in energy generation, which are going to manifest themselves as non-optimal functioning systems.

If my muscles don’t have enough energy to work, then that’s going to cause issues. I’m going to be weaker. If my kidneys don’t have enough energy to work, they’re not going to function as well; I’m not going to filter. If my liver doesn’t have enough energy to work, it’s not going to make all the proteins and all the other things that the liver does.

It’s not going to help detoxify. If my heart doesn’t have enough energy, it’s not going to pump as well. If my brain doesn’t have enough energy, that’s going to lead to a whole host of problems, anxiety, depression, PTSD; it’s going to lead to dysregulation that can cause Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So now you can see all of these things with metabolism and how important it is to put the right raw materials in front of the machinery.

Because those raw materials are metabolized differently, they also contain the co-factors for the machines to work correctly. I mean, God’s a genius. The whole system was built by him, and it’s all interconnected, and we’ve screwed things up. So other things that block metabolism, the heavy metals, arsenic, fluoride, mercury, a lot of these things will work to disrupt things in the Krebs cycle.

Okay. So finally, we’re going to talk about how to improve your metabolic capacity. And so [00:52:00] what we’re talking about here is either how do we improve the raw materials, improve the machinery, or add more machinery? Like we talked about earlier, those are the three ways that, you know, when we say boost your metabolism, you’re not really boosting your metabolism.

You’re really just helping the process work maybe a little bit more efficiently or getting better raw materials or adding more machines. Number one, increase muscle mass. You take anything away from this. Do you want to increase your energy levels? Increase muscle mass. Why, that’s a major contributor to our energy. Mitochondria, tons and tons of mitochondria in your muscles.

You want to be able to generate more energy, get more muscle mass. You want to burn more calories throughout the day, get more muscle mass. You want to live longer, decrease your risk of diabetes or cancer, or whatever chronic disease, get more muscle mass. And as we’ve talked about so many times on this podcast, you can keep your muscles as long as you use them.

There’s lots of recent evidence that shows that, that if you look at muscle biopsies from 75-year-old cyclists and 20-year-old cyclists, they look the same. But those people who are 75 have been exercising, keeping their muscle mass. And you don’t need to necessarily say I’m too old, not to start. How many times have we seen recently where people are in great shape in their seventies and eighties, and they started in their fifties and sixties. You can still build the muscle mass.

Then you can still help regulate these systems, these metabolic systems, at any age. Right? So exercise works to increase flux, meaning you get more raw materials delivered. We talked about that with the epinephrine and norepinephrine, how it works to deliver more raw materials to the machinery. You also increase fatty oxidation.

You increase glucose uptake. So you’re delivering more materials. But then the guys at the loading dock say, yeah, we hired five more guys. So we can take more to the machines and guess what? Our machines are running real hot today. They are working. The machines are ready. That’s the net effect of exercise.

Then over time, if you chronically exercise, then you add more machines. So now you got more workers bringing in more raw materials to more machines, and then those machines are running at prime effectiveness. Nutrition, so this is one of the reasons why I’m in favor of low carb. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be keto, but for every 10% decrease in carb intake, studies show you burn 50 to a hundred more calories.

That’s important. So that’s another reason why, even if you’re isocaloric, we’ve seen people lose body fat, have body composition changes just by playing with their macronutrients. That’s a great way to do it. Decrease your carb intake. Not saying you have to go keto, but if you’re someone who’s like the average American, eating 70% of their nutritional intake from carbs, you’re eating too many carbs.

Drink more water. Water is used as a catalyst for many reactions in the body. Your muscles are 70% water. What did we talk about in the hydration podcast? 70% of people on any given day are walking around dehydrated. So one study showed a 24% increase in metabolic rate. One hour after drinking 500 milliliters of water, easy, you want to burn more calories, drink more water.

Can’t think of an easier way to burn calories than drink more water, a 3% dehydration. And this is typically when thirst kicks in. So people think that, Oh, you know, I’m not getting thirsty throughout the day. So I’m hydrated. No, you’re still dehydrated. It takes about a two to 3% dehydration of total body water, which can be pounds of water before your thirst mechanism kicks in.

This is why you need to be proactive with your water intake. This is why I [00:56:00] tell people drink enough water, so your urine is light yellow. That’s how you know you’re hydrated. So a 3% dehydration will slow down calorie burning by 2%. That’s pretty significant. That’s an easy way that you can start burning more calories throughout the day.

Get more water. These are two things that are favorites. You know, they’re in energy drinks. I’m not saying drink energy drinks. Cause a lot of those things are poison, but caffeine and taurine caffeine increases the resting metabolic rate by about three to 11%; depending on the study, caffeine increases epinephrine which increases fatty acid oxidation.

We’ve talked about that already. Taurine is an amino acid that improves insulin sensitivity, increases beta-oxidation. One study showed that 1.66 grams of taurine increase fat burning by about 16% while cyclists were exercising. So taurine seems to have the most effect, like most of these things have more of an effect when you’re exercising because exercising revs up the situation anyway.

Adding these things are going to have the maximum benefit during exercise. And that’s why I always roll my eyes at people that say, Oh, you don’t need to exercise to do this. Yes, you need to exercise. Everyone needs to exercise. Get at least two days of strength training per week. Get in your non-exercise movement time, your 8,000 steps a day.

Capsaicin some pretty good evidence on capsaicin. Capsaicin is what makes peppers hot. Capsaicin increases oxygen consumption and thermogenesis. So it increases our energy conversion to heat. It increases energy expenditure and fatty acid oxidation. This is why I usually keep something with peppers, hot peppers, chili peppers around the house and eat them, you know, every now and then. I like spicy food.

So I’m a fan of spicy food. Plus, I know it helps with metabolism is also; it helps with pain and inflammation, and it’s thought to activate the sympathetic nervous system and brown fat. We’ve talked about brown fat before. Brown fat is metabolically active fat. Well, white fat is metabolically active too, but brown fat is really important in thermogenesis and heat generation.

Eat more protein thermic effect of food. We already talked about that. And then lastly, but not leastly. One of my favorite things EGCG, it can help rev up metabolism for a few hours. One study showed 17% higher calories burned during exercise, 8% at rest. So again, more effect during exercise, and it does so by promoting fatty acid oxidation, likely by increasing epinephrine. EGCG is the main ingredient in green tea.

Why we say, green tea is so helpful. All right, so that was an hour. Wow. The transcripts will be on the website. The links will be on the website. Go back and listen to this again. There’s a lot of information in here about metabolism. This is just scratching the surface, and it took an hour, but I really wanted to give you the take-home points.

The key points about metabolism, how you can regulate your own metabolism, and how you can use the tools here to help you achieve your health and wellness goals. Well, this is Dr. Richard Harris. I hope you guys have a blessed day. I hope you guys and learn something, and we will see you next week. God bless.

Thank you for listening to the Strive for Great Health Podcast with your host, Dr. Richard Harris. It’s our mission and goal with the podcast to impact as many lives as possible. To empower individuals to take control of their health and live a life full of joy and purpose.

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