Metabolic Flexibility to Burn Fat

29 August, 2020
People with high insulin resistance lose weight more efficiently by restricting carbohydrates.

Metabolic flexibility is a concept that refers to the body’s ability to use, to a greater extent, whichever nutrient it ingests in a higher proportion as the current source of energy.

People who are able to activate this mechanism lose fat more efficiently; in addition, they have greater muscle mass and it’s more difficult to lose it over time. This is due to the fact that their body adapts adequately to the type of diet the person subjects it to.

Optimization of energy sources

When establishing a weight loss diet, it’s important to know where each individual draws the energy they need. That way, people with good metabolic flexibility will be able to adapt to the nutritional substrate they get through their food.

In this class of people, a diet rich in carbohydrates involves the use of glucose as the main energy source. However, in a fasting situation, they’re able to prioritize fat as an energy substrate and preserve the integrity of the muscle tissue.

If they’re put on a diet low in carbohydrates, they use fat for energy while saving muscle and liver glycogen.

However, not all individuals have this ability, since it’s mainly related to the metabolic health of the specific person. Therefore, it’s important to optimize your metabolism.

Graphic showing foods and digestive system for metabolic flexibility.

Metabolic flexibility depends on insulin resistance

One of the factors that marks the metabolic flexibility of an individual is their resistance to insulin. For this reason, diabetics lose more weight on a low-carbohydrate diet. However, people who have adequate sensitivity to this hormone can reduce their body mass with a diet rich in sugars.

To reduce insulin resistance and improve this metabolic parameter, you can carry out several strategies, among which the following are worth noting:

  • Intermittent fasting, according to an article published in the journal Aging Research Reviews. In addition, you can increase the effect if you considerably reduce your carbohydrate intakes, especially simple sugars.
  • Carry out high intensity interval training. Exercise is capable of positively influencing the management of diseases such as diabetes, as stated in a study published in 2015. For this reason, both diabetic and pre-diabetic people can use it to decrease insulin resistance.

Learn more: Keys To Losing Weight with Your Diet

Diet is more bearable with metabolic flexibility

Subjects with good health and metabolic flexibility are able to better adapt to changes in their diet. For this type of people it’s possible to establish an intermittent fasting protocol with satisfactory results. In this diet, their appetite is barely stimulated and loss of lean tissue is negligible.

However, if you don’t have this ability, the best thing to do for a weight loss diet is usually to restrict sugars. High insulin resistance can make it harder to diet. In fact, even in the framework of a hypocaloric diet, the person might not be able to lose weight if the amount of carbohydrates is high.

Different sources of carbohydrates around chalkboard that says "carbohydrates".

You may also be interested in: The Ketogenic Diet: What you Should Know and its Risks

Change diet to improve health

In sedentary people who don’t practice sports regularly, it’s common to find high levels of insulin resistance. For this reason, it’s important to implement a series of strategies that improve metabolic health before considering weight loss diets.

This type of protocol entails restricting carbohydrates and including intermittent fasting. It should also include a strength and high intensity training program, as long as this is possible.

Once your metabolism is healthy, you’ll be able to establish a flexible diet. In this situation, your body will be able to correctly prioritize nutrients when producing energy.

Metabolic flexibility is one of the reasons why it’s more difficult for an obese individual to lose weight than it is for a person accustomed to sports to maintain muscle mass. Reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase exercise to enjoy these benefits.

  • Mattson MP., Longo VD., Harvie M., Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Res Rev, 2017. 39: 46-58.
  • Jelleyman C., Yates T., O’Donovan G., Gray LJ., et al., The effects of high intensity interval training on glucose regulation and insulin resistance: a meta analysis. Obes Rev, 2015. 16 (11): 942-61.
  • León Acuña, A. (2017). Influencia del estado prediabético sobre la flexibilidad metabólica en pacientes con enfermedad cardiovascular establecida.