Youth is synonymous with a healthy robust metabolism that helps keep us lean, even though we may consume the wrong foods–far too often.
A youthful metabolism also relates to our ability to feel energetic, as opposed to lethargic, the majority of the time. Another wonderful byproduct of all that youthful energy is the fact that our bodies are primed for using our own fat reserves as a main fuel source–24 hours a day.
Unfortunately, many of us lose this metabolic advantage as we age. Along with our declining energy levels comes a dysfunctional metabolism that also increases the size of our 30 to 40 billion fat cells. In other words, age often limits our ability to use body fat for energy. The question is why?
Sending Hormonal Signals
In order for our body’s metabolism to create a favourable chemistry that allows us to draw upon our fat reserves for energy–thereby allowing us to remain lean–we require the aid of specialized fat-burning enzymes. These are largely controlled by a handful of hormones (testosterone, growth hormone, and glucagon) and neurochemicals (epinephrine and norepinephrine).
The problem is we send constant fat-storage signals by eating foods that overstimulate the wrong hormones and blunt the right ones, lowering our overall metabolism.
Our body’s most powerful metabolic hormone, insulin, is a protein-based hormone that is secreted from the pancreas after meals (and also in anticipation of meals, such as when smelling or seeing a food we enjoy). Insulin is responsible for clearing excess sugar from the blood stream. Unfortunately, due to our often high-glycemic (sugar-releasing) dietary intake, we call upon insulin too often with results that can be devastating to our metabolism.
HSL—the Key to Fat Burning
Hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), one of the most important enzymes for reducing our body fat reserves, is responsible for allowing fat to become an energy source for the body. Stanford researchers confirmed the importance of HSL to fat loss when they developed mice that were genetically altered to produce excess HSL; the mice had 70 percent fewer fat cells than normal mice and were practically resistant to weight gain.
Though exercise can help burn body fat, many believe it’s because exercise burns excess calories. The fact is that burning calories doesn’t ensure that we will burn fat! The real magic of exercise lies in its ability to stimulate HSL levels, usually within the first minute of moderate- to high-impact activity.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose excess body fat is overstimulating insulin production by eating too many of the wrong carbohydrates, such as refined sugar, white flour, and cornmeal-based foods. Studies show that people who experience high resting insulin levels–as in those suffering from type 2 diabetes (the majority of whom are obese)–have decreased HSL levels. HSL is further blocked when we consume insufficient quantities of protein, often the case with many diets.
While our youth may be a distant memory, maintaining high levels of fat-burning HSL is an important strategy in maintaining a youthful metabolism.
Getting HSL on Your Side
One of your metabolism’s greatest allies is HSL. Here are a few simple steps to help you keep high levels of HSL on your side.
- Reduce your intake of high-glycemic carbs and increase your intake of high-quality protein (including whey protein shakes) and fibre.
- Perform moderate- to high-impact cardio exercises a few times each week.
- Consume a natural metabolic enhancer–before exercise–such as yerba mat?guarana, and/or green tea extract.