Test Your Metabolism – Are You Burning Lean Muscle or Fat?

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If you are not sure if your metabolism is keeping you in your “fat-burning” zone all day long, here is a simple quick test that will be very revealing and helpful for you. Remember, you can burn calories all day long, and you can rev-up your metabolism but it doesn’t mean you are burning calories from stored body fat.

Questions To Ask Yourself. Do You Currently:

  • Struggle with cravings, low blood sugar or hypoglycemia?
  • Skip meals or breakfast?
  • Get hungry between meals?
  • Eat more than two hours after waking up in the morning?
  • Irritable or moody if meals are delayed?
  • Become sleepy or energized after a meal?
  • Get shaky or light-headed if you don’t eat every couple of hours?
  • Deal with mid-morning or afternoon slumps?
  • Wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep?
  • Drink coffee, soft drinks, or energy drinks to keep you going?
  • Use stimulants such as ephedra, ma huang, guarana, kola, bitter oranges?
  • Regularly eat processed, refined, fast food?
  • Wait more than an hour to eat after a workout?
  • Under lots of stress or adrenal fatigue?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of the above questions, that is a good sign that you are probably burning carbohydrates and protein throughout the day instead of stored body fat. This basically means your metabolism is not working for you, but against you!

The biggest misconception by most people who are trying to lose weight is to assume that every calorie they burn is automatically a calorie from stored body fat. That is not true! Simply burning calories doesn’t guarantee you are burning calories from stored body fat. Millions of people are burning calories all day long, but the big question that they need to be asking is if they are specifically burning calories from stored body fat.

Most people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off are usually burning calories from the breakdown of stored body fat. Those who struggle with their weight, as well as with fatigue, cravings, mood swings, hormonal imbalances or adrenal fatigue are more than likely burning calories from the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins.

The human body burns calories for only one reason, which is to produce energy. It can create energy by burning calories from the breakdown of either carbohydrates, proteins (lean muscle) or fats. The advantage of burning fats over carbs and proteins other than the obvious, is that it gives you more energy.

test-your-metabolismWhen you burn one gram of fat, you produce over two-and-a-half times more energy than you do when you burn one gram of carbohydrate or protein. This is why it is more efficient to burn fats throughout the day than it is to burn carbs and protein. It’s also a major reason why fatigue and weight gain go hand-in-hand since the body is simply burning the wrong fuel.

The body is not designed to store a lot of carbohydrates. It is designed to store fat, which your body should then burn. The key word is “should”. Your body should be burning fats or in the fat burning zone about 23 hours a day. The one thing we don’t want to burn is protein (lean muscle), which happens all too often and one of the biggest reasons why so many women struggle with their weight and cellulite.

Losing weight is not simply about burning more calories than you eat. It’s getting your metabolism to burn calories from the breakdown of fats. As noted before, you can burn calories all day long and rev it up, but unless your metabolism is burning fats, you will always struggle with weight gain, fatigue, cravings, hormonal imbalances, etc.

Roughly 23 hours out of the day you should be burning fats! The goal is to make sure that your metabolism is burning calories from the breakdown of stored body fat. The primary controllers of your metabolism are hormones (guys don’t stop reading since I’m not talking about estrogen or progesterone, I’m talking about the hormones that regulate your metabolism), which are produced in response to diet, exercise and stress.

FYI – Exercise is a form of physical stress, just as worry, fear and anger are mental stresses. The more intense the workout or exercise routine, the more stress it puts on the body and the more cortisol and adrenaline you produce.

Your diet triggers insulin and glucagon. These are two hormones that help regulate your metabolism. Insulin triggers your body to store fats. You produce insulin in response to eating carbohydrates. A high carbohydrate rich meal will trigger a large production of insulin. On the other hand, glucagon triggers your body to burn fats and glucagon is produced in response to eating protein.

Which one of these two hormones does your body produce more of?
As far as stress goes, your adrenal glands produce cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress. These two stress hormones trigger your metabolism to burn carbohydrates and proteins. The continual demand for your adrenal glands to constantly produce more stress hormones will be triggering your metabolism to burn carbs and lean muscle, not stored body fat!

Is there a lot of cortisol and adrenaline racing through your body signaling your metabolism to burn lean muscle and carbs?
FYI – Exercise triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline. It’s important to get your cortisol and adrenaline levels back to normal as quickly as possible after a workout so your body can re-build itself and release its growth hormones and testosterone. If you are still in that “fight or flight” mode for hours after your workout (because of other stresses in your life) your body will stay in that “catabolic” breaking down stage, as opposed to the “anabolic” stage of repair and growth.

When you understand all the different things that regulate your metabolism, you may better understand why so many people hit a plateau. It’s more than just diet and exercise, so don’t just focus on those two things. Stress could be that missing piece of the puzzle, which may explain why all the proper diet and training isn’t getting you the results you are working so hard for.

Don’t just focus on calories, carbs or fat grams. Take a look at those hormones that you produce as a result of your diet and stress in your life. If your diet is the problem, then address it. Are you eating too many of the wrong foods?

If you think stress may be a problem, take the stress test and see if that is what’s slowing down your progress. Remember, stress signals your body that you are in the “fight or flight” mode, which keeps you in that “catabolic” state.

Most people I know don’t have the time, energy or money to waste, so make sure your metabolism is keeping you in the “fat-burning” zone and working in your favor and not against you. You may find that it’s not simply diet and exercise you need to pay attention to, stress could be that missing piece of the weight loss puzzle!

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Dr. Len Lopez

Dr. Len Lopez is a nutrition and fitness expert. An athlete and fitness enthusiasts all his life, his background in sports medicine, nutrition and fitness training gives him insight to help those who are struggling with both their health and fitness levels. See my profile page for more information!

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