Sound familiar? If you’re carrying a few extra pounds it’s tempting to blame a sluggish metabolism. But what is metabolism really?
Metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical reactions in the body. Most of us think of metabolism only as a calorie-burning phenomenon—a body process that relates to thermic efficiency. But this definition alone is inadequate. Relying on it may explain why the approaches to metabolism we’re accustomed to, such as exercise and diets that “kick-start” it, are not effective.
By measuring temperature in the human body we are able to also measure metabolism. The “hotter” we are the more metabolic we are. Body temperature has a rhythm that is predictable and very much in sync with the cosmos. During the overnight and early morning hours, while we sleep our body temperature drops. In our sleep state we are in a state of rest, healing, and repair. We burn calories while we are sleeping, just not as many as we do when we’re awake.
Assuming you don’t consume a large meal before going to sleep, you are in a fasting state overnight. The minute your eyes pop open in the morning, your body temperature begins to rise. You wake up right along with your metabolism. Even if you stayed in bed all day and didn’t move, your temperature and metabolism would still rise because our bodies are programmed to mirror the rhythms of the sun in its apparent daily journey across the sky.
Because the body’s heat naturally rises in the morning, eating at this time is a good idea—you will be providing your body with the nutrients it is ready to process. Adding fuel in the form of food to your body’s furnace will cause its temperature to remain high and even rise higher.
The body’s temperature continues to rise slowly and steadily until it peaks around noon, reaching its apex as the sun attains its highest point in the sky. Our digestive force is the hottest at lunchtime—a scientific fact that reinforces the fact that we have a profound connection to the universe. That’s why it’s smart to honor the natural rhythms of the body and enjoy our largest meal during this window of time.
Between roughly 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. the body’s temperature starts to rise again. It’s no coincidence that, after indulging in a small snack, we begin to feel our energy return and experience a “second wind” after an early-afternoon slump. Most of us have dined by 7:00 P.M. just in time for another downward trend in temperature at around 9:00 p.m., in preparation for falling asleep.
Sleep with Me
Sleep research proves that we cannot fall asleep soundly unless our body temperature is dropping. Because eating raises the body’s temperature, a big meal before bed interferes with a restful sleep.
During the night the body shifts most of its metabolic energy to maintenance, detoxification, repair, and growth of its tissues and organs. When you grow new muscle and bone, you do so during sleep. The liver, the largest organ in the body and a cleansing organ, does most of its work in the late evening and early morning hours.
Here’s a fact that’s essential for you to know about the way the body operates: Short-term survival needs take precedence over long-term needs. So if you eat a large meal before bedtime, the energy needed for detoxification, repair, and maintenance is rerouted to digestion, and you lose all of the important benefits of sleep. Eating too much before bedtime leaves you feel congested and heavy when you wake up in the morning—you didn’t detoxify during the night. Plus, getting fewer than seven hours of sleep increases appetite and the risk of obesity. More specifically, six hours of sleep increases obesity by 23 percent, and five hours of sleep increases obesity by 50 percent.
Eat For Heat
Hunger is, simply stated, a signal from your body’s intelligence center that it wants to eat and is prepared for the proper metabolism of food. Hunger is healthy; ignoring it is not commendable and may create a hypo-metabolic mode (in other words, a lower or slower metabolism). In this mode, brought on by the body’s fear of starvation, our metabolism stores the majority of incoming calories as fat instead of burning them for energy.
A Body in Motion Stays in Motion
Regular exercise and movement are essential to a healthy metabolism, but exhausting and punitive workouts are counterproductive to weight management. Beating the body down with grueling workouts results in a survival mode where fat is stored instead of muscle.
Turn on Your Metabolism
It’s as simple as respecting your natural rhythms—eat as your hunger and satiation guides you. Begin the morning with gentle movement—perhaps salute the sun by stretching and greet the day with a walk outdoors. Enjoy your biggest meal as the sun reaches its high point in the sky. Sleep when you’re tired and awaken realizing that you are a child of the universe—metabolism is the sum of all of creation!