Metabolic Insight Series
Part 5 - You're Being Used
Optimizing the Using Side of Your Metabolism
In the previous session I highlighted the fact that what accelerates our passage through the Metabolic Continuum leading to disease and death is more Using than Building. So, the “long and healthy life” goal is achieved by ensuring that, to the extent possible, and for as long as possible, Building can keep pace with Using.
Therefore, the clear strategy for achieving this goal is to modify your daily habits to:
- Maximize Building and
- Optimize Using
We’re going to talk about how to maximize Building in our next session. Right now, we’re going to focus on how to Optimize Using by minimizing what we call “excessive Using.” There is actually a double benefit to doing so.
The obvious benefit is, the less you Use, the less you need to Build.
The less obvious benefit has to do with the fact that Using thwarts Building.
Remember? The “loudest” hormones call the tune?
Therefore, by minimizing Using and, thus, keeping your Using Hormone levels lower, not only do you Use less, you also increase the opportunities for Building to occur.
As we discussed in Part 1, Using is like spending money. By minimizing Using we make it easier to balance our metabolic budget. Figuring out how to optimize Using by minimizing excessive Using requires a basic understanding of how Using occurs – what causes it, increases it, and decreases it.
So, let’s talk about the Using side of your metabolism
The Using Side of Metabolism – Much Ado About Everything
The Using Side is what keeps you alive and active. It connects your brain with all of the organ systems and glands of your body and enables and coordinates their functioning. It involves, literally, every biochemical, cell, and organ system in your body and includes the adrenal glands and the various nervous systems.
The Using Side is “on” every second of every minute of every day. It is essential to life; if it fails, you die instantly.
In metabolic terms, there are four types of Using:
Though at a minimal level, all of your body’s essential maintenance functions – just keeping the lights on – depletes your functional and energy biochemicals and cause some amount of cellular wear and tear.
Thinking, talking, walking, literally everything you do each day constitutes Using. Of course, the rate of Using depends on the amount, duration, and strenuousness of your activities. Running causes more Using than walking. Talking loudly causes more Using than speaking normally. But, to some degree, everything we do results in Using above and beyond the baseline Using required for Maintenance.
Poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, dehydration, inappropriate exercise, and the consumption of or exposure to foreign chemicals trigger the release of greater amounts of the Using Hormones and, therefore, cause excessive Using.
Mental and Emotional Stresses
Mental and emotional stresses include being startled or scared by someth ing, worrying, being frustrated or angry, feeling anxious or depressed, being in a hurry, feeling overwhelmed, and being what we generally think of as “stressed.” All Mental and Emotional Stresses cause Excessive Using.
Balancing the Budget
As we have discussed, in the quest to enable Building to keep up with Using, part of the strategy is to optimize Using – to use only as much as is necessary and beneficial for both life and quality of life.
To this end, clearly, cutting back on Maintenance Using isn’t an option.
What about Daily Activity? To be clear, we don’t believe that the way to reduce Using is to sit in a rocking chair on the porch. Unless you have a very damaged metabolism or you are not giving yourself enough time each day to take care of yourself, that is, to eat, sleep, and relax, curtailing your Daily Activity should not be necessary.
For almost everyone, the real gains in optimizing Using are made by focusing on Bad Habits and Mental and Emotional Stresses – the two main sources of Excessive Using. Let’s start with Habits.
Without going too deeply into the physiology, I want to explain why and how it is that certain Habits cause Excessive Using.
Always remember that your body’s number one job is survival and that its top priority is keeping your brain supplied with glucose – essentially, sugar. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates or you eat too much protein, and/or when you delay or skip meals (like not eating breakfast soon enough), your body goes on alert because it senses there’s not enough sugar floating around in your bloodstream to feed your brain.
When blood sugar levels start to drop, your body responds by, first, breaking down the glycogen stored in your liver and turning it into glucose. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose. When it runs out of glycogen, then your body resorts to converting proteins into sugar. It converts the protein from food first, but if none is available, it breaks down your body’s tissues (think muscle and bone, etc.) in order to turn those proteins into glucose.
All such breaking down is a Using process. And, of course, everything you break down, has to be replaced. Poor Nutrition Habits increase Using and the need to restoratively Build.
Insufficient quality sleep increases Using in two ways. The obvious way is that, while Using occurs to a limited extent when you are asleep, you definitely Use a whole lot more when you are awake and active.
The less obvious way is, when you have not slept well you start and spend your day with significantly higher levels of Using Hormones in play, which causes Excessive Using. This is what sleep deprived people are referring to when they say they are “running on adrenaline.”
All foreign chemicals cause Excessive Using.
Nicotine and caffeine increase Using by keeping adrenaline and noradrenaline effects higher for a longer period of time.
Alcohol increases cortisol levels.
Eating refined sugar increases the levels of all three of these hormones.
When you have the inevitable immune reactions to foods that contain additives, preservatives, etc., or you are exposed to environmental toxins, you also elevate all three of these Using hormones.
Exercise is pure Using. Obviously it depletes your energy stores. It also wears down your muscle and other lean body tissue. And, of course, if you exercise without having slept and eaten well, you really “amp up” Using. Unless the exercise you do stimulates Building beyond whatever Using occurred, it is Excessive Using.
So that ‘s the executive summary on how certain of our Habits drive Excessive Using. Now let’s consider how mental and emotional stresses do the same thing.
Mental and Emotional Stresses
For the vast majority of people in today’s culture, Mental and Emotional Stresses cause a substantial amount of their total daily Using. To understand why this is so, let’s consider the effects of the body’s stress response, starting with the extreme – the fight/flight response.
When we are threatened or even just startled, our body responds with a single-pointed focus on survival.
To prepare us to either fight or flee, our heart rate increases, as does the rate at which we breathe.
Peripheral arteries constrict to increase blood pressure, and muscles tighten. To fuel the fight/flight response, large amounts of glucose and fats are released into the bloodstream.
As well, in anticipation of possible injury, the body prepares to mount an inflammatory response and to increase blood clotting.
In addition to increasing or heightening certain responses, the body also curtails or “down-regulates” some functions that are not essential to immediate survival. Examples are digestion and reproduction.
Of course, this is how the body responds to potentially life-threatening, immediate danger.
How is its response to less extreme circumstances – to being frustrated, angry, or anxious, or to being busy and in a hurry – different? It isn’t different. It’s the same response, although to a lesser degree, BUT, typically, for a much longer time.
Keep in mind that the fight/flight response is engineered to occur only briefly, until the immediate threat is killed, thwarted, or eluded, and is not intended for daily living. In addition to causing Excessive Using and thwarting Building, living constantly in this lower-level fight/flight condition causes numerous health symptoms, damages your cells, accelerates metabolic aging, and invites degenerative disease.
Using Begets Using
Of course, if you combine mental and emotional stress with poor habits, you are simply compounding the amount of Using that’s happening. Under these circumstances there is no way that Restorative Building could ever keep pace with Using.
In fact, Using activities often result in a domino effect causing even more Using activities. If you are constantly busy, you may feel overwhelmed, skip meals, sleep poorly, and “self-medicate” with foreign chemicals. All of these factors will feedback on themselves, making you feel even more stressed, resulting in a vicious downward spiral.
At the end of the day (literally), what matters is how much you Use, and therefore how much you now must Restoratively Build.
As with money, spend wisely. Avoid Excessive Using by improving your Habits and paying serious attention to keeping psychological stresses in check. Doing so is one of the most beneficial things you can do to protect your health, extend your life, improve the quality of your life, and avoid degenerative disease, essentially, metabolic bankruptcy!
Now, with the Using side of the equation in perspective, in our next session, we’re going to focus on the Building Side of your metabolism.