Health and fitness can be confusing, can't it? I mean how do you make sense of all the noise out in the blogosphere, online and in the news?
First, fat is bad. And, these days, everyone is acting as if butter and bacon are the cure-all for everything? We've "known" for years that carbs will kill you; but now, carbs, as well as gluten, fructose and other "toxins" are ripping apart your insides without you even being aware?
As a follower of Metabolic Effect, you have been learning that this idea, that there is only one way to be healthy, is really a flawed philosophy. There is really no such thing as bad foods or good foods. There are only the foods that work for you, and the ones that don't.
It is really all about finding what works for you. Admittedly, this concept can be unsettling for many people. It is human nature to crave certainty. We love rules and feel secure when there is a clear, black and white, distinction between things.
Unfortunately, nothing about the way the body works is simplistic or black and white. Instead, it is all shades of gray.
There are three ways you can make sense of the gray. There are three ways to know that what you are doing is working to better your health, fitness, and body shape or not.
HEC is an acronym for hunger, energy and cravings. These sensations are biofeedback to you that your metabolism is in a balanced state. Most diets teach one-size-fits-all restrictive rules. Instead of helping you learn about your unique metabolic expression, these diet approaches work against your physiology making it virtually impossible to succeed because they keep HEC out of check. A plan that works is one that keeps your HEC in check.
Losing fat is a little different from weight loss. Fat loss means you are losing fat and keeping muscle. Instead of going from a large apple or pear shape to a smaller, more mushy, apple or pear shape, you are able to morph into a tighter, more fit, hourglass or V-shape. If you accomplish this, and keep HEC in check, you know you can make it last. Our online body fat and shape calculator can help with this assessment. See it HERE.
It is great to feel and look good, but the right approach will also improve your health. You will know when you have achieved this through looking at blood labs. While most of the labs you should pay attention to are done by your physician, there are a few you may want to request.
The chemistry panel and lipids cover the basics. This will give you a good idea of the way your body is processing and burning fat (triglycerides) and sugar (fasting glucose). It also gives you a good idea of how your liver and kidney are functioning.
The CBC rules out many things, but most importantly, it can give you a good indication of several different nutrient concerns including iron and the b-vitamins.
The vitamin D (25-Hydroxy Vitamin D) test is one I see as critical. Optimal levels are between 50-100 ng/ml and very few people achieve these levels. We now know that vitamin D is more than a vitamin but actually a vital hormone. It influences the function of other hormones as well, most notably thyroid and insulin.
hsCRP (high sensitivity C-reactive protein) is a measure of inflammation. hsCRP levels should be as low as possible. Understanding these levels helps you understand your risk of heart disease among other things. Optimal is < 1, but lower is better.
Hemoglobin A1c tells you about how your blood sugar levels have been the previous three months. Maintaining appropriate blood sugar is a critical step for health and fat loss. Optimal levels are between 4.3 to 4.8% without symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Homocysteine is a compound that does damage to tissues in the body including the lining of blood vessels. When high it indicates a need for the b-vitamins folate and b12. Optimal is < 7.
Insulin is a major fat storing hormone. When out of control, and too high, it increases the risk for many diseases. Knowing your levels is very important. Optimal levels < 3.
TSH or thyroid stimulating hormone is a screening test for thyroid. When high, it indicates a slow metabolism and possibly hypothyroid condition. This is important to know, because thyroid issues, even minor ones, can slow or halt weight loss and increase risk of disease. Optimal levels are between 2 & 4. More detailed info on TSH and thyroid labs HERE.
The 24 hour cortisol test can tell you how your body is dealing with stress throughout the day. A normal cortisol rhythm starts off high and ends low. Many people have the exact opposite situation, therefore, showing that stress is having a negative impact on their health and metabolism. At the Metabolic Effect clinic we use a test called the Adrenal Stress Index or ASI.
I share this with you so you can make sure you understand exactly what is required to assess your health and fitness.
If you need help with lab testing let us know. We can help facilitate testing.
I hope this was helpful. If you need assistance getting blood labs done, we use www.directlabs.com. This is a straight-to-the-consumer lab service our clinic works with to help patients order labs without needing their doctors.