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Reply To: metabolism and calories

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Hey Sunnydae-
Your question about raising the metabolism using healthy food was a common one on Matt’s blog. You probably know that Matt recently took down his blog, but I’m sure he’ll address the question in a newsletter. But in the meantime, here’s my take on it:
Theoretically someone could increase their metabolism using “healthy” foods. However, people with a less than optimal metabolism have trouble getting nutrients and calories out of foods that are harder to digest. It’s easier for someone with slow digestion and metabolism to digest and use the calories in pancakes and maple syrup, as opposed to the calories and nutrients in red meat and raw greens- the latter meal is just not as digestible- so even though it seems “virtuous” by paleo standards, your body might not be able to use the nutrients in it anyway.
You don’t have to eat candy bars for the next 6 months to raise metabolism, but it’s good to be aware that sometimes for people who have a messed up metabolism (because of life stressors, restricting macronutrients like carbs, or doing low cal dieting) calories can be as important, and sometimes more important, than eating a certain vitamin or amino acid. It’s way easier to get in enough calories with cookies or pancakes than trying to eat cups of greens and parsnips. The veggies just aren’t as palatable, even with a bunch of coconut oil on them. And it’s hard to shove in as many calories in a cup of parsnips as in a cup of pancakes and maple syrup.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the idea of “healthy” food is not static. Depending on your current metabolism, pancakes and syrup may be healthier for you than steak and potatoes. However, in 3 months, perhaps your body will crave/need eggs and potatoes, and at that moment, eggs and potatoes are the “healthy” choice.

I think in another post you mentioned you come from a paleo background. According to paleo, the red meat and greens would always be “healthier” no matter the individual’s specific metabolic state. Using Matt’s ideas, nothing is static. Your body and needs will always change. There are paleo acceptable foods that are easier to digest if you want to take that route (as long as you’re not hooked to the low carb aspect of paleo)— for example, you could cook squash really well and then add maple syrup or honey to it- you don’t necessarily have to eat grains/baked goods if you don’t want to. But grains are convenient and cheaper. Sometimes, convenience can reduce your stress levels, which is also better for the metabolism.

I was low carb paleo and it took a long time for me to accept that eating something that wasn’t “ideal” wouldn’t automatically give me some horrible disease (either today or in 30 years). SO I can understand where you’re coming from.

When you say sugar and refined flour weaken the immune system, what symptoms do you experience specifically when you eat those things? I used to believe the same thing about sugar and flour and I don’t find it to be true for me anymore (though I am still gluten free… perhaps one day I will be brave enough to try it again). For example, do you feel tired after eating a carby, sugary meal? It is natural to think that such a response means the carbs and sugar are bad for you- but it could mean that the meal actually lowered your stress hormones, and now your body can rest and heal, which is why you feel tired. I’m not saying (and I don’t think Matt would either) that you should only eat flour and sugar all day and if you do, you’ll feel great. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include those foods in your food repertoire as easy, tasty, digestible calories.