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metabolism and calories

Blog Forums Raising Metabolism metabolism and calories

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    I was wondering how important calories were to the metabolism of people in the past, as in at least 50 years or more? My idea of history is that most people were always struggling – struggling to get enough food to even live, so did they really get enough calories to have a fast metabolism? Before birth control families were bigger, right? With more mouths to feed, weren’t calories hard to come by for most? I know the paleo community speaks to evolution as the reasoning behind the diet they say is best, but I am coming from a calorie perspective on this instead of a nutrient perspective. I hope this question makes sense!!! I’m just wondering if there is more missing from raising metabolism than getting more calories from instinctive eating.


    Maybe they just ate a lot more fat for calories?
    Good question. Also food was more pure, so nutrition was more absorbable (maybe?).

    I have questions too…like, it doesn’t make sense to me that the best way to raise metabolism is to eat foods that are not healthy (sugar? Refined flour? These inhibit and weaken the immune system in my experience). I wonder if there’s a way to raise metabolism/body temp and keep the immune system intact as well.

    I know eating the calories from only healthy foods is possible…but may be out of my price range.


    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.


    AnnaB, thank you. That was a clear and thorough explanation. It helps a lot.

    I was never low-carb paleo, true paleo ISN’T low carb at all, it’s just no grains. I just ate no processed foods or sugars, no dairy, no legumes, and no PUFAS, and no grains. Veg, including lots of starches, healthy meat, healthy fats, fruit, nuts and seeds. I didn’t have a severe calorie deficit either, probably eating about 2000 cals a day.

    However, I think my metabolism was messed up by previous dieting (1200 cals a day) in various plans, and about 12 years of chronic stress with one event after another happening for a very long time.

    At this point, I am not sure ANY type of food plan will help me reduce until I fix my broken metabolism.

    As for sugar, I’ve read studies and articles (and yes, I get it that anyone can produce any kind of study) showing how sugar and refined flour both weaken the immune system, wreak havoc with gut bacteria balance and that more people get sick more easily with a diet high in sugar. I don’t need to debate it, I may be wrong, maybe it’s just that everyone’s metabolism is low who eats sugar, and that’s why its easier to get sick and the white blood cells are lower…but that’s where I was coming from with my statement. But I understand how it’s maybe more important to eat calories, from whatever source, in order to fix a metabolism.

    Thanks for your response. :)

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