There’s been a lot of buzz about the new Pro-Metabolic diet over the last couple of years. I get a lot of questions about if it’s a good idea for the thyroid, weight loss and hormone balance, so I’m answering some of those questions for you today. Let’s dive in!
What is the pro-metabolic diet?
The pro-metabolic diet is a style or pattern of eating where the goal is to increase your metabolism or metabolic rate.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism refers to the chemical reactions that occur in the body’s cells, including those which change food into energy.
We all tend to think about weight loss when we hear the word metabolism. But the word metabolism is actually derived from the Greek word metabolē, meaning “to change.”
It is about much more than food and weight – it comprises the total of all chemical reactions that take place in the cell that are essential for life.
The speed of your metabolism represents how many calories your body burns within a set amount of time. Calories are simply a measure of the energy contained within that particular food.
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the baseline amount of energy needed to keep your body functioning at rest.
What are examples of things that regulate and affects metabolism?
- The endocrine system
- Body size, particularly muscle mass
- The weather
- Blood sugar balance
- Liver function
What are some of the main principles of the metabolic diet?
1. Eating within an hour of waking
2. Avoid caffeine on an empty stomach
3. Eat every 2-3 hours
4. Enjoy saturated fats and avoid consuming too many PUFAs (some recommend avoiding all PUFAs)
5. Avoid refined grains
6. Enjoy dairy, if tolerated
7. Pair carbs with protein at every meal and don’t overdo fats
8. ‘Food first’ approach and supplement only if/as necessary
9. Replenish minerals with food and/or mineral drops
10. Carbohydrates and sugar are to be eaten regularly throughout the day to provide the body with plenty of glucose
There are a few different versions of the metabolic diet. Some stick to a strict 28-day cycle, often separated into three phases, where both carbohydrates and fats are consumed to a greater or lesser degree according to each phase.
Other versions include categorizing people according to their metabolic “type” and how fast or slow they burn calories. Once a person has been categorized according to “dominant protein” or “dominant carb” type, they eat according to that category. This might mean restricting fat or going heavier or lighter on carbohydrates.
Pros and cons of metabolic diet?
While I like how the pro-metabolic diet encourages eating real foods, in stating “the body’s main source of fuel is glucose,” followers of the metabolic diet can easily fall into eating and drinking too many blood sugar-spiking foods and drinks.
While glucose is an important source of fuel, the body also desperately needs fats and amino acids for energy and to be optimally healthy, particularly when it comes to hormone health.
What about the adrenal cocktail I hear so much about?
Many who subscribe to the metabolic diet are advocates of the recently-popularized adrenal cocktail. The adrenal cocktail looks a little different according to who you ask, but it often looks like mixing together a few of the following: coconut water, lemon juice, orange juice, cream of tartar, sea salt, and magnesium powder.
Those who promote the adrenal cocktail often suggest drinking it early in the afternoon when energy dips. I find this simply provides the body with a rush of sugar that creates a spike in both energy and blood sugar, but it then typically leads to a crash, followed by more cravings and negative symptoms.
One cup of orange juice alone contains over 20 grams of sugar. Many who have adrenal imbalance also suffer from blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalance, and liver congestion. I’ve found when working with clients that this much sugar at one time, especially when consumed on its own, only exacerbates their symptoms.
The only reason I would recommend the cocktail to a client for a short period of time is if they were somewhere near stage 4 of adrenal imbalance (aka HPA-axis imbalance, adrenal fatigue, or GAS) and only for about 2-3 weeks while we are taking other steps to work on the root issues.
If you love the taste and want to enjoy a glass on occasion, do so at the end of a well balanced meal and not on an empty stomach. However, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to be drinking it daily.
I would suggest the following steps as an initial alternative to heal the adrenals:
Consume healthy complex carbs at each meal (which are lower in sugar and more nutrient-dense)
Plenty of healthy fats
Good quality sea salt for additional minerals
Appropriate whole food supplements
LOTS of sleep, including steps to balance the circadian rhythm
I wish a simple drink would be all that you need to balance the HPA-axis, but it definitely takes more than this!
What is an appropriate “pick me up” between meals if not the adrenal cocktail?
If someone is just beginning to balance hormones and blood sugar, then I recommend eating within an hour of waking, and then a small protein/fat snack in between breakfast and lunch and then another protein/fat snack between lunch and dinner for a month or so. This will help balance blood sugar so that eventually you won’t experience an afternoon slump.
Some examples of a good protein/fat snack are: a hard boiled egg, a piece of raw cheese, a spoonful of almond butter, a chompstick, etc.
I’ve also found many clients have had great success using my buttermints as a “tool” to steady their glucose levels, curb cravings and eliminate constant snacking.
After symptoms begin to improve, it’s beneficial to shift over to only eating 3 meals a day. The body needs time in between meals to rest and expend energy elsewhere than digestion. When we eat, the body makes digestion the main priority. During stretches when we’re not consuming food – especially after dinner and until breakfast – the body uses this time to rest, detox, repair, heal, etc.
I’ve also found that Drenamin can be a helpful supplement to take at meals to support the adrenals throughout the day.
What is an appropriate way to consume minerals if not the adrenal cocktail?
We can get plenty of necessary minerals from a high quality sea salt, a nutrient-dense diet and by eating slowly. Slow eating allows for proper stomach acid production and digestion of food.
Mineral drops are great, but not really necessary. If you really feel like you need some additional minerals, Quinton Isotonic can be a good choice.
My experience when working with clients who have been on the Metabolic Diet:
I’ve worked with many women who were eating according to the Metabolic Diet. I found that many of these women were eating too much sugar along with drinking a daily adrenal cocktail, and they were not seeing desired results in hormonal balance, adrenal improvement, insomnia, thyroid health, weight loss and more.
When I switched these women off from eating all the sugars and the carb-rich snacks, they saw great improvement in their symptoms within a few days to a few weeks. These symptoms have included things such as: better sleep, more energy, less painful periods, less mood swings, blood sugar balance, weight loss, less brain fog, etc.
What type of diet do I promote?
I strongly advise my clients to eat real, whole, unprocessed foods. This doesn’t necessarily fall into a diet “box” such as keto, paleo or pro-metabolic. I like to stay away from absolute restrictions and labeling.
My goal as a functional nutritionist is to encourage my clients to fill their plates with foods that nourish. This includes high quality amino acids from clean proteins, nourishing fatty acids from healthy fats, slow-digesting complex carbs, raw and cultured dairy, fermented foods, and healing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Bone broth, fatty fish, raw or cultured dairy, pastured and organically raised meats, and fermented foods should make up a large majority of the diet. Refined sugars, lots of juices, processed foods, as well as highly inflammatory vegetable and seed oils are not found in a traditional, nutrient-dense diet.
If you’d like more information on exactly what a nutrient-dense, real and whole food diet looks like, check out my article here – What is a Nutrient Dense Diet?
While I’m not a fan of strict Metabolic Diet style eating, I think the diet has a lot of redeeming qualities. I encourage you to take the best aspects of this diet and be willing to leave behind some of the constraints or pillars of this diet that do not serve your health.
As always, there’s no need to fit your eating into a box!
For more articles that you might find useful, particularly if you’re interested in the Metabolic Diet, check these out: