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Nutrients that support metabolism

In the quest for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, one of the most frequently discussed factors is metabolism. Often dubbed the body's internal engine, metabolism encompasses the complex array of biochemical processes that convert food into energy. However, not all metabolisms are created equal, and for some individuals, the rate at which their bodies burn calories may seem sluggish, presenting challenges in weight management.


In my newsletter today, we delve into the intriguing world of metabolism and explore the role of specific nutrients in supporting a healthy metabolic rate. From essential vitamins to amino acids and beyond, we'll uncover the scientific basis behind how these nutrients influence metabolism and discuss practical strategies for incorporating them into your diet.


Understanding Metabolism:


Before delving into the nutrients that support metabolism, it's crucial to grasp the fundamentals of this intricate physiological process. Metabolism is largely set by our basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR represents the energy expended by the body at rest to maintain vital functions such as breathing, circulation, and cell repair. It's influenced by factors including age, sex, thyroid function, leptin, and body composition - muscle, bone, and fat mass. Interestingly, the most important factor is Fat Free Mass (essentially your muscle), which influences 65% of your BMR! (read study here) Additionally, certain health conditions and medications can impact metabolism, leading to variations in energy expenditure.


This is good news because fine tuning exercise and nutrition allow us to build more muscle and break down fat to fuel our BMR. The more our BMR increases, the more efficiently we can access our energy reserves, and the more excess fat (stored energy) we burn.


  • Nutrients and Metabolism:


B Vitamins, Including B12 and B5:


1.     B vitamins are essential cofactors in energy metabolism, facilitating the conversion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into usable energy. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and B5 (pantothenic acid) are particularly important for metabolism.


  • B12 supports the synthesis of red blood cells and aids in the breakdown of fatty acids and amino acids.

  • B5 is involved in the synthesis of coenzyme A (CoA), which is essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

  • CoA is a cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions involved in energy production and fatty acid metabolism.

  • Adequate B5 levels are necessary for efficient energy metabolism and the breakdown of fats for energy.



2.     Amino Acids, such as Methionine, Inositol, and Carnitine:


  • Methionine, an essential amino acid, participates in protein synthesis and serves as a precursor for various compounds involved in metabolism.


  • Carnitine facilitates the transport of fatty acids into the mitochondria, where they are oxidized for energy production. Adequate carnitine levels are essential for efficient fat metabolism and energy production. A review of 37 research studies of carnitine found 2000mg per day produces the maximal effect for most humans (read study here)


  • Inositol plays a role in insulin signaling and lipid metabolism. It influences insulin sensitivity and may help regulate blood sugar levels, thereby supporting metabolic health. In studies of women with PCOS (a particularly challenging diagnosis that is improved with weight loss), inositol was found to be as effective as the medication metformin (read study here)


3.     Minerals, Such as Calcium and Zinc:


  • Minerals play crucial roles as cofactors in enzymatic reactions involved in metabolism. Calcium, and preventing osteoporosis, is critical for metabolism, and zinc’s antioxidant properties preserve metabolism as we age (read more here)


Of course, food patterns matter too. The most important concepts to maintain, or build muscle mass as we are losing fat is to ensure adequate protein. This is easiest to achieve by following a Paleo-Mediterranean pattern, but it can be done in a plant-based diet as well, although this recent study pointed out how difficult it is to rely on lower quality plant-based proteins during weight loss efforts. We’ll delve deep into the diet in a future blog post, or read some vintage posts here!


Optimizing metabolism is a multifaceted endeavor that involves various lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. While individual metabolic rates may vary, incorporating nutrients that support metabolism can have a positive impact on overall metabolic health.


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