Ultimate Guide to Metabolic Health and Well-being

By Align/WELL

May 22, 2024

Metabolic Health


  •  Discover the 24/7 process that shapes weight, cognition, and overall health, beyond the basics.
  • Uncover how metabolic health influences memory, fertility, and mental well-being, going far beyond weight management.
  • Learn the five crucial markers that warn of poor metabolic health and the three indicating metabolic syndrome.
  • Explore alarming statistics—88% of Americans face metabolic issues, and 37% are at risk of metabolic syndrome.
  • Dive into actionable steps to control blood sugar, embrace the five wellness pillars, and optimize your lifestyle for long-term metabolic health.

How to boost your metabolism and enhance overall well-being.

Metabolism is a hot topic in the wellness world, often coming up in conversation when we talk about overall health, weight, and nutrition. We refer to it as low, high, slow, and fast — but what does this all mean? And how does it affect our overall health?

Metabolism is a complicated chemical process, so it’s hardly surprising that we tend to simplify its definition as a bodily function that influences how easily we gain or lose weight. The reality is that it is running 24/7 to keep us alive, converting whatever we consume into the energy we need to breathe, move, think, and even sleep.

This ability to convert energy happens in every single cell of the body. For example, if energy production in the brain is hindered, we might experience memory loss. Or if this happens in the muscles, we may suffer from chronic pain. This highlights that the importance of good metabolic health isn’t limited to just gaining or losing weight.

How Do You Know if You’re Metabolically Healthy?

People often deem a “sluggish” metabolism as the culprit for weight gain and obesity, but did you know that poor metabolic health even affects lean individuals?

A suboptimal metabolism manifests itself in ways that go far beyond the size of your waistband, ranging from cognition issues and low energy levels to infertility, back pain, and depression. If left untreated, you risk developing metabolic syndrome.

You might be wondering, “what is metabolic syndrome?”, as this term isn’t as well-known as conditions like obesity and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that actually puts you at greater risk of developing obesity and diabetes, as well as heart disease, stroke, and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.

Despite these alarming facts, a staggering 88% of Americans are considered metabolically unhealthy and an estimated 37% of them suffer from metabolic syndrome. The Standard American Diet (SAD) combined with a lack of awareness of metabolic health could be the culprits for these elevated figures.

Do you form part of this large proportion of metabolically unhealthy adults? Let’s look at the 5 markers of metabolic syndrome to find out…

The 5 Markers of Metabolic Syndrome

No longer an effective way to measure health, body mass index (BMI) is inaccurate and outdated. On the other hand, the 5 markers of metabolic syndrome are a more productive way to determine the overall health of an individual.

You are considered to have poor metabolic health if 1 of the following factors applies to you and diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you can tick 3 of the below boxes:

  1. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels
  2. Extended Waist Circumference
  3. Raised Blood Pressure
  4. High Cholesterol
  5. Excess of Triglycerides

After looking at these markers, did you make it into the 12% of Americans that are metabolically healthy? If you didn’t, don’t fear — all is not lost. While it’s best to prevent the disease in the first place, you can also reverse metabolic syndrome.

Controlling Your Blood Sugar Levels Is a Good Start

There are copious amounts of sugar in the SAD, which may explain why so many of us are metabolically unhealthy. When we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels rise and the pancreas releases insulin to transfer the glucose from the blood to the cells.

While this is a normal bodily function, if the body is repeatedly loaded with sugar, it signals the pancreas to churn out increasingly higher levels of insulin and eventually the cells become less responsive — this is when insulin resistance occurs.

Excess insulin tells the liver and muscles to store sugar, but when they’re full, the sugar is set to the fat cells to be stored as body fat. This leads to weight gain (often around the belly and waist), as well as elevated blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

Once this cycle begins it’s easy to start ticking off almost all of the markers of metabolic syndrome. Unfortunately, there is no test for insulin resistance and most people don’t know they have it until they are already at the prediabetes stage.

Other Ways To Prevent (Or Reverse) Metabolic Syndrome

When it comes to boosting metabolism, we are told to chug gallons of water or eat spicy foods in order to “speed it up.” But these quick fixes only offer temporary effects, and we must look after all aspects of wellness to improve long-term metabolic health.

Drawing on the 5 Pillars of Wellness (movement, nutrition, mindset, environment, sleep), here are effective, science-backed ways to work on your metabolism:

1. Be More Active

Physical activity boosts metabolic function and makes you more sensitive to insulin; one of the reasons why it’s the cornerstone of diabetes management.

2. Improve Your Diet

Diet isn’t one-size-fits-all. But as a general rule, try to stay away from unhealthy fats, liquid sugars, processed grains, and refined carbohydrates.

3. Reduce Stress

Stress stimulates the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands. This often leads to an increase in appetite and a desire to consume sugary, salty, or fatty foods.

4. Spend Time in Nature

Mother Nature is extremely healing, not just for our mental health. Spending time in nature improves physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate.

5. Optimize Sleep

The foundation of health, sleep regulates your cortisol levels which helps prevent you from making unhealthy food choices as a response to stress or fatigue.

By focusing on these areas of your health, you should be well on your way to a thriving metabolism which not only enhances your current state of health but also helps you ward off diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke in the future.

You may also like: