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The Hunter Gatherer’s Racing Metabolism

The subject of personal metabolism seems to be a constant dialogue in weight loss-forums. Over-the-counter pills proclaim they’ll easily “rev” your metabolism, allowing you to shed the weight without a single minute of exercise. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Revving this interior motor, this thing that seems to keep us waiting. “Come ON, metabolism. Let’s go already!” We call.



But what, exactly, is metabolism? Essentially, metabolism is the energy your body requires in order to maintain its energy and stay alive. The body must continually break down nutrients from your food into their necessary particles during a process called catabolism; it must further utilize these nutrient particles to re-generate itself through a process called anabolism. The marriage of catabolism and anabolism is known as metabolism.

Metabolism encompasses the following three arenas of bodily energy utilization:

1. Resting Metabolism Rate, or RMR, is the energy your body requires to keep your lungs, heart, and greater body chugging along.

2. Activity-Time Thermogenesis is the energy your body requires in order to do anything at all beyond your interior functions. This means you’re utilizing this type of metabolism when you walk, run, jump, and even chew. This activity-time thermogenesis is what you try to alter when you exercise.

3. Diet-Time Thermogenesis is the energy your body requires to break all nutrients down and actively absorb them into your system.

Generally speaking the RMR burns the most number of calories, around sixty to seventy-five percent, while the activity-time thermogenesis burns about twenty to thirty percent of your daily calories. Food digestion and absorption generally takes up about ten percent of your calories. Therefore, for every meal you eat, your body requires about ten percent of those calories just to digest the food and utilize the food’s nutrients.

But how does your metabolism rev up on the Paleo diet? Did the Hunter-Gatherer truly have a better metabolism than we high-carbohydrate, low-fat dieters do today?

Modern-day weight loss principles assert that we must take in fewer calories than we expend. Therefore, if you simply eat less food and exercise more, providing your interior organs with enough good sustenance, you’ll ultimately lose exterior weight. Right? This conventional wisdom fuels us directly to low-fat, plant-based, and high-carbohydrate diets. This is because one gram of carbohydrates contains only four calories, while one gram of fat contains a full nine calories. Based on this knowledge alone, we should all be eating piles of rice with every meal instead of fat-rich steaks. Pass the baked potato, am I right?  

Not all calories are equal, however, bringing us finally to understand the greater metabolizing abilities of the ancient hunter-gatherer. The hunter-gatherer thrived on fats and proteins. Protein, an essential component in his frequently hunted game, has about two to three times a greater thermic effect than carbohydrates. That means that when you digest protein, you expend about two to three times the number of calories to break down the nutrients into their essential parts than the average carbohydrate particles.

Furthermore, the hunter-gatherer didn’t eat all the time, realizing a natural element of something many Paleo-diet-proponents proclaim: intermittent fasting. These hunter-gatherers thrived on an irregular meal schedule in which they ate when they had food, rather than in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the nighttime in a specific schedule. In fact, this natural skip-time gave them health benefits and ready weight loss.

Note that this fasting is on-purpose and does not promote the utilization of eating disorders or crash diets. Instead, this on-purpose “fasting” is usually taken on for various intervals. Some people look to 24 hours of complete fasting per week, while others simply initiate four to eight hours of fasting. During this time, they are able to get their work done without fixating on certain foods. All foods are simply off-limits. This is especially helpful, some report, when on the calorie-counting lifestyle. Your fixation on food is simply non-existent during, say, the hours between eight and two in the afternoon. Deal with it, stress cravings. We aren’t eating right now.

Furthermore, this intermittent fasting revs the metabolism because fasting automatically decreases the body’s insulin levels. Insulin, covered in greater detail in a later chapter, generally prevents the release of your body’s already stored bodily fats. Therefore, when your bloodstream insulin levels decrease, your body is able to look to stored fats for energy, thus depleting your visceral and subcutaneous fats. Note: visceral fats are the fats between your organs—your super-dangerous fats—while subcutaneous fats exist on the exterior of your body, just beneath your skin.
Fasting super-charges a hormone called catecholamine, which activates your body to utilize its stored energy at a rapid rate. Therefore, the energy you’ve already stored up will leave you quickly, promoting rapid fat loss. All aboard the fat-leaving train.

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