Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Your Metabolism and You- Part Two

April 8, 2009

Dr. Steven Horvitz- Reading between the Lines:
Bringing you healthcare information you can trust!

Your Metabolism and You- Part Two

As mentioned in my previous newsletter, You and Your Metabolism - Part One, your weight is a result of a balance between anabolism-the storing of energy, and catabolism- the burning of energy. If you are overweight you tend to store more energy than you burn. If you are underweight, you tend to burn more energy than you store. During your yearly wellness exam, I take the time to review your diet and food choices. It also tends to be the time when my patient's eye contact starts drifting away. But back to your metabolism. The most common discussion if you are overweight is about becoming more of a burner than a storer of energy. While we all know that exercise increases the burning of energy, all the exercise in the world will not make you lose a whole lot of weight if you still store too much energy as fat. So how can you tip the balance towards becoming a burner as opposed to a storer?

Let me explain by bringing insulin into the equation via carbohydrates and sugar.

When you eat carbohydrates, and that includes both simple and complex carbohydrates, they are digested and broken down into glucose which enters your bloodstream. Elevated concentrations of glucose in blood stimulate the release of insulin, and insulin acts on cells thoughout your body to stimulate uptake, utilization and storage of glucose. When glucose is overabundant, it gets converted into triglycerides and stored as fat.

See the diagram below:

Excess carbohydrates---> increased glucose (sugar) ---> increased insulin---> increased storage of fat ---> increase in bad cholesterol ---> increase in weight.

So if you want to lose weight, and have that weight loss come from loss of fat, then by decreasing your carbohydrates the following occurs:

Low carbohydrates---> normal glucose---> normal to low insulin---> decrease in storage of fat---> decrease in bad cholesterol --->burning of fat for energy--->decrease in weight.

Let us look at this another way. When we need energy to burn, our body first uses glycogen (liver glucose store), followed by glucose available from our bloodstream. When these are used up, the next most available energy source is from our fat cells. So if we keep our carbohydrates low, thereby lowering the amount of glucose available for use, our bodies become better at burning our fat cells for fuel. Our metabolism shifts to burning more fat than we store, and weight loss comes predominantly from our fat stores. In men this is usually a decrease of weight around the abdomen. In women the weight loss occurs from the hip, legs and buttocks.

Now, if we want to build muscle, insulin as an anabolic hormone helps. When we eat abundant protein, this is digested into amino acids. Insulin acts upon the amino acids to form proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. To increase your muscle tone, start a good exercise program, to stimulate insulin to build muscle. This is why body builders can eat a whole lot of calories, put on a lot of muscle, but keep their body fat low. This is opposite to sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers eat a high carbohydrate diet, thereby increasing their fat storage, and thus increasing their weight.

So take your pick.

Low carbohydrate diet with moderate exercise:


High carbohydrate with minimal exercise:

Any questions???

If you have any suggestions about topics for future newsletters, or how to make the newsletter better, please send me an email at

To Good Health!!

Steven Horvitz, D.O.
Board Certified Family Medicine
Founder of The Institute for Medical Wellness
128 Borton Landing Road, Suite Two
Moorestown, NJ 08057
Phone: 856-231-0590
Fax: 856-294-0311

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