Metabolism—you have likely heard the term countless times in reference to weight management. A quick Google search will reveal a long list of foods, supplements, and workouts intended to “boost” metabolism in the name of weight loss. But an optimal metabolism is not simply helpful for staying trim. It impacts nearly every facet of our health and longevity.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the process by which the body converts the calories in food into energy the body needs. This includes supporting functions like growing and repairing cells, breathing, digesting, circulating blood, and more.
There are numerous factors that influence how well your metabolism functions, including genetics, age, sex, body composition, and lifestyle factors like diet and exercise.
Why it's crucial to understand and optimize your metabolic health
Metabolic health is inextricably linked to healthspan—how long we live in good health without chronic diseases or age-related disorders.
A healthy metabolism means the body is efficiently repairing and renewing cells, absorbing nutrients, and removing wastes. On the flipside, poor metabolic health can inhibit the body’s ability to accomplish these vital functions, thereby promoting inflammation, unfavorable blood levels of glucose and lipids, and other chronic disease risk factors. [1,2]
And here’s a shocking statistic: Only 7% of the U.S. adult population is metabolically healthy.  Those in the 93% are at an increased risk of:
- High blood pressure: Excess weight and inflammation stemming from poor metabolism contribute to high blood pressure.
- Excess weight gain and difficulty losing weight: With a slow metabolism, the body burns calories at a slower rate, making it challenging to lose weight and easy to gain weight, leading to obesity over time.
- Weakened immune system: Poor circulation and nutrient supply to tissues vital for immune defenses hamper the body's ability to fight infections when metabolism is inefficient.
- Hormonal imbalance: Low thyroid hormone, sex hormone imbalances, and impaired growth hormone production can all arise from metabolic problems.
- Difficulty sleeping: Poor metabolic health can lead to hormonal and neurochemical imbalances that can disrupt normal sleep-wake cycles and make quality sleep difficult.
- Fatigue: A slow metabolism means the body is not producing and properly utilizing energy as efficiently, resulting in fatigue.
- Mood swings: An inefficient metabolism can affect energy production and hormone regulation in ways that lead to mood disorders.
- Brain fog or lack of concentration: A slow metabolism affects oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain, impairing cognition, including problems with focus, clarity and memory retrieval.
When these symptoms go unmanaged, they can contribute to a lower quality of life, higher risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and ultimately decreased lifespan.
Tips to optimize your metabolism
Now that it’s clear why optimizing your metabolism matters for your health and longevity, what can you do to make it happen? Conducting a blood test with InsideTracker will show you which biomarkers need improvement and provide personalized recommendations for health habits that are positioned to be most effective for you.
Here are 6 of the top recommendations you may see:
1. Eat beans
Keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check by incorporating a serving of beans (1 cup cooked or canned) into your daily diet. Their high fiber and protein content make beans a low glycemic food, meaning they do not spike blood sugar levels as much as other high-carb foods.  Beans are also an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. 
Try navy beans, pinto beans, and black beans for the highest fiber content.
2. Eat more prebiotic vegetables
Give your metabolic health a boost with prebiotic vegetables. Prebiotics are compounds, often fibers, that serve as food for the beneficial microbes in the digestive tract, providing them with energy and promoting their growth and activity.  Diverse good-for-you bacteria promote a healthy gut, which has been frequently associated with many indicators of a healthy metabolism, including reduced inflammation, stable blood glucose levels, healthier weight, and improved cognition. [7,8]
Vegetables rich in prebiotics include: broccoli, cauliflower, jicama, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onion, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, leek, and shallots.
3. Consider a supplement
There is evidence to suggest that taking certain supplements may promote better blood sugar control, a cornerstone of a healthy metabolism. Here are some examples:
- Fenugreek supplement: Taking a fenugreek extract supplement has been shown to reduce elevated levels of glucose and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), biomarkers of blood sugar control. Fenugreek contains compounds called saponins, which inhibit the enzymes that break down carbohydrates, slowing the release of glucose into the blood. Fenugreek also contains other compounds that reduce the absorption of glucose by the intestine, helping to control blood sugar levels. [9,10]
- Propolis supplement: Research shows that propolis, a substance produced by bees, can lower blood glucose and HbA1c levels in those with elevated levels. Propolis contains bioactive compounds like flavonoids, terpenes, and phenolic acids, which may promote healthy blood glucose management. [11,12]
- Resveratrol supplement: Resveratrol is a type of plant compound called a polyphenol that comes from the skin of red grapes and berries. It acts as an antioxidant and protects the body from damage. Studies suggest that consistent supplementation with resveratrol can reduce fasting blood glucose in those who have elevated levels. 
- Cinnamon supplement: Cinnamon has strong antioxidant properties and may promote healthy blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that daily intake of cinnamon can reduce fasting blood glucose by as much as 10% in those with elevated levels. [14,15]
- Garlic supplement: The compound that gives garlic its distinct taste, alicin, is also the main source of garlic's health benefits. The effects of garlic on blood glucose are the most dramatic for individuals that have high fasting glucose. In two studies, garlic supplementation was added to the medication of type 2 diabetics. The group with the added garlic reduced their fasting blood glucose 10% more than those on medication alone. [16,17]
4. Get more sleep
Adequate sleep is key for metabolic health. Short sleep duration (less than 7 hours of sleep per night) is associated with a reduction in leptin, the hormone that decreases your appetite, and an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that increases your appetite. As a result, prolonged periods of poor sleep may lead to excess calorie intake, weight gain, and elevated levels of fasting blood glucose and HbA1c. [18,19]
5. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule:
Sleep consistency is going to bed and waking up within one hour of your usual bedtime or wake time, respectively. A consistent sleep schedule can promote metabolic health by maintaining circadian rhythms and circadian-regulated hormones such as cortisol, melatonin, leptin, and ghrelin. Research has linked sleep consistency with lower fasting insulin, higher insulin sensitivity, lower HbA1c, and lower prevalence of metabolic disease. [20,21]
6. Add in resistance training:
Building muscle mass through strength training is critically important for blood sugar control. Some experts describe muscle as a “metabolic sink” for blood glucose disposal, as muscle utilizes glucose for energy and stores it in the form of glycogen. In other words, having more muscle increases the body’s capacity to store glucose and lower blood glucose levels. In a meta-analysis studying individuals with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that the effects of exercise were similar to those of dietary, drug and insulin treatments in managing blood sugar of participants. 
What markers can you measure to understand your metabolism?
In addition to measurements like waist circumference and blood pressure, there are a number of blood biomarkers and physiomarkers that provide insight into your metabolism.
- Glucose is the body's primary source of fuel, so this biomarker reflects how well the body is converting food into fuel. Elevated fasting glucose levels can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and metabolic syndrome if left unaddressed. 
- Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is the average amount of glucose in your blood over the last 3-4 months. Elevated HbA1c is associated with elevated fasting blood glucose levels, type 2 diabetes, and impaired metabolism. 
- Insulin helps blood glucose (sugar) enter the body’s cells to be used as fuel or stored as energy. Optimal insulin enhances the body's energy efficiency, aids in weight management, and improves overall metabolic health. 
- Triglycerides are a type of fat found in blood that increase when you eat excess calories and carbohydrates. High triglycerides are linked to metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 
- LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol that builds up in arteries. High LDL levels increase heart disease risk and may reflect poor metabolic health. 
- ApoB is a carrier protein on LDL cholesterol. Higher ApoB levels indicate more LDL particles and an increased risk of heart disease.  ApoB is an essential indicator of heart health.
- HDL cholesterol is the "good" cholesterol that removes cholesterol from the body and reduces the risk of heart disease. 
- Total cholesterol reflects all the cholesterol in your blood, including triglycerides and HDL and LDL cholesterol. Elevated total cholesterol is associated with increased heart disease risk. 
- ALT is an enzyme found in the liver and muscle tissue and helps convert stored glucose into energy. Elevated ALT levels can signify liver damage or injury and are associated with poor metabolic health. 
- TSH: The thyroid supports metabolic health through hormone regulation, weight control, energy levels, and more. High or low thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels indicate an under or overactive thyroid, respectively. Some studies have found high TSH levels are correlated with high blood cholesterol levels. 
- Steps: The number of daily steps you take has been associated with several other markers of metabolic health, including insulin sensitivity, blood cholesterol levels, and body fat. Findings from a systematic review revealed that for every 2,000 steps above a study participant’s baseline daily step count, there was a 29% reduction in their metabolic syndrome score. 
Need a guide on your path to optimal wellness?
Metabolism is critically important to monitor, as it directly impacts your health in numerous ways. The good news is that there are many well-researched markers of metabolic health that you have the ability to modify and improve.
InsideTracker's app and web dashboard provide you with a metabolism score and a custom analysis of the markers that are affecting it. You will receive science-backed nutrition, supplement, exercise, and lifestyle recommendations to improve any biomarkers of metabolic health that aren’t optimal for you. With InsideTracker, you can better understand the state of your metabolic health and get actionable steps to improve it (along with other critical areas of health) for a healthier, longer life.