Insights Articles How to Optimize Metabolic Health Through Lifestyle


How to Optimize Metabolic Health Through Lifestyle

The human body is intricately detailed and complex, similar to a car. While many of us don’t comprehend a car’s inner workings, we can sense when something is “off” and impacting optimal functionality. Similarly to a check engine light flipped on, there are many cues the body gives that it’s utilizing food for fuel less than optimally, such as the following: cravings, weight struggles, energy slumps, relentless fatigue, etc. Sadly, many of us have ignored these signals for too long.

The engine of the car is likened to the body’s metabolism. Just as the engine converts fuel into usable energy so the car can operate, being in good metabolic health ensures our body is able to generate and process energy efficiently to sustain life.

What factors determine metabolic health, you may wonder?

Clinically, it hinges on five specific and measurable factors¹:

  1. Abdominal obesity (>40” around waist in men, >35” around waist in women)
  2. Impaired fasted blood sugar (100 mg/dL or higher)
  3. High blood pressure (130/85 mm/Hg or higher on multiple occasions or on medication for high levels)
  4. High triglycerides (type of fat; 150 mg/dL or greater or on medication for high levels)
  5. Low “helpful” cholesterol (HDL) levels (<40 mg/dL for men, <50 mg/dL for women)

According to the recent study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology in July 2022, it’s estimated that only ~7% of adult Americans adults have optimal metabolic health, leaving 93% with markers in unhealthy ranges².

Each marker out of range increases the risk for development of complications like heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, or stroke. Three or more out of range is considered metabolic syndrome. Getting an annual physical exam and bloodwork empowers your healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for metabolic syndrome. The good news is that lifestyle choices highly influence the health of these markers – namely eating a balanced diet and shunning a sedentary existence as two very practical realms to target.

Nutritionally, a balanced diet revolves around diverse, nutrient-rich whole foods while limiting processed items. A simple example of this would be choosing an apple (whole form) as opposed to apple sauce or apple juice, as often as is doable. This is due to the quality of nutrients the whole form contains as opposed to added processing.

When it comes to energy, the body’s preferred fuel source is glucose (think of this like gasoline), which comes from eating carbohydrates (carbs). In simplest terms, when we eat foods containing carbs, our blood sugars rise (as we expect). In those with good metabolic health, the body efficiently takes that glucose and converts it into usable energy and blood sugar levels are returned to normal through a process of hormonal “checks and balances”.

Conversely, poor metabolic health impedes glucose being used for energy efficiently, but rather leaves it in the blood stream, hence the term “high blood sugar”. When levels are high in the moment, you may experience the check engine symptoms listed above. Over time, chronically elevated blood sugar levels can lead to conditions like Type 2 Diabetes. When it comes to managing blood sugar levels – a quick tip you can implement today is the principle of “no naked carbs”.

A sedentary lifestyle can be described as one marked by excessive sitting, lying down, and not engaging intentionally in physical activities that would increase heart rate or test muscle tone. For many Americans, especially depending on time of year and where one lives, this can include commute time to work, working from home sitting in front of a computer for most of the day, television watching, video game playing, etc.

Lack of movement, especially after eating food, can be disadvantageous for metabolic health as it can promote an “insulin resistant” state. Movement, like exercise (as simple as walking at a brisk pace or weight lifting) can promote “insulin sensitivity” which allows the body to utilize the incoming sources of foods more efficiently. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends the American adult to engage in physical activity categorized as moderate-intensity of 150 minutes per week and optimally 2 days of muscle strengthening, also³. This helps not only with metabolic health, but weight maintenance, mood, increasing “helpful” cholesterol (HDL), increasing creativity and promoting longevity, among many other benefits.

No matter where your starting point is, it’s time to get moving!

This introductory overview offers a flyover look into the intricacies of metabolic health, distinguishing between manifestations and potential risks. I hope you are encouraged that lifestyle factors like what you eat (good nutrition) and how much you move (exercise) can greatly reduce your risk for chronic disease, keeping your “engine” operating efficiently. By fostering awareness of the importance of metabolic health, we can be proactive in our approach to reducing risk factors. Time to take a look “under the hood” of your car!

Sarah Rupp
About the Author

Sarah’s lifelong passion for health and wellness began in her early years, learning about nutrition and meal planning alongside her mother. As an athlete, she experienced the direct influence of nutrition on physical…



  1. Ndumele, Chiadi E, MD, MHS. The Metabolic Syndrome. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed 14 March 2024.
  2. O’Hearn, M, Lauren, B, Wong, J. et al. Trends and Disparities in Cardiometabolic Health Among U.S. Adults, 1999-2018. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022 Jul, 80 (2) 138–151.
  3. How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 14 March 2024.,Physical%20Activity%20Guidelines%20for%20Americans.

Healthcare Disclaimer: The contents of this article are meant for educational purposes and not to be misconstrued as medical treatment advice. Please speak with a qualified healthcare provider regarding personalized guidance regarding your specific medical condition before making changes to your unique plan of care.

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