This Is What A Personalized Metabolism Diet Looks Like
The concept of eating for my unique metabolism has fascinated me for years. Could I really just eat the "right" foods at the "right" time for my specific body—and then effortlessly maintain my ideal weight and energy levels?
My interest was further sparked by the launch of mindbodygreen's Boost Your Metabolism class with nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin. But I still had questions: Is it worth it to get your metabolism tested? What would a diet personalized to MY metabolism actually look like?
As the health editor at mindbodygreen, I've experimented with a lot of different diets and nutrition plans—including a five-day fasting mimicking diet, eating for my gut health, and going dairy-free to help with my asthma. So I tracked down nutritionist and metabolism expert Kevin Libby, who's practice PH2 Nutrition is located in Santa Monica, California. I won't name any names, but let's just say he's a favorite of top athletes, models, and celebs for his uncanny ability to create both super-simple and amazingly effective personalized nutrition protocols—whether the goal be training for the Olympics, losing 5 pounds, preparing for a movie role, or reversing type 2 diabetes.
Before I jump in, I think it's worth mentioning that, while the concept of losing a few pounds is't unattractive to me, it wasn't the primary motivation for this story. I was more interested in understanding my unique metabolism—which I was convinced was slower than average, as I feel like I have to work harder than my friends to maintain my weight—and feeling more energized. In general, I'm happy with the way my body looks and feels; I love the gym, sleep like a rock, control my stress levels relatively well with meditation and exercise, and—barring a few cocktails and a cheeseburger here and there—have always naturally gravitated toward healthy foods.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what he would change about my current diet (I thought it was pretty good). Well, as it turned out, he wanted to change a LOT.
During my first metabolism consult, a few things really surprised me.
Prior to our initial consult—which lasted 90 minutes—I got some standard blood work done to look for nutrient deficiencies and took a test to assess my resting metabolic rate (aka, how many calories I burn each day just by living and breathing). Despite me being convinced that my metabolism was slow, my basal metabolic rate was slightly above average, so it was decided that I didn't have a slow metabolism at all.
During the initial consult, I was shocked by a few things. First, Libby pegged my metabolic type right away and also suspected that despite my best efforts to be calm, cool, and collected, stress played a role in my health and weight management. Apparently, I'm a "hypersensitive" type, which means that calorie restriction for weight loss will never work for me. This really hit home since, admittedly, I've attempted the "eat fewer calories and do a ton of cardio" diet plan a few times in my life and have had zero success. According to Libby, this would just trigger my body to hold on to fat.
Instead, the key to my success would be "consistent energy patterning," which basically means eating the same ratio of macronutrients for each meal every day and always increasing my calorie intake (by 10 calories for every minute of exercise) on workout days. This was all new to me. For the plan—which would last three months—he gave me specific foods to eat and told me to exercise at least four days a week for 40 minutes. Easy.
This is what my personalized metabolism plan looked like.
If you're dying to know exactly what it is he told me to eat, I get it. I was also on the edge of my seat waiting to hear the specifics. Keep in mind that everyone is different, but these were some of the exact recommendations he gave me for my specific body type, metabolic type, age, and weight:
Breakfast: 2 eggs (cooked in ghee), 1 cup rice-based hot cereal, 1 cup of berries
Lunch: 4 ounces of ground turkey or white fish, veggies (cooked in ghee), and 6 ounces of sweet potato or quinoa
Snack: 2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter and 1 cup of berries
Dinner: 6 ounces of salmon and non-starchy veggies (cooked in ghee)
Dessert: 1 ounce dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao)
Workout days: Recovery smoothie with frozen berries, 1 tablespoon sunflower butter, 20 grams protein, spinach, almond milk.
When I saw what I'd be eating, I was surprised how much food it was (almost 2,000 calories). I was also surprised to see such a big breakfast, since I would normally skip it or eat something small. Libby said he didn't want me fasting more than 12 or 14 hours between dinner and breakfast since that can also trigger the flight-or-fight response, zap energy levels, and cause the body to hold on to fat.
I was also surprised by the number of carbs in the plan. The keto and paleo diets are so popular right now that, admittedly, even my perspective on carbs, even healthy ones, has been skewed. But Libby rarely eliminates carbs for people with my metabolic type, explaining to me: "You need some starch to bind to the cortisol in your body, and the body relies on enzymes from carbohydrates." He would also never put someone on a ketogenic diet if they were suffering from adrenal fatigue or chronic stress—and especially extreme stress, like the loss of a loved one.
If you think the plan seems overly simple, so did I. When I asked Libby about this, his response was: "You have to stick to it and plan ahead. It's simple—but not easy." He was right. Staying consistent is the hardest part, especially when I'm traveling. What about cheat days? I'm told I'm allowed to mess up twice a week and the plan should still work—but no more than that. I'm also taking omega-3s, vitamin D, a supplement with a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, zinc, L-glutamine, and a high-quality multivitamin.
What "eating for your metabolism" really means.
I won't make any final judgments until the three months are over, but so far this new plan has been going really well. The biggest benefit I've received so far is a complete lack of bloat. I never thought raw foods were a problem for me, but cooking my veggies has been a game-changer for occasional bloating and discomfort that I know I'm not alone in experiencing. I've also noticed a sense of calm from the "consistent energy patterning." My body always knows what it's going to eat next and when. My mood, blood sugar, and energy levels have been marvelously stable.
I was surprised to see that, while this metabolism-friendly diet was specific to my body type, it was also a gut-health-, hormone-, and brain-health-friendly diet. In other words, when we look at the body as an amazingly complex mechanism that's totally interconnected, what's good for one part of it is probably good for other parts, as well.
So should you try a personalized metabolism plan? An appointment with Libby doesn't come cheap (just a starting package can cost you upward of $1,500), and you have to apply to be a client. If that's not in the cards for you, I still think it's absolutely worth it to look for a nutritionist who does advanced metabolic testing and understands how to adjust a plan to your body type and metabolic profile.
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