Recently, I laid out some key markers of metabolic health for myself. Since then, I’ve been doing further research and talking to a few people about it.
This mostly strengthened my confidence with the five markers of metabolic health I chose. The only change was an extra marker – body fat / visceral fat. I had originally been thinking about BMI or waist circumference as a key marker – but there are obvious flaws in these. Measuring body fat / visceral fat seems much better.
Having high levels of visceral fat (fat found inside your abdominal cavity and that wraps around your internal organs) and body fat definitely puts you at a higher risk of chronic disease. So, I’m adding them to my key markers of metabolic health.
There were a bunch of markers which didn’t quite make the ’north star’ list, which I’m gong to keep an eye on. These are RHR (resting heart rate), HRV (Heart rate variability), Vitamin D (25 OH) and LDL (bad cholesterol). With the exception of LDL, my measurements are all in a good range for these.
I haven’t quite decided how I feel about LDL. Some people say in the absence of metabolic dysfunction, it’s not a particularly important marker. Others disagree and suggest a high LDL will cause problems. I’m going to continue to look into this.
So, in summary, here are the key markers of metabolic health for myself – along with my own measurements.
A quick caveat. I’ve ignored the normal ranges that are typically advised. Instead, based on my research, I have set what I feel are good and optimal levels for metabolic health.
Body fat / Visceral fat
I don’t have a benchmark or measurement for myself yet. I’m going to get a DEXA scan, which is the most accurate way to measure these. It’s also fairly cheap and non-intrusive.
That said, being able to see your abs is a pretty good benchmark. So, for now, that’s my goal.
- Less than 120/80 mm
Right now, I sit a bit too high. My latest readings averaged out at 130 / 66. It’s not disastrous at all, but ideally I want to see that first number much closer to 120.
- Good: < 32.5 mmol/mol
- Optimal: < 21 mmol/mol
I came in at 30.7 mmol/mol. I’m in the good range, so fairly happy with that. Now the goal is to push it below 30 and to get closer to 21.
C-reactive protein (CRP)
- Good: < 1 mg/l
- Optimal: < 0.5 mg/l
My reading is 0.71 mg/l. Again, pretty good and in the good range. The goal is to push lower than the optimal < 0.5 mg/l.
- Good: < 1 mmol/ml
- Optimal: < 0.85 mmol/ml
My reading is 0.96 mmol/ml. Same story – sitting in the good range, and now need to work at pushing into the optimal range.
- Optimal: > 1.93 mmol/ml
I’m well in the optimal range with a reading of 2.34 mmol/ml here.
What are my immediate focuses for improving my metabolic health markers?
This is a pretty obvious answer for me. The biggest room for improvement (by far) is my diet. I’ve always had a difficult relationship with food and am prone to binge eating. Outside of binge eating, I do time-restricted fasting and eat a mostly paleo diet – high in protein, high in fat and low / moderate in carbs.
The improvement I need to make is to cut out the binge eating. I’m not trying to be 100% paleo. I am fine with the odd treat, and loosening up at weekends. But, right now it feels 50/50 (bad eating / paleo) and I want it to be much closer to 80/20. I need to reduce refined carbohydrates and sugar.
On top of that, I want to get into a habit of stricter time-restricted fasting. Right now, I’m fairly consistent with 8 hours (eating) / 16 hours (fasting). I skip breakfast and eat lunch at about 1PM. My last meal is usually around 8 or 9 PM. But, I drink tea with milk in the mornings, which is technically breaking the fast. Whilst I’m still getting the benefits of consuming fewer calories that tend to come with time-restricted fasting – I’m not getting the fasting benefits. I’d also like to experiment with fasting for 24 hours.
So, my focuses are:
- 80/20 paleo, keeping treats to carefully chosen times and avoiding binge eating.
- Keep to a stricter 8/16 – with a 24 hour fast roughly once a week (evening meal one day, though to evening meal the next day).
If I can only nail the first one, it should have a nice positive impact on my key markers of metabolic health when I next measure them (early March 2022).