If you haven’t heard, Dr. Sears has a new book arriving late summer called the Resolution Zone. One of the themes he writes about is how our bodies heal from injury or inflammation and how a key component in that repair process is activating an enzyme called AMPK. Based on the latest science, Dr. Sears believes activating AMPK is the secret to a longer and better life. AMPK is found in every cell in our body and is a genetic master switch that controls our metabolism. Since metabolism is the essence of life, activating AMPK becomes key to living longer and better.
In this blog we’ll give you a quick overview on AMPK, the benefits of activating it and how you can naturally boost your levels to reap its benefits.
What is AMP-Activated Protein Kinase (AMPK)
AMPK, short for adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase, is an enzyme found in our cells that plays a critical role in energy metabolism. Think of it as a master switch turning on and off as it regulates energy intake and energy expenditure. When our energy levels become low (e.g. exercise, stress, hunger), that is when AMPK is activated to help restore balance to our cells. Although its primary role is in energy metabolism it is becoming more clear that AMPK has even more benefits at the cellular level.
Benefits of AMPK
There are numerous benefits that come with activating AMPK:
- Increases metabolism- it helps convert sugar and fat into energy while decreasing hunger
- Reduces insulin resistance which is one of the culprits for weight gain
- Lowers triglyceride levels
- Normalizes glucose levels
- Increases blood flow
- Increases weight loss
- Increases longevity
- Decreases inflammation
- Helps with blood sugar control
- Helps support heart health
- Acts as an antioxidant
Lifestyle and Dietary Habits that Can Increase the Levels of AMPK
Boost the Intensity of Your Workouts: High intensity exercise depletes ATP and activates AMPK. This promotes new mitochondria (where ATP is made) and also helps to repair any damage that results from the intensity of the workout
Bump Up Your Intake of Dietary Fiber: Studies have shown that water-soluble, dietary fiber (think oatmeal and apples) can enhance AMPK. This can aid in weight loss and improve lipid and glucose profiles.
Curb Your Calories: Eating fewer calories makes fat cells release a hormone called adiponectin which activates AMPK in different tissues. Calorie restriction has been shown to minimize the risk for disease and slow down the aging process. This is the foundation of the Zone Diet.
Watch Your Carbs: Consuming too many carbohydrates in your diet can spike the levels of a hormone call insulin. If uncontrolled, high levels of insulin over the long-term can lead to insulin resistance which has been shown to decrease AMPK levels
Minimize Inflammation: High levels of inflammation directly inhibit AMPK activation. Foods rich in omega3s like fish and fish oil can help reduce this inflammation. Omega-3 have also been shown to increase the hormone adiponectin which activates AMPK.
Get Your Polyphenols: Non-starchy vegetables and fruits are rich in polyphenols (and fiber!). Polyphenols are the chemicals that give fruits and vegetables their color, and can help activate AMPK.
Lifestyle and Dietary Habits that Can Decrease the Levels of AMPK
Here are some of dietary factors that can work against activating AMPK.
Excess calorie intake: Eating too many calories immediately shuts down AMPK. Try to keep intake at any one meal to about 400 calories.
Excess glucose intake: The vast majority of glucose in the diet comes from grains and starches. Consuming carbohydrate rich foods like these stops AMPK activity by increasing insulin, a hormone used to control blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance: When our bodies don’t respond properly to insulin it can build up in our blood and lead to a condition called insulin resistance. Elevated insulin levels are powerful inhibitor of AMPK.
Ketogenic diets: Ketogenic diets, low carbohydrate, high fat dietary, have recently been linked to insulin resistance, an inhibitor of AMPK, and a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Following a ketogenic diet makes our body not respond appropriately to insulin.
The science behind AMPK is incredibly complex, but as you’ll learn in the Resolution Zone using Pro-Resolution Nutrition (the Zone Diet, omega3s and polyphenols) makes it easier to reap the benefits of AMPK. By focusing on the dietary factors that promote AMPK activity while minimizing those known to decrease it these factors become key to living longer and better.