How to Measure and Monitor for a Healthy Metabolism

How do you become metabolically healthy? In this episode, JJ explains why metabolic health is so important for weight loss and so much more. She shares 5 lab values that you want to pay attention to, the best way to monitor your blood sugar levels (and why that’s so important), how even one night of poor sleep can dramatically sabotage your health, and why your bathroom scale isn’t ideal for measuring body composition (plus what to look for instead). Whether your goals include overcoming insulin resistance (which can lead to metabolic syndrome), more energy and focus, or better overall health (or, or all of the above), these simple strategies to measure and monitor will help you optimize your metabolism.

Click Here To Read Transcript

ATHE_Transcript_Ep 453_YT 28
JJ Virgin: [00:00:00] Hey, this is JJ Virgin. Thanks so much for joining me. This is ask the health expert. In each episode, I put the power of health in your hands and share ways to get healthy, lose weight, heal your gut detox and lots more. So you can look and feel better fast if you'd rather watch the video. Hey, I did put on my makeup and do my hair.
So check it out on my YouTube channel.
We all wanna be healthy, but how can you really tell whether you are or. You can't just rely on how you feel, but there's good news. There are three things in your life you can track. So you'll actually know, Hey, it's JJ. So happy to have you here with me. Now, today I have something that is going to wow.
You, in terms of the Intel, it will give you about your own [00:01:00] body and assessing your health. I have lots more content that will help too. So like, and subscribe to make sure you have all of the information and tools you need to hit your. Now I know sometimes it feels like you'll never get your goals, even though you're doing everything right.
But it may be because you don't have all of the information you need. Like if you're trying to get healthy and lose weight, but you're only focusing on the number on the scale. You're not gonna get real metabolic health that way. And a lot of times that's really what you need to see so that you can get that weight to come off.
Now. Luckily, there are a lot of amazing tools you can use to track your health and see what's really going on right from the comfort of your own home. And if you're not sure where to start, I'm gonna help. First, there are three things that are most important to track. They'll give you the most information to determine if you're metabolically healthy, I'm gonna teach you how to monitor these three things and fix them.
If they're [00:02:00] outta whack, they impact so many other critical variables related to your health. This may end up fixing a lot of other things too, but first, why is being metabolically healthy? So important? Well, because odds are, you are not metabolically healthy, especially if you're American and if you're not, it can have serious consequences for your health, the length of your life.
Just really your quality of life. The stats pretty much say it all. According to a study at the university of North Carolina at chapel Hills Gilling school of health and global public health rather. Okay. Check this out. Only 12% of American adults are metabolically healthy, but there's worse news that was before the pandemic.
I am sure. It's way worse now. Now here's how metabolic health is defined. It's having ideal levels of these five things without the [00:03:00] help of medications, I'm gonna give you the ranges that are considered normal, and then what I really think they should be. And I gotta tell you, when you hear this, you're gonna realize that the 12% before the pandemic and these numbers really by the right standards is probably about 5% of the population's metabolically healthy.
So the first one is blood sugar. Normal is having a fasting blood sugar level of less than a hundred mgs per DL. Now I really wanna see you more in the 75 to 85 range. And ideally you're using a continuous glucose monitor for a month or two to really die in your blood sugar regulation. Number two, triglycerides.
Normal is considered a triglyceride level of one 50 mgs for ML. But for me, Uhuh, I think that's way too high. I'd like to see you under a hundred and really under 75. Next one, high density, lipoprotein cholesterol, HDL. The normal range is 40 or above [00:04:00] for men, 50 above for. But I think this is really the lowest that they should be.
And really you're gonna wanna go further in what you're looking at here and look at both the particle size and the number you wanna make sure you have a lot of big fluffy HDL particles. Next step blood pressure. Normal is a blood pressure less than one 20 over 80, but I'd love to see you at one 10 over 70 and then five waist circumference.
So normal is a waistline of 40 inches below 40 inches for a man and less than 34 inches for a woman. When you measure across your belly. Here's what drives me nuts. They don't factor in height. I mean, how could a six, five male have the same healthy waist measurement as a five, five male? This makes zero sense to me.
So I'd love to see a woman have 32 inches or below and a man's waist at 36 inches or below. And I really think that what you need to do here is look at your waist to hip ratio and make sure that for [00:05:00] women it's 0.8 or below, and for men, it's one or below. Now, if you're above ideal on the above metrics, you're setting yourself up to have metabolic syndrome.
If you don't have it already, what that means is you're more vulnerable to developing diseases, like type two diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health conditions. So if you're dealing with any of those conditions, It's super important to know it and to get a handle on it early and as soon as possible.
And that's what I'm gonna help you do. And as I get into these three things to track, to help you get metabolically healthy, I'm gonna tell you how to interpret the results too. So you really know what they mean, so you can make the right changes that will make all of the difference. Ready, here we go.
First one, track your blood sugar. The obvious reason to monitor your blood sugar is of course, to make sure it's in a healthy range so you can avoid diabetes, but it will also help you sidestep [00:06:00] the miserable symptoms that can go with the spikes and crashes. So you can start to connect the dots to what you eat and how it makes you feel and how it impacts your.
A continuous glucose monitor puts you in control. So you can make changes in real time to improve your health. And frankly, it's really cool. So give it a try, even if you're just curious. Now, the tool you use to monitor your blood sugar is called a continuous glucose monitor. It's called a CGM and it's a little tiny sensor that goes under your skin, usually on your belly or your arm, and then sends the glucose reading to an app.
You can get them online or at a drugstore I've been using the Nutrisense cGM and the app, and I'm just loving the data that it gives me. So here's what happened. I went on this month, long trip. Literally I went around the world. I went from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Las Vegas, to Dubai, to the, out, into the desert of Dubai, to the Maldives, to Istanbul.
And then to San Louis Obispo, then to San Francisco, then to [00:07:00] Florida. I mean, literally all the way around the world, right. and I was eating foods that I don't normally eat. I was really watching it, not so much for that. And I'll share, I'll share some of the foods I was eating, cause it was really much more the Mediterranean diet, which was better.
But I also wanted to track my sleep and track when I was eating. Cuz I know that all impacts it. So I gotta tell you, I was having really, really great blood sugar readings and I was eating all of the things I normally. So I was eating good, clean protein. I was eating healthy fats. I was eating lots of vegetables and then I got a little trouble I was at this buffet and they had Kiwi.
Now I don't really eat much Kiwi because it's a pain. Let's be honest. It's got the, that little brown fur on it. It's pain in the butt. So here was this Kiwi, all peeled looking beautiful. And I might have had a big plate. And my blood sugar went. Bam. I couldn't believe it. I was so bummed, but I think the story is [00:08:00] there, you know, to let the dose be your poison.
I, I had like a Kiwi. I probably would've been fine. I probably had like, Eight Kiwis. And then a couple days later, same situation with bowl of cherries. So it was great for me to really see how doing something like that. Something that's healthy right. Could impact my blood sugar. And that's what CGMs really do.
They track your blood sugar levels? 24 7. You use this app. So you can see what's going on. Anytime you want. You can also see how it changes over a few hours or days, so you can spot trends because that's what you wanna be looking for. You wanna be looking for the trends and then you also wanna be looking for the blips.
Like I saw where I was like, whoa, don't eat eight Kiwis at once. JJ. Right? Seeing these glucose levels in real time is gonna help you make better decisions about food, about your activity, about your sleep, about your medications. So of course, This has been life altering for people with diabetes, because they don't have to stick their finger all the time.
I was doing that for a bit before the CGM, and [00:09:00] that is not fun, but the reality is even without diabetes, knowledge is power. And remember you don't wake up one morning with diabetes. Diabetes happens over time, right? So this allows you to troubleshoot before you ever have any problems with your blood sugar.
It is so super cool. So if you're monitoring your blood sugar throughout the day, Again, a normal, but not ideal level is less than a hundred milligrams per DL after fasting for at least eight hours. And then less than 140 milligrams per DL. Two hours after eating. blood sugar levels are gonna fluctuate after fasting for long periods of time or an hour or two after you eat.
But the fluctuations are minor, which means normal blood sugar levels should stay within a really narrow range. Now for most people it's gonna vary between say 82 to 110 mgs per DL and normal levels probably will be around. And after a full meal, normal blood sugar levels may go up to [00:10:00] like nearly 140.
But if blood sugar levels don't come back down several hours after you eat red flag. So this is why we really wanna watch it. Plus if you're eating late at night or you're eating too many carbs, or you're a snacker, you may not know how much you're negatively impacting your blood sugar until you can see it in real time.
And if you eat late at night, Then you tend to have a higher fasting blood sugar in the morning, which you also wouldn't know, but when you track it on the graphic on the screen, it's gonna show you whether your glucose is rising or dropping and how fast, so you can choose the best way to get your blood sugar into those normal ranges.
And some of them even have alerts that are gonna go big if your blood sugar becomes too high or too low. So you could have like your coach, your doctor in a fight. Now, once you have your blood sugar stabilized and working well, you're gonna be able to use stored fat for fuel, which helps keep your weight under [00:11:00] control.
You'll have great steady energy. Your workouts will improve and you'll be able to sleep better because you won't be fighting any of that hypoglycemic crash that can happen. You know, when you wake up in the middle of the night, now the second thing to track is sleep. about one third of the population is struggling with sleep and that by the way is only expected to go up.
So figuring out how to get better sleep. Everything. It's so important because if you manage your sleep well, then you're gonna become more insulin sensitive, which means your blood. Sugar's gonna be more stable and predictable, and you'll have an easier time building muscle because that happens as you sleep right.
You need your sleep to recover and work out well. And working out also factors into blood sugar control. So see how these things all go together and also with better. You're much less likely binging on seconds and snacks late at night, even one night of poor sleep is linked to an increase in your hunger [00:12:00] hormone Graylin and linked to more insulin resistant.
Plus poor sleep is also a marker of stress because obviously if you're stressed, your sleep's not gonna do well. Right. It's gonna suck. So if you fix your sleep, it often helps repair your adrenals as well. So with all of that, I hope if you're not sleeping well, you're not just going, oh God, I guess that's just me.
Okay. It is, it is not impossible to fix your sleep. It's also not possible to be healthy with crappy sleep. Now I've done other videos on things to change in your environment. That's gonna make a big difference in your sleep. So I encourage you to check those out, but here I wanna show you how tracking, how tracking that sleep is gonna help.
Because as the saying goes, what you measure, you can improve. So a sleep tracker may be the thing that finally makes a difference for you. Not because it corrects your sleep, but it makes you aware of where the problems are so that you can correct it. Now there's a bunch of different choices out here.
I've got an Oura [00:13:00] ring on right now. I've also got an apple watch on, I've got a garment in the other room. I've tried a lot of these different ones. You just need one and get the one because you want consistent information. I find that they all give me different information. I'm looking for the consistent trends in them.
And here's something interesting. I learned from my Oura ring. I was like, if my Oura ring's spying on me. So I'm really careful about when I eat dinner, I stop eating three to four hours before. I sleep in a very, very cool room. We have it down at 67 degrees. It's dark and there's no noise. I'm really careful about my sleep environment.
But one night I ate dinner late. Next morning. My little Oura ring gives me a very poor readiness score, shows that I got no deep sleep and says, looks like you ate late last night. Like how the heck did you know that? So it's really cool to have these watches and this is why I left to travel with them [00:14:00] too.
When I'm time zone adjusting, cuz they're gonna show you how you're doing so you can start to make adjustments in real time. When I discovered I was having a struggle with deep sleep, I had to really look at my. What I was doing later at night and get myself out of the blue lights and, and use blue blockers so that I wouldn't trigger my brain to mess up my deep sleep.
All right now, Garmin, Oura, apple, no matter which one you pick, they all pretty much do the same work by measuring things like your heart rate and your temperature and how restless you are so they can tell how long you sleep and how well you sleep. They're really looking at things like your deep sleep, your REM sleep, how long you are in bed, the quality of your sleep.
Now, if you wanna get advanced, there are ones too that can let you know when you're tossing and turning and alert you to things that might be affecting your sleep. And some can even time your alarm to go off when you're not in deep sleep, which is really pretty cool too, cuz we all know what it feels like to get woken up out of [00:15:00] deep sleep.
Right? So the real question here is with all that's at stake for your metabolic health, if a tracker can help you make changes so that you can sleep better. Is it worth it? Hello? Yes. Yes, it is. All right. So the third thing you need to track for your metabolic health is your body composition. Your body composition is what your weight is made up of.
It's basically your fat mass and your lean body mass and your lean body mass is everything else. Muscles, bones, tissue, and. Now, there are a couple different ways to measure your body composition, but what we've gotta do is something that's easy, right? So I want you to get a simple body composition scale that you can use at home.
I especially love the ones that are segmental. They're a little bit more money, but what they do is they don't just tell you your lean, your total body water. And your lean body mass. They also tell you where that fat is. You think, you know, but you [00:16:00] don't really know. So you can tell you how much is on each of your thighs, your arms, and then your trunk.
So I like both the Tanita and the body. Now, the reason this is important is because if you're dealing with some metabolic health issues, improving your body composition by adding more muscle and then losing the fat is gonna help you write the ship. By the way, there was an MRI study done out of London that found, and this is just wild to me, that 50% of those who maintained their weight through diet alone were called.
TOFI – thin outside fat inside. You do not want to be TOFI. So right now in the us, we have 80% of the population that's overweight or obese. That means that we only have about 10% of the population that's got, where they should be in their body composition. And I think a lot of that's because we're stepping on a scale and not getting the information that you need [00:17:00] with a body composition scale, you can track your lean muscle.
And adding muscle changes everything. In fact, I don't want you to focus on losing weight. I want you to focus on adding muscle because when you add muscle, it improves your insulin sensitivity. It's actually the first place you become more insulin sensitive, you're more insulin sensitive, your blood sugar's gonna improve your metabolism's gonna work better and you're gonna be able to burn fat.
Hello, all the things that we want to have. So key critical. So this is why I want you not just to step on the scale. I want you to step on a body composition scale. I don't want you just to find out your weight. You need to know what your weight is made above. You know, you don't just rely on your weight.
Your weight is only one measurement, and it doesn't tell you where that weight's coming from. I mean, maybe you're working out and not just, and not losing weight, but that doesn't mean you aren't losing pounds of fat. Right? A body composition scale is the best way to tell if you're losing body fat. [00:18:00] Or gaining muscle.
And I'm gonna tell you a story about a client, Eric, that blows my mind. So he had a lot of visceral adiposity. He was very, very concerned and he wanted to lose weight. So he weighs two 20. And he's now working with a trainer. I know exactly what his workout plan is. A lot of resistance training and I've got tightly controlled on his diet, cuz he has a chef.
So I've got it all controlled here right first month, like we're checking every week now he's only doing a body composition. He's doing it through an advanced thing called a Dex cell once a month, the rest of the time I'm getting weight first month, nothing's changing nothing, loses a pound. He was very frustrated.
He gets on the DEXA. Okay. So he's lost like five pounds of fat gained, four pounds of muscle. We keep going basically over the course of three months, Eric ends up losing, I think I don't remember the exact numbers, but it was something [00:19:00] like 15 pounds of, of fat and put on. 14 pounds of muscle. Now it took three months before he started actually dropping weight.
Whereas now muscle was where it needed to be. And now he's just losing more fat and losing more fat and losing more fat because of what's happened to his metabolism. Remember, muscle is much more thermic it's gonna raise your basal metabolic rate. You're gonna burn more calories all throughout the day.
More calories at rest. Everything for you. But if Eric had just been stepping on a scale, even though physically you could see the changes in him, he still would've used that scale as some kind of mean friend telling him he is not, you know, it's not working when it totally was. So please, please, please make sure that you were looking at what the weight's made up of.
It is everything we've gotta focus on building muscle. That will help you lose the fat, do not focus on losing weight. We wanna make sure you're holding onto muscle and you're solid as a rock. Now, a healthy body composition is gonna depend on [00:20:00] your gender, your age, and your fitness level and women. You should know that naturally you're gonna have a higher body fat percentage than men.
And your body fat will also increase as you age, but that does not have to happen. And I do not believe in adjusting your age, these age adjusted norms for body fat. So when I was doing my PhD program at USC in gerontology, it was, it was exercise, physiology, gerontology, and nutrition, and we had to do all this body fat testing.
I remember we were doing underwater, weighing and calipers, all this stuff. and back then the norms that they gave us. We're very different than what I see the norms. Now it's like people have started to gain more body fat. So we've adjusted the norms. Well, just because people's body fat has increased. Doesn't mean it's healthier.
We know it's not. So I'm gonna give you the norms that I believe are critical for health for women. Women should be 18 to 25%. [00:21:00] 25% should be the maximum amount of body fat a woman should have on her. And an athletic woman's gonna be somewhere between 15 to 22. So I'd really love to see kind of that 18 to 22% window.
For most women, for men, 10 to 18% is normal five to 12%. You'll see most athletic men in. And so I'd really love to see men more in that eight to 15% range. And as far as your weight goes, I really want you to look at your total body water. Remember most of your body is gonna be water. And the more muscle you have, the, the more total body water you have probably around 60%, it's in your tissues, your blood, and even in your bones.
And, you know, you need water for everything your body does, right? So a body composition scale is gonna measure and track your total body water too, which is really important. So all of this water, again, your body is called total body water, and you wanna get your total body water in a healthy range for your[00:22:00]
age your sex and your fitness level and have that really remain constant or just constantly slowly improvement. And again, the rough estimate for target for a total body water for the average adult male, about 60% water and for a woman about 55% water. So you can roughly figure out what your ideal total body water should be by using your.
But the body composition scale really helps you drill down so you can check in with it and manage it now to get a little more technical, just to show you the value of the body composition scale, because you could never do this on your own. The best measure of total body water is actually a ratio of the water in your cells.
That's called intracellular water to the rest, which is called extracellular water. Now you may be able to find an advanced body composition testing scale at a biohacking lab or an anti-aging doctor's office, where you can get this Intel. I've had it done with the professional in body scale. And it's [00:23:00] important because if your body water falls out of balance, it can signal changes in your health and your body composition.
Now, whether these changes are good or bad, depends on which type of water becomes unbalanced, having more. Intracellular water can be a positive change in your body composition because when muscle cells become larger, they need more water to function and increased lean body mass can mean a better basal Metabolic rate, more strength, and a better immune system.
but what you don't want is you don't wanna see your extra cellular water increasing beyond normal levels because that can indicate inflammation and inflammation always means health risk. So you gotta monitor that. Now lots of things can impact your water volume, what you eat, the amount of salt in it.
Hormone levels, your carb intake, your level of physical activity, how much alcohol and caffeine you drink. Plus it's gonna very slightly day to day, but you're looking for trends, not blips, and you'll know when you need [00:24:00] to make adjustments and whether you need to step up your hydration. All right. So there you go.
The three things you need to track to make a giant improvement in your metabolic health, your blood sugar, your sleep, and your body composition. And remember, once you take care of those things, everything else will basically fix itself. All right. Don't forget to like and subscribe and stay in touch. I'll see you soon.
For more info on this and other health topics I cover or to rate and review find me on Instagram, Facebook and my website, And don't forget to subscribe to my show. So you won't miss a single episode. Go to Thanks again for being with me this week.


Hide Transcript