Up close: Fast Metabolism Diet Phase 1

The Fast Metabolism Diet is a food lover’s eating plan. We’re often so focused on recipes, food and eating that it’s easy to forget the real work we’re doing, and the effect that nutrients have on our bodies.

Let’s take an in-depth look at the Fast Metabolism Diet Phase 1, and how the foods we eat in this phase help unwind stress, soothe the organs that produce stress hormones, and flood the body with easily accessible nutrients.

Adrenals take the starring role

Your adrenal glands (you have two of them) are located on top of your kidneys. These little guys secrete stress hormones, everything from mental stress (like taking a test) to physical stress (like danger).

Mental and physical stress both have the same effect on your body. The adrenal glands start pumping out the stress hormone cortisol as part of your body’s “fight or flight” response.

If you were in real physical danger, you’d then run or fight. And after that physical response or release, your cortisol levels would drop. But what happens when you’re just generally anxious and stressed out? Your cortisol levels elevate – your body goes into fat-storage mode so that it’s ready for a crisis. But there’s no physical release. As a result, your cortisol levels stay high, and your body keeps storing fat.

A similar process occurs when you’re not eating enough and not getting enough nutrients. Your adrenals trigger hormones again, telling your body “something is wrong, so let’s hold on to some fat just in case we’re not getting any more food for a while.” Your body doesn’t know what’s coming next.

Our goal in Phase 1 is to break this vicious cycle by telling your body “hey, everything is okay.” We want your adrenals to chill out and calm down, lowering the production of stress hormones, and letting the body know it’s got everything it needs.

Natural sugars and whole grains nurture and soothe

There’s a reason we call certain foods “comfort foods.” They make us feel satisfied and satiated. Phase 1’s fruit, pasta, rice, oatmeal, and toast are high-carb, low-fat foods that we naturally reach for to soothe stress. These same foods have a similar effect on your adrenal glands.

Higher glycemic (higher sugar) fruits like pineapple, mango, and papaya are on Phase 1 for a reason – their higher natural sugars stimulate your brain’s pituitary gland, its pleasure center, prompting the release of endorphins in the brain, reducing stress and anxiety.

Meanwhile, your adrenal glands are happy too; they love it when your blood sugar is stable. Throughout the day, the whole grain carbs and natural sugars you eat, keep your blood sugar nice and steady. When your adrenal glands are calm, they tell your body to efficiently metabolize fat, rather than storing it for a possible stressful situation.

 Vitamins B and C

The foods I’ve chosen for Phase 1 are particularly rich in B vitamins and vitamin C. The B vitamins found in beans, lean meats and whole grains stimulate the thyroid, triggering a thermogenic effect that prompts your body to efficiently burn fats, protein and carbohydrates.

Vitamin C in Phase 1 fruits like oranges and strawberries (and in veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes) help the body convert glucose (sugar) into energy, shuttling glucose into your cells’ mitochondria to be broken down and converted to energy instead of being stored as fat.

Work it off

Phase 1 is where you’ll sweat the most during the Fast Metabolism Diet. Remember what we just said about the body needing a physical release to drop cortisol levels from a stressful state? The cardio exercise you’ll do in Phase 1 helps calm the body, too, releasing more feel-good endorphins (some call it a “runner’s high”).

And you’re getting exactly the right fuel for cardio: easy-to-access natural sugars and whole-grain carbs your body will quickly torch to fuel your workout.

Phase 1 superstar foods

Foods on Phase 1 were specifically chosen because they are easy on the body. Fat and protein are harder to digest than fruit and carbs, so we keep protein moderate and fats low.

Higher glycemic fruits: Mango, pears, pineapples, cantaloupe

Higher carbohydrate whole grains: Brown rice, oatmeal, spelt, brown-rice pasta

Foods high in B and C vitamins: Lentils, lean beef, turkey, oranges, kiwi