Reverse Metabolic Syndrome with Metabolic Conditioning

1. What is Metabolic Syndrome?

This is not quite a disease but a collection of symptoms and risk factors that result from altered metabolism. Metabolic syndrome is also called Syndrome X and it is characterized by insulin resistance. The process starts very subtly with weight gain and inflammation. As these progress, it then affects your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar metabolism, and hormone balance.

Typical person with metabolic Syndrome (Before Metabolic Conditioning)

Typical person with metabolic Syndrome (Before Metabolic Conditioning)

After Metabolic Conditioning

After Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic syndrome is present if you have 3 or more of the following signs:

  • Blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85 mmHg

  • Fasting blood sugar (glucose) equal to or higher than 110 mg/dL (6.1mmol/L)

  • Large waist circumference (length around the waist):

    • Men – 40 inches or more (100cm)

    • Women – 35 inches or more (88cm)

  • Low HDL cholesterol:

    • Men – under 40 mg/dL

    • Women – under 50 mg/dL

  • Triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dL

Unfortunately, these symptoms are often not recognized for the danger they represent. These symptoms will eventually progress into obesity, thyroid conditions, diabetes, heart diseases and stroke. Heart diseases and alone account of 40% of total deaths in the U.S. every year.

These diseases all take years to develop. If you have noticed your weight and waistline slowly increasing or your blood pressure and cholesterol creeping up – don’t wait until you are diagnosed with life-altering disease. Be proactive and change now!

If you already have one of these diseases, the good news is that you don’t have to simply manage them with medication. These conditions can all be reversed naturally. Metabolic syndrome and the diseases that result from it develop from years of altered, unhealthy metabolism. Your metabolism, fast or slow, healthy or not, is a direct result of the type of food you eat and the type of exercise you do. You have the ultimate power to change these and reverse these diseases.

Metabolic syndrome is reversed by reconditioning your metabolism. This is accomplished through:

  1. Adopting an Anti-inflammatory Diet to condition your metabolism through nutrition. See my blog post about Anti-inflammatory diet here.

  2. Incorporating Metabolic Conditioning Exercise/ High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to condition your metabolism through exercise.

2. What is Metabolic Conditioning?

Metabolic conditioning exercise is a type of conditioning exercise that elicits a specific hormonal and energy production response in your body. It is also called High-intensity interval training (HIIT). It is characterized by alternating periods of short, high intensity, anaerobic exercise with lower intensity, recovery periods.

These high intensity periods, or bursts of exercise are designed to elevate your heart rate to near your maximum heart rate. (You can use this tool on digifit to calculate your maximum heart rate). The recovery periods are usually shorter and designed to allow your heart rate to decrease slightly before starting another high-intensity round.

A workout usually includes 6-8 different exercises with each one performed at your maximum effort. The exercises can be designed to provide a whole body workout or focus on a specific area like upper body, lower body, or core.

How to Perform A HIIT Workout

  1. Choose six different exercises to perform. For example, a lower body workout might consist of running in place, squats, lunges, toe raisers, mountain climbers and high knees. An upper body workout might consist of banded pull ups, push ups, shoulder presses, diamond push ups, banded chin ups, lateral and anterior arm raises. A core workout might consist of crunches, stability ball passes, lateral crunches, bicycles, shin slaps, and leg swings.

  2. Set your timer to 18 rounds of 30 second work periods and 10 second rest periods. There are several free and paid apps with timers to use on android. The best iPhone app is 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts. Here is an interval timer that you can use on your computer as well.

  3. Perform each exercise for 3 rounds at your maximum effort. Then move on to the next exercise when the next round starts.

  4. After performing each of the six exercises 3 times each – you are done! This workout will be completed in just 12 minutes. It will not be easy but it will be fast!

You can find some great resources for implementing HIIT workouts, like example workouts and exercise explanations and videos at 12 Minute Athlete.

Benefits of Metabolic Conditioning/HIIT vs. Traditional Exercise

There are many reasons why I prefer high intensity interval training, not the least of which is the short amount of invested time! However, most of the amazing and superior benefits of this type of exercise stem from the way in which it affects your metabolism; your hormonal system. Here are some more comparisons of the two.

  • All types of exercise – when performed regularly – produce decreases in blood pressure, resting heart rate, stimulate your lymphatic system and aid your body in detoxification.

  • Workout Time: While a traditional cardio workout may take 45 – 90 minutes to complete, an HIIT workout takes only 9-20 minutes.

  • Effects on Cortisol (the stress hormone): Traditional cardio exercise raises cortisol which stimulates appetite, is catabolic (breaks down muscle), increases fat storing, and slows down or inhibits exercise recovery. Whereas, HIIT workouts decrease cortisol, reducing inflammation and allowing body to burn fat more efficiently

  • Effects on testosterone and Human Growth Hormone: Traditional cardio exercise decreases testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH), both necessary to build muscle and burn fat. HIIT results in increased growth hormone and testosterone which supercharges your body’s fat burning and muscle building/toning.

  • Effects on Inflammation: Over the long term, traditional cardio exercise increases joint inflammation and possibly systemic inflammation as well. Metabolic conditioning exercise reduces inflammation and the resulting pain.

  • Effects on Fat loss: Another amazing benefit of metabolic conditioning exercise is its superior fat loss benefits. Research regularly demonstrates that HIIT exercise consistently outperforms “classic” cardio for fat loss. One study showed that there was a significant loss in body fat in a group that exercised at a high intensity of 80-90% of maximal heart rate. There was no significant change in body fat found in the lower intensity group which exercised at 60-70% of maximal heart rate, with workloads being equal. Another study looked at a group who exercised using metabolic conditioning over 12 weeks. This study found that subjects lost an average of .31 pounds of pure fat from their waistlines and 3.1 pounds of pure fat from their trunks in that time span! This is not overall weight loss (which was even more) but pure fat loss.

  • Overall impact on metabolism: With classic aerobic exercise, you only burn fat for the time that you are actively exercising AND you are burning fat at a slower pace. However, with metabolic conditioning exercise, you get an afterburn effect. You burn energy very rapidly and you continue to burn fat for up to 36 hours after completion of your exercise!

The bottom line is that metabolic conditioning exercise is more efficient and more effective at burning fat, boosting your metabolism, reducing inflammation and balancing hormones. As a result, it is the perfect exercise for reversing metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

3. Why is Metabolic Conditioning effective?

Metabolic Conditioning is effective because it taps into all 3 energy systems, elevating your metabolism, balances hormones, as well as reducing inflammation.

The Immediate System (ATP)

Commonly referred to as the creatine phosphate pathway, think of this system as the fastest and most powerful method of getting energy. It’s mainly utilized when performing power exercises that last less than 10 seconds (think Olympic lifts and sprinting). More important than the duration is the recovery time. This system (since it’s so quick and powerful) takes around three to five minutes to fully recover.

The Intermediate System (Glucose and Glycogen)

Called the glycolytic pathway, this is an intermediate system that provides energy for activities lasting between one to four minutes. It’s primarily used in shorter duration, intense activities including weightlifting and mid-distance running intervals (400-800m). The glycolytic pathway takes between one and three minutes to recover.

The Long-Duration System (Fats)

Often referred to as the aerobic system, this long-lasting energy system can go for hours upon hours of easy to moderate intensity work. Since we have almost limitless amounts of fuel for the aerobic system (fat), it can recover in a matter of seconds.

With the three major pathways outlined, keep in mind that there is always interplay. No one sole pathway is working at a time. Throughout a workout, each system is contributing to some degree; however, certain work to rest ratios call upon one primary system.

4. Examples of Metabolic Conditioning Circuits


Goal: Improve power

Focus: Immediate system

Work to rest ratio: 1:10


Box Jumps 10 seconds

Rest 1.5-2 minutes

Plyometric Push-ups 10 seconds

Rest 1.5-2 minutes

Broad Jumps 10 seconds

Rest 1.5-2 minutes

Repeat 4x


Goal: Improve sports performance

Focus: Intermediate system

Work to rest ratio: 1:2


Kettlebell swings 20 seconds

Rest 40 seconds

Kettlebell cleans 20 seconds

Rest 40 seconds

Kettlebell snatches 20 seconds

Rest 40 seconds

Kettlebell push-presses 20 seconds

Rest 40 seconds

Repeat 2x


Goal: Improve endurance performance

Focus: Long-Duration system

Work to rest ratio: 4:1


Kettlebell swings 30 seconds

Kettlebell cleans 30 seconds

Kettlebell snatches 30 seconds

Kettlebell push-presses 30 seconds

Rest 30 seconds

Repeat 3x


Goal: Get lean (combination of both short- and long-duration)

Work to rest ratio: 1:2 and 3:1 (perform each once a week)

Example 1:2:

Burpees 30 seconds

Rest 60 seconds

Jumping squats 30 seconds

Rest 60 seconds

Pull-ups 30 seconds

Rest 60 seconds

Mountain climbers 30 seconds

Rest 60 seconds

Repeat 2x


Example 3:1:

Squat to press 30 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Pull-up 30 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Jumping lunges 30 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Renegade rows 30 seconds

Rest 10 seconds

Rest 1 minute then repeat 2x

(More examples of metabolic conditioning can be found at the links below:)

Examples of Advanced MetCon-Type Workouts

Have fun working out and burning those fats! Cheers! 🙂

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