By Dr. Mike Roussell
Rucking unlocks a wide breadth of health benefits such as improvements in strength, endurance, and resilience while also helping with reductions in stress and lower back pain. But one of rucking's greatest health benefits might be the least talked about. I’m talking about improvements in metabolic flexibility.
What is Metabolic Flexibility?
Metabolic Flexibility can be best described as conditioning your body to use whatever fuel it has access to to meet your body’s energy needs. If there is sugar in your bloodstream, it uses that. If there is fat in your bloodstream, it uses that. Efficiently switching between fuel sources based on what is available and what your body needs doesn’t just have a cool name, it is looking more and more like a defining characteristic of metabolic health. Metabolic flexibility is associated with lower rates of diabetes, obesity, and improved longevity. It is also more and more being seen as a key to extending healthspan, or the duration of your life that you are in good health and free of chronic disease.
How Can Nutrition Help?
Nutritionally, there is no magic bullet for improving metabolic flexibility, instead you need to be brilliant in the basics - minimizing foods with added sugars while not eating too many more calories than your body needs (hey, it's ain't flashy but it works!).
If you are doing these things, or at least trying to do them on a daily basis, then you are ready to tap into the power of rucking to supercharge your ability to forge metabolic flexibility in your body.
Exercise as a Drug
Exercise in general is a great tool for enhancing metabolic flexibility. Exercise has drug like effects on our metabolism. It makes our muscles carb sponges, it boosts our ability to grow and repair muscle, it coaxes our brains to release compounds that make us smarter and happier.
Now different kinds of exercise require different kinds of fuel. With shorter and more intense movements and training sessions our body likes to use carbs/sugar for fuel. They are fast, effective, and our muscles that power intensive and explosive movement love it. But with longer training sessions that require sustained effort, fats are the preferred fuel. Fats take longer for our body’s to turn into fuel but the total amount of energy is so much greater that the wait is worth it.
Rucking to Unlock More Metabolic Flexibility
Rucking and ruck workouts involve both short and intense movements that require strength and longer sustained effort that requires endurance. You will often switch back and forth between these kinds of movements for 30, 60, or 90 minutes.
For example, complete a circuit of 5 rounds of ruck thrusters, lunges, ruck rows, and push-ups followed by a 5 mile ruck, stopping every mile to do 30 body weight squats? Get a couple buddies together and it isn’t a “workout” but a good time amongst friends. These workouts (or good times) force your body to flip back and forth between carbs and fat as the fuel of choice based on what you are doing and how fast you are rucking. This conditions your body to have greater metabolic flexibility.
Inactivity fuels metabolic inflexibility. Rucking also encourages people to get up, get out and get moving, blending both strength and endurance. It is the solution for creating greater metabolic flexibility and health.
Dr. Mike is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure optimal performance and long-lasting health. He holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, having published over 500 articles on health and nutrition, Dr. Mike has authored and/or served as the consulting nutritionist for 10 books about health, nutrition, and performance. He’s been a member of our GORUCK community since 2014 when he participated in several GORUCK Challenges and a part of GORUCK Tribe since its inception.