The Rate-Limiting Step

Have you ever noticed how life seems to be like one big decision? We are all faced with decisions – every day, every hour, every minute, and every second. How do you navigate these decisions, and how to do you decide which move is the best to make?

It all comes down to what I call the “rate-limiting” step. This is actually a phenomenon that comes from biology. You see, your body is a huge network of cells. These cells work together to acheive common goals, and create functions, vitamins, enzymes, movements so that we can BE a healthy, alive, functioning human being. Biochemically, your cells are all working very hard. They are signaling between eachother, talking, sending messages, and being affected by messengers that travel throughout your blood, most commonly known as “hormones.” Enzymes are what we call catalysts of chemical reactions – they actually help the reaction happen! Enzymes are usually protein molecules, and these molecules “have needs” if they are to function properly, in order to later carry out the process they were created to catalyze. Enzymes “need” things like co-factors, which include vitamins and minerals, and also they need other parts in the biochemical pathway to work properly, otherwise the system gets gummed up with one type of molecule, or substrate, the enzyme cannot work with just yet. So if there aren’t the right cofactors, or the rest of the system is not functioning fully, the enzyme can’t work. Often, when the enzyme is dependent on other substrates in order to carry out it’s action, this is called a rate-limiting step, because the enzyme has to wait for the substrate to be available in order to do it’s thing. If the substrate isn’t around, the enzyme can’t work, and the biochemistry stops there. The rate limiting step is always that part of the biochemical pathway, where, if the substrates and enzymes do not come together in the right amount OR with right timing, the reaction will not occur.

This idea is applicable to human behavior. For example, this morning when I woke up, I had a choice, do I go to the gym like normal, even though it’s a Saturday and I woke up late intentionally, and I know the gym will be busy, and I’m slightly tired because I’m fighting a cold my roommate is trying not to give me? OR do I go to the gym regardless because I love the gym?

That moment when you wake up and have to decide is the moment that determines the momentum for the rest of your day.

As I was contemplating what I was going to do, I thought about this concept of the rate-limiting step. I thought about the pros and cons of going to the gym. I realized the rate limiting step of me wanting not to go, was fact that it was late (8 am for me is late), and I was starting to get hungry. I prefer to do my morning workouts fasted, but I didn’t have a real dinner before going to sleep, so naturally I was feeling low on food. I decided to get up, have a small protein bar (just tried these – love the ingredient list!) and get to the gym. It was 100% the right decision at the time, and now as I am typing this, I am so happy that it’s 1230 and I’ve already gotten in my workout, showered, breakfasted, and have some laundry in process.

As a doctor, I am often talking to clients about their lives – how they make decisions, what goes on day to day, and in general, figuring out how their brain works — because that influences their choices, both mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually — AND whether they are going to do what’s on their treatment plan OR make changes in their lives. I’ve found that once I tell them about this idea of the rate-limiting step, they are easily able to identify areas in their lives where they are stuck and can’t move forward.

It’s been game-changing for them, and I’m sure it will be game changing for you!

How will you apply this idea of the rate-limiting step in your own life?

Until next-time,

Dr. Meg

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