What is Metabolic Damage?
People automatically think that in order to lose body fat they have to cut down their calories drastically so that calories in is less than calories out. Well this makes sense if you are overweight. However if you drop your calorie intake too low you’re risk of metabolic damage.
1) A male bodybuilder off season is eating 3000 calories a day to maintain his weight. It is time for his to cut for a show so he immediately cuts down to 1600 calories and starts an hour of cardio a day. He loses some body fat initially but after a few weeks he plateaus. So he cuts more calories, goes to low carb, and increases to 2 hours of cardio. He loses a little more and plateaus. But now what? He is so run down from lack of carbs and he doesn’t have much more he can cut from his diet. Fat loss has stopped.
2) A female bikini competitor has been eating 1200 calories a day for years. She decides to get ready for a show so she cuts down her carbs and increases her cardio to one hour a day. She is able to cut body fat but then plateaus. So she cuts down to 800-900 calories a day with barely no carbs. Yet the fat is no longer dropping and she is worn out. Doing even 2 hours of low intensity cardio a day along with this diet would not burn body fat, no matter what.
Those were both examples of people who tried to change too much, too soon. The first example could have dropped body fat if he kept his calories/carbs higher and only dropped little by little, as needed. The second example could have dropped body fat if she had been eating more 2000 calories a day in the previous years while maintaining weight. She let her metabolism get slower than a snail!
How does metabolic slowing occur?
The body uses calories to digest food- this is called the thermogenic effect. So drastically cutting your calorie intake in half is detrimental because you are immediately causing: less energy output, decreased thyroid hormone production, decreased testosterone production, increased cortisol levels. All of which lower your metabolism and may lead to muscle loss.
How can I prevent metabolism slowing?
You have to be patient. If your goal is to lose weight/fat, you should lose no more than 1.5-2 pounds per week. Cut slowly, not massively. You also want to make sure you keep carbs in your diet. It may be necessary to drop them down a little, but never completely cut them out. Carbs are essential to keeping your metabolism elevated.
This is why you may want to incorporate a high carb day every 4-8 days in order to boost leptin, thyroid, and testosterone levels and aid in further fat loss. Also remember to keep healthy fats in your diet because they are important (in moderation). Enjoying things here and there is acceptable, but bingeing for every meal ,for weeks at a time is the worst thing you can do for your body. You are just adding the body fat right back on. Instead you should slowly add calories back into your diet (just like you did while cutting your diet).
Be Patient. Fixing your metabolism will take time but it will be worth it.
You need to increase your caloric intake little by little each day. Do this slowly to allow your body time to adjust. I would suggest roughly 5g carbs, 1g fat, 2g protein per day. Continue adding until you hit about 2000 calories a day (or about 14x body weight in lbs) and are able to maintain weight at that.
Your body will adjust to try get back to homoeostasis.
Stop being a cardio bunny and doing hours of low intensity cardio a day. Your body will only adjust and no longer benefit from it. Instead switch to HITT training, which has been proven to burn fat. Low-intensity burns fat for only the first week or so.
Once you are at a steady weight and well-balanced diet, then you can consider trimming down again. Your metabolism is now running at its full potential and cutting body fat will be super easy! You won’t have to cut much from your diet and you would never have to go below 1000 calories a day again! Your body will be functioning much better.
Also trying to diet down when you have metabolic damage already isn’t ideal. You need to prepare the metabolism first.
Some coach approaches to fat loss
Starvation diets – after a year of doing this/months coupled with steady state cardio and can not loose weight/fat. Look at caloric input and output, eating only 1,000. How can someone not be not loosing weight? Their body has adapted to the low calorie intake and the high calorie output. Which means no caloric burn from the exercise, and metabolic capacity is damaged.
Takes as long as the dieting period to get your metabolic rate back up
If you are maintaining your weight on 1,400 calories a day you need to take care of this, because you can’t cut your calories anymore!
Take care of your metabolism, slowly adding calories overtime, and do not go on a starvation diet! Eat the max amount of calories you can whilst loosing body fat (this amount will be different for everyone).
Don’t do low intensity cardio, which can reduce metabolic rate overtime, at first you will drop weight for about a week, then it will stagnate and then your metabolism adapts and you become and actually get to the point where you need that level of cardio just to maintain your weight. HITT training/weight training do not drop metabolic rate.
Never be at the point where you are doing 1 hour of low intensity cardio a day to maintain your weight.
Look at marathon runners – There is no way they should be able to eat enough calories , based on the amount of calories they should burn from what their doing, there is no way they should be able to eat enough calories to maintain their body weight, but they do. Why!? Your body number one goal is survival, your body doesn’t want it to go starving. If you go low calorie with high activity (low steady state cardio), your body will reduce your metabolic rate in order to prevent starvation.
Studies find: One hour of steady state cardio vs 6 x 30 second sprints (plus rest), people doing the sprints lost twice as much body fat.
Take care of your metabolism, and slowly and controlled eat more calories. Adding 200g of carbs over the course of a year, so very slowly. Overtime this will improve your metabolism, and help your body to loose body fat easier.
- Stress (cortisol) – Try to keep to a minimum, stress can suppress your thyroid hormone! Intense exercise can also increase your cortisol levels. Try incorporating some weights into your exercise routine! Incorporate Mindfulness to tap into a parasympathetic (calm) state! Your body doesn’t like to be in ‘fight or flight’ state all the time!
Not loosing weight? Do not drop calories straight away, never find yourself in position of eating 1,000 cals a day and not loosing weight.