Last year, I found myself wondering what this whole “macro” thing was about. I’ve been maintaining my 35lb weight loss pretty easily for almost 10 years, maybe this would be the thing to help me lose that last little bit of body fat.
I signed up with a trainer, we slashed my calories. No change.
We slashed them further. No change.
We slashed again and I started to think this was a bad idea.
I’ve never been one to follow a diet, but I was willing to test this out…until I wasn’t. It didn’t make sense to me that now I was eating 800 calories less, still exercising and in fact the number on the scale was going up?! My body was pissed and I was tired.Luckily, then I turned to my good friend and personal trainer Chris Hale. Who said, “girl you weren’t eating enough before you started cutting calories, we need to have a serious metabolism talk.”
And because he’s not only a phenomenal person and personal trainer, but extremely well versed in all of this I wanted him to share it with you too!
Understanding How You’ve Screwed Up Your Metabolism
See if this sounds familiar. You’ve been working out hard for awhile, dieting and running. At first you were seeing really good results from your effort (assuming your goal was losing body fat). But then progress seems to slow to a crawl or stops all together.
What have you been taught to do? You start pushing your foot harder on the gas pedal, so to speak, demanding more from your body and eating even less.
For a time that might work but then the same thing happens. Your progress stalls or stops AGAIN and now you’re even more drained and HANGRY than you were before.Right about now we start blaming age or our genetics for the problem.
Those things will play SOME role, but what if I were to tell you that how you treat your metabolism can tell it to slow down OR to speed up.
Your metabolism and specifically your metabolic rate is quite frankly the most important piece of equipment you have in your proverbial fat loss tool bag. The current state of your metabolism is your KEY to getting where you want to go.
What exactly is the metabolism…
If your metabolism were a Facebook relationship status it would say “It’s complicated”. The metabolism is a complex piece of machinery and a full discussion of every aspect of it is beyond the scope of this post.
It IS however important to understand the basic purpose of the metabolism: convert food into energy in order to sustain and maintain your life. It’s kind of big deal.
There is no fooling your metabolism.It knows EXACTLY what it needs based on what your body is being asked to do. Those jobs include important things such as keeping your brain and organs running on top of any other tasks you ask of your body; i.e. running that ½ marathon or trying to lose those 10lbs of extra body fat through diet and exercise.
It knows what it wants or at least what it thinks it needs based on its current expectations.
Thermostat vs. Calculator Model…
When discussing fitness or fat loss all too often we’re lead to believe that our metabolism is a simple calculator. Take in less energy then you put out = fat loss at a steady consistent rate.
This model however, is not an accurate representation of how the metabolism works. Your metabolism is an adaptive animal.
Your metabolic rate adjusts to better keep you alive.
It cares about organ function first and foremost, not your athletic endeavors or desire to lose fat.
If it’s under stress and being asked to do a lot with very little, it’s going to start fighting back by slowing down and wanting to hold on to the “rainy day fund” around your midsection or decrease the energy you have for running.
The metabolism is better represented as a furnace and how hot or cold that furnace burns can change! The heat of your furnace will determine if you are making continued progress in your goals or are stalling out. The good news is that if it’s currently low it can be told to turn up! (Which we cover in part two!)Learning why the old model of eat less calories is screwing up your metabolism and how to fix it! #health #weightloss Click To Tweet
Primary causes of metabolic rate slow down…
Metabolic rate adjusting is known as adaptive thermogenesis. This slowdown of your RMR (resting metabolic rate) or general reduction in calorie burn can occur usually for 4 primary reasons:
- Eating too little for your activity level over an extended period of time.
- Your body getting more efficient at the exercises you perform. This over time means you are actually burning fewer calories to perform the same amount of work then you did when you first started out. Your body becomes more efficient and requires less energy to repeat the same activity.
- Chronic stress causing hormonal dysfunction. That goes for all stress on our bodies. Emotional stress, work stress, diet stress, exercise stress, lack of sleep, etc. Stress is stress and your hypothalamus which helps regulate your metabolism via hormones is intricately linked to your nervous system. Also, as stress levels increase so does the hormone Cortisol which can inhibit thyroid stimulating hormones, the messengers between the hypothalamus and the thyroid gland. This is why high levels of stress (good or bad) over time can have a negative impact on the function of your metabolism.
- Losing muscle (or just not having very much to begin with)
Fat Loss and Metabolic Slowdown…
Everyone’s goal should be to try and maintain their metabolic capacity as much as possible. This means you can enjoy more food, while losing that body fat!
That said, for fat loss to occur there are two universal truths to keep in mind:
- You must be in a calorie/energy deficit
- You must work to balance your hormones
For better or worse with a reduced calorie intake and exercise you are going to experience a slow down or metabolic compensation.
The rate at which ones metabolic rate slows down is an individual thing. Everyone’s system is unique.
On average when someone is in an energy deficit the slowdown of metabolic rate can range between 200-800kcal/day or on average about 300kcal/day.With any fat loss program at times it usually becomes necessary to drop calories lower and/or increase exercise in order to continue to see progress. Such is the nature of the beast. Again you should only adjust this when progress completely stalls as you want to be able to eat as much as you can get away with for as long as you can and still net results.
Jumping to a very low calorie diet right away is a common mistake as this leaves you less room to drop down as your metabolism compensates (If you are already at a low calorie point and not seeing results the next section is for you).
For example, two people start a fat loss diet and person A starts at 2,500 calories (based on their TDEE or total daily energy expenditure) and person B starts at 1,500 calories.
Person A has a LOT more dieting capacity and wiggle room. They can eat more food and still create an energy deficit. They also have more room for error. That 250 calorie cookie they eat at lunch isn’t going to take quite as big a bite out of their daily calorie allowance as person B who is more calorie poor.
A Stressed Metabolism?
So what does your metabolism start doing as it gets increasingly stressed?
- it increases your hunger
- it drops your energy levels
- it increase craving
ALL this is done to try and force you to take in the energy that your body wants. If you then do cave in to help your body get back in balance, you start regaining fat because you’ve caused your metabolism to drop!
If you have been in a chronic low energy state through a combination of low calorie intake and exercise AND not seeing the results you’re after your metabolism and hormones are probably hitting the brakes pretty hard and won’t play the fat loss game any further.
The trick is not JUST to work harder but work SMARTER and understand that at times increasing your metabolic capacity and INCREASING calories is the way forward.
Ready for Part 2? How to speed your metabolism back up!!Chris Hale is a personal trainer and online training coach and has been training clients for the better part of 10 years. He’s passionate about teaching others how to get the physiques they’re after and helping them reach their health and fitness goals. In an industry driven by fads and hype he strives to be a sound voice helping to filter the noise out for his clients so they can focus on just the things that matter.
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