I wanted to write about metabolic damage and the slow metabolism issue because there are simply too many people that put the blame on this when it comes to losing weight.
Also, what I don’t like about issues like this one is that there are people out there, always interested to exploit every little thing that can be transformed into a weight loss problem.
By exploiting, I refer to books, courses or consultations that are mainly focused on “repairing” the supposedly “broken” metabolism of a person with the sole scope to bombard his wallet.
Is There Any Metabolic Damage At All?
They simply do some “tests” like taking your morning temperature or whatever that should prove that your metabolism is “broken” and recommend certain treatments like eating over maintenance a certain number of calories for some weeks.
If we were to take a look at the Minnesota starvation experiment in which the war objectors were put in a 50% caloric reduction from maintenance, at the end of the study, the total daily energy expenditure went down with 40%.
This 40% reduction in daily expenditure in this study which can be considered a “metabolic damage” by these “guru’s”, was in fact attributed to weight loss, and it’s pretty logical isn’t it?
You don’t burn the same number of calories when you carry a 300 pounds body vs carrying a 150 lbs body.
Also, an interesting observation that I discovered from studies and real world examples is that when comparing a person that is naturally staying at 180 lbs with a person that dieted down to that weight, the former will have his basal metabolic rate higher than the other.
Ending The Subject
Most people have problems with fat loss after a long dieting period because staying in a long term deficit will make your body fight a little harder to keep that last ounce of fat there.
Basically, your hormonal levels will decrease, cortisol levels will go up, thyroid levels will be down, nervous system output will also be worse, which in turn will cause some reduction in metabolic rate, NOT damage!
Metabolic Damage vs Slow Metabolism
Everybody needs to make a distinction between something damaged which can’t be fixed and something slowed down.
What will make your progress harder is the hunger and uncontrolled diet breaks.
People like Layne Norton recommend 6 weeks of eating maintenance or slightly over your caloric requirement so you can “normalize” your metabolic rate but the truth is that you can get your hormones and metabolic rate closer to what you had it in just a few days of eating at maintenance.
Taking months of maintenance or overeating will only make your fat loss efforts harder and make you waste more time.
What have we learnt:
- A full diet break will normalize your hormones (a few days or a week should be plenty)
- There’s an adaptive component that is contributing to metabolic rate slowdown which means that the drop in caloric expenditure is a little higher than the drop in body weight. You can make calculation errors when you lose weight and expect that your metabolic rate will go down 100-200 calories when in fact the actual drop will be for example 250-350 calories. The additional calories over the expected rate of slowdown should be the adaptive component. The adaptive component is regulated by hormones like insulin, thyroid, leptin, nervous system, and a diet break should reset these hormones to more normal levels.
- This hormone regulation “diet break” should be done to allow the diet to be more effective when you will start going into deficit again.
- If you try to slowly get your caloric intake to maintenance, it will only make your diet period longer and normalize your hormone levels slower when compared to a few days of maintenance eating.
- There’s no evidence of permanent metabolic damage, the proper notion is: metabolic adjustment that is closely related to hormonal changes which are happening because you are eating less and losing weight.
As usual, time plus a little maintenance caloric intake fixes everything.
What problems do you encounter when you diet to low bodyfat levels?