Can you "break" your metabolism?
Some people say that a really strict diet – like one you make to prepare you for a bodybuilding show – will ruin your metabolism. Is it?
Well, it probably will not … at least not the way most people think. There are definitely some problems that you can cause with extreme diet and exercise, but "wreck" is probably too strong a term. This assumes that you have broken something. The metabolism does not break. In fact, it does exactly what it was designed for.
Let's get rid of some definitions, because this is where the biggest confusion begins. You've probably heard of the admittedly vague and non-medical terms like adrenal fatigue, starvation, and metabolic damage. This is more marketing language than medical terminology. But that does not mean that they have no use.
In medicine, it often comes before a disease to dysfunction. For example, if you have twice the fasting blood glucose level above 1
However, if you have blood sugar above 100, but below 125, what do I call it? You do not have diabetes yet, but obviously a dysfunction. We call this in medicine many different things: prediabetes, dysglycemia, impaired glucose tolerance or something else.
The same applies to the metabolism. If you have insomnia, insatiable hunger, unstable mood, unpredictable energy, uncontrollable cravings and are no longer responding to the same calorie deficit, BUT your blood tests and vital signs are all normal, what do we call it?
Obviously, something is going on, but we can not diagnose it, right?
So we use some descriptive terms like metabolic balancing, metabolic resistance, metabolic disorder or metabolic damage. Or as you say, "Damn, I think I ruined my metabolism!"
You did not do that. What has happened is a predictable phenomenon and we know a lot (if not all) what it's all about. Part of it is what research calls "adaptive thermogenesis."
What happens during adaptive thermogenesis
A competitive diet is known to induce a very broad calorie limit. They reduce calories and consume a lot of energy through weight training and / or cardio. If you do not change the oil of your car or fill up with gasoline, the engine will go out and the body will not respond well to this large energy discrepancy.
As a result, hunger is increased, motivation reduced, energy lowered and performance lowered (most insidious) reduce its metabolic output. This happens in many ways:
- It reduces energy consumption at rest by regulating the thyroid and other hormones down.
- It increases hunger and desire.
- It causes you to move creeping the rest of the day. If you usually get up and walk 100 times a day, you'll find that it only happens 25 times a day. If you move in your sleep, that stops too. They also burn less during exercise, which is referred to as "reduced calorie burning" after an exam.
What's worse, if you have no external motivator after the show and would rather eat like a human? Reason enough to gain weight and much more.
I call this the "metabolic credit card effect" – you get short-term results, but later pay high metabolic penalties. Anyone who has seen a competitor blow up for the first time like a helium balloon after the competition knows that.
Is this a metabolic damage? I suppose you could describe it that way, but another way of looking at it is that your metabolism does exactly what it was designed for. She feels that she has to collect this debt. Eventually, it turned into a feast and a famine, and it seems you are doing a favor by mitigating the famine and maximizing the feast.
The good news is that there are some ways to reduce metabolic rate. Here are some things to do:
- Do your best to get as much muscle as possible. Metabolism slows down less and is more resistant to fat loss. This means that weightlifting during fat loss is the dominant part of your fitness regime.
- Cardio becomes a bit more important after losing weight when the metabolism has dropped. You may want to keep your cardio for later, not for the duration of the competition diet.
- Take more protein, see the first point above about maintaining muscle mass. And you probably increase the amount of protein in percent of total calories. Do this during, but perhaps more importantly, after fat loss.
- Drive the calorie gap with times when you have a strong deficit and other times when you have no deficit at all. The recent MATADOR study (minimizing adaptive thermogenesis and deactivating the rebound of obesity) has shown that this strategy leads to better outcomes, lower metabolic rate, and much longer-lasting outcomes.
- Do not eat like an asshole when it ends. Focus on milder foods and less variety. Making traditional burger, pizza and cheesecake binges will trigger the brain's hedonistic response and make you want more of the same dopamine hit – all when your metabolism is most susceptible to fat storage.
- And finally you might want to consider some kind of adaptogen like Rhodiola or Ashwagandha. I have no studies to support this, but I have had very good clinical results using these herbs along with the above recommendations to keep the metabolic control center (hypothalamus of the brain) stress-resistant and happy.
How To Exercise Your Metabolism
Hunger: The Definitive Guide