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Showing posts with label reverse dieting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reverse dieting. Show all posts

Have You Destroyed Your Metabolism With Restrictive Dieting?

This is the most common concern I hear from women when I do a consultation. They're on low calories, not really getting anywhere. Have had short lived success on even fewer calories on other programs before, but found it was unsustainable, made them miserable, and backfired long term leaving them in a state where they needed to continue to restrict just maintain a less lean condition that they started with.

BUT... when they've tried to entertain this notion of "eat more to weigh less" they just found that the scales started creeping up a little, panicked, and went back to what they were doing before.

Sounds familiar?

Here's the thing about eating more:

Food has weight of it's own.

Therefore... when you eat more, you might find that the scales tell you that you've gained weight, but really you haven't. You just have the weight of more food passing through the digestive system. Obviously we're talking about a few hundred grams or maybe a kg here and not several kilos. In people with a higher body fat percentage you also get much wider fluctuations in fluid retention which you wouldn't be aware of if you weren't in the habit of weighing yourself.

So... in the event that you happen to weigh in on a day when you're at the lightest end of the range that you fluctuate within, and then a week and a half later you happen to weigh in on a day that you're at the heaviest end of the range that you fluctuate within... that can be very confusing and misleading too.

So... you eat more food, and the weight of that food might be reflected on the scales. The energy sourced from that food (up to a certain point, anyway) is still of benefit to you. The energy sourced from carbohydrates is referred to as GLYCOGEN and this goes to the muscles to be used to power your next training session. If I remember this correctly from my text books, 1 gram of glycogen comes with 3 grams of water.

If that sounds like a bad thing, it isn't.

So what can happen is that you eat more, feel like you can train harder, feel a better over all sense of general well being... but the scale does not move at all in either direction. In this case... you'd expect at least the weight of the food, right? To my way of thinking in this case you've lost at least an equal amount of weight from body fat as you've added via "volume of food" and what has been made available to be stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles.

This is why you'll often have the experience where people's weight has not changed, but their body measurements, pants size or whatever else have decreased quite significantly. Energy is being stored in the muscles, put to good use at training, then replenished. A similar amount is being pulled from fat stores (likely for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and not being replenished, because the body has better things to do with that energy and the luxury of being able to do so.

Different people are in different circumstances and there's no "one size fits all" answer.

For significantly larger people of a higher body fat percentage who may have been active but are beginners as far as what we might call "actual training" goes... I'd suggest being less concerned with the scales, more concerned with establishing regular and appropriate eating habits as opposed to dieting, and enjoy working on improved proficiency at exercise and appreciating changes in how your clothes fit as your dimensions change.

For those who are quite active and more athletic, but just not as lean as they'd like to be despite attempting to stick to very low calories of... oh... lets say anything below 1500 calories per day... certainly your metabolism has adapted to manage the workload it is accustomed to on the energy provision it is accustomed to... but it is ruined? No.

If you've tentatively tried eating a little more without a change in fortunes, the situation is most likely that you still haven't increased by enough to allow your body to benefit from your efforts at training, rather than merely to cope.

So, ideally what we want is to build an appetite and build the confidence to work towards levels of fueling where we see improvements in performance at training, improvements in condition, and fat loss at a rate that means that you lose more weight from a reduction in body fat than you add from the increased volume of food passing through your digestive system and the weight of glycogen being sent to those muscles to make them look full & firm and capable of explosive power in the gym.

That's ideal, and it's not always so easy to do on a linear basis.

I happen to have a great protocol to facilitate this though.

Cliff note version of how I suggest you consider going about this.

  • Immediate / First Two Weeks: Come from whatever insufficient level of fueling you're at now, to something that's at least adequate.
  • Next Two Weeks: Increase to what should be a more optimal level of intake. You may see the scales creep up a little for reasons described above but try not to let it mess with your head too much.
  • The Following Two Weeks: return to merely adequate fueling, and you should find that you drop whatever "volume of food" weight gained the previous two weeks, and then a little (or ideally a more significant amount) more. 
  • And So On: So far we've only come to a conservative estimate of more optimal intake, but I usually find at this point the system is working well enough and people are feeling good enough that we're confident to try working to a more adventurous estimate of optimal, and so on until we find our true maximal level.
Not many people seem to have much of a grasp of this stuff. Most people will still tell you that when your body adapts to cope with high levels of activity on low levels of caloric intake, the only answer is to add even more activity &/or cut to even fewer calories. You already know that's impossible.




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