METABOLIC ADAPTATION. WHY EXTREME LOW CALORIE DIETS SUCK - My Fit Plan
I know I’ve spoken before about my dislike of extreme low calorie diets and excessive cardio leading to yoyo dieting, and inevitable failure. But I think it’s one of the most important points that I’d like to get across as I’d imagine the majority of my readers are people looking to lose a little bit of weight.
Yesterday I posted a video of a guy called Layne Norton talking about ‘Metabolic Damage’ or ‘Metabolic Adaptation’ on the MyFitPlan Twitter and Facebook pages. For all that are interested here is a video on Mr Norton talking about the science involved, I won’t go quite as in depth as I’ll leave it to the guy that coined this term but if you are interested in some of the mechanisms check it out.
So what I want to talk about is more the general consensus of what is going on with this term metabolic adaptation, why such a large portion of the population experience it and just overall why I think it’s a bad idea.
Whenever we talk about the body it’s important to always consider our genetics and what the overall goal of the body is to do. Survive. The body is always geared towards achieving homeostasis (quickly google if you’re unsure of the term). It wants to be as efficient as possible at whatever it does right? Because if we were in the wild, we’d be fighting to survive. I say this as it’s always important to consider whilst dieting or trying to lose excess body fat.
It’s also important to remember that fat is an energy store, so once you reach your genetic set point of body fat (most seem to believe that you have a body fat percentage at which your body is comfortable achieving homeostasis at) your body isn’t really going to want to go any lower than this, it’s going to fight you all the way.
Right, so at this point I’d like to introduce my stereotype middle aged female who’s carrying excess body fat, has tried every diet in the world and now has decided she’s just going to eat really low calorie. Lets call her Mandy for arguments sake. Mandy is convinced that she has a low metabolism (I’ll get to that later).
Let’s imagine Mandy decides to count calories, she’s going to go as low as 900 a day. If you’re sitting there thinking that’s crazy, then good, because it is.
To begin with Mandy is going to lose weight, quickly. She’s in an extreme calorie deficit and her body is going to look to fill the energy gap in order to maintain homeostasis so she’s going to utilise the fat stores in her body. This is why all terrible products such as Herbalife and etc show such amazing short term transformations, look what I lost in 8 weeks blah blah blah. That’s very short sighted.
If you now think of your body as an organism geared towards homeostasis and survival it’s not going to like having a huge energy gap right? It thinks you’re starving, that there’s no food around not that you’re simply choosing not to eat it. It’s going to gear itself to store fat as soon as possible, because it needs to protect against starvation if food supply drops off in the future.
Your metabolism can and does change, that is a very important fact. This is why Mandy is set up to failure. Her body now is going to protect against starvation and loads of things are going to happen in the body to help her become more efficient on low calories. Thyroid hormone is going to drop meaning her metabolism will drop, efficiency in cell mitochondria is going to improve meaning her body will utilise glucose better leading to less energy expenditure, thermogenesis within the body will drop meaning she’s burning less calories, I could go on. Mandy is now not only geared towards being more efficient on low calories but she’s set up for rapid fat gain the minute she choses to start eating again, a recipe for disaster.
Mandy’s weight loss slows, it’s inevitable and I’m sure everyone who’s dieted will have experienced this. She’s now worried as she can’t eat less, she’s already extremely miserable for going so low calorie in the first place, how can she continue steady weight loss? She can’t. So Mandy probably goes off of the diet completely for a week or two. Rapid weight gain occurs leading to misery in most cases. On to the next ridiculous diet and the process starts again, only this time she’s already down regulated her metabolism and everything else I’ve mentioned before meaning that it’s going to be even easier to fail.
We all know that one person who’s tried every crazy diet under the sun and now struggles with literally everything they try. Is probably even heavier than ever before and has lost all motivation.
So what can be done?
I think for every recreational gym goer or someone who just wants to lose a bit of weight you have two key points when it comes to calories alone. Obviously I’d hope you’d be paying attention to all your micronutrient needs and etc at the same time.
1.) Have as many calories as possible whilst still losing body fat- That means when you plateau, have a few less until you plateau again then repeat the same process. This way you’re going to have more of a cushion and further to go when your fat loss inevitably slows.
2.) Once coming out of a diet, slowly increase calories in a periodical planned out manner to prevent rapid weight gain.
So there you have it, hopefully it stayed pretty straight forward and brief as I planned. If not let me know and I’ll try harder next time! I try to keep it under 5 minutes reading time as you all have far too busy lives to listen to me ramble on.
Thanks for reading, sharing and spreading the message I appreciate it as ever.
As a special incentive to give feedback this week if you’d like to email me your views on this or all of the blogs I’ll give you a one off 50% discount of your choice.
Thanks guys, see you soon.
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