Your Metabolism May Be Broken
We see it fairly often, especially people who have yo-yo dieted, or have gone from losing and gaining large amounts of weight. The constant restriction and overindulgence of food wreaks havoc on our digestive system. It also makes it difficult for our body to utilize the food we ingest most efficiently. This leads to what refer to as Metabolic Damage. Essentially, your Metabolism “breaks” or fails to work correctly.
Now, you don’t have to be overweight, or dieting to experience metabolic damage. It can also happen to fairly fit individuals who exercise too much, eat too little, and don’t get enough sleep. So, how do you know if you have metabolic damage?
The typical signs of metabolic damage include, but are not limited to:
- Gas, bloating, and indigestion
- Anxiety, depression, and irritability
- Loss of muscle mass, increase in fat mass, stubborn weight loss
- Extreme cravings of food OR lack of hunger
Overweight and Dieting
Again, we typically see this in people who go through rapid changes in dietary habits. When you go from eating 2,500 calories a day and drop it to 1,200 calories a day, the typical response from the body is “We’re starving! Store as much energy as possible.” This can happen either immediately, or weeks after the low calorie diet has been implemented.
From Fit to Fat
Also, those who are already fairly fit may drastically increase their exercise volume or intensity, and attempt to “watch what they eat”. Here, a slightly different response happens. Instead of gaining weight, their body is more likely to lose lean muscle mass and retain body fat. This is due to the fact that their body cannot recover from the increase in exercise volume. In addition, this behavior is also associated with reduction in caloric intake and lack of adequate sleep. All of which further add to the problem of becoming fatter. Not necessarily gaining or losing weight, but losing lean muscle mass only to add fat mass.
A Healthy Metabolism
Now, if you’re metabolism is already damaged, it may be a difficult road back to normal. It also may require the assistance of a medical professional to rule out any hormonal disruptions that may be causing or a repercussion of the weight/fat gain. Typically, adjusting exercise volume and eating schedules usually does the trick.
Eating Habits: Eliminating Deficiencies
The first thing you’ll want to do is adjust your eating habits:
- Eat at typical feeding times during the day
- Starting with Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and potentially a Snack is a great place to start
- Make sure you have all food groups represented on your plates
- Take 20 minutes to eat, and eat until 80% full
- This is the most important habit of all, because your body will tell you exactly how much you need to get back on track
For more on this topic, check out our infographic from our article 5 Most Popular Nutrition Myths
Exercise Habits: Decreasing Volume
Second, let’s take a look at your exercise routine. Most often, people who are experiencing metabolic damage or decline do WAY TOO MUCH HIGH INTENSITY CARDIO. Instead, you should:
- Prioritize Resistance Training over all other forms of training
- Keep Volume and Intensity Low to match the depressed metabolism
- Your ability to burn calories has dropped, so you must increase your food intake and decrease your exercise volume gradually to bounce back
- For more on what your Metabolism is, read our Article Increasing Your Metabolism
- Gradually increase load and volume over time
Sleep Habits: Resetting Hormones
Last, this habit may be the toughest to work on. Exercise and Nutrition habits greatly influences our Sleep habits. However, if we aren’t sleeping well, our body isn’t able to “reboot”. Sleep is when our body regulates all of our metabolic pathways so it can continue to operate efficiently and effectively.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night
- Turn off all electronics 30 minutes before bed
- Sleep in the darkest room possible
To avoid slipping into metabolic damage, it’s essential to make any nutritional or exercise adjustments gradual. Aim for the 10% rule. We don’t increase or decrease our calories more than 10% in any given 2-week period. We also don’t increase our exercise volume by more than 10% when already following a basic exercise program or regimen. Doing so puts us at risk for Metabolic Stress, bringing us further away from our goals.