26 Feb Why Dieting Can Wreck Your Metabolism
It was a nice Sunday night. You we’re enjoying the newest Game Of Thrones episode and you get a notification on the phone. Your friend Erin tags you in a photo, so you open it to see what it looks like. When it pops up you freeze…you HATE the way you look in this picture! All at once you realize that your “you have to live” mentality with your nutrition is catching up to you. Maybe you had a moment like this. Maybe it was trying on some clothes or something else. Regardless, you know you have to do something. So you decide it’s time to start a diet.
When creating a nutrition program for people, there are a lot of ways to get short term success, but few that are sustainable in the long term. For the sake of this article lets assume you’re not training at Faster Fitness and working with a certified nutrition coach. Lets say you did some googling to find what your favorite celebrity did, because clearly they are the most knowledgeable on the subject.
In your research you see the Paleo diet and intermittent fasting getting a lot of attention lately. History says the low fat approach works, but you’ve had a lot of friends lose weight with the low carb diet. So you decide to come up with the perfect hybrid: The Low Carb, Low Fat, Paleo diet. And since intermittent fasting seems like it works, if you miss a meal now and then it’s not the end of the world.
Motivation: Through the roof
Week 1: You start out hot! Your motivation is like 100 on a scale of 1-10. You even said no to diet soda. Boom! No one can stop you!
Week 2&3: You lost 6 lbs your first week, then 2 lbs each of the next! Whoah! On a side note, your energy has notably decreased, but who cares, right? You lost 10 lbs!You say to yourself: Suck it up and plow forward.
Week 4: No weight loss this week. Oh no. Was it the cheese you had on your gluten free pizza you ate? Should you lower your calories? Should you start fasting more? You decide that lowering your calories is a good idea. Now you plan to eat only half of your breakfast bar, a salad for lunch and chicken and broccoli or dinner.
Week 5: Weight loss is back! Oh snap! You’re a rockstar at this. Maybe you should change careers?!? Losing weight isn’t that hard, you think to yourself. You start waking up in the middle of the night several times, but you don’t think to much about it.
Week 6-7: Weight loss stops. You start getting frustrated. How come others can eat what ever they want and lose weight? Why is it so hard for you? You continue to follow this plan, but frustration starts to seep in. Hopefully next week the scale budges, and hopefully you have enough energy to wake up after the 5th time you tap your snooze button on Monday.
Week 8: Alright, screw this! You could be watching the Cardinals game, but instead your doing cardio at the gym for like the 5th time this week (Thought bubble: Maybe that’s why your not losing weight). You start to lose motivation because you set unrealistic goals that led to some short term progress but are unsustainable in the long run.
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Week 9 on…: Things start to come up, and you fall off the bandwagon. Eating whatever you want is liberating so you rebel a little bit. Months down the line you’ll have an epiphany: You gained all of the weight back you lost plus 5 more! How could you do this to yourself? After all of that hard work? So what are you going to do about it? Well you did lose 10 lbs at the beginning of your last diet. Maybe you did something wrong, maybe you can do it better next time. Maybe you were the problem. Diet round 2, here we come!
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Sound familiar? This is a classic example of people who diet and get success for a few weeks or months, only to hit a plateau that they never overcome.
Why does this happen? Basically, our body is really smart and adapts to what we’re doing.
If your goal is weight loss, we have to be at a calorie deficient in order to lose body fat, but if we are too drastic with our deficit, or stay on it for too long, we’re at a high risk of hitting the dreaded plateau.
Our body does this a number of ways. First, it will decrease muscle mass, because muscle is a metabolic force that demands energy and keep our metabolism high. That’s why strength training and protein are so important when you’re in a weight loss plan.
Second, it will increase Reverse T3, a thyroid hormone that binds to the active T3 hormone decreasing the amount of T3 available.
So why is that important to know? Because T3 is the active thyroid hormone that is the most important to your overall metabolism.
But it doesn’t end there.
Our body loses the ability to handle carbohydrates properly, negatively affecting our insulin sensitivity. So now, otherwise healthy carbohydrate based foods like sweet potatoes become not as healthy for you.
These are two of the major examples, but your hormone production is negatively affected across the board. In short, it dramatically decreases your metabolism, or the the total sum of all chemical processes in your body.
So how can you diet without wrecking your metabolism?
There’s a couple key rules we must abide by. First, we must not be at too much of a calorie deficit. If its too extreme we’ll sacrifice muscle and slow our metabolism. If we’re patient and lose fat the right way, we can gain strength and actually improve our metabolism to not only get us lean, but keep us that way.
The problem is, most people don’t have a healthy framework to start with. If you don’t have a default template that works with your lifestyle you don’t know how to tweak things to change your body the way you want to.
At Faster Fitness, we recommend most people eating 4 meals per day, eating every 4 hours. You want to get adequate protein, veggies and energy (carbs and/or fat) at every meal. If you’re consistent 80-90% of the time you should have better energy, workout performance, and have a base to modify your plan for body composition changes.
So lets say you’re eating 4 balanced meals throughout the day of proper portions.
If you want to lose body fat, you could start by not eating carbs at the first 2-3 meals of the day. Or, you can eat less fat at a couple meals. Or maybe moving to your default healthy template is enough change to get you the results you desire.
Plus, this is simple and easy to stick with the rest of your life, unlike calorie counting in an app like MyFitnessPal, although there are times when that is beneficial.
So when you find something that is not overly aggressive and works, stick with it until you hit a plateau. Then tweak your plan to continue to get consistent results. If your goal is weight loss, know that lowering portions/calories isn’t always the answer. We have advanced strategies that can be advantageous, but typically, it’s not necessary.
So what did we learn from this class?
~Establish a simple template that you can tweak to reach your goals.
~Make slight tweaks to your template if you want to lose fat or add muscle.
-Follow your plan with 80-90% consistency.
-Tweak when necessary until you reach your ultimate goal: A lean, strong body for life.
-Dramatic weight loss in the short term will leave you feeling like crap and long term metabolic havoc. Planning out a more patient approach is the only way to not only prevent the potential negatives, but build your metabolism (assuming you are strength training and doing intervals) to not only help you get lean, but stay lean.
So set realistic goals, focus on the process and make us proud!