Do you feel like you're gaining weight for absolutely no reason? You're not alone. In fact, it's a pretty common occurrence- much more than you might think. The reason for this is something called "metabolic damage."
In truth, this has nothing to do with blaming yourself for your lack of clean eating, not working out enough, or a myriad of other issues we often place the blame on. In fact, in most cases, metabolic damage has very little to do with you at all-it's usually the result of a force that's beyond your control (at least in the beginning).
The impact of stress and genetic factors cannot be understated when it comes to metabolic damage. Unfortunately, these are two areas that we have little-to-no control over. However, all hope is not lost. You can still completely turn things around.
We'll be looking at what exactly it is, how it tends to develop, and what you can do to start fixing the problem once and for all.
What Is Metabolic Damage Anyway?
Sometimes it can be hard to really put metabolic damage into words. But the simplest manifestation of this happening can be explained as the weight gain (above and beyond) that occurs after you would have experienced a little weight loss.
Basically, it is damage to your metabolic rate arising from poor dietary practices. Metabolic damage is not the same as starvation mode, which also leads to a diminished metabolic rate, as the diminished metabolism still occurs even when you are eating sufficiently.
Damage has occurred and the body finds it difficult to regulate calorie usage versus consumption.
The Genesis Of Metabolic Damage
Most otherwise normal people that develop metabolic damage do so as a result of yo-yo dieting.
To be emphatically clear; this is likely what makes you unable to lose weight. Not your lack of trying.
Upon calorie restriction from dieting, your body reduces metabolic rate in an effort to ensure your survival. This is a primitive trait embedded in us that is arguably responsible for our longevity as a species.
Unfortunately, the human body doesn't know the difference between calorie restriction as a result of starvation and calorie restriction as a result of dieting. So when you cut calories for an extended period of time, it will adjust your metabolic rate downwards in the same way it would if you were starving to death.
However, the key difference here is that when you're starving, there's no food for your body to use for energy. But when you're dieting, there is food available- it's just in smaller quantities than your body is used to.
This often leads to a state known as "metabolic adaptation," where your body becomes very good at extracting energy from the food you do eat, and storing it as body fat.
This is usually the first step in the metabolic damage cascade, as the body becomes very efficient at storing calories and using less of it.
The Causes Of Metabolic Damage
Metabolic damage usually occurs when several bad choices pile up, worsening the effect any one alone would have.
By far, this is the primary driver of metabolic damage. This form of dieting- in which you restrict calories so much for a short period of time, then revert to old habits, only to repeat the entire process over and over in fast succession- is very damaging to your metabolism.
The main reason for this is because it alters your levels of the hormone leptin. Leptin is responsible for regulating energy intake and expenditure, as well as hunger signals.
When you're in a calorie deficit (i.e. dieting), leptin levels drop. This suppresses your metabolism and increases hunger. Once you start eating again (i.e. going off your diet), leptin levels rebound, but not all the way back to their original state.
This results in a "leptin resistant" state, where your body becomes insensitive to the hormone's signals. This makes it harder to lose weight in the future, as your metabolism is now lower than it was before, and your hunger signals are no longer working properly.
the yo-yo pattern can eventually leave your metabolism as low as 50% of what it normally was, even promoting mitochondrial atrophy- or the breakdown of the key energy centers in cells.
This cant be compensated for by just reducing food intake by half, or the self-destructive cycle will worsen.
This is different from yo-yo diets in the sense that you aren't performing any sort of dietary restriction, but instead consuming poor quality and highly processed foods.
But why exactly does processed food promote metabolic damage? Because, for one, the body absorbs more calories from processed foods. There is less actual digestion involved as the food has already technically been partially digested by the time you consume it.
This not only leads to more calorie absorption, but also affects leptin levels. When you eat processed foods, your body produces more leptin in response. But just like with yo-yo dieting, this results in a "leptin resistant" state, where the body becomes insensitive to the hormone's signals.
Processed foods also contain more sugar and fat than whole foods, which can further exacerbate the effects of metabolic damage.
And of course, there's the fact that the body will expend less calories digesting the food via the thermic effect.
Remember, your diet is responsible for over 80% of your progress (or lack thereof).
One of the most efficient ways to fix a flogging metabolism is to start exercising.
Exercise has been shown to be highly effective at offsetting the effects of metabolic damage, as well as improving insulin sensitivity.
But how does it do this?
For one, it helps to increase energy expenditure. Obviously, the more you move, the more calories you burn. But exercise also helps to increase your resting metabolic rate (or the number of calories you burn at rest).
This is because exercise increases muscle mass, and muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. This means that even when you're not exercising, your body will be burning more calories.
In fact, every pound of muscle you add can increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 50 calories per day.
Exercise also helps to improve insulin sensitivity. This is important because insulin resistance is a major driver of metabolic damage. When your body becomes resistant to insulin, it has trouble regulating blood sugar levels.
This can lead to excess fat storage, as well as a host of other problems. But exercise helps to improve insulin sensitivity, which can offset the effects of metabolic damage.
We can't say how many times we've spoken about the important of sleep on this blog. But it really can't be overstated.
Sleep is absolutely critical for recovery, and it also plays a major role in regulating metabolism.
Studies have shown that poor sleep can lead to insulin resistance, as well as an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which means that it breaks down tissue. This includes muscle tissue, which can lead to a decrease in metabolism.
And as we've already mentioned, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. So, a decrease in muscle mass will lead to a decrease in metabolism.
Additionally, poor sleep can also lead to an increase in appetite. This is because it leads to a decrease in leptin levels, leptin being a hormone that regulates appetite.
So, if you're not getting enough sleep, you're more likely to be hungry, and you're also more likely to store fat.
Not only that, but you're also more likely to crave junk food when you're sleep deprived. So, not only will you be eating more, but you'll also be eating poorer quality food.
This is a recipe for disaster if there ever was one.
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? This is the relationship between metabolic syndrome and damage. But regardless of that answer, one thing for certain is the fact that they worsen each other.
metabolic syndrome is characterized by insulin resistance and poor bloog glucose control, central obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These are all conditions which lead to metabolic damage.
And, as we've already discussed, metabolic damage is characterized by a decrease in metabolism, which contributes to weight gain, insulin dysfunction and reduced fat usage. So, it's a bit of a vicious cycle.
Luckily, metabolic syndrome can be reversed.
Can You Fix Metabolic Damage?
You can turn around the effects of metabolism damage. It will take work, and it will also require time. Sadly, many people quit too soon as it looks like nothing is being achieved.
But the sooner you implement some of these changes, the faster you can start combating the excessive weight gain and get your metabolism back to a state of relative normalcy.
A Solid Diet
You won't be able to fix your metabolism if you're still eating the same way that caused the damage in the first place.
You need to make some serious changes to your diet if you want to see any sort of progress.
First and foremost, you need to start eating whole foods. This means ditching the processed junk and getting back to basics.
In addition to this, you need to be religious about your caloric intake. Your goal is to create SUSTAINABLE weight management, that will not massively impact your metabolism in the long-term.
You should also be paying attention to your macronutrient intake. Make sure you're getting enough protein, as it's essential for building muscle mass and for its thermic effect.
You should also make sure you're getting enough healthy fats, as they're important for hormone production. And lastly, don't forget your carbs.
They're not the enemy, and they can actually be quite beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight. Just make sure you're eating complex carbs, and not simple sugars.
Calculate what your basal metabolic rate is, then consume 500 less calories on a daily basis. You just need to lose one pound per week. If after 5 weeks you haven't seen at least a 4 pound difference on the scale, it means that you either calculate your requirement wrong, and you are over or under eating.
You might be able to tell this from feel; are you cold all the time? It could mean you're cutting calories back too much. if that's the case, increase by 200 calories and evaluate again in 5 weeks.
You need to start exercising if you want to see any sort of progress. As we've already mentioned, exercise helps to increase muscle mass, which in turn will help to increase your metabolism.
In addition to this, exercise also helps to reduce body fat. The more body fat you have, the lower your metabolism will be. So, by reducing body fat, you'll be able to increase your metabolism.
Exercise also helps to reduce stress levels, which can lead to a whole host of problems, including weight gain. So, by reducing stress, you'll be able to improve your overall health, as well as your metabolism.
And lastly, exercise also helps to increase energy levels. This is important because if you're always tired, you're more likely to make poor food choices and you're also less likely to exercise.
So, by increasing your energy levels, you'll be able to make better food choices and you'll also be more likely to exercise.
All of these things combined will help to improve your metabolism.
What type of exercise should you focus on? Aerobic and anaerobic types. Anaerobic weight bearing exercise will build muscle mass and have a positive downstream effect on metabolism, while cardiovascular exercise will help you burn calories in a jiffy.
Aim for exercise 5-6 days weekly, alternating the two types.
Maintain Gut Health
The health of our gut is of so much important that most people cannot appreciate this fact. The gut is home to a plethora of bacteria, many of which are beneficial to our overall health.
These bacteria help us to digest our food properly, they help to regulate our immune system, and they also play a role in our metabolism. Plus, these bacteria also tend to promote hormonal balance.
The health of our gut strongly correlates to diet, which is why so many things depend on you consuming quality nourishment .
As we mentioned earlier, sleep is essential for a healthy metabolism. If you're not getting enough sleep, your metabolism will suffer.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, when you're sleep deprived, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol.
And as we mentioned before, cortisol can lead to weight gain and it can also interfere with your metabolism.
In addition to this, when you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to make poor food choices.
You're also more likely to be tired, and when you're tired, you're less likely to exercise. All of these things can lead to weight gain and a slower metabolism.
So, make sure you're getting enough sleep. Aim for 7-8 hours per night- and if you can't, there's a natural sleep aide for that; Dreamzzz.
There you have it- metabolic damage: the reason for your lack of progress. By following the tips we've outlined above, you can start to see a difference in your metabolism and your overall health.
Just remember- it takes time. So, be patient and consistent with your efforts, and you will see results. Do not delay in your efforts to get your body back ti the way it was before. Start today!