“I’ve been doing everything. I just can’t drop the weight. I’m pretty sure I just have a slow metabolism”
It’s inevitable. A minimum of 11 times a day in every commercial gym across the world, within it’s warm iron filled confines, someone will utter those words.
Any trainer has seen it and heard it all too often. Some of us even believe it with our clients. In theory it’s a great idea. You’ve been sweating like a pig to look like a fox, and it just won’t happen. You just want to be foxy, right? I mean who doesn’t. The best part of blaming your metabolism, is it’s not all your fault. Forget taking a hard look in the mirror. There’s some unseen force called the “metabolism” that most of us don’t even understand, preventing you from being foxy.
Does a slow metabolism actually exist in the real world?
What if your metabolism does slow down, but thanks to the missteps you make when trying to lose weight?
Bad news mi amigo. Plain ol slow metabolisms hardly ever happen in real life. Yo yo dieting, excessive calorie cutting, excessive cardio and too little weight lifting will cause your metabolism to slow down though. That’s the cold hard truth.
I totally understand if you’re reeling right now from getting punched right square in the nose with the hard fist of truth. Truth will do that to you. It’s heartless. I’ll doctor you up, lead you through that necessary rhinoplasty now, and tell you what’s actually going on.
Humans actually have a couple of different metabolic rates you might want to know about. The first one being Basal Metabolic Rate.
BMR is the minimum level of energy expended needed to keep your vital functions (brain, heart, lungs, etc) going. So BMR is the amount of calories you burn each and every single day just to keep yourself alive if you laid in bed all day every day watching the entire Netflix catalog. Not that anybody does that or anything..
BMR accounts for roughly 70% of the energy you expend each day. It’s pretty costly in terms of energy just to keep yourself alive. In fact the brain alone accounts for roughly 20% of your daily energy needs.
Next we’ve got RMR, or Resting Metabolic Rate. This one is almost identical to BMR, just add in your daily moving, eating, etc. It usually winds up being about 10% higher than your BMR.
So we’ve got metabolism defined now. You understand that keeping yourself alive ain’t no easy task. The next thing we need to know is that metabolism is not static. Meaning you don’t just have a metabolism once you’re born, and stuck with that metabolic rate. Metabolism fluctuates day in and day out, and many times a day, thanks to a large number of factors.
In fact, metabolism actually increases every single time you eat thanks to a weird acronym called TEF, otherwise known as Thermic Effect of Feeding. Anytime you eat food, your metabolism increases so it can break the food down, turn it into energy, and get your body moving.
So what about those things I alluded to earlier. Those things about you making your metabolism slow down. Oh the suspense! I know, it’s killing you. Without further ado, here we go.
Hanging out on the elliptical and neglecting the weight room is doing more harm than good. Simple as that. Don’t get me wrong, I think all cardio has a time and place. But it’s vastly over utilized by the average who is looking to lose weight.
Muscle is like that expensive designer handbag. It’s costly, even when it’s just hanging out. Muscle is metabolically active tissue. It burns more calories than fat, by just hanging out attached to your bones. So wouldn’t it make sense to add more muscle mass?
Here’s a little factoid you probably want to file away as you get older. Every decade we age after 25, metabolic rate declines by 2-4%. So of course a 55 year old doesn’t have the same metabolic rate as a 25 year old. Also, for every decade we age between 25-65, we lose about 5 lbs of lean mass. It’s thought that the slowing of our metabolism is directly caused by the amount of muscle tissue we lose. So prevent muscle loss = keeping your metabolism humming.
2 eprops for working Obi Wan Kenobi into an article about metabolism.
If that doesn’t turn you on to throwing around weights a few days a week, even if you’re the daintiest little girl, I don’t know what will.
So muscle burns more calories. What wastes away muscle mass? Not challenging your muscles with resistance exercise, underfeeding, and excessive cardio. Those who spend 5-7 days a week doing cardio as their primary form of exercise are actually, over time, atrophying muscle tissue. Causing a change in body fat percentage for the worse, and likely no real change in weight.
What about your diet? What about underfeeding? Cutting calories in hopes that you’ll get the weight loss math equation (calories in, calories out) on your side?
Cutting calories too low, usually below somewhere in the 1,200 range for the average exercising individual, can prevent this weight loss from taking place. The body needs food to survive. We already know around 70% of what you eat goes just to keeping your ticker ticking.
Anytime you begin reducing calories your body responds by reducing it’s metabolic rate. To keep yourself alive. The body adapted over millions of years to realize in times of limited food supply it should burn less. Due to this, if you continually lower calories, you’re going to continually slow your metabolism down.
That’s what we in the biz call bad. This bad news is amplified when you add in strenuous exercise or excessive cardio. What’s even worse is that other serious functions start to slow down. Cognitive function severely declines (ever feel foggy after starting a new diet?), reproductive funtioning, and your thyroid output is drastically reduced.
How do you remedy this? Is it possible that you actually could eat more, and still lose weight?
*I’ll go ahead and say giving personalized advice is most definitely not what this article is about. This is purely informative, and meant to make you think. If you’re looking for serious diet and exercise help tailored to you, contact me here.
If you’re looking to lose weight you need an energy imbalance. That’s obvious. But too much of an energy balance can wreak havoc on a number of processes in your body just like we saw above, and wind up preventing you from losing anymore weight. Keep in mind that we burn calories all day long, during exercise, and after exercise thanks to creating an oxygen debt.
Eating just below maintenance (amount of calories required to keep you at the exact same weight), cycling daily calories from high amounts to lower amounts depending on exercise activity, or eating at maintenance and continually exercising daily are all ways to steadily create an energy imbalance and lead to fat loss. Also getting accustomed to spending time in the weight room.
Metabolism isn’t something to play around with. While you likely don’t have a slow metabolism, it can be slowed by factors like diet and exercise if you’re not doing them properly. These are the important things to keep in mind whether you’re just now starting, in the middle, or towards the end of your weight loss journey.