“Metabolic Damage” and “Metabolic Adaptation” are probably terms you’ve heard floating around the fitness industry as of late. They are typically used when referring to the physiological adaptations that take place when someone is in too great of an intended calorie deficit for too long. This deficit can be from reduced calorie intake, increased calorie expenditure via exercise, or a combination of the two. Personally, I call this phenomenon a “Metabolic Shift” because I think it’s important that we remove the fear of permanence in regards to what has happened. It’s important to me that women don’t think of themselves as broken or damaged, and that they recognize that only some of these shifts are permanent some of the time.
“Dieting” (for most of us) means “a lot less food, and a lot more gym,” (namely, cardio) and it seems to be our default when it comes to weight loss. Sure, we may acknowledge that strength training is important, and we might have some grasp on our hormones’ roles and functions, but we are conditioned to go back to this extreme “solution” in desperate times, because after all, a calorie deficit is what’s most important, right?
Years of serial dieting, slashing calories, and managing everything (from stress, to guilt after eating something we deem “bad”) with food restriction and another punishing mile on the treadmill have left us in a bad spot. Not only is it nearly impossible to maintain, but we’re often not getting any results, and it makes it too easy to feel like we’re racking up one more “failure” that leaves us wondering,
“What’s wrong with me? I’m exercising like crazy, and hardly eating anything. Why can’t I lose weight?”
Our body’s natural inclination is to “store up” for tough times, especially if we’ve experienced a prolonged calorie deficit. We have to fight that inclination daily given the unrelenting stress we’re under, and readily-available, calorie-dense food of our modern world. We know all of this, of course, yet years of diet marketing still lures us toward killing ourselves in the gym day in and day out, and slashing calories to rock-bottom to drop those excess pounds. But our hormones have other plans.
The up and down blood sugar stress adds to inflammation, which creates more stress, and on and on that cycle goes. Meanwhile, in the background, more problems arise with digestion and intestinal permeability, which adds to inflammation, making insulin resistance worse.