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halo518
10-08-2004, 01:06 PM
I read so many posts in this forum indicating that the reason many aren't shedding weight/body fat is because they are undereating. The idea behind this I think goes that if you are undereating, your body is going to think it is starving, it will slow down it's metabolism, and thus every calorie you consume is going to be held onto by your body in an attempt to keep from starving.

What I have a hard time understanding from just a logical point of view is, isn't it scientifically proven that a human body will burn fat + muscle if more energy is expended than consumed? (That probably wasnn't the most technical way of putting it, but hopefully it makes sense.) If someone has a BMR of 1350, and they are eating 1000calories a day, doing cardio AND weight lifting, shouldn't it be virtually impossible for the body to NOT lose weight, even if it is both fat and muscle? I mean, isn't that basically what anorexia is?

imperfectly_lou
10-09-2004, 01:04 AM
Yes and no... the body will not always follow the mathematics.

As your body weight goes down, your BMR drops. Also, as you lose muscle, your BMR drops (and when crash dieting, a lot of muscle is lost). Plus, not feeding your body adequately = decreased BMR.

So maybe a person SHOULD have a BMR of 1350, but this drops to 800 or even less due to the effects of calorie restriction. If you are exercising AND starving yourself, your cortisol levels will raise due to the stress on the body, and your body will be even more likely to retain fat.

Yes, eventually the body WILL start to lose weight, but it will be very very slow. When I suffered from anorexia, I lost 20lbs very quickly, but after that, I barely lost a thing, despite eating only about 500cals a day. I remember it would sometimes take 2 weeks just to lose a pound.

The body is smart - it will resist as much as it can...

halo518
10-09-2004, 10:08 AM
Ah, ok this makes sense, this is what I was trying to understand. So the body really does adapt pretty quickly to calorie deficit ... and I guess it becomes even more efficient when it senses a famine, by dropping its BMR and getting better at storing fat. So it truly is a matter of undercutting your calories JUST a TINY bit so that you're at a deficit, but not enough to make your body think it's starving. This concept seems easy to accept logically, but SO hard to live by sometimes! Thanks Lou :)

Emma-Leigh
10-09-2004, 03:53 PM
Ah, ok this makes sense, this is what I was trying to understand. So the body really does adapt pretty quickly to calorie deficit ...
Yes - your body actually responds REALLY quickly. With in 12 hours of decreasing your calories your body will slow it's normal processes down to cope with the decrease in energy.

Females are even more 'thrifty' with calories than males are - we are more prone to decreasing our metabolic rates in the face of calorie deficiency and are also more likely to store increased incoming calories as fat. (Damn biological side effect of being baby machines! Grrrr...).


I guess it becomes even more efficient when it senses a famine, by dropping its BMR and getting better at storing fat.
Yup - your body can decrease it's metabolism A LOT! However, at the end of the day, if you drop your calories really low then you are still going to loose weight (just slowly) because your body still has obligate energy needs (your brain and heart, respiration and your liver and kidney functions all require energy).


So it truly is a matter of undercutting your calories JUST a TINY bit so that you're at a deficit, but not enough to make your body think it's starving. Yes!! That is is exactly! And the easiest way to do this is to increase the mass and activity of your muscles - which will lead to an increase in your metabolic rate and you will hardly have to adjust your calories at all!

SEADRA
10-09-2004, 04:39 PM
I read in a article that once your metabolism slows down to compensate for the low calories it never speeds back up. It will always remain at a slower rate. Is that true?

justagirl
10-09-2004, 05:12 PM
Yes and no... the body will not always follow the mathematics.

As your body weight goes down, your BMR drops. Also, as you lose muscle, your BMR drops (and when crash dieting, a lot of muscle is lost). Plus, not feeding your body adequately = decreased BMR.

So maybe a person SHOULD have a BMR of 1350, but this drops to 800 or even less due to the effects of calorie restriction. If you are exercising AND starving yourself, your cortisol levels will raise due to the stress on the body, and your body will be even more likely to retain fat.

Yes, eventually the body WILL start to lose weight, but it will be very very slow. When I suffered from anorexia, I lost 20lbs very quickly, but after that, I barely lost a thing, despite eating only about 500cals a day. I remember it would sometimes take 2 weeks just to lose a pound.

The body is smart - it will resist as much as it can...

imperfectlylou, i remember you well from the old shape.com boards.. good to 'see' you again! great post, as always

Emma-Leigh
10-09-2004, 08:49 PM
I read in a article that once your metabolism slows down to compensate for the low calories it never speeds back up. It will always remain at a slower rate. Is that true?
This depends - it depend on what your metabolism was like before you started dieting and what condition your body is in now.

I posted something on this a while ago.. I will see if I can find it...

Here it is (the question was in regards to the effect of dieting on metabolism):


It is true that excessive dieting and exercise (and other things) can result in long term disruption of your metabolism. The responses in your body to these things (such as alterations in a plethora of neurochemicals/hormones such as decrease leptin, decreased thyroid hormone, increased cortisol, decreased sympathetic tone and decreased growth hormone) are all geared towards lowering your metabolism so your body can survive through the apparent starvation.

As to how you can find out if yours has been effected - well, that is relatively hard... Having to eat much less than you used to be able to eat would be a good indication (taking into consideration any healthy changes you may have made in terms of lowering yourself from being markedly obese or lowering any gross calorie over-consumption)... Things like obsessive thoughts about food, low libido, binging, tiredness, menstrual abnormalities, frequent illness etc are all signs of chronic negative energy balance/low leptin/low thyroid hormone and are therefore signs of decreased metabolic rate.

You could also (if you had the money) get your resting metabolic rate calculated (most large hospitals and some universities have this available) and compare it with generally accepted metabolic rates for people with similar statistics to you - however RMR is so variable between individuals that this may prove useless.

Anyway - I would just take it as a 'given' that if you have been severely restricting your calories, or if you have lost substantial amounts of weight, that your metabolic rate has suffered.

What you can do is just try to do to increase it again is:
1. Exercise (resistance training as well as cardiovascular training) will help with your nutrient partitioning - both via increasing your muscle mass (which means you have a greater 'metabolic sink' or 'energy drain' - and this means more incoming energy is needed and used by your muscles) and also via an increase in insulin sensitivity and cell receptor expression of your muscles.

The exercise does not have to just be planned. NEAT (non-exercise associated thermogenesis) is actually the most substantial contributor to a persons metabolism - this is things such as walking, sitting, fidgeting, shopping, gardening, talking and any movement you make during the day. So the more active you are the better (there is a limit however - as EXCESSIVE exercise will eventually cause a stress response which will decrease metabolism - so it is all about finding a balance).

2. Make sure you eat sufficient calories - if you know you are eating too few calories then start by slowly increasing your intake.

3. Making sure you eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. All three of these macronutrients (in my opinion anyway) are essential for maximal metabolism. Also, carbohydrates and proteins have a little extra thermogenic potential, meaning your body has to work a little harder to try to get the energy it needs from them (as apposed to fats, which have very little thermogenic effect).

Also, a higher fibre intake will also make your body work harder and omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in maximising your bodies metabolic potential (they assist in hormone production and allow your cells to metabolise fats more readily).

Trying to get most (if not all) of your calories from real foods (and not powders and supplements) is also a good idea and you should make sure you are getting your required vitamins, minerals, water etc. (eg: The B vitamins are really helpful in metabolism).

4. Make sure you eat frequent, smaller meals - this increases the energy needed to digest/absorb and utilise the calories from your food, meaning your body has to work harder and this will increase your calorie needs as a result. Eating frequently will also prevent those negative hormonal responses that I talked about above (increased cortisol, increased glucogon etc).


It may take some time but you can restore your metabolism...


... However, if you remain under your natural set-point (the weight and bodyfat at which your body is 'comfortable') or if there are on-going issues in terms of leptin/ negative energy balance/ stress then, unfortunately, it is possible that your metabolism will not return to its pre-dieting state.

imperfectly_lou
10-09-2004, 09:12 PM
imperfectlylou, i remember you well from the old shape.com boards.. good to 'see' you again! great post, as always

Wow! That was a long time ago! I am flattered to be remembered!

Seadra - It is totally possible for your metabolism to rev b ack up to normal again. I am pretty sure mine is back to normal, or very close to it...

hb52879
10-11-2004, 10:32 AM
I'm confused again. This thread has been really helpful. A couple of months ago I wrote in about some similar questions. I had just run a marathon and was training with a trainer 3 times a week and hardley seeing any results.

Since that time I stoped dieting and keeping track of what I ate. I relaxed and continued to eat the same healthy things but I wasn't so strict about it. The result was that I was much less stressed out about what I looked like. I continued to lift heavy and continued to see changes.

About 2 weeks ago I decided to go back to keeping track of what I ate and started to limit my kcal to about 1300 - 1500. I have a spreadsheet if you want to see it. This was at the advice of my trainer who suggested that I not listen to people that have more muscle than I do because they burn more. Which got me to thinking, how am I really supposed to figure out when my body is starving and when it isn't. Typically I am always hungry no matter what so its hard to just "listen" to my body.

Heres the situation. I am really good Monday - Thursday then the Weekend comes and I see friends or go out to dinner and I can't stick to it. I wind up consuming more that I would if I wasn't dieting. Or, maybe its just that when I wasn't keeping track I let myself believe that it didn't matter.

So, I'm back to where I was a couple of months ago. I can't seem to figure out what I need to do to loose. It seems that if I eat more kcal I stay the same, if I restrict I gain, most likely cause I can't stick to it on the weekends. I don't care what I have to do if I know it is going to work. But staying the same is much better than gaining. However, that is not the goal.

BTW, my stats are the same as they were 4 months ago

Height - 5'3''
Weight - 138 - 142
BF - 22 - 24%

My workouts are now:
- Monday Off
- Tuesday Upper Body - Heavy
- Wednesday Cardio 20 - 40 min HIIT
- Thursday Legs and lower back - Heavy Cardio for 20 at most after
- Friday Cardio 40min - Hour
- Saturday Upper Body - Heavy, Cardio for 20 min
- Sunday OFF

Typical good day diet is:
Breakfast
-1/3 cup oatmeal
-2 egg whites
-1 teaspoon flax
-1/2 cup rasberries
Snack
-2 egg whites
-1/3 cup brown rice
- Apple
Lunch
-2 piece sprouted bread
-3 oz chicken
-2 cups Spinach
-1 teaspoon flax
Snack
-2 egg whites
-1/3 cup brown rice or yam
Dinner
-4 oz chicken
-2 cups spinach w/other vegetables.
-1 teaspoon flax

Total = 1300 - 1500 kcal
113gm protein
75gm complex carbs
75gm fiberous carbs
29gm fat.

I'll post some pics tomorrow so that you can see my improvements but I'm not losing any body fat. Please help me figure out what small change I can make to get this to work. I'm afraid that if I set my goal on a competition that I won't be able to diet down for it. Please keep in mind that by increasing my kcal to 1700 kept me at the same bf too.

Thanks!!!!

impossible702
10-11-2004, 02:15 PM
dont let your "dieting down" get out of control like mine did, and yes, i am a guy.

RVA Ironman
10-11-2004, 02:48 PM
This depends - it depend on what your metabolism was like before you started dieting and what condition your body is in now.

I posted something on this a while ago.. I will see if I can find it...

Here it is (the question was in regards to the effect of dieting on metabolism):

It is true that excessive dieting and exercise (and other things) can result in long term disruption of your metabolism. The responses in your body to these things (such as alterations in a plethora of neurochemicals/hormones such as decrease leptin, decreased thyroid hormone, increased cortisol, decreased sympathetic tone and decreased growth hormone) are all geared towards lowering your metabolism so your body can survive through the apparent starvation.

As to how you can find out if yours has been effected - well, that is relatively hard... Having to eat much less than you used to be able to eat would be a good indication (taking into consideration any healthy changes you may have made in terms of lowering yourself from being markedly obese or lowering any gross calorie over-consumption)... Things like obsessive thoughts about food, low libido, binging, tiredness, menstrual abnormalities, frequent illness etc are all signs of chronic negative energy balance/low leptin/low thyroid hormone and are therefore signs of decreased metabolic rate.


Great post. Your suggestions on how to increase metabolism to a normal rate were helpful; however, the ones involving eating (increasing cals slowly, making sure you eat enough of each macronutrient, etc.) don't particularly help with the obsessive thoughts about food/dieting (because they force you to think about food/dieting. I drastically changed my diet about 4 years ago. I cut out as much fat, sweets, sugars, etc. as I could, and started eating a lot of chicken, fish, and greens. The change in diet, increase in the number of sports played, and a strict work-ethic at the gym have resulted in me going from about 225 lbs. and 20% BF four years ago to where I am today (fluctuates btw. 186-190, 9-10 % BF). The only problem is that I've noticed recently that I'm obsessing about food/dieting way too much. If it's because of a negative energy balance or low leptin/low thyroid hormone, what else would you suggest doing?