Eating in a calorie deficit and working out but not losing weight

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eating in a calorie deficit and working out but not worknig out

Is your metabolism broken from dieting?

People often think that their metabolism has been broken from over dieting.  The phrase has been banded about all over social media by diet gurus who then proceed to push their ‘metabolism fixer’ program or supplements.

Is your metabolism actually broken though?  Does it really need fixing?

In this article I’d like to challenge your thinking and show you that while dieting and exercising is a proven way to lose body fat, sometimes you need to take a step back.  It’s very easy to stay in our own bubble and be afraid of eating more when eating less has brought you results so far.

It’s easy to keep on exercising more and to reduce food even more.  Eventually though this will lead to ill health and exhaustion.

You know this deep down and it might scare you a bit that there’s no solution.

I want to give you that solution that will make you happier, healthier, allow you to eat more and still lose weight.

Sound good?  Then lets’ get into it.

If you’d like to watch or listen instead of reading then scroll to the bottom.

Why your calorie deficit is not working

As you restrict calories and exercise your calorie deficit will increase.  After a while the body recognises that fat is being lost and if that deficit is quite high it will start to put the brakes on.  This happens when metabolic hormones are suppresed such as thyroid and leptin.

The reduction in leptin boosts your hunger so that you eat more to increase calorie intake.

The reduction in thyroid hormone reduces your calorie expenditure by making you more lethargic and reducing your metabolic rate.

In short your body is creating a direct counter to the situation you have created through your diet and exercise.

Eventually you stall and no more weight is lost.

Why cutting calories even more isn't the answer

It might sound logical that once weight loss has stalled the answer is to reduce calories more or to increase exercise.

In many cases this could actually be the right solution.  Gradual weight loss does result in a lowering of metabolism because you are carrying less weight around.  

If you weren’t exercising then I’d suggest that was a sound strategy as weight loss can be achieved from only restricting calories.

Exercise does bring some nice adaptions though.  The more you exercise the more efficient your body becomes at using the fuel you put into it.

Exercise increases the quantity of enzymes that produce glycogen – your muscle’s main fuel for explosive exercise.  This means you can turn more carbohydrates into serious muscle fuel and there’s less chance of it ending up as body fat in a surplus.

Exercise also increases the enzymes in your muscles that process the fat stored in your muscles – called IMTAGs (Intra Muscular Tryglycerides)

What this means is that your body becomes a more efficient machine both at absorbing the food you put in and burning that food up as exercise.

This in turn means that you can exercise for longer at a higher level providing you’ve got the fuel to do that.

Are you eating enough to lose weight?

The problem then presents itself that while you’ve done really well increasing your fitness levels you’ve also restricted the fuel to perform that exercise.  Over time this results in the situation I highlighted earlier where the body starts to put the brakes on.

You may be able to mentally motivate yourself to get into the gym but you find the workouts gradually getting harder to do.

You may also find yourself extremely tired when you get home.  This is a process called compensation where the body tries to slow you right down to account for the workout calories you just expended.

Coupled with the other metabolic hormone variations that I talked about earlier this eventually results in a stalling of your weight loss efforts and incredible frustration

How to 'fix' a broken metabolism

Let’s be clear here, there’s no magic wand to wave for an instant fix.

Very simply we want to make sure that our calorie intake and expenditure is putting us in a situation where the body is happy to lose body fat and is happy that the fuel coming in doesn’t put our existence at risk. 

Long term extreme calorie deficits potentially could result in death which is why the body puts the brakes on quick smart.

It does depend on your level of body fat though.  There is a well documented case of Mr AB a Scotsman who ate nothing for over a year as he was so tired of his obesity.  The body was able to utilise it’s body fat levels to supply energy to keep him alive quite easily.

If you are very overweight then you’ll most likely not encounter this scenario of a stalled metabolism for a while.

I generally see this situation in people who are not obese but who have a reasonable level of body fat that they are trying to reduce.

They are already at a level of body fat that is not obese or very overweight but they still want to get leaner. Reducing too fast too quickly results in these feedback signals from the body presenting more quickly.

Increasing calories to lose weight

First you’ll need to check your calories are set at the right level

Go to my calorie calculator and enter your details to determine if your current calorie intake is too low.

You’ll also need to track your calorie intake.  This can be done using a tracking app like MyFitnessPal – check out my walk through guide here.

I can’t stress how important it is to calculate and track your calories.  At least in the first instance you need to know what your expected output and intake is.

If you’re in the situation of a metabolic stall as outlined earlier then it’s likely that you’re in a major deficit.  A simple increase can help kick start your weight loss again.

You want to be in around 300-500 calorie deficit a day to be in a healthy weight loss environment in my experience.

If you are in a higher deficit then I’d advise increasing carbohydrates while making sure that protein is at a level of 2g or protein per kg of bodyweight.

I’ve found that clients get best results using this method.

You may find that weight goes up slightly at first.  This is due to food volume increasing and you should expect it but not be worried.

You’ll find that you have much more energy for training and you’ll quickly see your body lean up.

Watch the video below where I discuss a case study with a former client and how we fixed her metabolism

Watch below or listen via the audio podcast at the bottom

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