A calorie is a calorie, right?

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, right? Not even close! Perhaps inside test tubes in laboratories; but in the real world, a calorie is more like the American dollar— its value goes up and down with inflation and the economy. If inflation is high, a dollar doesn’t buy us much. Likewise, if your metabolism is running high, a few extra calories will be quickly used and therefore have less impact on your “bottom line”. If your metabolism is running low, even a few extra calories will pack on extra pounds.

I collect a food log before creating a client's program to see what kind of food consumption their metabolism can handle. The value and effect of a calorie can only be measured when contrasted with the speed of our metabolism at the time the calorie is ingested. And the speed of your metabolism is constantly adjusting to the environment created for it daily by your energy balance.

If we reduce calories, we trigger a metabolic response in our bodies that starts slowing our metabolism. We will then lose weight only until the metabolism has adapted to our new caloric intake. We call this point a 'plateau'.

It’s at these 'plateaus' that we are most vulnerable to taking extreme measures that can ruin our metabolisms. Often we resort to some nutritional "extreme" out of frustration to break this plateau. Understanding how our metabolism works and what a plateau actually is, helps us to determine how to handle them. Our bodies metabolism can significantly throttle back and slow down when it perceives a food shortage. This is a survival mechanic, and a very powerful one. When we hit these plateaus we have two options:

A - reduce calories or carbohydrates further

B - Increase food intake

These options may seem straight-forward but responding incorrectly to a plateau can cause big problems for our efforts to reduce body fat. If handled properly, a structured decrease in our food intake can result in temporarily staving off the plateau long enough to lose more weight. If handled incorrectly, or when food intake is already too low, it can trigger a survival mechanic that can wreck our metabolism and make it nearly impossible to lose more weight.

If we choose to increase our food intake we need to recognize that our new goal is to speed our metabolism and not necessarily to lose more weight at this point. If we increase our intake we may actually increase our body mass so making sure we are doing the proper exercise at this point will ensure that only lean mass is increased and not body fat. It’s a very fine line to walk between increasing our intake enough to speed our metabolism while not gaining any body fat. Often this can only be accomplished by a gradual increase in food intake spread out over a few weeks. If implemented properly it will reset our metabolic rate, and allow us to once again begin dieting with results.

When properly structured, a diet can be cycled in such a way to decrease weight and body fat, and if needed, be re purposed to temporarily reinvigorate our metabolic rate allowing us to hit the 'reset' on the body’s ability to drop weight.

This method has the advantage of resulting in dramatic shifts in body composition and actually 'reboots' the metabolism so that these results are sustainable.

This approach is far too dependent on individual evaluation to be presented as a mass diet.... which is why there are no manuscript diets that can yield results anywhere close to this.

An intelligent nutrition plan must be based first on the current food intake levels your body is used to; second, what activities and conditioning you’ll be engaging in; and third, what your specific body type is, and unique personal goals are.

When these elements are accounted for, and then food and exercise timing is factored in, the results can be quite impressive to even the most experienced fitness professional.