There is so much misunderstanding regarding the metabolism we could write books on just this topic. Don't even get me started on how the diet industry often tries to cover up the truth of how our metabolism actually works. I'm often asked for a summation of the topic so while this is most definitely the abbreviated version - here it is... Meet your metabolism! It works like this:
The metabolism basically has 2 modes.
“Active Mode.” - This is when it’s running at full power fueled by plentiful energy intake (calories and carbohydrates) when the body has not been dramatically deprived of the food it needs to sustain it’s mass. In other words, you’ve not been doing any sustained radical dieting that would push it into “Survival Mode.” If this describes you, then there’s good news! You have the upper hand metabolically and are in a strong position to start loosing weight!
**Note: Even if feel you have a genetically slow metabolism or are currently inactive, overweight, or out of shape, you still have the resource that matters most in the battle against excess weight. A metabolism that’s not in survival mode. With the proper science you can easily make some simple manipulations to your food combinations or meal timing and see some immediate results.
“Survival Mode” - This is a normal stage of dieting that is often misunderstood. It’s a natural response to sustained dieting and can’t be avoided entirely. When you understand what’s going on when your metabolism enters “Survival Mode” and recognize it as a natural part of the weight loss cycle, it can be dealt with quickly and effectively. There are varying degrees to this mode. It can be the normal readjusting our metabolism goes through (often between 3-5 weeks after starting a new diet) that can stop us from loosing weight for just a few days. Or it can be a complete plateauing of our weight loss progress that requires purposeful readjustment of our nutrition to circumvent the halted progress.
It’s here in the “Survival Mode” that the battle for our bodies, and our health is fought.. Sadly it’s often misinformation on how our metabolism actually works that’s responsible for abandoned weight loss aspirations. Not to worry though, you CAN lose the weight, and you’ll be delighted how painless it is when properly approached. The key is learning how to minimize the amount of time you body spends in "survival mode" and maximize your time spent in "Active mode" where the real progress is made.
Using your metabolism to your advantage
With an intelligently designed nutrition plan you can gradually, and progressively lower your food / energy intake to stimulate weight loss. As you do this you MUST realize that the more you restrict your intake the greater your metabolism turns on that survival mechanic. Ultimately most people will reach a point where they can't or shouldn't drop their intake any lower otherwise they will plunge themselves destructively into "Survival Mode" with little prospects for maintaining their recent weight loss.
The trick is understanding how to ride that line of adjusting the diet at just the right pace to sustain progressive weight loss and then recognize the early signs of needing to start increasing your food intake in order to cheat your metabolism out of a long dry summer of "survival mode". If you have to increase your intake to let your metabolism refresh, don't delay in doing so. Be prepared by planing to offer your body a proverbial piece offering... an alternative outlet for the extra calories - lean mass. If you're doing some form of resistance training then odds are the small increase will primarily go to building muscle. Be patient. This phase isn't about losing weight directly but rather about reestablishing a heathy metabolism that is in "Active Mode". After a short while you're metabolism will start running "hotter". You WILL feel this if you listen to your body. That's the signal that you're ready to start losing again. It's all in the timing. When and how much to adjust your diet is the key. As far as the "what" you should be eating, well you should already know that... Lean proteins, quality slow burning carbohydrates, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats. As to the "details" of exactly how much of the right foods to eat, what ratio to eat them in, and when to change those ratio's and amounts. . . well, it's all about the details. For those who are diligent and pay attention to the details, your metabolism will work for you instead of against you! Ignore them or leave it all to chance and you'll see... the devil is in the details.
By Angelo Poli SPN, CFT, SET
- owner Whole Body Fitnes