In the blog text Metabolic adaptation part 1, I discussed what metabolic adaptation is as a phenomenon and how to recognize it. Read Metabolic adaptation part 1 here
In the blog text Metabolic adaptation part 2, I discussed what kind of physiological processes are behind metabolic adaptation.
In the third and last text, we delve into the most interesting section – what we can do to undo metabolic adaptation.
Metabolic adaptation causes in over an extended timeframe (months to years) long-term changes in hormones, the nervous system, and habits, where the most important is the significant slowing down of metabolism.
This very easily causes an increase in weight after diets and other “regimes”. The body protects itself from dying by conserving energy. In practice, we must tell the body to stop conserving to undo these processes.
Next, you will find a step-by-step program on how to undo metabolic adaptation. The program requires an appropriate diagnosis of metabolic adaptation and that other reasons have been excluded (food diary, blood tests and other requirements).
1. Start eating!
Start with protein. Most dieters do not eat enough protein, which should be 1.5-2 g/per kg/day. It causes a decrease of fat-free weight, muscle atrophy and slowing down the metabolism of muscle cells.
In one research, where protein intake was increased to 48g/day on average, it was found that the people researched increased weight only half of the amount compared to a control group, and most of this was fat-free mass. (1)
2. Start strength training
Increasing and/or intensifying strength training is the second most important step after increasing protein intake.
Musculature and metabolism get the best kick out of intensive musculature strain. If you have not done any strength training before, start slowly and less often, for example with a two-split program (upper and lower body) 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes at a time.
If you have done strength training before, increase the intensity, decrease repetitions, add multi-joint movements, shorten breaks, increase loads. With this you, above all, will ensure that all weight that “comes back” is metabolically active muscle tissue.
3. Increase the amount of energy eaten.
When you have increased your amount of protein to 1.5-2g/kg/day, start increasing other macronutrients.
If you have been on a low-carbohydrate diet, start adding slow carbohydrates periodically, for example, +20g/day for every week.
There are many misconceptions and phobias about carbohydrates but one thing is clear: they work just like gas to a flame for your metabolism.
If you have been on a balanced diet, start increasing good fats and carbohydrates proportionally (depending on the final goal).
The amount of energy eaten should be increased incrementally. How fast depends on how long the low-energy period, weight loss and metabolic have been, how much the metabolism has slowed down and how intense your strength training has been.
Example: Mary has been doing a “3-month low-carbohydrate “Super Diet” from Weight-Loss-Guru XXX” and during the regime has lost weight from 100kg/220lbs to 85kg/176lbs, but the weight has increased back to 95kg/209lbs in the next 6 months.
The slowing down of the metabolism has lasted for 9 months in total. Before she started the ‘Super Diet”, she ate 2500 kcal/day which is approximately the amount of energy needed to maintain her weight. During the regime, her calories decreased to 1300 kcal/day when the diet ended. Today her daily caloric intake is 1800 kcal/day and her weight is slowly increasing.
1. week – 1900 kcal (+ 25 g of protein)
2. week – 2000 kcal (+ 50 g of protein)
3. week – 2100 kcal (+ 50 g of protein, + 15 g of slow carbohydrates, + 5 g of fat)
4. week – 2200 kcal (+ 50 g of protein, + 30 g of slow carbohydrates, + 10 g of fat)
5. week – 2300 kcal (+ 50 g of protein, + 45 g of slow carbohydrates, + 15 g of fat)
10. week – 2800 kcal, 180 g of protein, 200 g of carbohydrates and 142 g of fat in total.
You probably noticed that the final amount of energy eaten is higher than it was before “Super Diet” that maintained the weight with 2500 kcal. This is on purpose – Mary’s muscle mass and metabolic rate increased that much, so she can eat more.
4. Increase the intensity of strength training. If we want to get rid of metabolic adaptation it is essential that we will not rely only on old methods (nutrition) but add muscle training and increase its intensity constantly.
This doesn’t mean increasing the lifting weights, but only the intensity.
Let’s use Mary as an example. Mary has never done any strength training before.
1. week – 2 x 20 min
2. week – 2 x 30 min
3. week 3 x 30 min
4. week 4 x 25 min
5. week 4 x 30 min
6. week 4 x 40 min etc.
Note! Most dieters and people with metabolic adaptation have been doing a lot of low heart rate endurance training.
This slows down metabolism because the body thinks it is important to conserve energy so it functions better over long distances.
Have you ever seen a muscular long-distance runner?
Instead of long and low-intensity endurance training, you should start an intensive HIIT -program which accelerates metabolism better than anything else without giving the body a message to lose muscle mass.
5. Get your sleeping in order; proper hydration; lots of fibres; increase activity; control your stress, dietary supplements, and others.
In addition to the 2 most important concepts, there are also many things that we can do to fix our metabolism and it depends a lot on the person.
6. Monitor different variables.
Without a quick feedback system from our body, we do not learn as efficiently, and we can even do something harmful.
No one’s body works in the same way as another. Especially at the beginning of the process, we must monitor variables that we can use to make necessary changes quickly.
For example, a food diary, exercise log, weight, body measurements, blood tests etc.
7. Be patient and persistent, enjoy the change.
Fixing metabolism is a similar process to the reversal of any other lifestyle disease.
It requires time and energy. You will not get results during the first weeks. Quite the contrary – your weight will likely increase a bit when the body wants to conserve all the fluids and the contents of the bowels increase.
Do not give up! Make a 3-6-month plan and stick to it. Remind yourself daily about why you started the program and what’s the goal. Imagine a newer and happier you in your mind that you will be after a while.
High protein intake sustains weight maintenance after body weight loss in humans.
Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lejeune MP, Nijs I, van Ooijen M, Kovacs EM. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Jan; 28(1):57-64.