In the first part of this blog, I defined “metabolic damage” as the down regulation in metabolism due to an extreme or sustained calorie deficit. Now, I will tell you how to address it using the intervention protocol we’ve developed.
Step #1: Verify there is a Metabolic Issue
Before you jump into either a complex medical or behavioral process, first make sure something in fact is going on. Quite often people want to think there’s something “wrong” with their metabolism, when in fact, they’re just not paying close enough attention to their eating and exercise.
The verification process is simple:
• Have two body composition measurements performed 28 days apart.
• Food log everything consumed during that 28 day period as precisely as you can.
• Weigh and measure your food to ensure your serving sizes are correct.
If, at the end of the 28 day period, your fat loss is less than 1-2 pounds, and your calorie intake is very low (men < 1700 calories, women < 1200 calories), then there’s a very good chance that your metabolism is not working properly.
Step #2: Verify the Absence of other Medical Issues
As mentioned in the first blog, one of the hallmarks of metabolic damage is the ABSENCE of other physiological abnormalities. This means, if you go to your doctor they shouldn’t detect anything abnormal with your hormones.
To verify the absence of medical factors, you’ll want to request comprehensive blood work. This blood work should include all panels checked in a standard complete blood count and comprehensive metabolic panel, as well as a thyroid panel and a sex-hormone panel (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc). Basically, this is the “everything, but the kitchen sink” approach to find anything abnormal, mostly issues with thyroid hormones. If there’s an abnormality found in the blood testing, it should be addressed medically (usually through medication). If, after medical intervention, the matter isn’t resolved, a more formal intervention, focused on addressing metabolic damage, can be performed.
Step #3: “Reset” your Metabolism
After you’ve completed steps 1 and 2 — verifying there is an issue and it’s non-medical — you can begin the slow and gradual process of restoring or resetting your metabolism (here comes the part where you won’t like what I have to say!).
To address this matter, you have to undo what’s been done. That is, you have to reverse the process caused by an extreme or sustained calorie deficit. This is easier said than done. In order to resolve the issue, you have to slowly provide the body with additional calories at the same rate the metabolism is restored (if you add in calories too quickly, body fat will be regained).
Our internal data analysis at AFS suggests about a 2-3% per week increase in total calories until a balance point. So, yeah, you heard me right, 2-3%, meaning if you’re at 1200 calories per day, your first week on the progression is 1236 calories, then 1273, then 1311, and so on. This continues until a calculated balance point (around 2000 calories for women and around 2500 for men) is reached. Clearly this process takes a long time, but there’s no way around it. You didn’t damage your metabolism overnight, so you won’t fix it overnight.
After you’ve reached your balance point, you’ll either stay there to maintain your current weight or go back into a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you do the latter, the trick is not to do it for too long (8 weeks tops), so you don’t cause the very problem you just fixed.
Step #4: Change your thinking
When addressing this issue, it’s paramount that you change your thinking. For 3, 4, or 5 months, you will eat diligently (stick to the caloric limit) and you’ll not lose a pound. Success during this process needs to be about eating more and weighing the same. If you can accept that concept, it will help you comply with the protocol (not to mention stay sane).
So there you have it, the much anticipated intervention strategy for metabolic damage. With that said, I realize this isn’t easy to understand, and it’s even harder to tackle it on your own. The help of a qualified professional who understands the variability of metabolism and how to manipulate it is crucial to your long-term success.