These are all things that I have an understanding of what they do and the principles behind them, but no real knowledge of how they work.
Most people have heard about this thing called a metabolism but what is it and how does it work? Well your metabolism isn’t a physical thing – although it is….
I’m going to take a guess at what you ‘know’ already.
My metabolism is how many calories I burn each day – yes… and no. On a basic level you’re absolutely right but let’s look a little deeper.
There are several glands across the body which control your metabolism. Firstly we have the thyroid gland in the neck, a butterfly shaped gland found either side of the Adams Apple and secondly the adrenal glands, a small bulb on top of the kidneys. These are affected by hormones in the body, hormones released by the types of food we eat, the level of fat on the body and any exercise we do. So your metabolism depends on all of these physical attributes which tells your body how any calories it should be burning on a daily basis. This is called your Basal Metabolic rate (BMR).
This then leads onto the idea of a calorie deficit diet – if I have my BMR measured at 2000Kcal but drop my calorie intake to 1500Kcal then each day I have a 500Kcal deficiency, over a week that’s 3500Kca or 1Lb of fat. Make sense? If your metabolism acted as a calculator then yes but unfortunately life’s just not that fair!
Newton’s third law – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
Now Newton was talking about forces pushing and pulling, but there is a reaction by the glands (due to hormonal changes) to lower the metabolism. I know this as the metabolic compensation but if you have some knowledge in this subject you may know it as adaptive thermo genesis. Basically the body has mechanisms to reserve fuel levels making you want to eat more and exercise less– if you push against your metabolism, it pushes back! Three things I always tell my clients to watch when they alter their diet, Hunger, Energy and Cravings (HEC). Hunger will go up, cravings will go up and energy levels will crash! Along with this your mood will have changed feeling more negative with little motivation and of course your metabolism lowers!
Metabolic compensation is different in everyone but has been proven to be able to change as much as 800Kcal after dropping 500Kcal. Going back to the original BMR of 2000Kcal, this could drop to 1200Kca. It does not take affect straight away so short term, yes people will get weight loss (weight loss, not fat loss) but once the compensation kicks in, then weight gain (fat gain) will occur, even though you have a huge difference in calorie intake. This can lead to people lowering calories again trying to get results which can cause all kinds of problems. The human brain needs 600Kcal per day by itself and will always take priority leaving very little for the rest of the body.
So let’s look at this from a positive angle- if a new client came up to me asking to lose a little weight (assuming they have a healthy diet already) I would put them onto a program of exercises to raise metabolism (such as circuit training) and possibly increase their daily intake depending on the intensity of their workout to control HEC. I’m also a firm believer in moving more (moving and exercising being two different things) throughout the day, getting up from the desk every 15-20 minutes for a short walk instead of sitting on the computer for hours on end, walking to the shop instead of driving. All the little things will help keep the metabolism raised.