Metabolic Damage

Fact, fiction, and five ways to fix the problem.

There has been a ton of misinformation and exaggeration about metabolic damage on the Internet these days, articles and advice from trainers and nutritionists who simply do not understand what they’re talking about. I want to shed some light on what is true, what is not, and, just as importantly, how to fix the damage if you’ve gotten to that point.

First, I’m known for keeping things very, very simple. This is not only so that people actually understand what I’m talking about, but also so that when things do or do not work, you know why they work or do not work. If you’re looking for an article with long words and scientifc references, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

THE FACTS

Metabolic damage is a fancy term for overdieting and/or overworking your body. You’ll hear it explained at length by others and in other articles but, again, to keep it simple, metabolic damage is due to restricting calories too much for too long, usually coupled with doing too much work, and this can also be exacerbated by overusing fat burners. Almost every single situation that I’ve run into involving metabolic damage resulted from someone trying to cut body fat for too long or too aggressively—or both at the same time.

When you restrict calories too much for too long, you’ll eventually slow the metabolism to the point that results will either slow or completely stop. This is analogous to trying to keep a fire burning as hot as possible for weeks on end, and instead of continuing to stoke the fire with wood or coal on a daily basis or even several times a day, the fire is left to burn with almost no fuel and the results are either a fire that burns weakly or burns out completely.

Too much caloric expenditure, as in the case of ridiculously high levels of cardio, is another way to damage the metabolism. Cardio should be used as a tool to help the fire burn hotter by being used in moderation, not relied on at high levels to continue stripping body fat for long periods of time.

Stimulants/fat-burners can be effective for short periods of time and in low or moderate doses. Again, moderation is the  key. Excessive use of stimulants can stress the adrenal glands so much that fat burners become not only ineffective but can actually work against your goals of losing body fat. After restricting calories for too long and doing too much work, the impact or damage actually negatively impacts hormone levels, as well.

FICTION

A lot of trainers and nutritionists in the industry like to overemphasize and exaggerate the metabolic damage that’s occurring and use it to their advantage for marketing and PR purposes. Yes, metabolic damage happens and it isn’t uncommon, but it’s not as rampant as a lot of people make it out to be, either. 

When you diet for long periods of time and do ridiculously high levels of cardio, you’ll run the risk of causing metabolic damage to your body. Please understand that simply working your ass off and dieting hard is not metabolic damage. The people who are in jeopardy are the ones who diet year-round and seem to think that if they aren’t ripped to shreds 50 weeks out of the year, they are “fat.”

If a trainer tells you that he can get you ripped on 3,000 calories a day, he’s lying to you. There are exceptions, because there are people with metabolisms that are fast enough to get away with that, but they’re in the very large minority. It is not uncommon to hear this from a trainer/nutritionist. Then in the following six months I’ll start working with two of his past clients who are quick to tell me that they were nowhere near that amount of calories and were constantly starving. It makes you wonder if the loudest of these types of trainers are actually the ones that do this the most.

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