We all think our metabolism is broken when our body stalls in a diet.
We say “well it is because I am getting older” or “My metabolism has always been slow”.
But is that really it? Or is there something else at play? This article is gonna introduce you to why.
That something is called Metabolic Adaptation.
What is metabolic adaptation?
Long story short, metabolic adaptation (MA) is our bodies ability to alter how efficient we are at turning food into energy. This process was a biological process we were equipped with to handle times of starvation.
Our ancestors had times when food was plentiful and times when food was limited or non-existent.
Through these times our body has an ability to become more efficient if needed at handling our food intake.
In this day in age for most of us we don’t necessarily go through periods of starvation. Which means this process mainly plays havoc in our weightloss/fat loss journeys.
Understanding Metabolic Adaptation
To fully understand MA it is important to under Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and everything inside of that.
TDEE is the total amount of calories you burn during 4 different processes:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR
- Non-Exercise Adaptive Thermogenesis (NEAT)
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
- Exercise Activity (EA)
BMR accounts for most of your cals burned (60%) in your TDEE and is the energy it takes for your body to carry out normal bodily functions such as maintaining body temp and organ function.
NEAT is the energy you use to do smaller movements like fidgeting, twitching, or yawning.
TEF account for roughly 10-15% of the energy you use in your TDEE. TEF is essentially the energy required to break down the food you consume. This does not change and each macro nutrient has it’s own TEF with protein being the highest of all of them.
Lastly, EA is the number of calories burned during workouts. This also changes based how underfed you are.
Why you should care about this
Now that you have a basic understanding of this let’s jump into why you should care.
If you have ever tried a calorie deficit before you may have embarked on the journey and the first setting worked great.
You were seeing fat loss and weight loss then all of the sudden….. it stops. Or maybe you started watching what you were eating, stop drinking soda, and started working out then things plateaued.
This is something we see quite alot. This is Metabolic Adaptation at its best. Your body wants to adapt! It thinks you are starving so it slows down a lot of processes in your body and makes you more efficient. Which sounds cool but is annoying when you want to lose.
You eat less food decreasing TEF, your body’s BMR slows to match the lower level of food, and your other small bodily movements slow down (NEAT).
This is why if fat loss and weight loss is your goal you need to eat enough. Which is not too much, and not too little. Our favorite calculation to find the “Right” amount is to multiply your Bodyweight x 12-15 cals. The multiple is based on a number of factors like age and activity level.
*Disclaimer – You will do this calculation and will immediately think I am crazy and that it is too much food. I have heard it easily 1000 times. I am here to tell you it is in fact the correct amount.
I will also say that this is why it is important to have a Coach in these principles. Nutrition is highly individualized from person to person and the amount you need will vary from other people.
MA is part of the dieting process and something you just have to deal with. With this knowledge you can see the value of having a coach.
You can also see the value of periodizing your nutrition from time to time. You can’t always be in a calorie deficit and it is important to go through periods of maintenance where you focus or bringing your metabolism back to normal levels of operation.
I hope you get from this article that your Metabolism is not “Broken” or “Slow”. Like our bodies do with the same workouts over time is has adapted.
Eat more and you can help to reverse this process!
Written by: Coach Cody Smith