Alina Astilean Training
Personal Trainer & Nutritionist

The s*** you wish you'd known about training & nutrition

The s*** you wish you'd known about training & nutrition

You're slowing down your metabolism

FACT: Most overweight people under eat for their size.  

When it comes to dropping weight, losing body fat, "cutting", getting thin and summer ready, etc., you always think exercise more and eat less, right?  Sure, it's intuitive, that's what we hear every day.  The problem with this approach is that it's the beginning of what's become termed as a "crash diet".

You start cleaning up your eating, you change out the breakfast muffin and latte for some hardboiled eggs and whole grain toast; you start adding more veggies, cutting out the alcohol, and throwing out the contents of the candy drawer.  You're officially eating "healthier", so you feel good about it.  You're working out 3 or 4 or 5 days a week, doing your workout on an empty stomach so you can "burn more fat", drinking your protein shake after every workout, and eating your chicken and veggies every night for dinner.

This all works great at first, and you might lose about 5 to 10lbs, maybe even 15 to 20 if you're really sticking to it.  But then the weight loss stops, you're constantly feeling exhausted, you stop making progress both in the gym and on the scale, and your cravings are getting worse than ever.  You have a "cheat" meal that ends up turning into a binging rampage for the day, you feel guilty about it, so you cut your calories even more and add some extra cardio to every workout; but the weight still isn't going down, and now you're EVEN MORE EXHAUSTED, and cravings are stronger than ever.  You might hold this off for awhile, but after a few weeks, you give up, and pretty soon, will have regained most of the weight you lost right back (sometimes even more).   How many of us have been there???

You've officially "messed up your metabolism".  You got to a point where you could put your body through endless hours of cardio and continuously restrict your calorie intake, yet notice little to no weight/ fat loss, which seems theoretically impossible, but as many people know, this can indeed happen. So why does this happen?  Well, you've cut your calories so low that you put your body in a self defense, starvation mode.  When you diet, your body must halt fat loss in order to maintain homeostasis for survival otherwise you would waste away! Therefore your body slows down your metabolic rate.

To keep it very simple, we all have a specific BMR (basal metabolic rate), which is the amount of energy we expend while at rest.  In other words, how many calories would your body burn on any given day if you laid in bed and engaged in no physical activity whatsoever? Remember, your body uses energy to function; calories are energy, so therefore you're burning calories in order to simply stay alive.  Your BMR depends on a number of factors, mainly age, height, weight, and level of physical activity (body fat too on a more complex scale).  Let's say a 165Lb girl, 5'8, with body fat of 26%, working out 4 to 5 days a week, has a BMR of 1550 calories.  This means that if this girl did absolutely nothing throughout the course of the day (outside of digesting her food), her body will need 1550 to function properly and break completely even.  Now tack on her workouts, general movement to and from, etc., and her daily caloric expenditure becomes roughly 2500 calories.  This means, all other things constant, she can eat 2500 calories and break completely even for the day.  

However, this girl has been eating about 1200 calories per day, meaning she is not only creating a very severe deficit under her total daily expenditure, but is also eating well below her BMR. Unfortunately, we can't outsmart our bodies for too long, so her body now slows down all of the energy consuming processes within her body to only need 1200 calories per day to survive, vs her original 1500, allocating the calories she takes in to the most important body functions, ie. brain function, etc. (unfortunately, your body doesn't term fat loss as an important function, and actually starts hoarding your body fat as a survival mechanism).  

When she first started cutting her calories, she lost some weight, a lot of which is general water retention, and some body fat that her body used at her current lower caloric intake.  Once her "metabolism slowed down", (remember metabolism is a term used to describe the body's use of energy and nutrients to sustain life), it's not only NOT letting go of body fat, but is clinging on to and storing every little bit of fat it can from what she is taking in as a surplus.  So on her cheat days, when she breaks down and goes on an all day uncontrollable binge, (which we've all done at one point or another), her body now looks at all the extra food as extra supply to hold on to due to the starvation it experiences on a day to day.  Just as a heads up, cravings are generally induced in the brain, so this is your brain's way of telling you your body is starving, which is why you can't stop eating.

The scale goes up, she cuts her calories even more and works out harder.  The weight doesn't go down, another cheat day happens, and the scale goes up even more.  She feels miserable, fatigued, and officially demotivated, so she quits and goes back to her normal eating habits.  Boom, she's officially crash dieted.  The worst part is she is now even worst off than before, since her new BMR has dropped meaning her capacity to use the calories she is taking in as energy has become even lower.

Remember, 9 in 10 people are on some type of diet or regiment, whether spoken or unspoken.  Chances are either you or a good amount of people you know have been through a crash diet at one point or another.  If you're unlucky, more than 1.

Words to the wise: Don't get impatient, weight loss doesn't happen overnight.  Be sustainable in your approach.  Create a small deficit your body feels comfortable with, so it can let go of your stored body fat.  1 to 2 LB's a week is considered long term, sustainable weight loss, induced by steady exercise and an appropriate nutrition plan for your goals and body type.

As always, feel free to comment your thoughts, experiences, and opinions, and message me directly with any specific questions.  

Alina Astilean

The s*** you wish you'd known about training & nutrition.

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