I am constantly asked about questions regarding metabolism and there there are a few basic things that everyone should understand about how this mechanism works in your body and what its role is in creating weight loss during your dieting journey. Many dieters often feel the metabolic slow down after a very short time dieting and soon hit plateaus in their weight loss. While a certain degree of metabolic slowing must be expected in any diet quick losses can often lead to premature slow down and an almost complete stop of overall progress. Why does this happen?
The basics of weight loss and fat loss are simple really; burn more energy than you consume on a regular basis and your body will liberate energy stores on the body to cover the deficit. Do this long enough and consistently enough and you have constant weight loss. The problem is your body recognizes this at some point and puts the brakes on and thus your progress slows down. Your body wants to keep you alive and it is smart enough to know that quick losses mean danger if left unattended long enough. So the quicker the loses the faster the body will respond to it. And the faster your body responds the harder the adaptation that adjusts metabolism to meet your daily requirements. How can you prevent this kind of slowing of the metabolism?
Your body will only lose fat at a certain rate, beyond that it uses other stores of energy trapped in muscles (i.e. protein structures). If pressed to lose too quickly your body may burn some fat but may also tap into muscle tissue for energy at an alarming rate. I have seen people 10-15 lbs of muscle in a matter of weeks dieting for a contest. Trying to force their bodies to burn fat too fast and losing hard earned muscle in the process. The trick is to take a reasonable amount of time to lose body fat. You do this by starting your contest diet early, know how much body fat you are starting out with and do not try to force your body to lose body fat quicker than it really can. A good rule of thumb for fat loss can vary from person to person but a good rule of thumb for most is 1 lbs of body fat a week on a fairly aggressive diet and exercise plan.
A quick mention on carbs and metabolic slow down. One of the biggest culprits of slowing metabolisms is a severe reduction in carbs for too long a period of time. In our carb conscious society we live in today many people have the wrong idea about how they can treat their bodies and how many carbs they should really eat everyday. Remember, if you eat it you should have a need for it, and you will need to burn that energy off. Think of carbs as a 2-4 hour fuel supply, if you take in more carbs in one sitting than you really need in the next 2-4 hours you will most likely store some of the excess energy that those carbs represent somewhere in your body either as glycogen in the liver or muscles or as body fat. Know what you eat, know what your needs are, and know how much is too much and how much is too little. The right balance can give you a healthy responsive body that diets for contest very well. While an imbalanced diet in the off season can often lead you to a long and painful contest diet.