Another article on meabolism. Feel free to post on other forums as well.
Dieting To Get Fat !
More on Metabolic Damage:
How your diet/contest‐diet makes you fat. Finally some Truth!
One of the things that really bother me in this new modern era of internet “murketing” is how the unscrupulous types use a little dash of what’s real and sprinkle it on their own agendas for making money. Metabolic damage is one of these examples. I started researching and writing about the reality of it in order to help people. Not even a year later, the internet hucksters started using the term as a buzzword to attract attention; having no interest really in understanding the reality of the concept or in helping people over come it. But this seems to be the nature of the modern digital environment: The old marketing adage of not telling people the truth, but marketing to these people, their own self‐interests. That is after all how you make lots of money. With that rant out of the way, I want to explain to you all how your diet or specifically for competitors, your contest diet can make you fat; ok, really, really fat! The problem in the Fitness Industry is one of selective bias: For the interest of short‐term transformations or competing, the immediate element of diet‐focus is emphasized at the expense of the residual (rebounding) and the cumulative (getting fatter forever). Please take the time to read and understand below what the competitive industry or your diet Guru does not want you to know or embrace. Metabolic damage is a very real consequence of inappropriate and ill‐advised dieting. And before you think your “coach” knows better; read the proof the below.
My research into metabolic damage from dieting and competing has led me (once again) to look at diet outside of the way the industry tends to. The research has taken me back to addressing how and why human physiology and metabolism evolved the way it has. The answers, scientifically explain why many of you who are dieting, will more than likely become “fatter forever” as a result. So you must ask yourself if it’s worth the price. Metabolic damage has no warning signs. It happens when it happens. You may diet successfully two or three or even five times, before the body thinks you are actually trying to reprogram it to be bigger and fatter. And because the body is such a wonderful machine in terms of adaptation, it will accommodate this programming.
The Evolution of Human Metabolism: Why this is so important!
The history of human evolution in terms of physiology and metabolism is indeed an interesting one. Unfortunately its not one that suits the modern dilemma of food abundance combined with easy living. The human physiology we have inherited from our ancestors is one of survival. We refer to it as feast or famine. The truth is human metabolism has evolved in a way that is designed around scarcity of food, not its abundance. You would think this to be a bonus for the modern dieter, but unfortunately this is just not true. We need to start understanding the true long term metabolic reactions to calories scarcity, what we call in this modern day, “dieting.” And we need to understand this within the metabolic context of a physiology designed to preserve itself in scarcity, with no real regards to abundance. I better include some reference material in the rest of this article, or I’ll be getting attacked left and right from those trying to protect their own agendas.
So, Randy Seeley, a neuroscientist at the University of Cincinnati put it this way: “Your body wants to be fat.
Getting fat is what it is supposed to do. And trying to persuade your body not to be fat is going against everything the body is designed to do.”
This is how we have evolved in the reality of feast or famine of our ancestors. Insisting on short term
equations for fat loss, or even to get ripped, without a corresponding consideration of short term response
to the diet, and the long term consequences of the diet is a recipe for disaster in the modern culture that
prizes short term cosmetic solutions, that go against the long term biological design of human metabolism.
Or as I have been screaming for decades, “for every absolute caloric deprivation diet, there is an equal and
opposite binge.” The body will always strive against starvation and toward energy storage. If the body has
to up‐regulate metabolic set point to do so, it will do so as a survival response to a diet, once the diet has
stopped for whatever reason. (Figure girls, are you listening?) In other words that rebound of weight you
experience after a diet or contest diet, may be cueing your body to re‐establish what it considers normal, to
be a higher weight, with a greater fat percentage. This is no accident. Your diet has actually programmed
your body to respond this way. Now that I’ve set a context in terms of anthropological background; let’s
examine this now then from a biochemical perspective.
The Big Three of Calories, Intake, and Energy Balance
The diet equation is one of constant checks and balances to insure survival. We see the greatest influences
from three chemical messengers: ghrelin, (which cues hunger in the brain), CCK, cholecystokinin, (which cues satiety in the brain) and of course leptin hormone. The problem with CCK is one of amplitude. Dieting, and especially exhaustive dieting leaves, little amplitude for the message of satiety from CCK to be acknowledged by the brain. In fact what I have seen and what many of you have also experienced is that in the post‐diet period, this satiety mechanism has been decidedly disrupted. You binge eat well beyond being full and well beyond being hungry. You are indeed conscious that you are full and that you are binging but you can’t seem to help it. This is that “equal and opposite” binge response I mentioned above. Attaching emotion to this induces a sense of shame and depression. And this emotional attachment is a modern cultural additive. The shame and depression lead to; you guessed it, more food indulgence, without a mature rationale for why you are doing it. But the answer goes back to this survival mechanism kicking in. The post‐diet or post‐contest‐diet period of rebound is in actuality, your body’s response to “poststarvation.” And since food is readily available your body will eat till its established set points are met or reestablished or even surpassed.
For lack of a better term, let’s call this satiety disruption, “The Kirsty Alley effect.” (for reference Kirsty Alley maintained her weigh in her hunger/younger years by food deprivation and drug use. 114 lbs, climbed to 125 lbs, where the tabloids were already calling her fat. After pronounced satiety disruption, she went on a popular pop‐culture‐diet‐system and lost a lot of weight. (By the way, have YOU called Jenny yet?) The inevitable rebound happened and that rebound then turned into one newly established set point after another; till her weight finally peaked at 230 lbs)Many Figure competitors you no longer read about have contacted me with the same fate, well over 200 lbs. But I digress. Back to the science.
The interplay between ghrelin, CCK, leptin and other participants in the hunger/satiety loop only explains the meal to meal job of energy intake and balance. Most people in the fitness and diet industry stop here. But as we see above the scenario only starts here. It doesn’t end here. Our ancestors ate not only in short term cycles of meals and calories intake but also worked to secure and procure calories intake. Their bodies were not only burning fuel as fast as they were getting it (if they were getting it at all), but our ancestor’s bodies were also trying to maintain a long term reserve of energy for survival purposes, precisely because of their feast or famine reality. Their bodies’ long‐term answer to long term famine or calories deprivation was to develop reserve energy in the form of fat storage. This was its primary survival mechanism. And it may be the reason we are all here today, instead of some other larger mammal who ate us for their own survival.
Leptin and Individuality: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
The truth is each of us has an optimum level of fat storage. This is tailored specifically and genetically to our
body size and metabolism. It also may be influenced be your environment especially in your early years of
development. This is what we call metabolic set point. The diet and supplement and Guru Industry do not
want you to know or understand the realities of metabolic set point. But I am going to lay this out for you.
Your metabolism has a consistent and complex feedback and backup system of detecting when your fat stores are at or below optimum levels. Your metabolism adjusts hunger accordingly. This is why so many of you get hungrier and hungrier as you get leaner and leaner. Your body is meant to be that way. So the comment of getting used to a diet, only goes so far. You know when not dieting; and when fat stores are normal for you, that you seldom think about food; and you tend to correspondingly, eat less as well. This is the self‐correcting nature of leptin hormone in action. But you also know when dieting or sever dieting, and/or when your leanness gets passed a certain point; all you can think about is food. It even keeps you up at night. This is also the self‐correcting nature of leptin in action.
Recently wannabe “experts” have been mis‐representing a very kindergarten level of understanding of leptin in order to gather converts to their “diet systems.” Many have you convinced of automatic cheat meals and cheat days which do not begin to address the complexities of leptin influence and its many back up systems. As simply stated above, many of you have lived the realities of the leptin‐satiety reflex system. So when someone tries to market to you, a “quick start” or “rapid fat loss” diet or diet system, you should be suspicious; not because I say so, but because your own diet experience should tell you the truth!
Moreover, “contest‐Gurus” who just constantly cut your carbs or calories just because the contest date is closer and for no other reason, are not “reading” your biofeedback; and they may be taking you down a road to long term fatness. (In fact it only takes one time, of wrongly cutting calories instead of spiking them, during what we call ‘critical periods’ that will result in unwanted consequences.)
Let’s look at another element of leptin then. Leptin affects appetite and affects hunger by being tied into your bodyfat levels and levels of storage. This means in a post‐diet situation you will indeed keep a heightened and artificial level of hunger and appetite. You will eat more and larger meals until your leptin levels rise back to previous, non‐diet, non‐starvation mode. But leptin also affects metabolism as well. If you diet in a way that merely keeps cutting calories, or carbs, leptin levels will fall. As leptin levels fall, so does metabolic rate. (the rate which you convert and use energy) This is not good for the dieter, because now the lack of food is being met by a slower metabolism, and also by more pronounced physiological message to store fat, and not burn it or use it. This is what we call the “down regulation” of metabolism. The usual “expert” response to this when the body slows down to meet lack of incoming cals, is to cut calories or carbs even more simply because scale‐weight has plateaued. I call this expertise by panic. Leptin can in fact turn down metabolic rate by as much as 20% or even more. No wonder when combined with the appetite effects mentioned above, post‐diet and post‐contest‐diet rebounds can take your body to new found fat levels. How? Because you have slowed down metabolism by 20% or more. The rate you used to burn calories is no longer present. So YOU may be eating normally for post‐diet consumption but your body can’t burn fuel as well, so stores these calories; and stores them as fat. You have programmed your metabolism to do so from your diet undertaking.
In fact the leptin equation is so precise that if we look at calories intake over a decade instead of over these short term diet periods; we will see a precision that no amount of calories control and food weighing could ever match. Dr. Friedman, a molecular biologist, whom I have quoted in my other works, mentioned above, shows that energy intake and energy expenditure over a decade is within .17% percent perfectly balanced. In his words, “this exceeds by several orders of magnitude the ability of nutritionists to count calories!” (His words, not mine. But I do indeed echo the statement) In other words your body is doing naturally and biologically what you think you are controlling it to do when you diet. And it’s the “diet” equation that messes with this delicate and natural balance. Choose your Guru’s wisely folks! Now everyone talks about leptin, and the reality that when fat levels drop, and therefore leptin levels drop, appetite and hunger increase proportionately. But no one talks about these elements of diet‐rebound and the disruption of hunger satiety which keeps you over‐eating. AND, no one discusses in real terms elements of leptin sensitivity and resistance. (which is a lot like insulin sensitivity and resistance) The truth is, once diet induces this leptin response in both appetite and metabolism satiety signals will remain disrupted, even when adequate leptin levels have been re‐established. In other words, most of you will continue eating more heavily, and you know it; you just can’t control it! Sound familiar? So, if body fat drops to too low a level for your own genetic comfort, and stays there, the response will be an appetite and hunger cue you cannot control. And this type of diet‐induced hunger is different. It has no upper limit to it. And this is because we evolved to be able to “feast” in order to survive another famine. The reason there is no upper limit to the appetite in this situation is to insure survival. These kinds of diets are the same to our bodies as food scarcity was to our ancestors. We have to be able to put back on weight fast when food becomes plentiful so that man could survive the next time food was not so plentiful.
The ugly side of this for you, the modern dieter is this: Not only is there no upper limit on diet‐induced hunger, but once the weight is gained, your body’s natural response will be to do everything to try to keep this weight on. So that rebound weight you think is just water; may indeed be becoming something else. This is why dropping weight again on your next diet or contest‐diet becomes an even more difficult proposition. Many Figure competitors have come to me, and before they ever competed, they weighed in the low to mid‐120 lbs area. Now, a few contests later their off‐season weight is in the high 130’s or 140’sand climbing. The message is that they have programmed their own bodies to do this. And the body is very efficient at obliging. You see the body remembers and it gets smart. When you try to diet again, your metabolism responds quicker and faster than before because your previous diet taught it to. This means the second or third diet, even if your body just drops a little weight in the beginning, leptin levels are now so sensitive that it drops as well; and sends appetite soaring again. So in essence the uncontrollable senseyou have to eat everything, now comes after only a few weeks or a few pounds instead of after say a few months or 20‐30 lbs like on previous diets. And this makes perfect sense. It’s like your body saying, “Hey, there’s food around. I’m not going to wait till my fat stores are depleted again. I’ll start re‐feeding now.”
From the survival sense, this of course makes perfect sense. It’s the equivalent of not waiting till the gas
indicator on the car says empty, before stopping to refuel. Same thing here. And the problem is, the response is a disproportionate one; which leads you to a new disproportionate body weight and fat gain. (This is also why Kirsty Alley will not succeed in shedding her weight again, or at least not be able to keep it off.) As James Hill, director of Colorado Clinical Nutrition Research Unit put it, “humans have only a very weak physiological mechanism to defend against weight gain when food is abundant and yet very many safe guards to defend the body against weight loss.” So the best researchers; true researchers and not industry people with something to sell you; are telling you what I’m telling you. Your diet, contest‐diet is a risky proposition and a likely contributor to you getting fat, and staying fat, down the road. Because the truth no one wants to deal with in this industry is that almost every system and back up system dealing with metabolism and energy regulation, has a bias toward weight gain, or a bias against weight loss. Now I can’t get into to all the ramifications here. But I will say this. This paper only deals with the physiological process involved in knowing and understanding diet process. It doesn’t even begin to address the exercise side of the equation. The truth here is that if your contest “Guru” has you doing more and more cardio as you cut more and more calories, the above risks will pretty much become a nightmarish guarantee for you. It’s time people started moving away from “buzzwords” “Bro‐science” and “Sistasupport.” Very few diet Gurus in this industry look at diet from the long term cumulative effects or even
understand diet, beyond the calories content of food: Doesn’t take much brain power for that.
Diet application requires precision. It requires a deep understanding of application and individualization. It requires being able to read biofeedback of an individual and knowing how to respond. Any idiot can just keep subtracting calories because the scale isn’t moving. Well, “how’s that workin for ya?” (long term, that
is?) True expertise my friends, comes not only in knowing this following sentence, but in knowing what it means to be able to properly apply it. As I always say, “force the body and it reacts; coax the body and it responds.” In terms of some of you ‘dieting to get fat’, all I can say regarding this paper is that....
Some of you will get and some of you will not!
By Scott Abel
Last edited by Allen Cress; 08-03-2010 at 05:59 PM.
Hi, I really enjoyed your post. No one would be more qualified than you to make this post. Being a rebound dieter and bulimic for years, I finally found solace in Martin Berkhan's leangains methods and now periodically include cheap meals to reward myself for a training session or for sticking to my diet, which doesn't really taste that bad, to be honest. I'm a firm believer in calories in-calories out for losing weight. I find that these metabolic damage signs are often displayed by people who go on very extreme diets in a short time and then don't plan properly for maintenance. Once you've reestablished a healthy relationship with food, you'll find it's quite easy to maintain a low body fat percentage. Take it from one who knows how it feels to be perpetually scared of food entering his body!
This makes a lot of sense. But what is the answer?
The mental and emotional parts of this are just as important as the physical and in my eyes that is what is missing in tariners today and why i consider myself a coach. You have to take all things into account when it comes to helping someone and not just tell them how many grams of this to eat or how many reps to do.
Hey Allen, You must have heard of Joel Marion. He's the author of Cheat Your Way Thin. It makes use of leptin manipulations. Is this just more fluff? He seems to have gotten his clients amazing results
I get this all the time. Most of the time I have to raise my weight loss clients calories to finally get them to start losing weight again. Especially women, they love to starve themselves.
Hi, It seems to me that it was really an informative post. I would like to thank the author for posting such a helpful post. As a newbie i am greatly influenced. I would suggest to post few more writings on women health so that we the women can learn more. Anyway, Thanks once again !!
good real, allen. i dont feel so guilty about the massive intake i have been doing recently - although it was not junk food.. just big amounts of chicken, ground beef, pasta and ff cheese, & almonds. the hunger is still there but its manageable. do you struggle with the same effects post contest? what is your strategy to cope with these effects?
After a few more contests and under the guidance of my coach I realized that its ok to indulge a little after a long diet but to binge day in and day out is ridiculous and unhealthy. This should be your lifestyle and you choose to do the things you do so be responsible about it. The mental and emotional approach is very important when it comes to coaching and most don't realize that. If you do extreme things their will be extreme consequences.
After my contests now I take 2 weeks off from everything and just live my life. If I want soemthing I'll have it but I never go overboard and I still enjoy healthy foods after just more volume.
The biggest change I've done in my diet is make sure I eat 3-4 whole meals, such as protein and a carb source, then I will use a shake and some snack meals. But if I'm not getting in those 3-4 meals my body knows it now.
I'm looking to see the differences between this next contest prep compared to the last contest prep now that I have more knowledge, and continuously build upon it.
Consistency is the key to success within this sport...