The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

Its no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Be Aware of Metabolic Damage

    In the last few years, there has been a troubling corresponding scenario developing: metabolic damage. Dieting and training can actually make you fat long term if done improperly and to extremes. I used to see this to some extent in females in general, but now with the figure & bodybuilding competition boom as well as just trying to look good naked, it's becoming almost an epidemic. It's time someone pointed this out, and also time to search for solutions.
    The problem is that for several years after a contest prep or drastic diet that was ill-advised, the body responds in ways to prevent the situation from ever happening again. While it takes some time for the body to reprogram itself like this, there is also immediate, resultant metabolic damage from undertaking poor diet and training strategies. The result is that within one to two years after a drastic diet or post-contest a previously cooperative metabolism starts to malfunctions, or shuts off completely. This sets off negative hormonal events, as well as various potential metabolic dysfunctions, one of which I will discuss.
    The bottom line is that the individual gets fat and fatter still, even on controlled calories and carbohydrates. Should this person desire to lose weight again or compete, he or she will likely be prescribed even more cardio and caloric restriction.

    Anyone who has ever heard me talk knows the dangers of absolute caloric deprivation. Combined with more exercise, this leads to eventual metabolic stress and dysfunction. The result is that within a few years, women and men are out of the sport and getting fatter and fatter each year, even though they stay on consistent diet and training protocols. Think of those "before and after" pictures in reverse!
    Recent discussions with colleagues and their own observations and feedback from other colleagues reveal I am not the only one noticing this pattern. The saddest part of it is that the individuals who usually must endure the most to get contest ready are the ones who will suffer more from metabolic damage in the near future.

    One of the problems up to now has been that it goes relatively undiagnosed when taken to a physician. Blood tests reveal that everything is normal, but as a practicing professional, I know for these clients everything is anything but normal. Staying on a properly controlled diet, and a training protocol and still gaining weight, fat, bloating, or cellulite is not normal and is indicative of a problem. The most contentious issue is that there is no observable evidence.

    So doctors who know little about training adaptations and effects send these individuals away telling them all is normal and nothing is wrong, yet all other evidence points to the contrary. One of the existing manifestations of this is now illustrated in Wilson's low temperature syndrome.

    Here is one of the problems: we now know that many things can screw up or otherwise distort this process even though it would not show up on blood tests. The first thing is just general hypothalamic burnout.
    Too much stress on this gland for too long and it just does not function as efficiently. Next is what we now call Wilson's Low Temperature Syndrome. The whole T4 to T3 conversion is affected by many variables; the top ones being stress, diet or fasting, illness, and increased cortisol levels. Well, right away that calls to mind the people I see with metabolic damage, who have both over-stressed their systems physically and usually mentally, while dieting, as well as being on absolute caloric deprivation for far too long.

    So the really sinister thing about Wilson's Low Body Temperature Syndrome is that it doesn't show up on a blood test at all. Individuals can suffer all the symptoms of low thyroid function, but still show normal thyroid on a blood test. This means that they will gain weight easily even while dieting, and will suffer fatigue, irritability and other symptoms.

    This is just one way metabolic damage can manifest itself after a disastrous contest approach and too long on a caloric depletion diet, with too much macro nutrient deprivation for far too long. Sometimes it seems that the ones who bust their ass the most are the ones who suffer the most, and competing in one show after another only exacerbates the issue.

    This can also develop in other situations. For example, ladies who diet for their weddings for far too long often end up with the same bad metabolic response over time. So when a woman suddenly puts on a ton of weight after the wedding, it's not always simply the case of her eating habits changing: the metabolic damage ensued as a post-diet, stress response to the wedding itself. Surely, lots of women find their weddings mentally and emotionally stressful: at least as stressful as a figure competition.

    I have seen and have several clients who formerly got bad advice and prepared for their contests with a "win at all costs" mentality that is now hurting them long term. Ladies and gentlemen too, you need to start choosing your coaches and trainers more wisely. Going to extremes of 2 of hours cardio per day, plus training, plus over-dieting, may get you to the winner's circle at level 1 or 2 or make you look good for a short time, but at what cost to you?

    One of the reasons I got into the whole Metabolic Power/Metabolic Training business was to try to find ways around these other potentially damaging pre- contest protocols. And the Cycle Diet also explains how to prevent the effects of absolute caloric deprivation, from destroying your metabolism long term. I hope anyone reading this is paying close attention and will forward this to any other individual they know who are dieting for a show or anything else and may be doing damage to themselves. If your nails are brittle, and your hair is falling out, these are warning signs. Please heed them.

    I feel sorry when I see competitors at events damaging themselves for a bit of glory. Some are born to do it, others struggled like hell to get up there, and unknowingly (and usually by actually being coached) have set themselves up for a one-way ticket to Fatsville.

    All kinds of medical literature exists about the "natural protective mechanism" of BMR downgrade from dieting. However, medical literature also indicates that when prolonged or frequent dieting occurs, such BMR adjustment may be permanent! This would be a death knell for the "competitors," or anyone who would then start getting fat even on 800-900 calories per day. (Mount Sinai School of Medicine 1995: p297.) Therefore, repeated bouts of dieting and training to compete can permanently alter metabolism for the worst. If you have a coach/trainer pushing you to always compete, to "get your face out there," you may need to reconsider both the advice, and the advisor!

    Unfortunately competition also seems to appeal to people who are least genetically suited to do it, thereby again increasing the odds of metabolic damage. It is a fact, although no one wants to admit it, that many active individuals just do not function well at very low levels of body fat. Many also cannot healthily achieve it, nor should they try. This is a reality no one seems to want to recognize.

    Do not fall prey to cultural or coaching pressures in setting unrealistic body composition goals. Many who wish to alter their physique have unrealistic body images that they haven't the time, the ability, or genetics to achieve. Make sure guidance is based on what is best for you, and what is reasonable for you as well. If not, the road may lead to shortcuts that have long term adverse consequences.Once again warn anyone you know who may be damaging themselves by following crazy pre-contest rituals of ultra-low caloric intake and marathon cardio sessions. Both are unnecessary and ill-advised.

    By Scott Abel
    Last edited by Allen Cress; 07-31-2010 at 07:37 PM.

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  3. #2
    A gallon a day, everyday! ThomasG's Avatar
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    So what do you do Allen when you get a client with metabolic damage?
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    any literature you can share with me that would support what you said about bmr/metabolism down regulation being "permanent"

    everything I've read... even in extreme cases

    exercise combined with extreme calorie restriction for prolonged periods of time (think psmf levels...) for months on end eventually bounced back to "normal"

  5. #4
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasG View Post
    So what do you do Allen when you get a client with metabolic damage?
    First you need to be able to determine if its actually damage or if the client has been just basically unhealthy in their eating patterns and workouts, so background info is very important. Start them on a nutrition and training protocol and if they continuye to be unresponsive then they may have some damage.

    Also realize that there is a huge psycological part to this as well so you can't just look at the physical. Many of these individuals may have developed eating disorders as well due to wanting to always diet and "be in shape" or "contest ready".

    One of the first things is to not even mention diet or try and plave them on one with measurements, etc..... They just need to get back to eating healthy balanced meals which takes time. That would be your first step in moving forward.

  6. #5
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ryuage View Post
    any literature you can share with me that would support what you said about bmr/metabolism down regulation being "permanent"

    everything I've read... even in extreme cases

    exercise combined with extreme calorie restriction for prolonged periods of time (think psmf levels...) for months on end eventually bounced back to "normal"
    The problem there is you will never find any study or literature on permanent damage because its not ethical to have someone do that to themselves for a long term study.

    I have personally seen it as well as many colleagues in the industry. I have had individuals come to me and after determining that they actually had damage it has been a work in progress and continues to be to just get their metabolism functioning again. I'm talking about clients I've had for over 3 years now and my colleagues are also currently dealing with the same thing.

    Its not that the metabolism will never work again its that they have changed their BMR and metabolic set point. For example I've had one client for the alst 2 years and when started with her her weight was 185lb and now its at a comfortable 160 lbs. BUt she had previously walked around at a healthy 130lbs prior to dieting and due to going to extremes she competed at 115 and then after a few contests iit got harder and harder to loose fat and once she stopped competing here weight kept climbing even though she was still in a calorie deficit.

    This is one of many examples. So you can't always look in a book and find something its experience and actually deraling with these individuals day in and day out to truly know its going on and its sad. I do have studies to back up how it happens as that is the starting point to try and start figuring things out.

    Trust me they do not always bounce back. Many do have resilient metabolisms but even overtime of continuously going to exteremes or contantly trying to attain an unrealistic bodyfat percentage they will do damage whether its long term or not.

  7. #6
    Senior Member SCmmaFAN's Avatar
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    Allen, this is a great thread that you started. I've often wondered about folks damaging their metabolisms with extreme dieting and your recent posts have opened my eyes to this.

    I know you are mostly talking about folks are entering shows and trying obtain very low bodyfat percentages but what about big or or quite frankly fat folks, such as myself, who are trying to lose significant excess weight. Are we different from the folks you mentioned, or are we just as susceptible to metabolism damage?

    I'm fearful enough of metabolism damage that I decided to lose my weight slower than most folks. I've been cutting since January trying to go from 295 to 225 (currently at 269). At the rate I'm going I'm losing about 0.8 pounds a week with weight-lifting and currently no-cardio and I expect to reach 225 around May-June of next year. I would be on my diet for 18 months. In your opinion, is someone in my situation going to damage my metabolism with a long diet/cut?

  8. #7
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SCmmaFAN View Post
    Allen, this is a great thread that you started. I've often wondered about folks damaging their metabolisms with extreme dieting and your recent posts have opened my eyes to this.

    I know you are mostly talking about folks are entering shows and trying obtain very low bodyfat percentages but what about big or or quite frankly fat folks, such as myself, who are trying to lose significant excess weight. Are we different from the folks you mentioned, or are we just as susceptible to metabolism damage?

    I'm fearful enough of metabolism damage that I decided to lose my weight slower than most folks. I've been cutting since January trying to go from 295 to 225 (currently at 269). At the rate I'm going I'm losing about 0.8 pounds a week with weight-lifting and currently no-cardio and I expect to reach 225 around May-June of next year. I would be on my diet for 18 months. In your opinion, is someone in my situation going to damage my metabolism with a long diet/cut?
    Anyone can be susceptible to it if things are done to extreme, but it is more common in the competition arena, but it is becoming more prevailant with regular individuals trying to get leaner.

    Taking your time losing weight is the best way to do it especially for long term results. Sounds like you are on the right path. Just listen to your body, be patient, consistent, and work hard in the gym. Also don't be afraid of carbs either. Too many people trying to lose alot of weight always drop their carbs to very low levels and its not needed. Remember total calories is the main key. Carbs don't make you fat too many calories does.

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    Now quite clear that the metabolism of the injury is a real problem. I receive e-mails from all over North America, women who have heard an alarm regarding my previous blog on this topic. I did not know there was more to come So I felt the need to continue here. Yes, I think that the prevalence of metabolic damage would otherwise healthy young women and is directly related to racial image boom, but a lot more. Also, I must once again emphasize that the syndrome of Wilsons Cold lab, but its just one of many, some not yet identified, in a way that chases lead to real long-term metabolic causes. This is a particular problem for women for several reasons.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    her weight kept climbing even though she was still in a calorie deficit.
    I take it that you mean her weight kept climbing even though her calorie intake was very low.

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    How can you differentiate that a metabolism was actually damaged and the weight gain would not have happened otherwise had it not been simply held off by years of diets...?
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  12. #11
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holto View Post
    I take it that you mean her weight kept climbing even though her calorie intake was very low.
    Yes, even with proper training

  13. #12
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    How can you differentiate that a metabolism was actually damaged and the weight gain would not have happened otherwise had it not been simply held off by years of diets...?
    Some initial weight gain is normal, but when an individual goes past their original healthy weight by 10+ pounds and when trrying to diet it back off it doesn't drop they are basically changing their metabolic set point.

    If they had been dieting for years and gained a lot of weight after they just resumed a slightly higher calorie intake their can still be some damage because if thats the case then the diet wasn't serving the body nor was it sustainable long term.

    This is where people take the word "diet" in the wrong way and why I'm not a big fan of the word because it tends to be related to being in a deficit. I prefer to use nutrition plan.

    A "diet" should always serve 2 main purposes: 1) serve the body and 2) be sustainable long term. This is why a lifestyle change is needed and not look at it as a quick fix, you have to look at the bigger picture and long term results and not just the now like most do.
    Last edited by Allen Cress; 07-27-2010 at 05:07 AM.

  14. #13
    Senior Member SCmmaFAN's Avatar
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    Allen,

    I forgot to say thanks for your response to my questions!

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    Lyle actually just wrote an article on this:

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat...damage-qa.html

    And as far as Allen saying it is unethical to do a study that starves people, he is right. However, as Lyle states in his article, the Minnesota Semi-Starvation study did just that, and it seems most of the drop in metabolism was due to decrease body weight, not some magical Metabolic Damage. Metabolism can drop when dieting but not permanently and not to the extent you say.

  16. #15
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzinator View Post
    Lyle actually just wrote an article on this:

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat...damage-qa.html

    And as far as Allen saying it is unethical to do a study that starves people, he is right. However, as Lyle states in his article, the Minnesota Semi-Starvation study did just that, and it seems most of the drop in metabolism was due to decrease body weight, not some magical Metabolic Damage. Metabolism can drop when dieting but not permanently and not to the extent you say.
    I'm not here to argue as I know what I have seen and have been dealing with for well over 7 years in this industry as far as seeing metabolisms damaged and I'm not alone either. I have very well known collegues dealing with the same issue and who I talk to regularly. You are not always going to find studies and research to back up everything and thats where having actual expericence over time comes in. Its not just 1 or 2 people I have seen this in and making these statements.

    Can metabolisms be fixed? Yes. Many have resilient metabolisms and I have got many working again even more efficiently than before, but I have also seen the other side. So to just blindly say it can't happen is not responsible in my opinion because there will be individuals who take that and think that going to extremes is ok and will be able to get back to normal if anything negative were to happen. Its kinda like telling people that having bulimia or anorexia is fine because once you start eating normal again everything will return to normal. (just trying to make a point) There is more than just the physical side to this you also have to deal with the mental and emotional dmage as well like self esteem and being afraid to put on an ounce of fat due to body dysmorphia.

    As a coach it is my job to guide people in the right direction and try my best to keep them from going down the wrong path with extreme diets and hours of cardio.

    You are completely entitled to your opinion on the matter, but the thread was started to warn people that going to extremes can have damaging effects.

  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    I'm not here to argue as I know what I have seen and have been dealing with for well over 7 years in this industry as far as seeing metabolisms damaged and I'm not alone either. I have very well known collegues dealing with the same issue and who I talk to regularly. You are not always going to find studies and research to back up everything and thats where having actual expericence over time comes in. Its not just 1 or 2 people I have seen this in and making these statements.

    Can metabolisms be fixed? Yes. Many have resilient metabolisms and I have got many working again even more efficiently than before, but I have also seen the other side. So to just blindly say it can't happen is not responsible in my opinion because there will be individuals who take that and think that going to extremes is ok and will be able to get back to normal if anything negative were to happen. Its kinda like telling people that having bulimia or anorexia is fine because once you start eating normal again everything will return to normal. (just trying to make a point) There is more than just the physical side to this you also have to deal with the mental and emotional dmage as well like self esteem and being afraid to put on an ounce of fat due to body dysmorphia.

    As a coach it is my job to guide people in the right direction and try my best to keep them from going down the wrong path with extreme diets and hours of cardio.

    You are completely entitled to your opinion on the matter, but the thread was started to warn people that going to extremes can have damaging effects.

    You aren't arguing the psychological effects in this article. Orthorexia or whatever you wanna call it is a problem in it's own but that doesn't mean you should tell people lies about how the metabolism works. You're arguing against simple math and measured results.

    The "hoards" of people you seem to think have metabolic damage are either eating more than they say or are having massive swings in water balance, but they're not gaining that much energy-producing mass. It's mathematically, biochemically, thermodynamically, and physiologically impossible. You've stated on another thread that people gained weight eating the calories similar to what Lyle wrote about and clearly that doesn't seem possible.

    Yeah, you can't find everything in research, but to say something happens that no research ever has even kind of implied, even in studies that do the exact thing you say causes it, is just ridiculous. Your experience holds no ground in an argument when you don't measure anything and just say "it happens". You say it's irresponsible to not tell people about this, but I say it's irresponsible to warn people of something that probably doesn't exist just because you saw someone put on weight after getting lean, without measuring the content of the weight gain or the actual accurate calorie intake.

  18. #17
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    I have read more than one study to reference these claims. The Keys et al study is one of them. I'm not pulling this stuff out of thin air. I don't always list reasearch after research when making statements but have them. A lot of individuals want things in layman terms that get to the point that way you can keep their attention.

    When someone diets to extremes for a contest and does countless hours of cardio they look grreat on stage. Once the contest is over and with the extreme hunger and deprivation they were under leads them to binge for days they have a massive rebound. Once the binge is over and they go back to a maintenance diet but their previous starting weight is 10-15lbs heavier there is one problem. Next they start preparing for another contest, but this time it becomes much harder to drop bodyfat even on the same calories as the last prep and they are doing same amount of cardio. THis is due to a metabolic shift and damage. Then there becomes a vicious cycle. Sometimes this can be fixed and sometimes it is a struggle just to get back to normal (being healthy and not dieting)


    As far as physiologically impossible, I myself have proven books and formulas wrong as to what is "suppose to happen" when it comes to calories, metabolism, energy expenditure, etc.... Everytime after a 16 week contest prep I diet down to very low bodyfat and my calories are usually at 1800 by the time the conetst gets here. Then after loading for my contest with double the calories for 3 days and NO exercise I don't gain a pound and I don't stop drinking water. Then I take 2 weeks off from any nutrition plan and don't workout and eat freely with desserts and good home cooked meals, etc.... and I only gain about 4-5 lbs. If you were to do calculations and everything else a book says then I should have gained a lot more than that. My point is this is were the individual takes presidence and saying something can't happen to them because some studies say it can't is misleading. Everyone is different and responds differently to everything.
    You have your thoughts on the matter and I have mine as I'm sure many others do as well, which is what makes the world go around. So no worries.
    Last edited by Allen Cress; 08-03-2010 at 09:47 PM.

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    Lyle McDonald has been sharing his opinion on subjects relative to this lately:

    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat...html#more-4278
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  20. #19
    A gallon a day, everyday! ThomasG's Avatar
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    Allen its been amazing the nutrition logs I get from my clients when they first start with me. 90% of my weight loss clients especially females start losing weight once we raise their calories, often times 1000+.

    Anyway, something I've noticed with individuals that have a shot metabolism is they don't get hungry. After a few weeks of eating increased calories they will report to me they are starting to get hungry and once they start feeling hungry often times results will start to show. I've read theories on how this is the body protecting itself its an extreme caloric deficit.
    Have you experienced the non hunger issue with you clients?
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  21. #20
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasG View Post
    Allen its been amazing the nutrition logs I get from my clients when they first start with me. 90% of my weight loss clients especially females start losing weight once we raise their calories, often times 1000+.

    Anyway, something I've noticed with individuals that have a shot metabolism is they don't get hungry. After a few weeks of eating increased calories they will report to me they are starting to get hungry and once they start feeling hungry often times results will start to show. I've read theories on how this is the body protecting itself its an extreme caloric deficit.
    Have you experienced the non hunger issue with you clients?
    Absolutely. That is great biofeedback, and you are doing a good job by recognizing it. When someone is in an absolute calorie deficit everything downregulates( T3, Leptin, testosterone) so the body can survive and when the body's physiological functions are slower appetite supression is one effect. By increasing calories you are feeding the body what it needs to actually burn off fat and ramp up metabolism and hunger increases due to the up regulation of body functions. You got to feed the body to burn fat.

    One reason people can't lose much fat is that they don't understand that hunger is a fat burning signal and what most due is when they get hungry they eat, off setting the calorie intake and keeping them from loosing.

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    This was a good thread, nice bump Thomas.
    Quote Originally Posted by ThomasG View Post
    Allen its been amazing the nutrition logs I get from my clients when they first start with me. 90% of my weight loss clients especially females start losing weight once we raise their calories, often times 1000+.

    Anyway, something I've noticed with individuals that have a shot metabolism is they don't get hungry. After a few weeks of eating increased calories they will report to me they are starting to get hungry and once they start feeling hungry often times results will start to show. I've read theories on how this is the body protecting itself its an extreme caloric deficit.
    Have you experienced the non hunger issue with you clients?
    This surprises me. I would not put a lot of stock in someone who has been starving themself is actually "not hungry". I'd be more inclined to believe they're one - lieing to both you and themself as they're scared to eat and two - so conditioned to eating so little that it feels normal.


    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    Absolutely. That is great biofeedback, and you are doing a good job by recognizing it. When someone is in an absolute calorie deficit everything downregulates( T3, Leptin, testosterone) so the body can survive and when the body's physiological functions are slower appetite supression is one effect. By increasing calories you are feeding the body what it needs to actually burn off fat and ramp up metabolism and hunger increases due to the up regulation of body functions. You got to feed the body to burn fat.
    Leptin down regulating is not a survival mechanism by means of appetite suppression but exactly the opposite...


    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    One reason people can't lose much fat is that they don't understand that hunger is a fat burning signal and what most due is when they get hungry they eat, off setting the calorie intake and keeping them from loosing.
    Fully agree here.
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    A gallon a day, everyday! ThomasG's Avatar
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    They're definitely not lying I've dealt with the situation on a daily basis with clients for the past 3 years. A lot of people become so busy and/or unaware of eating and they forget too eat. Once you're in an extreme caloric deficit for so long hunger signals come in less often.

    When I first ramp clients up to a proper caloric intake(still a deficit) they have to make themselves eat because they don't get hungry and even sometimes feel a little sick at first from not eating so little. After a few weeks they start getting hunger signals and by no coincidence this is when the their bodyfat starts to drop.
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  24. #23
    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Busy, stressed, or simply unaware is plenty plausible, purposely starving oneself for any duration not so much.
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  25. #24
    Senior Member Jonathan E's Avatar
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    To really dumb-ify what was originally mentioned : Your main theory is that due to the major swings in body composition and diet, that is, going from a calorie surplus to a calorie deficit or vice versa, our bodies react by making it harder to repeat the process in future attempts? And in long term, add surplus' of body fat over years??

  26. #25
    Cardio bunny Alex.V's Avatar
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    The only thing that bothers me here is that there are plenty of well-understood and well-documented reasons for everything mentioned in the original post, and none of them include the phrase "metabolic damage".
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