We all know the human body is an incredible thing. It has the ability to pick us up when we are down, carry us when we are tired, mend when we are poorly and many other miraculous qualities. Here at ALT/, we love our bodies unconditionally- not for what they look like but what they can DO. Whilst we don’t promote fad diets, restrictions or ‘rules’ and whole heartily want you to tune into you – we also believe it is ok to want to get into a little bit of a better shape at times. Yet we have all been on that weight loss journey that includes a deficit in the calories we consume, the weight quickly dropping off and then four weeks down the line you cave, your energy has gone and you’ve hit a plateau. We often hear of the simple rule ‘calorie in vs. calorie out,’ when it comes to weight loss. However, there is one little cheeky system in place that we often forget….
This is your body’s regulation system that keeps internal conditions stable and maintains an environment where it has enough energy to do all the tasks we ask of it. It is our bodies own way of keeping everything in order and, in short, ‘normal.’
You see, your body, no matter what you say to it, put it through or how you try to test it, will always have your best interests at heart. Whilst lowering our calorie intake for extended periods of time may initially lead to weight loss, the body is actually working super hard behind the scenes to establish a new ‘norm’- a new way to function optimally at the new level of energy. Clever, we know. Once it finds a way of operating in this new condition your weight loss journey will slow down and eventually stop.
When restricting calories to maintain homeostasis, your body reacts to changes in energy balance by speeding up your metabolism (when you eat too much) or by slowing things down (when you don’t consume enough energy). The slowing of the metabolism is what we call adaptive thermogenesis.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Although extremely clever, our bodies have a short memory. If someone is on a long weight loss journey, like most of us are, they will always end up at a plateau. This plateau won’t be fixed by decreasing calories further and persevering through those hungry days. Your body does not remember that you once ate anything you wanted or binged on an entire pizza + side + desert on your own. It only remembers that you have been on the same calorie intake and burned the same energy for the past four weeks and so it has worked out how to ‘work’ with THAT system.
Once you have restricted your food for a long period of time or once the deficit is too large, adaptive thermogenesis will kick in to preserve its energy by slowing everything right down and halting the amount of calories you burn. Some bodies are more efficient than others and sometimes this can kick in right at the get go, halting the weight loss journey right from the start. Not only will this function make it hard to lose weight, it will also make it hard for you to maintain any weight loss you do manage in the first place.
HOW DO YOUR HORMONES PLAY A ROLE?
Adaptive thermogenesis comes into play from an interaction between a number of hormones. These are the hormones that control your appetite, like leptin and insulin as well as stress hormones such as cortisol. Studies have shown that Yo-Yo dieters are often the ones who get caught up in early adaptagive thermoses as it slows resting metabolic rate down.
COMMON SIGNS OF ADAPTIVE THEROMOGENSIS:
- Low energy levels
- Low mood
- Poor digestion
- Not losing weight when dieting or a halt in weight loss after a big loss
- Reduced libido
- Anxiety and depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Irregularity or cessation of periods in women
HOW to overcome a homeostatic plateau + increase your metabolism
Depending on how much of a deficit you have had the key is not to reduce more, unless a nutritionist tells you other wise. If you are burning loads of calories in the gym and eating low calories but not seeing results it’s time to switch things up.
Whilst movement is always important, over exercising may hinder your results. If you are someone who is training over 5/6 times a week, take it down a notch and decrease the intensity slightly. Rest and recovery is essential.
EAT BALANCED WHOLESOME FOODS WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS
We want our body to get back into a healthy homeostasis. Add more whole foods into your diet to help force your body to burn more calories through digestion, which will in turn improve your metabolism. Diet is essential and a dietician will be able to write you the perfect plan to ensure you have all your macro and micronutrients necessary.
MAKE DE-STRESSING A THING
We know there is a lot of noise about this but it couldn’t ring more true: stress management is vital. Stress from career, friends, money or even your health will throw more hormones into the mix and push imbalance. We are big fans of yoga and meditation here at ALT/Healthy as great stress management tools
DON’T QUICKLY REDUCE YOUR CALORIES
If you are going to reduce calories or have noticed that perhaps you have been eating excessively and therefore healthily want to cut back, then keep the deficit small, slow and steady. Suddenly dropping 500 calories a day won’t help- 20% of your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is the maximum suggested. We know this takes patience – but wouldn’t you prefer your weight loss lasted this time around?
DON’T FORGET TO INCREASE THEM, AGAIN SLOWLY
Once you hit your goal weight, don’t forget to increase your calories again to ensure happy homeostasis and a happy metabolic rate. If you stay at that restricted level your body will adapt and you results will take a halt. Go slowly however- if you all of a sudden increase them by large amounts, you will also throw your body into the reverse homeostatic response, whilst it tries to cope with all the excess food!
MODIFY YOUR MACROS
We are not fans of counting macros here at ALT/ but sometimes they have a place. It is quite likely when you are on a weight loss journey you will have ramped up your proteins and reduced your carbs. As you start to lose weight you will need to modify this to accommodate the replenishment of glycogen stores in your new shiny muscles.
SWITCH UP YOUR WORKOUTS witch up your workouts
Our bodies adjust to everything, including exercise. The more familiar it gets with the training method you are doing, the more it gets used to it. If you are doing 2 days a week, ramp it up to 3 or switch the method / reps / sets you are doing. Increase the time or change the weight- not every single session but every 3-4 weeks. This increasing slowly creates a different calorific demand on the body whilst also switching up the muscles used.
SLEEP SLEEP AND MORE SLEEP
This is when we repair, relax and recharge. Need we say any more?
SWITCH UP YOUR GOALS AND YOUR MOJO WILL COME BACK
Once you drop chasing a ‘good body’ and start chasing a happy one, the pressure comes off – the rules go out of the window and your motivation to workout comes back. Instead of moving because you hate the way your body looks at present, switch your mindset to moving your body because you love it enough to do so. Automatically you will walk into the gym with a goal meaning you will never reach a plateau and there will always be more than a short-term goal. By removing the end date to look good, the quest for health will never stop and your motivation and mindset will change. Our body reacts to our mindset in so many ways beyond what we can imagine.
DITCH THE ‘DIETS’
We have forgotten that the term diet doesn’t always mean weight loss, it actually defines the food you fuel your body with. We can’t live in a deficit all the time and some of us have been doing so for years. You will never reach optimal health, real health, the kind of health that feels good if you are always living in a calorie deficit. Slowly start increasing your calorie intake and your body will remain in its happy place.
Essentially, we aren’t lying when we say that your body is an incredibly powerful thing, no matter what we put it through as it will always have your best interest at heart. Don’t try to beat the system, trust the journey – have patience and let it be.
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