Metabolic damage is the buzz word of the moment across the fitness industry, it seems every coach has made social media posts on the subject and it has everybody else who follows them asking more about it. So what is metabolic damage and why the fuss? Metabolic damage is a term which has gained momentum which refers to the state of your metabolism after a prolonged period (anywhere between 3-6 months) of time in a harsh calorie deficit and often during that time the problem has been exacerbated with lots of additional ‘’cardio’’ training. People do this when trying to burn fat too aggressively.
What this translates to is the inability to metabolise calories very well which in turn means because your body has learned to sustain homeostasis on limited calories when you eat ‘’normal’’ amounts of food again you will gain fat rather quickly. That is the long and short of the issue.
First of all we will cover avoidance; hopefully you haven’t yet done this to yourself and after reading this you won’t! To burn fat you need to be in a calorie deficit, agreed? This doesn’t mean during your fat loss stint you need to remain in a calorie deficit 7 days a week though! Here’s the trick –
1) Use a 5-10% calorie deficit, don’t jump in too deep because the above will begin to happen as your thyroid output and anabolic hormone production takes a bashing!
2) Use refeed days. Higher carb days with low fat are ideal for this, but don’t mistake this as a binge day. Strategically increasing carbohydrates for 1-2 days periodically will help sustain a healthy metabolism by driving your thyroid output upwards and it will also accelerate fat loss. This is known as carb cycling. How often you do this depends on your body fat – typically anywhere between 7-21 days. The leaner you are the more frequently you do it.
The second part is the recovery process for those who have already banged up their metabolism by emulating the eating patterns of a mouse on a fasting protocol!! Simply put it is going to take patience – there is no miracle. The first thing you can do is increase your calories by 10% and monitor your weight and body composition changes. Keep increasing it every 1-2 weeks by 10% as long as you are maintaining a reasonable level of body fat (not getting too fat in other words!). Roll with this and over a period of time (I would suggest the same amount of time you starved yourself for!!) it will come back. Don’t be shy to add an occasional high carb day in to help speed the process up, spiking the metabolism.
There is the 101 on metabolic damage in layman terms.