T Nation

Metabolic Decrease Wake Up Call

“If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

This many go against the opinions of many well respected coaches and doctors, but it’s worth discussing.

I don’t believe that if a person drastically reduces their calorie intake, their metabolic rate will slow down so much that they stop losing weight.

Let us be real here. If a person tells you they’re eating, say 1000 calories per day, performing work in the gym, and not losing weight, they’re either honestly mistaken or lying about their true calorie intake.

As usual, this comes down to calories burned per day versus calories consumed per day. If a person burns 2000 calories per day, they burn 2000 calories per day. The amount of work they perform (calories they burn) on a daily basis does not change because they are suddenly eating less!

Since they’re performing their usual amount of work, but consuming less, they’ll lose weight. If they claim to be eating so little, performing plenty of work in the gym, and still can’t lose weight…there’s something they’re not telling you. 10 times out of 10, they’re eating more than they’ll admit.

If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Thanks for reading,

Ryan

The human body will jettison lean muscle tissue in order to adapt and support its ‘necessary’ metabolic processes on a long term reduced/low calorie diet. This is why you hear about people ‘tanking’ their metabolism so frequently. I’ve had countless clients who come to me unable to lose weight (fat) because they’re not eating enough.

It’s not even something that people in the field disagree on, it’s a fact. Additionally, the body is a hormonal machine, and if I may borrow an expression from another coach I respect, “the laws of thermodynamics don’t quite apply to body composition.”

S

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
[/quote]
So do you tell your clients that the decrease in metabolism is hokum and they should just give up eating if they want to lose weight?

Most on this sight are interested in being lean and muscular and the body will eat muscle during true starvation in an effort to lower the overall caloric expenditure of the body.

That ‘jettison’ of lean tissue will result in a reduced BMR, yes. However, if that person is still in a deficit state after and during that drawn out process of muscle loss, they’ll continue to lose weight. This would be the case in a drastic deficit or starvation type diet.

Hormones do many things, but defying the absolute laws of physics isn’t one of them. When someone tells me they’re eating 1000 calories per day, burning an additional 1000 calories per day on top of their BMR through cardio and/or weight training, and not losing weight…something is fishy. As I said above, they’re either mistaken about, or are lying about their actual calorie intake. Their BMR isn’t at 0, which it would need to be to prevent them from losing weight in that situation. Correct me if I’m wrong about that last statement.

To continue the discussion, could you please share your thoughts on the opening paragraph of my original post?

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
[/quote]
So do you tell your clients that the decrease in metabolism is hokum and they should just give up eating if they want to lose weight?

Most on this sight are interested in being lean and muscular and that the body will eat muscle during true starvation in an effort to lower the overall caloric expenditure of the body. [/quote]

Why would I tell them that? I tell them that their must be something off with their calorie intake estimations. Typically they just need to get real about their actual calorie intake, then start working on reaching a true deficit, not a fabricated one.

To be honest though, I don’t get this from clients very often. This discussion wasn’t sparked by a client.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
That ‘jettison’ of lean tissue will result in a reduced BMR, yes. However, if that person is still in a deficit state after and during that drawn out process of muscle loss, they’ll continue to lose weight. This would be the case in a drastic deficit or starvation type diet.
[/quote]
I’m confused by your premise that they’d still be in a deficit. The body will decide to cease supporting costly muscle tissue (which will then atrophy at a rapid rate) until expenditure meets intake. Sure there might be some loss of adipose tissue, but the overwhelming majority of ‘weight’ lost will be lean muscle mass.

That’s not what I meant. This was in reference to your inferring net calories as the final say on weight loss.

[quote]
When someone tells me they’re eating 1000 calories per day, burning an additional 1000 calories per day on top of their BMR through cardio and/or weight training, and not losing weight…something is fishy. As I said above, they’re either mistaken about, or are lying about their actual calorie intake. Their BMR isn’t at 0, which it would need to be to prevent them from losing weight in that situation. Correct me if I’m wrong about that last statement. [/quote]

While some people do indeed screw up the reporting of how much and what they’re eating, there’s a hell of a lot more to physique improvement (fat loss and LBM gain) than “how much are you eating? and how much are you burning?”

[quote]
To continue the discussion, could you please share your thoughts on the opening paragraph of my original post?[/quote]

“If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.”

^Right on the money if you ask me. Unfortunately sustaining life, and creating an optimal physique (and health) are not the same thing.

S

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
[/quote]
So do you tell your clients that the decrease in metabolism is hokum and they should just give up eating if they want to lose weight?

Most on this sight are interested in being lean and muscular and that the body will eat muscle during true starvation in an effort to lower the overall caloric expenditure of the body. [/quote]
Why would I tell them that? I tell them that their must be something off with their calorie intake estimations. Typically they just need to get real about their actual calorie intake, then start working on reaching a true deficit, not a fabricated one.
[/quote]
You’re underestimating the human body’s ability to, “turn down the thermostat”, so to speak.

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
[/quote]
So do you tell your clients that the decrease in metabolism is hokum and they should just give up eating if they want to lose weight?

Most on this sight are interested in being lean and muscular and that the body will eat muscle during true starvation in an effort to lower the overall caloric expenditure of the body. [/quote]
Why would I tell them that? I tell them that their must be something off with their calorie intake estimations. Typically they just need to get real about their actual calorie intake, then start working on reaching a true deficit, not a fabricated one.
[/quote]
You’re underestimating the human body’s ability to, “turn down the thermostat”, so to speak. [/quote]

I have to disagree.

The body will run efficiently at all times, meaning bodily processes are already being performed at an efficient rate.

On top of that, work being performing on top of BMR is work being performed on top of BMR. It isn’t like moving 100lbs 500 feet in a surplus and moving 100lbs 500 feet while in starvation requires a different amount of energy.

Bottom line, the body is simply incapable of slowing it’s metabolism down so much that you won’t lose weight from eating too little.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
As usual, this comes down to calories burned per day versus calories consumed per day. If a person burns 2000 calories per day, they burn 2000 calories per day. The amount of work they perform (calories they burn) on a daily basis does not change because they are suddenly eating less!
[/quote]

Under fasting/starving conditions certain metabolic processes cannot happen. This is how the body can “down regulates” its energy use. The physical work a person does may be the same but his body is no longer needing energy for other processes - specifically anabolism.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]JLone wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
If metabolic rate was able to decrease enough to prevent weight loss on a starvation diet (or large caloric deficit), all of the starving people around the world would have nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
[/quote]
So do you tell your clients that the decrease in metabolism is hokum and they should just give up eating if they want to lose weight?

Most on this sight are interested in being lean and muscular and that the body will eat muscle during true starvation in an effort to lower the overall caloric expenditure of the body. [/quote]
Why would I tell them that? I tell them that their must be something off with their calorie intake estimations. Typically they just need to get real about their actual calorie intake, then start working on reaching a true deficit, not a fabricated one.
[/quote]
You’re underestimating the human body’s ability to, “turn down the thermostat”, so to speak. [/quote]
The body will run efficiently at all times, meaning bodily processes are already being performed at an efficient rate.

On top of that, work being performing on top of BMR is work being performed on top of BMR. It isn’t like moving 100lbs 500 feet in a surplus and moving 100lbs 500 feet while in starvation requires a different amount of energy.[/quote]
I know it’s easy to think about the body as a machine that does a singular task like move a load x distance with y amount of fuel. This gross oversimplification is the kind of thing they use to teach people principles of a system during their undergrad.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
Hormones do many things, but defying the absolute laws of physics isn’t one of them. When someone tells me they’re eating 1000 calories per day, burning an additional 1000 calories per day on top of their BMR through cardio and/or weight training, and not losing weight…something is fishy. As I said above, they’re either mistaken about, or are lying about their actual calorie intake. [/quote]

In all seriousness, ask them about the current state of their libido.

What if somebody isn’t dieting, they are not a big eater period. Food isn’t appealing to them and isn’t something they care much about.

Is there body in “starvation” mode?

[quote]MetalMX wrote:
What if somebody isn’t dieting, they are not a big eater period. Food isn’t appealing to them and isn’t something they care much about.

Is there body in “starvation” mode?[/quote]

One can only be in starvation mode when one has really low body fat.

This is the point where muscle tissue is scavenged when there is not enough fat.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
I have to disagree.

the body is simply incapable of slowing it’s metabolism down so much that you won’t lose weight from eating too little.[/quote]

Never watched a female figure athlete literally blow up after a stupidly prolonged contest diet by ingesting what wouldn’t even be a considered ‘normal’ caloric intake for a few days then huh?

Assuming your definition for this discussion of ‘weight’ means fat, I can’t help but feel that posts like this show a very limited grasp of body recomposition concepts.

S

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
I have to disagree.

the body is simply incapable of slowing it’s metabolism down so much that you won’t lose weight from eating too little.[/quote]

Never watched a female figure athlete literally blow up after a stupidly prolonged contest diet by ingesting what wouldn’t even be a considered ‘normal’ caloric intake for a few days then huh?

Assuming your definition for this discussion of ‘weight’ means fat, I can’t help but feel that posts like this show a very limited grasp of body recomposition concepts.

S[/quote]

It sounds like you are saying that my statement above isn’t true. Are you saying that if an average sized person eats 500 calories per day over a certain period of time, their metabolism will adjust to meet that same caloric expenditure, preventing them from losing weight?

^^500 calories a day is very extreme and if you are recommending that to clients then I would definitely question you as a trainer.

I’m sure Stu is referring to the human bodies adaptation to a reasonable caloric deficit… Which will happen.

Aaaaanyway, can you post a link to that video where you made those Popsicles? I think tha was you and I was wanting to make those?

Appreciate it

[quote]gregron wrote:
^^500 calories a day is very extreme and if you are recommending that to clients then I would definitely question you as a trainer.

I’m sure Stu is referring to the human bodies adaptation to a reasonable caloric deficit… Which will happen.

Aaaaanyway, can you post a link to that video where you made those Popsicles? I think tha was you and I was wanting to make those?

Appreciate it[/quote]

No, I am NOT advocating that type of caloric intake to anyone. I’m simply saying that the body will not magically hold onto weight when it’s thermodynamically impossible to do so. My illustration of 500 calories per day was extreme, and was solely an illustration.

I’ve heard coaches mention that they’ll have a athlete burning 1000 calories per day on the treadmill, eating 1000 calories per day, and not losing weight.

My answer to that claim is that the athlete is lying about their true caloric intake. It’d be impossible for them not to lose weight in that situation.

As far as that video, I’d post it, but this forum doesn’t like it when other websites are linked. You can certainly see the video by hitting my youtube channel though, www.youtube.com/gstauthor.

You could also search youtube for ‘popsicle gstauthor.’

Thanks for posting in here,

Ryan

Question to anyone who cares to answer:

When presented with the need, what processes does the body shut down or minimize to decrease it’s daily caloric expenditure?

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:
Question to anyone who cares to answer:

When presented with the need, what processes does the body shut down or minimize to decrease it’s daily caloric expenditure?[/quote]

Dude just read about cortisol and other catabolic hormones.

suppresses the immune system; and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism, decreases bone formation…

etc

It’s really stupid not to look at hard scientific evidence, and come up with broscience instead ‘fak de doks’.

Is it your desire to actually discuss this in terms of improving body composition, or in terms of how low can you cut cals before you die, albeit with very low bodyfat at the very end?

A couple of thoughts…

1- When severely cal restricted, the body will start shutting various things down, and ceasing nutrition to non-vital tissues (ie. muscle). This will lead to a whole list of further issues in a cascading fashion.

2- I have had clients come to me having had other coaches pretty much tank their systems by eating nothing, burning tons of cals, and living on stimulants. In these instances, ALL WEIGHT LOSS HAS EFFECTIVELY CEASED. Were I to cut even more cals, I’m fairly certain we’d eventually be planning a trip to the ER.

S