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Post Diet Binge: Metabolism Damage

Hi Chris, I diet down from 20% to close to a true 10% and lost 35 pounds. It took close to a year (including 2-3 long diet break). My mind was playing games with me at the end so I end up on an extreemly intense binge of junk food that last for 10 days in a row right out from my low calories diet without any reverse diet. I was on 1300 calories diet an my binge was maybe 5000 calories every day of very high sugar and fat empty calories food. I put back almost 20 pounds in 10 days. My waisline turn ugly. I stop binging today and I plan to get back on track starting today. I wonder how bad I screw up my metabolism on that binge and how much harder it will be to loose that fat that it was the first time since I was very hard the first time once you get below 13%? Maybe you’ve experience one of these crazy rampage ? If not, I would appreciate if you could share your knowledge or somebody else experience. Thanks again for your help. Stef

You didn’t. No such thing.

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Well… “metabolic damage” is a misnomer. But if you “overdiet” (either too aggressively or for too long, or both) you can run into problems once you increase your calories again. Someone people call it metabolic damage but it really is “metabolic adaptations”.

You absolutely can decrease your metabolic rate when your dieting was excessive. Several mechanisms are at play.

The first one is lowering T3 levels.

T3 is the thyroid hormone with the significant impact on metabolic rate. When you increase T3 levels, you increase metabolic rate, when you lower T3 metabolic rate goes down.

One of the things that can lower T3 is chronic cortisol elevation. This will decrease the T4 to T3 conversion (lowering T3). It can even lead to an increase in reverse thyroid which further decreases T3 activity.

One of the things that can lead to chronic cortisol elevation is a chronic caloric restriction. One of the roles of cortisol is to mobilize stored energy. The more stored energy you need to mobilize, the more cortisol you release. Cortisol is also important to elevate blood sugar level when it’s two low. Two things that happen with severe dieting.

There is no doubt that chronic caloric restriction can lead to higher cortisol levels which can decrease T4 to T3 conversion which can decrease metabolic rate.

Leptin can also play a role. When you lose a lot of fat and when calories are low, your fat cells release less leptin. When less leptin makes it to the brain, it can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate too and more hunger.

Finally Ghrelin will also increase when your body feels deprived for too long. This will significantly increase hunger too.

If T3 and leptin are down and Ghrelin is up. Your will gain fat more easily (lower metabolic rate make it easier to eat a surplus) and you will have a huge appetite (which will lead to overeating and binging).

“There is no such thing as metabolic damage” is a popular saying in our community, but if it leads people to think that there is not a huge risk of regaining weight post-diet this belief can do a lot more harm than good.

It’s like “adrenal fatigue”. Just because there is no such thing as fatiguing the adrenal glands doesn’t mean that the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue aren’t real.

Not to that extent. I’ve had crazy binges that lasted a day maybe two in the past. But not 10 days.

The good news is that not all of that 20lbs is fat. Some of it will be water retention from both the caloric/carbs intake but also all the sodium (at 1300 calories per day, your sodium intake was likely super low and fat huge is HUGE in sodium).

The bad news is that, if you read my previous post, you likely caused some problems (which led to the binging) by being excessive with the diet. The fact that you binged for 10 days indicate lowered lepting and increased Ghrelin. Which probably means lower T3 too.

This is a case that would require a personal consult. I can’t give you advices without knowing all the details. But one thing is for sure: going back to the same excessive restriction is a bad idea.

Thank you Chris maybe i’ll try to reach out for Stéphane again if he is less busy. All what you say is right but I would add one thing: refeed meal or refeed day is not for me. It bring me out of my discipline mindset and it is hard to get back after. Food deprivation become more of a issue when you start to remind yourself what food taste like. Next time I will loose fat at a slower pace and make sure to stay away from refeed. I’ll aim for a more sustainable approach even if it mean to be very patient to reach lower body fat. 10% wasn t my long term goal, 12 % is. But I had to get down close to 10% at first to loose my belly fat which was very stubborn but between 10% and 12-13%, I had a hard time to get threw it. I think 12% is a sustainable level for long term without depreiving myself

Unpopular opinion: that’s not a binge. That’s you willingly giving the middle finger to your diet. You can lose control for a meal. For a day. But 10 days of binging is a conscious decision.

Not saying it’s the end of the world at all, I just think the first step to solving the issue is acknowledging it .

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Anyone who has struggled with their weight, or has body image issues, can relate to this. And while I don’t think you need to go into therapy to acknowledge it, what you do need is some sort of plan on how to manage it.

I personally went on a very self-destructive spree from about November 2019 to the New Year. It almost became a game of ‘how much damage can you do’. The weight gain was horrific. Fortunately, I never stopped training throughout so I’m pretty sure I at least gained some LBM at that time.

I started afresh in the New Year (I’m a huge proponent of water fasting). But I have to acknowledge the support at home, where I wasn’t criticised for not eating, being a party pooper, etc. That was a huge factor in sticking with the plan.

One other lesson I’ve learned. I have been on an OMAD sytem of eating (about 22/2 fast) for a while now, mainly low carb. I them amped this up further by going to a carnivore style of eating nearly 6 weeks ago. On this system, I have trained every day for weeks: x4 weights and x3 HIIT/LISS - always FASTED! Now apparently I should have chronic cortisol elevation and decreased T3 by now - not good energy, great recovery and a set of abs showing at last. It confirms to me carbs are not required and fat/ketones (for me, at least) is the preferred fuel source. Sorry, bit of a rant there at the end…

That is an amazingly short-sided opinion and it is completely false in many cases.

Any type of binge remains a conscious decision even though some internal factors can make it A LOT harder to resist the urge to splurge.

If someone has extremely elevated Ghrelin, very low leptin, increased dopamine and glutamate sensitivity (which happens during periods of deprivation), it will become EXTREMELY hard to resist binging.

And the high dopamine and glutamate sensitivity makes eating those pleasure foods addictive. Someone who doesn’t have those problems can’t understand that even if it does remain your own decision, just like any addictive response, it can be very hard to resist. Not all people who regain weight are weak-minded.

My wife used to tell people who suffered from depression or anxiety that they just needed to toughen up… until she, herself, starting suffering from anxiety. Then she understood that there are neurotransmitters and hormonal actions in your body that makes it really hard to control your mindset/decisions.

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I never said there aren’t factor influencing one’s decision to binge. I am saying that a 10 day binge isn’t, by definition, a binge. You can call it a diet break. You can call it a junk food feast. Call it whatever.

A binge is when someone loses control and stuffs themselves with a high amount of food over a short period of time.

I have dieted lots of times, some of which had me get really obsessed with food, extremely hungry, with regimes that I’m sure someone would have called “starvation mode”-like on here, and I’m pretty sure my ghrelin was pretty freaking elevated at that time.

I did binge a couple of times during the hardest periods, and I can describe the feeling as completely losing physical control over my body, which kept cooking and eating over and over without interruption, maybe for an hour.

So I know what binging feels like. I know pretty damn well how you feel afterwards too. And that’s why I’m saying that, in my opinion, a “10 day binge” is not a binge.

Everybody here is right. Even it I wasn’t asking for help on that topic I do appreciate you guys tips. ⁰

@samul I’m not trying to trigger a flame-war here, this isn’t the proper sub-forum for such a thing. But, consider if expressing your opinion here added any value to the topic.

Your experience is that of short-term binges, but that does not invalidate that there are other experiences contrary to that. Learn and listen, and be open to that your experience might not encompass the entire spectrum of what other humans will go through as a consequence of manipulating their weight.

I’m not going to make an assumption that definitions appeal to you, but I know of your background in computer science so it wouldn’t surprise me if their neatness has some allure. But even by that token, you might want to check the dictionary because when I look up “binge” there is no distinct time-restriction for what qualifies. It can be a single feast, as in a very large meal, but also “a period” and the length of which is arbitrary

First result on Google for me is this,

a period of excessive indulgence in an activity, especially drinking alcohol or eating.

Very rarely is someone driven to diet, and then succumb to a binge, very happy about the matter and what you are doing (potentially) is proverbially kicking on someone that is already down.

If you want to discuss this further, I welcome you to write to me in your log or on mine. My responses won’t be prompt, I’m heading out for a climbing trip and will be back tomorrow evening at some point.

As you said that is just metabolic adaptation. People assume because they are eating less and/or need less calories than they expected they are damaging their metabolism but, that is not true. As for the risk if gaining fat after the diet that is not true as shown by the Minnesota starvation study as well as…

People who gain fat after are shown to just be overeating.

This wasn t the topic I needed help for. I was wondering about the metabolism furtur damage that could occur because of the post diet binge beyond the diet metabolism damage

But, it pertains to it. Your binge is being blamed on the diet but, their is not evidence/studies that show that to be the case. Metabolism adapts but, as soon as the diet is finished and calories are raised everything comes back to normal. You dieted to lose fat people were starved for the Minnesota Starving Experiment and at the conclusion everything went back to normal when calories were raised.

This was your issue you felt deprived and at the end of the diet let loose. This is a lack of control. A simple refeed took you out of the zone you were food focused has nothing to do with damage.

Not a simple refeed. When I had 2 months to go on the diet while I was getting below 13%, I start to implement refeed day once or twice a week (or 2 consecutives days). This is when I start having trouble with discipline. The last strech took me 4 monts instead of 2. I was going back and forth. At the 2 months mark I should of went smaller on the calories deficit and take 3 months instead and maybe thing would of not went wrong as it did at the end of the diet. Remember, the diet last almost a year. Even if it was easier over the 13% mark, the burden was still getting heavier and heavier over time

That is what I meant by simple, it was just a refeed nothing special. You started having trouble with discipline because you were depriving yourself. Once you added the refeeds you became more food focused, looking forward to your refeeds and perhaps the variety in food. This is why many suggest dieting on little variety, and bland foods.

Ghrelin goes up when dieting for everyone. Carbs would have helped with that. After the diet when going back to normal that would fix itself. Production is not going to be “damaged”.

Leptin was not the issue especially since you were having refeeds. Many add them for that reason.

True, but some of these adaptations like the increase in Ghrelin and the increase in dopamine and glutamate sensitivity will make it harder to control your cravings and by making you hungrier, they favor overeating

Continued binge eating after following a strict contest diet can be very damaging to your endocrine system thus negatively affecting your metabolism. When you are very lean, your insulin levels are very low. Thus, when you binge or continue to overeat after your competition, the sudden surge of an excessive amount of carbohydrates causes a spike in the insulin secreted by your pancreas. Heightened insulin levels in the body causes the metabolism to slow down and thus lead to greater fat storage- changes that can take a long time to correct. This can play into your preparation for future contests as you could end up having to diet harder and longer if you have done damage to your metabolism after your post show pig out

If someone has extremely elevated Ghrelin, very low leptin, increased dopamine and glutamate sensitivity (which happens during periods of deprivation), it will become EXTREMELY hard to resist binging.

And the high dopamine and glutamate sensitivity makes eating those pleasure foods addictive. Someone who doesn’t have those problems can’t understand that even if it does remain your own decision, just like any addictive response, it can be very hard to resist. Not all people who regain weight are weak-minded.

My wife used to tell people who suffered from depression or anxiety that they just needed to toughen up… until she, herself, starting suffering from anxiety. Then she understood that there are neurotransmitters and hormonal actions in your body that makes it really hard to control your mindset/decisions.

I can attest to this. I go on a cutting cycle every spring in prep for summer. It’s always a low cal cyclic keto diet where I carb up on weekends. Been doing it 30 yrs., and usually go anywhere from 10-13% body fat down to around mid single digit body fat depending on how much I can suffer lol or what my motivation is at the time. Past few years due to a great increase in “life stress” which has been steadily increasing I’ve been finding it harder and harder to stick to not only a cyclic keto diet but any calorie restrictive diet at all. My stress and anxiety go through the roof now when I diet. I also binge a lot and have become carb/sugar addicted especially at night before bed because it medicates me and knocks me out for bed. And before the stress I had crazy strict discipline. My binges could also last days and many times they do but usually at night.