Lost some weight doing HCG or some other very low calorie diet and now put on fat just looking at food? Your metabolism might be broken. Let's fix it...
Every time I see someone promoting a VLCD (Very Low Calorie Diet) as a lifestyle diet I just want to slap them in the greedy little faces. We once promoted it. We tried it and lost weight. Then we slapped ourselves in the impatient faces when we finished the diet and found we would put on fat eating a f*(n salad.
So we got fat and blamed ourselves. "Low self control," we said.
Out came the whip of self loathing...
Jokes. We don't do that shit. We don't hate ourselves when we try something and fail!
That just doesn't help. Instead, we educate ourselves. Which is what I'm going to do here for you. Save you the 5 years of yo-yo dieting we went through...
How to Know If Your Metabolism Is Broken
first, let's quickly work out if your metabolism is running ineffectively...
Fill in the following form:
Scroll down to the bottom of the results, and you'll see the following table:
Your numbers will be different to the above ones, but whatever they are, you should be able to eat somewhere around this many calories every single day, without gaining or losing weight.
If your look at your calculated calories and think, "no way can I eat that much," then your metabolism could be broken. So read on...
If you have no idea how much food that is, then get on over to the App MyFitnessPal (it's free) and log your day's food. Compare it to the numbers above and see where you're at.
What A Broken Metabolism Feels Like
We just calculated what is called your "maintenance" calories. Every time you eat less than your maintenance calories, your body responds by dropping or slowing non essential processes, like reproduction, hair growth, muscle growth etc.
The most important thing for dieters is to be patient, diet as close to maintenance as you can, so you avoid any of the following:
- lethargy (always feeling tired)
- depression symptoms
- anger (short tempered)
- lack or complete loss of sex drive
- grey hair or hair loss
- illness (low immunity)
- the feeling that you need caffeine just to survive
- sore joints
What A Fixed Metabolism Feels Like
After years of fucking up my metabolism with the diet/binge roller coaster yo-yo, I just thought the feelings I had meant I was getting old. But since I fixed up my metabolism, I found that most of the problems I had were just little odd jobs my body was putting aside until the calories came rolling back in.
So if you have been doing the same diet-binge-diet-binge yoyo for a while, you'll most likely feel like shit. I can tell you that once you correct your metabolism, you'll experience some or all of the following:
- better skin (people will tell you this by saying you look "glowing" or "healthy". what it means is that your body has enough energy to excrete the right oils onto the skin as well as replace the old dead skin, often clearing up eczema symptoms.
- Better mood. Being hungry makes people angry. It's nature. Eating a whole lot more food without packing on fat feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
- Return of sex drive. You'll feel it. You'll definitely feel it. I'm convinced that the cliché of the frigid wife is just because women diet more than men. Many women who get a meal plan from us report that they become really horny after a couple of weeks.
- athleticism. You'll just feel more athletic. Not old any more. I guess you could say you feel youthful again. I'm sure you've heard someone say "I feel better now than I did in my early 20's."
- energetic and healthy. With sufficient calories and nutrition, your body responds by making you feel "alive" and energetic. Caffeine becomes obsolete, and illness becomes a thing of the past.
- Fat loss. This is a funny one. If you increase your metabolism, you reduce body fat, while eating even more than you did before. This alone should be reason to fix your metabolism.
imagine being able to eat so much more food that you never feel hungry, and still lose weight? It is possible. It's why top fitness models can stay lean year round. Read on to find out how you can too...
The 3 Week Metabolism Fix
Alright, you know your metabolism is stuffed and you'd like to eat way more without becoming Jabba the Hut, so let's do it, in 3 easy weeks.
Step 1: Eat Above Maintenance For 2 Weeks Minimum*
go back up and see what your maintenance calories are. Eat at or above your maintenance calories to give your body the signal that the famine has ended. Good times are here and they're here to stay.
Make sure you eat early and don't skip meals. Don't let yourself feel hungry ever during the 2 weeks.
*It's not a free for all junk fest. In this 2 weeks, ensure you eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meat. Try to steer clear of addictive foods or over processed foods. The additives in them can mess with your metabolism dramatically. So stick to eating a healthy balanced diet, and making sure you eat a lot of it.
You WILL gain weight. But that's not because this process isn't working, its because the diets you've been doing have broken your metabolism. Your body needs to regenerate organ tissue, blood, hair, brain matter and all the other things it's been putting off for so long. The weight gain won't be only fat, it will be necessary weight.
Spend 3 weeks getting it back and you'll be set to lose fat on more calories than you can currently stomach.
Step 2: Eat Just Below Maintenance For A Week
For the third week, drop calories below maintenance, but no more than say a 500 calorie per day deficit, otherwise you risk undoing your good work.
It's actually really healthy to eat just a bit less than maintenance.
Step 3: Carb Cycle
I'm sure you would have noticed people talk about carb cycling. Carb cycling done right will prevent the downregulation of your metabolism, and in most cases, force upregulation - you can eat more and still lose fat.
There are two ways you can do this.
Two ways to carb cycle:
The first method is a fixed diet plan - 2 days low carb/low cal and 1 day high carb/high cal. Or something like this. But we're not a fan of "one size fits all" dieting, so we prefer a tailored approach, specific to you.
Doing this may seem a little more work, but you'll benefit by being responsible for your own results. Something most people don't want to do. It's important to remember though, you have no vested interest in your diet other than your own success.
How to optimise your carb cycling
Firstly, buy from the chemist something called Ketostix - you put them in your pee and they will tell you if your body is producing ketones.
Ketones in the blood mean that you are burning fat, yes, but this is because you have run out of useable carbohydrates.
This is the alarm bell for your body to downregulate non-essential processes, the result being homeostasis, but for you, the dieter, that means a plateau. To lose weight, you'll need to then diet harder. You’ll eat even less and the down regulation happens again.
Worse still, if you go back to your original maintenance calories, your body will take a bit of time to upregulate - the excess calories consumed will be stored as fat.
This is the diet trap most people find themselves in - their bodies have become efficient. Only using consumed energy for essential processes - storing the rest for better times.
But remember that efficient doesn't mean healthy. A lot of processes are just not getting any energy and therefore not working. If you have been dieting on and off for a few years, I'd suggest first taking about 2 weeks of eating LOTS of NUTRITIOUS food. Not a junk fest, but eating LOTS.
Back to carb cycling.
What is important is that there is a bit of lag between states - diet hard and a few days later, the process is downregulated. Eat lots and a few days later the processes are upregulated - business as normal.
So keep checking your ketone levels - normal is zero. You're not meant to have ketones. Ketones are a survival mechanism. For a week, check them 2 or 3 times a day (don't worry ketostix are really affordable). Try and see how long it takes you, while dieting, to produce ketones.
AS SOON AS YOU SEE A CHANGE, you need to eat carbs.
But not just any carbs - carbs that have glucose, not fructose. Remember that fructose doesn't affect the hormones the way you want them to. Now, how many grams of carbohydrate is up to you.
The severity of upregulation depends on the type and quantity of carbs consumed. Eating high glucose, high GI carbs will force upregulation nearly straight away. You'll notice this on your ketostix.
Another great indicator that you have upregulated is that you poo lots. Your body believes food is in surplus so flushes out the excess (the opposite happens when you’re restricting calories).
I start the carb refeed by eating bananas. I know there is a little fructose in them, but the greener, the more glucose. AND bananas have so many other health benefits. I blend 2 bananas with a tablespoon of cacao powder, wait 20 minutes and see if that has changed my ketone levels.
If not, I will have a bowl of oats with rice malt syrup, water and a protein powder (I add the protein because one of the benefits of high GI carbs is insulin, which promotes better storage - I want my body to take up the protein.).
Realistically, you can eat any high GI carb you want, I know some people who eat lollies (candy). Some would argue that they are better for upregulation, since they are mostly glucose.
High GI carbs can make you hungry as hell too. You don't want a carb load to become an all day feeding frenzy. So choose your carbs wisely. I don't like grains, sugar or dairy, so I stay off them as a blanket rule for overall health reasons. I choose carbs that will carry an ancillary benefit, like sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa - they give you that full gut feeling, psychological break and good nutrition.
You can feel like you've come off your diet, but not blown it. I also like to make banana bread with banana flour. It's a resistant starch - really good for you and for digestion.
The trick then is this:
As soon as you're finished the workout, have your carb feed - this will ensure that the carbs you do eat are taken up by the muscles and the liver - not converted to fat.
Test your ketones and add more carbs until ketone levels are 0 again. As you progress, your metabolism will lift and you will be able to eat quite a lot of carbs, which is very exciting!
How much food in a refeed?
This is a very confusing thing for people, but it's actually very, very simple. Just eat AT LEAST the difference between your diet calories and your maintenance. So if you are dieting at 500kCal less than maintenance, then eat at least 500kCal of carbs for your refeed meal.
maintenance cal - diet cal = refeed cal (at least)
It's that simple.
Other things to think about
Save the big lifts for carb day
If you’re restricting calories, especially if you’re restricting carbs, big workouts just don’t have the same punch - so I program the biggest workouts (squats) for carb day.
The night of carb load, try to put the carbs to use - doing legs at the gym is best I find. Nothing upregulates metabolism like heavy squats. I used squats every third day to gain muscle, but keep fat low.
Save muscles with HIIT
Do conditioning (HIIT) workouts 2 to 5 times a week and remind your body that it needs to keep muscle tissue by strength training in the gym at least one night a week.
Avoid jogging, but walking is great
Better cardiovascular fitness is essential to slowing the severity of downregulation.
But, I would avoid traditional cardio (like running or cycling etc) anything above say 20 minutes will force your body to become more efficient so that it can stay in homeostasis (sounds counterintuitive, but think about it for a bit longer…).
walking is a great exercise for fat loss without any downregulation, or muscle loss.
2 days low carb minimum
You should be able to last about 2 days between carb refeeds. Initially this may be less. If you can't last this long, then you need to increase daily calories by bumping up carbs and/or fat.
Some people like to do a depletion day (or a few). This means continuing with low carb/low cal for a few days once you’re producing ketones. This is OK if you can still train at intensity, some people are good with ketones, some not.
It has been proven that when in ketosis, we consume 60% protein and only 40% fat. You can reduce this through strength training, but I just don’t like those numbers.
The holy grail of dieting
Carb cycling properly will actually increase your maintenance metabolism higher than it was before. Your body will essentially be allowed to do more stuff (which in turn means you will be healthier) and the big plus is that you get to eat way more than you are right now, while still losing body fat.
That's the holy grail of dieting right there!