#2 - Metabolic Multi-Tasking
So you decided to lose weight. You start exercising, either the traditional way of long cardio sessions, or the modern way of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or functional training like Crossfit.
You start to lose weight and become fitter, even more muscular, particularly when you were quite unfit and chunky to start with. You’re over the moon - until your weight loss stalls.
You increase the amount of classes you take and exercise longer - and it makes no difference. What the heck is going on?!?
Exercise won’t help you achieve your goals
There are really two factors at work here:
1) if you think running or cycling will make you slim, think again. Your body is lazy and doesn’t want to do more than maintain the Status Quo. Say you run 5 miles 3 x a week. You work hard and your body increases its capacity for endurance. Great!
Unfortunately, once your body has finished adapting to running 3 x a week, that’s it. It won’t improve any more. And why should it? Improving beyond what’s required from your body on a regular basis is inefficient. So it won’t.
2) Your metabolism is really bad at multi-tasking. It won’t build muscle at the same time as burning fat. One activity is anabolic (building up all tissue, both muscle and fat) and the other is catabolic (breaking down all tissue, both muscle and fat).
That’s why you see so many weightlifters with huge muscle mass but also big layers of fat. I know women aren’t generally keen on building large muscles but we do require sufficient muscles to make us look sleek and tight.
So when you cut calories to lose weight, you will also lose muscle mass. When you eat lots to compensate for increased calorie requirements during weighted exercise, you will also build fat.
How to Square the Circle?
Is there a way out of this? Absolutely.
You need to realise that you just can’t build muscle and lose weight at the same time. You can however cycle your approach. You might exercise very little while at the same time eat very little for a period of time. Jade Teta calls this Eat Less Exercise Less (ELEL).
Most people are familiar with this because it means restricting calories. The difference is however that you won’t exercise other than walking so that the body doesn’t switch into compensation mode.
After a certain time, maybe days, maybe weeks, you’re starting to get hungry, get cravings, sleep badly, get moody or lose energy.
This is where the beauty of this system lies!
These symptoms are indicators that your body wants to preserve fat mass because it perceives the lower amount of calories you consume as starvation. Willpower will get you no-where at this point. The only thing you can do now is to increase your food intake and start working out more. This is called Eat More Exercise More (EMEM) and you stick with this until your body is reassured that there is no starvation and no need to preserve fat (usually 4-10 days).
Then you go back to ELEL and repeat the cycle. This will allow you to strip some body fat during ELEL, then build some muscle during EMEM. You keep cycling this approach until your body gets where you want it to be.
Focus your exercise on what works!
Please drop the endless Cardio. It won’t do any good for weight loss. By all means include shorter sessions in your exercise regime, but realise that long cardio sessions stress out your body and force it to hold onto body fat. It makes much more sense to constantly challenge your body through varying functional training sessions, such as Crossfit or Metabolic Aftershock during the EMEM phase.
You can’t get around the Law of Metabolic Compensation. As discussed in the last article, your metabolism starts to adapt and compensate within 4-10 days. Eating little and trying to burn lots of calories through sport are counter-productive. This is the old model of weight loss which has been so helpful to us in the past. Kidding. Sarcasm. Ugh.
In the next blog post, I’ll give some examples on how this might work in practice. It’s a learning process but a fun one, I promise!
In the meantime you can read Jade's article on Metabolic Multi-Tasking.
As always, please let me know what you think about the post below!