Apologies for taking so long to write the follow-up to my metabolic damage post, but I’ve been crazy busy in between sorting out my tooth (update below!), preparing for my competition and running between gyms training clients! This week hasn’t been as relaxing and rest-filled as I had hoped.
In case you missed part one, where I told you my story of overcoming metabolic damage and gave you some tips on repairing your own metabolism, check it out here. A few of you have asked follow-up questions, which I will answer below.
How do I know if I’m suffering metabolic damage and don’t just have a naturally slow metabolism?
There are a few signs to look out for. Firstly, your body should be able to handle at least 2000 calories a day while remaining at a healthy weight/size if you are exercising regularly. A healthy body should be burning around 1500 calories at rest, and more with exercise. If you feel as though you can’t eat more than 1500 calories without gaining weight, your metabolism is not working properly.
I fully believe that women who lift heavy should be able to eat at least 2500 calories and 250 grams of carbohydrates per day while remaining lean, and men around 3000 calories with 300 grams of carbs.
One great way of determining whether your metabolism is healthy or not is by having a large “cheat” meal. Ingest a large number of calories, preferably including high amounts of carbohydrates and fats, in a single sitting and watch how your body responds. People with a healthy metabolism will wake up the next morning feeling leaner and ready to attack their workouts (and will probably hit a PR!), while people with damaged metabolisms will feel sluggish, tired and like they have gained 5 pounds overnight.
Finally, most people who have metabolic damage struggle to process carbohydrates in particular. If your daily carbohydrate intake is 100 grams or less (and you feel as though you would gain weight if you increased it), it is highly likely your metabolism is not working properly.
If your metabolism has always run slow, there are steps you can take to increase it: lift heavy weights and gradually increase your calories over time, thereby forcing your body to catch up. More commonly, however, people claim they can’t get away with eating like they used to. This is typically the result of overly restrictive behaviours in the past catching up to them. It is a fallacy that your metabolism slows down with age – your metabolism only slows down if you lose muscle mass.
If you have ever gone at least a month eating less than around 1400 calories a day, or doing long duration cardio every day and not fuelling yourself properly afterwards, you have damaged your metabolism. The majority of people don’t realise that their eating habits are restrictive until an outsider points it out, which is why I highly recommend talking with a coach if there is any possibility at all of metabolic damage.
What if I have hormonal issues (PCOS, low thyroid, low or elevated GH, testosterone, etc)?
I have PCOS and know how much of a pain in the ass it can be. The time frame for repairing your metabolism can increase from a couple of months to a year or more. I have had some clients successfully jump from eating 1200 calories to 2500 calories in a matter of weeks, yet for those of us with hormonal issues it takes a lot longer.
Unfortunately, most women who have damaged their metabolism in one way or another will have some kind of hormonal repercussion. When you starve your body (which is essentially what you are doing, even if you don’t label it as such) your hormones will be affected as they try to deal with an imbalanced internal environment.
Your body will therefore take longer to respond to caloric increases, as your hormones are not functioning correctly. It is normal to also have more fluctuations with your body – one day you might feel bloated, while the very next day you might feel lean. When times get tough, do NOT give up. Keep pushing and your body will respond, while healing your hormones along the way. Remember that having a healthy body with healthy hormone levels is far more important than being shredded to the core.
I consult with women affected by PCOS, but I would highly recommend working with a naturopath or endocrinologist if you have further hormonal issues.
When will my pants stop getting tighter?
Ah, the most frequently asked question! It varies from person to person. Some people see results almost immediately, while others take a few weeks to adapt to the new level of calories. The initial weight gain is almost always water retention caused by increased carbohydrate levels, so do not be alarmed and think you have gained 5 pounds of fat overnight.
Bloating is another unfortunate side effect caused by your body dealing with the higher volume of food. Get away from the scale and give your body at least a month to respond.
Also, and please don’t hurl abuse at me for this one, consider that perhaps if your body is continuing to gain weight after six to eight weeks, it is because it needs to. Our bodies have what is often known as a “happy weight” where we function optimally, and often prior to beginning a metabolic repair cycle, people are forcing themselves below that.
Finally, I recently read this post from Go Kaleo which also talks about metabolic damage. I like the post as it also discusses many of the positive benefits of metabolic repair which are lacking from this post. Her writing is far more technical and eloquent than mine, so I highly recommend reading her blog if you don’t already!
This is my last post before my competition (eek!), so I just wanted to give you all a quick update on my tooth situation. I got a second opinion from a different dentist on Tuesday, who told me that I do not in fact need a root canal. I managed to get an urgent referral to my surgeon yesterday, and the second diagnosis is indeed right: the abscess in my mouth is not caused by anything gum/tooth-related at all; but rather, an infection linked to the plates in my face.
Apparently, about 5 per cent of people who have had plates and screws inserted to fix bones experience the same infection. I will have a permanent wound on my gum which will produce abscesses one after the other unless they cut me open, nick the wound and remove the plates for good measure.
I’m going under next Thursday, thankfully after my comp! Competing may make the infection worse (they generally tell you to avoid any strenuous exercise when you have a mouth infection, oops!) but I’ve been cleared to compete as they are surgically removing the infection anyway.
I will be competing while still on antibiotics, with some of the side effects including dizziness and drowsiness. It may not be my best performance ever but I refuse to quit, dammit!
I will be updating my Facebook page and Instagram on Sunday when I can, and of course posting as usual on Monday! If you have any further questions about metabolic damage, please let me know and I will answer them in the comments below.
My e-book, Metabolic Damage and Repair: Unlock Your Body’s True Potential, contains everything you need to know about why metabolic damage occurs, the tools you need to repair your own metabolism, and the results you can expect throughout the journey, as well as how to know when your metabolism has been restored to full function. It contains 14 meal plans, with clear instructions to take you from any starting point to at least 2300 calories per day. It also contains two resistance training programs with a full breakdown of all exercises, sets and repetitions.
For more information, please click here.