What is Metabolic Damage and how do I help my metabolism reset,repair and recover from it?
Crossfit,figure,bikini and bodybuilders and metabolic damage, what's the common thread?
To achieve "success" in those endeavors, you play on the line too much and just enough.
Imagine that your body is a car, any car that you want it to be. Your transmission is your muscle, your engine is your metabolism and the gas in the gas tank represents your hormones.
When you turn on your car, your transmission signals your engine that uses the gas to take you where you want to go.
When you’re trying to build muscle, get lean and perform better, your muscles have to work with your metabolism to burn calories and store nutrients and your hormones are responsible for all of the processes. Everything must work together.
But when you eat less food or do more activity or both, your metabolism can’t regulate your hormones or muscles to effectively operate. And it’s not just your metabolism that gets damaged, your nervous system is negatively impacted and you notice changes like an inability to sleep.Your hormones bottom out that leads to low energy, no sex drive and possibly stomach fat gain. Even your digestive system is compromised and your body doesn’t absorb food as efficiently.
That is metabolic damage.
A main complaint that a lot of Crossfitters and physique athletes come to me with is that they always feel anxious and they can’t get to sleep. They feel too stressed out and with good reason. During metabolic damage your sympathetic nervous system, or your fight or flight system, can't handle the overall amount of stress that you’re putting it under.
On the flip side, we also have a parasympathetic nervous system which is suppose to calm us down.Otherwise known as the “rest and digest” system, the parasympathetic system is responsible for helping us to repair our bodies and recover from stress. But getting show ready lean or making Crossfit regionals tends to trump one’s care for their parasympathetic nervous system. Who needs that weird system?
Stress is fine, it’s natural, except when it's either long term, frequent or extreme. What type of athletes engage in activities that are long term AND frequent AND extremely stressful? Athletes that use low calorie diets, hours of cardio and regimented training.
Crossfiters, bodybuilders and figure and bikini girls.
All your nervous system senses is more activity and less incoming food. There’s a lot of classic signs that your body is signalling that it's dealing with metabolic damage but you just need to listen to it.
Signs and Symptoms of Metabolic Damage
You may be…
consistently sore from exercise routines that you normally would recover from.
noticing that you never get a good nights sleep and you often have a hard time actually falling asleep.
lacking motivation to train.
holding water and getting bloated.
gaining body fat, specifically on your lower abs.
bloating, having gas or having heart burn often.
There are numerous other factors in metabolic damage than just those noticeable signs.
For starters, on top of chronic cortisol production and lowered anabolic hormones, your digestion may be impaired as well. Your gut bacteria is extremely sensitive to these changes in your nervous system. As a result, it may decrease your stomach acid which results in food being poorly digested. This results in malnutrition and further increases your cycle of poor recovery.
There is some evidence that long term stress does shrink and damage the lining of your small intestines which is why chronically stressed folks often have food sensitivities and negatively react to foods that they normally were okay with.
Metabolic Damage Tests
There are two great at home tests that you can use to determine what degree of metabolic damage that you may be suffering from.
One is the EYE test.
Take a small pen light or light in your phone and stand in front of a mirror.
Do your eyes stay dilated when the light shines into them? If so that is sign that you are sensitive to light due to increased levels of stress hormones.
The second test is your heart rate variability. There are a few apps such as Sweet Beat that allow your smartphone to give you a accurate assessment of your heart rate variability, the pulses that your heart sends.
Now you need to do this first thing in the morning for a few days to get an average but if the variability from day to day is great or chronically higher than normal, this is a sign of metabolic damage. Your resting heart rate should drop to a normal levels the hours following exercise but in a overtraining state, your resting heart rate stays elevated and your heart does not recover appropriately from exercise.
The hormonal side of metabolic damage
Individuals who suffer from metabolic damage often complain of libido and energy loss and when you look at their blood work, it resemble the blood work of small children. Yes, it is that bad and with good reason.
As we’ve established, your body is now constantly over stressed and as a result, it stresses the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (HP). When a lack of food and increased activity or a combination is present, the HP first attempts to release MORE hormones to compensate but it quickly realizes that there is nothing to build those hormones. As a result, your blood sugar balance is often thrown off which causes increased hunger levels and cravings. In addition, your acid/alkaline base is also out of balance causing all sorts of digestive issues.
Metabolically, your adrenal and thyroid hormones control most of what’s going on but these glands are also over stimulated and as a result, your cortisol production is increased, as well as your T3 and T4 production. That’s bad since the overproduction of those hormones cause their receptors to be burned out. Which means there's nowhere for all the excess hormones to go and this leads to the difficultly losing weight that most bodybuilding coaches often talk about. As you should realize, the answer is NOT more cardio and less food.
Women, due to their unique hormonal make up, often have harder time recovering from metabolic damage. For starters, most women will generally kick their male counterparts butt when it comes to endurance events or any cardio challenge. All that means is that the hard training female has to do more cardio at the start of a diet than her male counterpart because she is already has a higher conditioning level, metabolically, she starts from a different place.
It’s also why women traditionally deal with more thyroid issues than males. We’ve talked about the fatigue, lack of energy and sleeplessness that comes with metabolic damage. A general practitioner isn’t going to ask a woman about her training or nutrition and they’ll very rarely even check her AM/PM cortisol to determine hormonal patterns. Metabolic damage, as of this writing, is not considered a medical condition and neither is the hormonal aspects of it, adrenal fatigue. There are clear tests that can measure adrenal fatigue and often times the word is a hang up for people who are not as educated as you or I. Either way, give it 20 years or so and medicine will view adrenal fatigue and metabolic damage in the same light that they view diabetes and high blood pressure.
It’s not just the women, men have libidio issues as well.
Your thyroid rate or body temperate is just one of the many hormones signals that your body gives you. On top of impaired digestion that leads to bloating and gas, your body will also change how certain foods are digested. Think of all the negative side effect of poor digestion and absorption. You’re not processing nutrients appropriately so you’ll likely not recover as fast, not gain as much muscle and feel beaten down. In extreme cases, you may frequently get sick.
How Do You Recover From Metabolic Damage?
Hopefully I’ve established that the traditional approach of continually lowering calories and doing more activity ISN'T the answer. Hopefully you can see that all the stimulants in the world and gimmicks won’t help you. While you may achieve tiny progress here and there, you will not see the big gains that you want.
That is truly step one. You have to realize that what got you into this condition is not going to get you out of it. You have to use a delicate balance of nutrients with the correct diet and calculated recovery strategies to recover and progress.
Metabolic Damage Recovery and Repair
Begin by eating more. This is not a cheat meal or a “bulk” cycle or anything like that. I simply want to you to eat more starchy carbohydrates. Eating more protein traditionally isn’t the issue but if you aren’t eating enough protein then get more.
Don’t stress, you’re not going to get fat. Here's some general guidelines but I do go more in-depth in my Physique Formula diet book.
Boost your fat intake to 20-25% of total calories
Use small carbohydrates increases of 5-25 grams per week based on your change in weight.Take a 7 day running weight average and if it’s going up a pound or two a week then it’s too fast and you need to drop some carbohydrates. The first week of the adjustment does not count however.
In terms of exercise, I want you to stop cardio. I have nothing against traditional cardio but we need to eliminate one variable at the start and cardio is the best place to begin. You can still train heavy with weights and I want you to strive to gain muscle. That’s important.
In place of the cardio that you USED to do, I want you to start going for long walks or gardening or something physical that is also relaxing. Listen, you can think I’m full of it or be so afraid that you’ll gain fat so you’ll “secretly” do cardio but you can not trick your body. Remember, you came here for help so take the advice and put it into practice for a few weeks.
Supplements For Metabolic Damage
The supplement part of metabolic damage is critical for your success. Remember, metabolic damage is often referred to as adrenal fatigue so feeding your adrenals with the right nutrients is key. It’s why I formulated “Adrenal Support” a comprehensive formula with research proven nutrients for helping to restore your normal adrenal function.
Since we’re discussing your hormones, it is always a good idea to add some “smart fats” such as omega-3’s, organic olive oil or organic coconut oil into your diet to provide the important hormone building blocks.
Digestion And Metabolic Damage
I’ve briefly touched on the digestive problems associated with metabolic damage so I want to talk about how I would suggest fixing it.
If something you eat, regardless how “good” it is for you, bothers your stomach then I want you to remove that food in the short term as you likely have acquired a sensitivity to it.
Now grab a good digestive aid like The Physique Formula Performance Enzymes since I designed them with HCL. Your body can not produce enough acid to properly digest your food during metabolic damage so we have to replace that lost acid with quality enzymes and HCL
Of course a quality probiotic won’t hurt either. Your gut health takes a severe beating during metabolic damage so slowly restoring that with a good probiotic is great start.
I can honestly not stress enough how important quality sleep is for helping you repair your metabolism. While I generally don’t advocate sleep supplements on a nightly basis, a tiny amount of melatonin a few nights per week can really help you to get into a deep restorative sleep. We have all the supplement, diet and training knowledge available to us but the most powerful thing that we can do for ourselves is sleep better and deeper.
Recovering from metabolic damage is going to take time and is dependent on how big of a hole you’ve dug yourself into. Consider grabbing the adrenal support package above and starting there. Give it time and I’m sure you’ll start feeling better and seeing more progress.