It happens to all of us from time to time: we set goals to get in shape, increase our mileage, join a gym, do high-intensity interval training, count calories, waiting to lose a few extra pounds.
Unless the opposite happens. You step on the scale and take off your clothes, but in vain – at best the arrow does not move, at worst – an increase in weight is detected. Perplexity can be understood because everything is done correctly, but there is no result. And that’s why.
Slowing of metabolism
Metabolism (metabolism) is a set of chemical reactions that help keep the body alive. The faster the metabolism, the more calories the body needs.
Four key factors affect metabolic rate:
- Resting Metabolic Rate – The minimum metabolic rate to maintain resting heart rate, respiration, brain activity, and temperature regulation. On average, it represents 60 to 75% of total calorie expenditure.
- The thermic effect of food is the number of calories it takes to digest food. This typically accounts for up to 10% of your total energy expenditure.
- The thermal effect of exercise is the number of calories burned during exercise. This indicator depends on the intensity and duration of each workout.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the number of calories needed for activities other than exercise. This includes changing posture, standing, housework, walking, and other household chores.
Metabolism is also affected by age, muscle mass, and hormonal factors.
If you go to extremes and eat too little (hello extreme diets with less than 1000 calories), hormonal changes become more significant and metabolism slows down. Metabolic adaptation, also known as adaptive thermogenesis or “fasting mode”, is the body’s response to a calorie deficit.
When the body does not get enough food, it tries to compensate by lowering the metabolic rate.
Consistently eating less than 1,000 calories per day results in a significant drop in metabolic rate that persists even after the diet is stopped.
Saving too much fuel not only never fully recovers and feels like a vegetable, but your body goes into low-power mode (much like a phone when the battery is drained).
Muscle mass set
The body responds to exercise through a series of adaptations and physiological changes. One of these changes is the formation of muscle mass.
Even long-distance running can promote muscle growth, especially in the most stressed parts of the legs. Add to that weightlifting exercises and strengthening exercises for the back, core, arms, and the result is muscle building.
Muscle mass is denser than fat, which means that one kg of muscle takes up less space on the body than one kg of fat:
The amount of muscle you have is directly related to your metabolic rate. Unlike fat mass, muscle mass significantly increases the number of calories you burn at rest.
So if your body looks the same or even leaner but heavier on the scale, muscle gain is to blame. And that’s perhaps the most positive reason for weight gain, because a toned, sculpted body looks so much better than skinny fat.
Water retention in the body
Often found in beginners and hobbyists which dramatically increase stress levels. A long run or a weightlifting session in the gym puts a strain on the muscle fibers. Stress causes microtrauma which leads to inflammation, a necessary part of the healing and recovery process.
In response, the body reacts with water retention and slightly swells due to microtrauma. Such an effect, of course, is not permanent but will persist until adaptation occurs.
Accumulation of more glycogen in the muscles
Usually occurs in preparation for a marathon or ultra distance. Novice athletes who begin an endurance training program can increase their body’s ability to store muscle glycogen by 60-70%.
Storing glycogen requires more water. This extra water will show on the scales as an increase. Water weight will affect the total even more if you are more diligent in maintaining water balance than before you started the training regimen.
The important thing to remember here is that the ability to store extra glycogen and fluids is a useful skill that our bodies will need during training and especially on race day.
Too much cortisol
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Mental stress (work), emotional stress (like the uncertainty of midlife), physical stress (exercise), or environmental stress are all forms of stress that cause the body to increase its production of cortisol.
When cortisol levels rise, they stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight system. This activation tells the body that you are in danger and immediately increases blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate and releases glucose into the bloodstream from the liver.
If this happens for a long time, it will begin to affect other hormones and damage the metabolism:
- Decreased levels of testosterone, the hormone responsible for building muscle
- the level of serotonin decreases – this same “happiness hormone”, cravings for sweets appear in order to increase it artificially
- the work of leptin and ghrelin receptors, hormones responsible for feelings of hunger and satiety, is disturbed: we do not feel full and continue to overeat
- insulin secretion decreases and, as a result, blood sugar increases.
We can easily add physical stress to ourselves: in principle, all exercise is stress. Typically, this is positive stress, but if you overdo it, the body responds by increasing cortisol production.
Although high intensity training can be very effective for weight loss, too much exercise puts too much strain on the body’s systems and backfires.
Reassess your calorie needs
A common mistake experienced and novice runners make is to overestimate their energy needs or how much to eat in response to their workouts.
It seems that running 10-15 km gives us the ability to eat whatever our heart (or stomach) desires. Yes, and it looks like he would eat an elephant – the feeling of hunger is so strong.
In fact, not everything is so optimistic: for example, a person weighing 60 kg for a 30-minute run at a pace of 6 min/km burns an average of 300 calories, which is equivalent to an average serving of syrup latte , but not a full meal with a piece of cake on dessert.
Calculate your approximate calorie burn for a run using the calculator. If you consumed gels or sports drinks during training, their calorie content should be subtracted from the amount received. Most likely, the actual figure will be much lower than expected.
It is also important to replenish your “fuel reserves” as soon as possible after the workout is over. Sometimes we don’t want to eat right after a run or we feel so tired that we prefer to rest.
But the longer we delay eating, the more appealing post-workout sweets and fatty foods become. The body wants to replenish its energy as quickly as possible: sugar is easily absorbed and fat provides a feeling of rapid satiety.
Thus, the work of losing weight can be undone by short-term breakdowns due to the wrong choice of products.
What to do if weight loss is at an impasse
Determine your calorie expenditure. The metabolic rate can be calculated, for example, using this calculator. Many smartwatches and fitness bands track your daily movements to determine the approximate number of calories burned each day.
Set a realistic calorie deficit. Losing weight is a marathon: to achieve a permanent result, you will have to go to the goal for a long time and in small steps. Start with a deficit of 300 to 400 calories so that the quality of your training does not suffer and you lose weight slowly but steadily.
Track everything you eat and drink throughout the day. For this, there are both special applications for the phone and banal Excel spreadsheets. The calorie content of ready meals and drinks can be easily found on the Internet.
Pay attention to bodybuilding. Studies show that doing just 11 minutes of strength training three times a week resulted in an average 7.4% increase in resting metabolic rate after six months and 125 extra calories per day.
Eat more protein. Eating enough protein is essential if you want to build or maintain muscle mass. Any food causes a temporary increase in metabolic rate, known as the food thermic effect. However, this effect is much stronger after eating protein compared to carbohydrates or fats: protein can increase the metabolic rate by 20-30%, while carbohydrates and fats cause a 3-10% increase or less.
Drink water. Numerous studies show that drinking water leads to an increase in calories burned, an effect known as water-induced thermogenesis.
Lower your cortisol levels. Find your own ways to deal with stress – some relaxation techniques and breathing practices will help, while others will benefit from walking in the fresh air, cuddling a pet and getting more sleep. High-intensity training should not represent more than 20% of your weekly training volume.
Rest more. Quality sleep and adequate recovery days are just as important as long, fast-paced workouts. Lack of sleep can slow metabolism: 4 hours of sleep reduces metabolism by 2.6% compared to 10 hours of sleep. Fortunately, a good night’s rest reverses this effect.
Avoid extreme diets. It’s unpleasant and ineffective, and if it works, it’s very short-lived.