That particular statement may sound counterintuitive. After all, everything you’ve heard about weight loss indicates that reducing body fat will help to BOOST your metabolism, right? Well, sadly, that’s not entirely true. If you’re not careful, you’ll find that weight loss slows your metabolism as effectively as any crash diet. Understanding how to avoid that metabolism slowdown is key to being healthy with your weight loss.
Your Metabolism: Energy Produced = Energy Required
Your metabolism isn’t a single organ or body part. Instead, it’s a complex internal system comprised of all digestive activity and the production of energy in your body. It would take forever to describe how each element of the metabolism works, but you can boil it down mostly to a simple formula: the energy produced by your metabolism is equal to the amount of energy required by your body.
Your Body’s Adaptability
You see, the human body is designed to adapt to its environments, stimuli, and even the food you eat. This is why we have become so carb-dependent, thanks to the fact that our modern diet favors carbs as the primary energy source instead of fat. When your body needs more energy, your metabolism speeds up to meet that energy demand. When you don’t need as much energy, your metabolism slows to conserve the stored energy. It’s how you are able to run, jump, and play so efficiently.
How Weight Loss Slows Your Metabolism
Overall, weight loss isn’t going to harm your metabolism. Losing excess body fat can actually increase your daily metabolic rate, as an increase in muscle mass will increase the amount of energy consumed. However, DRASTIC weight loss—the sort achieved through a crash diet, fad diet, or calorie-restrictive diet—can cause your metabolism to slow down. You see, these diets cause you to eat very little. The reduced food intake is essentially signaling to your body that you don’t have as much energy available, so it has to conserve what little it has. Thus, your metabolic rate slows down in response to the reduced food intake.
The Danger of Rapid Weight Loss
While it would be awesome to lose 20 to 50 pounds in a few short weeks, it’s actually terrible for your health. Your body responds to this drastic weight loss by shutting down your metabolism and going into “starvation mode”, almost a sort of low-calorie output hibernation. It can take weeks or even months for your metabolism to return to normal. During this time, your body will be storing all the calories you consume, while burning as little as possible. You’ll end up in a low-energy state, even if you’re on a normal diet.
How to Lose Weight Without Harming Your Metabolism
The key to healthy, metabolism-friendly weight loss is to keep things slow and steady. The human body is capable of losing around 1 pound per week, which is possible by remaining in a calorie deficit (more calories burned than consumed) of around 500 calories per day. This means you cut back your food intake by 200 to 300 calories, and increase your caloric expenditure via exercise by another 200 to 300 calories. Do this, and it will encourage slow, steady weight loss that won’t harm your metabolism. You won’t see a crash in your energy production because you’re keeping your body working all the while.
The Fast Metabolism Secret: Exercise
Exercise tells your body it needs to fuel your muscles, so it can’t totally shut down your energy production. Resistance training in particular builds muscle, which requires energy in order to function. Combining a lower-calorie diet with a daily exercise program will lead to the best results in terms of weight loss and metabolic function.