Losing weight or transforming your physique is NOT solely just calories in vs calories out and creating a caloric deficit. Yes, this is part of the equation but your body is so much more complex than that! Your hormones, thyroid, liver function, and your gut are all entwined with your metabolism…one change has the potential to have multiple effects.
There are several issues that can mess with your metabolism. I have touched on a few of these and how you can manage them.
If we start with the gut. An unhealthy gut or an imbalance of the bacteria in the gut can lead to altered hormone levels, irregular thyroid function and changes to how your body processes nutrients. This may potentially result in the condition known as leaky gut syndrome where contents of the gut end up in your bloodstream…exactly where they are not meant to be!
How to manage? Consume a varied diet, include probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut & kimchi to feed the good bacteria in your gut and supplement with a digestive enzyme to ensure you are digesting and absorbing the nutrients from the food you are eating.
Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can deplete your body of progesterone, leading to potentially low progesterone levels and symptoms such as bloating, infertility, insomnia, anxiety. Or it may result in estrogen dominance, with symptoms such as hair loss, heavy periods and weight gain. Too much stress can also lead to increased muscle protein breakdown…not good!
How to manage? Firstly, identify the triggers for your stress. Depending on what causes your stress some ways to manage it may be through meditation, exercise or even a daily grateful log. Find what works best for you.
A lack of vitamins and minerals means your body will not have the necessary materials to help your body produce energy, detoxify, form enzymes and use these enzymes in your metabolic pathways.
Low carbohydrate diets for an extended period of time can create problems in the conversion of your thyroid hormone, T3 to T4, which is extremely sensitive to carbohydrate intake. Low T3 levels = low basal metabolic rate (ie. the rate you burn energy at rest). I am not saying low carbs diet will decrease your BMR, however there is evidence showing low carbohydrate diet can influence both your weight loss and also fertility.
How to manage? Ensure you are consuming sufficient amounts of protein for your body composition, plenty of green leafy vegetables and an energy source, either fats or carbs at each meal. If sleep is an issue for you then keeping your carbs to the evening is going to help you to relax and will complement your sleep.
A lack of sleep can also impact on your hormones and adrenal glands – which all tie together like a triangle…throw one off and you can throw off the rest! Sleep is your body’s time to rest and recover. Not enough sleep will likely leave you with poor energy levels, increased cravings and therefore a greater likelihood of poor food choices.
How to manage? Have a pre-sleep routine. Aim to have your last meal approximately 2 hours before you go to bed, minimise screen time and go to bed at a similar time each night. Supplementing with a high quality magnesium supplement, such as Trilogy Nutrition’s GABA Mag combined with Strength Sensei’s Yin Reserve will also help you to relax and get a good night’s sleep.
These are just some of the issues that may impact an individual’s metabolism and subsequently their ability to lose weight despite a caloric deficit. I think it is important to not get so caught up or fixated on calories in vs calories out instead consider the quality of the food being eaten, the metabolic impact this is having on the body and how to manage it. In the context of general weight management, I think an understanding of this will be far more valuable and allow the past beliefs in weight loss circles that to get results you need to count calories to be laid to rest.