Truth be told, weight loss is often more challenging and complex than the simplified “eat less, work out more” mentality would have us think. Anyone who has tried to lose “those last ten pounds” can attest to this.
Effects Of Extreme Weight Loss On The Metabolism
A recent study published in the medical journal, Obesity, measured the effects of extreme weight loss on the basal metabolic rate (BMR), resting metabolic rate (RMR) and body composition of fourteen former contestants from “The Biggest Loser”.
If you haven’t heard about it yet, the study focused on where the contestants were six years after losing all the weight. (1) Four of them now weigh more than when they were on the show, and all but one of the contestants have gained a significant amount of the weight back.
One contestant, Danny Cahill, lost an astounding 239 pounds in seven months. I didn’t even know this was humanly possible! But in the years since his extreme weight loss he has gained more than 100 pounds back.
When a person loses an extreme amount of weight it is normal for their metabolic rate to slow down because one who weighs less requires fewer calories to maintain the same weight than someone who weighs more. Makes sense, right?
Normally we would expect the body to adapt to the weight loss and the metabolism to adjust to the new weight. But that’s not what happened with most of the former contestants in the study.
It was as though their bodies were doing everything possible to prevent them from losing more weight, or even maintain their new weight.
What Do We Know About Our Metabolism?
Our metabolism includes all the processes our body goes through to convert the food we eat (calories) to energy our bodies can use.
You may have heard that each of us has a magic weight, or a set point. This is the weight our body wants to stay at. It’s comfortable and easy for our body to stay at this weight, but it makes weight loss very difficult.
When we lose weight our BMR slows down. It reduces the amount of calories we burn when we’re at rest. (2) Some of the former Biggest Loser contestants had a BMR much lower than would be expected of someone who had the same body composition and weight.
This is also why we hear “yo-yo dieting” isn’t good. Each time we gain and lose (and gain and lose) weight it impacts out metabolic rate and body composition.
The Biggest Loser contestants lost an incredible amount of weight. Many of us gain and lose only ten or fifteen pounds at a time, but even so, it can change our BMR. And doing this repeatedly can make it more difficult to lose weight the next time.
Despite these findings, there is hope for anyone wanting to lose weight. In fact there are many things we can do to help increase our metabolism and lose weight.
What You Can Do To Speed Up Your Metabolism
The more muscle you have the more calories you burn.
In addition to lifting weights or using resistance bands, there are so many body weight workouts you can do that will help build lean muscle mass. There are many free workouts available online.
I have a couple of fitness apps on my phone that I love. Most don’t require any equipment and are free. Currently I’m using:
- Seven This one is based on the 7-Minute Workout concept. It works all the major muscle groups and only takes 7 minutes to complete.
- 30 Day Push Up Challenge Push ups are great for building and toning muscles in the arms, (obviously) core and back.
- 5 Minute Planks Call me crazy, but I love planks! There, I said it. 😉 They’re great for building muscle tone in the abs and back.
- SWORKIT One of my favorites! This one allows you to choose between strength training, yoga, stretching, or cardio workouts. You can also specify how long you want the workout to last.
I tend to use one for a while, get bored with it, then try another one. (Just keepin’ it real) Do what works for you!
Please keep in mind that your body needs plenty of high-quality protein to build muscle. You might like to try My Favorite Peanut Butter Protein Shake for a delicious and sustaining boost of energy.
Consuming processed foods like prepackaged snack foods, artificial sweeteners (or artificial anything) can slow your metabolism and mess with your thyroid and hormones. The body treats them like toxins, so we need to limit them.
Focus on eating a diet rich in whole foods such as grass-fed beef, eggs, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, (such as coconut oil) nuts and seeds. These foods have all the building blocks our bodies need to support a strong metabolism.
3. Get Plenty Of Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep your metabolism slows down to save energy. (3)
Also, when we don’t get enough sleep our bodies aren’t able to regulate our blood sugar as effectively. This can lead to hunger pains and increased cravings for food.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night and keep your metabolic furnace burning.