How to keep a high metabolism when losing weight
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t lose any more weight despite trying everything under the sun?
Weight loss plateaus are a bitch, and can leave us feeling confused, angry, and very frustrated.
This frustration at our inability to continue to lose weight, along with a lot of misinformation online from so-called “experts,” can convince us that there is something wrong with our metabolism.
But guess what?
That’s just the way your metabolism is supposed to work.
The reality is that the heavier you are, the more calories you’ll burn and vice-versa.
That’s why it is easier to lose weight at the beginning of our weight loss journeys and progressively gets more challenging.
But just because it has become more complicated doesn’t mean it is impossible.
So, don’t worry. As always, we got you! Here is the 411 on why our metabolism slows down and our weight loss plateaus.
The reason why losing weight becomes so damn hard as time goes by is twofold:
- You carry less weight.
- Metabolic adaptation.
As you lose more weight, it is expected to burn fewer calories. That is because the body will carry less weight, so it is easier to move around.
But, when participants gained 10% of their weight, their RMR was 60.2% higher than before the weight gain.
It is entirely normal to burn fewer calories as we lose weight.
The other reason why our metabolism slows down is due to “metabolic adaptation” and that’s what we really need to watch out for.
Metabolic adaptation is a term that describes the combination of the body’s responses to fight weight loss. It addresses our body’s capacity to use less energy when food is limited to conserve our energy stores.
In simple terms, it’s the body trying to keep us from starving to death.
Effectively making “calories in vs. calories out” a lot harder.
Your body doesn’t want you to die! Don’t hate it for doing its job.
With that being said, metabolic adaptation is probably why 80% of people who lose weight can’t keep it off for a single year. (1)
Unfortunately, our metabolism will slow down as we continue to drop the pounds. It’s just how the body works.
The question is, can we kind of, I don’t know, do something about it, so it doesn’t slow down as much?
Yes! Yes, we can.
Below are a few strategies to minimize the usual drop-off of metabolism associated with losing weight.
High Protein Diet
The more muscle mass we have, the higher our metabolism will be.
That is why it is super important to have a high protein diet.
Another advantage of a high protein diet is that it helps keep ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) lower for longer than meals mainly composed of carbs and fats. (1)
A higher protein intake goes hand in hand with…
There are a few ways in which exercising, especially lifting weights, can help us keep our metabolism up.
Lifting weights, along with a high protein diet, can help us keep or even gain muscle while on a calorie deficit, ensuring that the weight we lose comes in the form of fat.
People who exercise have a higher RMR than those who do not.
One study on women found that:
- The average RMR of sedentary women was 1,375 calories per day.
- The average RMR of aerobically trained women was 1,485 cals/day.
- The average RMR of resistance-trained women was 1,464 cals/day.
Another study on men found that:
- The average RMR of sedentary men was 1,714 calories per day.
- The average RMR of aerobically trained men was 1,841 cals/day
- The average RMR of resistance-trained men was 1,973 cals/day
In combination with exercise, a high protein diet can help you fight the effects of metabolic adaptation—especially the increase in hunger.
A 2020 study found that those who lost more muscle tended to have a greater appetite than those who kept more muscle mass. (3)
Slow Weight Loss
We all want to reach our weight loss goals as quickly as we can. But is losing weight at a super-fast pace better than at a slower pace?
Unfortunately, one of the main reasons metabolic adaptation slows down our metabolism is the severity of our calorie deficit.
That’s why one of the best strategies to keep a high metabolism when losing weight is to lose weight at a slower pace.
A study by Garthe, Ina, et al. looked at the effect of slow-paced weight loss versus fast-paced weight loss. (1)
Twenty-four athletes (male and female) between the ages of 18 and 35 participated in the study.
Thirteen participants were randomly assigned to lose .7% of their weight loss per week (slow pace group).
Eleven participants were randomly assigned to lose 1.4% of their weight loss per week (fast pace group).
Both groups followed a calorie-restricted diet that would allow them to reach their weekly goals.
They also trained four times per week.
Both groups lost the same amount of weight (5.5% Of total bodyweight vs. 5.6%).
Despite this, the slow-paced group gained lean body mass (+2.1%) and lost more fat mass, while the fast-paced group lost lean body mass (-.2%) and less fat mass.
Losing weight a bit slower than you would like could not only help you lose more fat in the long run but also gain lean body mass. Thus helping you keep your metabolism high.
Diet Breaks are planned periods of two weeks to eat at your maintenance calories. That means no calorie deficit for two weeks.
Hey! That doesn’t mean you get to eat like an asshole!
By scheduling diet breaks, you’re pretty much telling your body that you are not starving to death.
Doing this will allow the hormones (ghrelin and leptin) related to metabolic adaptation to “reset,” making it easier to lose weight once you get back on a calorie deficit.
Some of the benefits of diet breaks are:
- It gives you a psychological break from dieting. Dieting is hard, and scheduling diet breaks every 2 to 3 weeks will help you stick to your diet, as you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- It could help you lose more fat and spare your lean body mass (1)
- Reduce the effects of weight loss on resting metabolic rate. (1)
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT is the number of calories we burn by doing activities that are not exercise.
Activities such as walking, cleaning, showering all contribute to the total of NEAT.
NEAT accounts for about 15% of the total calories we burn throughout the day.
It is believed that NEAT is the element of our TDEE most affected by a slowing metabolism due to weight loss.
Studies have found that a weight loss of 10% of body weight has lead to a decrease of around 400 calories in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). (1)
In Layman’s terms, your body will make you lazy. It will make you less active and more efficient when creating energy.
Do not, I repeat, do not let it turn you into a couch potato.
Tips to keep your metabolism high and lessen the effects of metabolic adaptation:
- Eat .7 to 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Keep exercising—especially lifting weight.
- Lose weight at a slower pace, between .6% to 1% of your body weight per week.
- Plan to have diet breaks every 3 to 4 weeks.
- Stay active. Your body will try to burn fewer calories. Staying active will help nullify this.
Your metabolism will inevitably slow down as you lose weight.
The good news is that if you follow these tips, losing weight and getting your dream body won’t be that much of a pain in the ass.
Are you struggling to lose weight? “The complete fat loss guide” teaches you not only how to lose weight but how to keep the pounds from ever coming back.