elitefts™ Sunday Edition

Lately, everywhere I turn someone is blowing off about metabolic damage. It’s the same story: unknown trainer/nutritionist/self-proclaimed guru is ranting to his minions on his trainer-Facebook-page about how he “fixed” yet another competitor who had a wrecked metabolism because this person was working with such an inferior trainer, blah, blah, predictable blah. The trainer then LOL's a couple of times to make himself sound obviously experienced and people “like” the hell out of the post. Sometimes, trainers will say anything for attention. Especially on the Internet.

Let's get something straight here: metabolic damage is more of a catch phrase that someone came up with so that it sounds dire. The correct term is actually adrenal fatigue. It's just that when you use the word "damage," it gets people's attention and cuts to something far more sinister than just "fatigue." When you hear the word "fatigue" you think, "get over it" but when you hear the word "damage," now that is some serious shit.

That is not to say that metabolic damage/adrenal fatigue is not real. It absolutely is. There are people out there, from competitors to those that just want to lose weight and get into shape, that go about it all wrong. Make no mistake, if you are reading this thinking this is only a female issue, you are wrong. It might be a more prevalent issue with females but rest assured, men deal with it far more often that you might think. Anytime someone is dieting for a long period of time or dieting aggressively for even a shorter period of time, there is always this risk. Is it as common as everyone says it is on the Internet? I don't think it is. Still, you need to know that it isn't something that you want to deal with and is quite easy to avoid.

You will hear trainers say that if you are dieting on very low calories and very high cardio that you probably have metabolic damage. I hate blanket statements. If that were true, pretty much every competitor out there that has gotten ripped to shreds by working their ass off during a prep would qualify as being metabolically wrecked. Clearly, that is not the case.

There are a myriad of factors that go into whether someone might have metabolic damage or not. It isn’t a black and white diagnosis. You have to take many factors into account, weigh them out, and decide if that person fits the profile. Once you figure that they might fit the profile then you have to gauge how bad the "damage" is. For me to explain every potential variable would take far too much time and space and would likely be a very boring read. Instead, I will give you the Skips Notes Version (this is kind of like Cliff’s Notes, but not really, because I’m not Cliff. I’m Skip).

  • Calories
  • Cardio
  • Supplementation

Yes, there are other factors like medications, daily stress, past dieting vs. current dieting, hormone levels, sleep, etc. However, the three main ones that I list are the most common and easy to fix. They are also the ones that you or your trainer have the most control over.

Calories get most of the attention and they shouldn’t because they are no more important than the other two variables. In short, if your calories are too low for too long, then you could be asking for trouble. How low and how long? Everyone is different, but if you are losing strength, have little endurance/stamina, or can’t focus while driving or at work, you should question your caloric intake. The caloric intake being low isn’t as much the problem as when calories are low for an extended period of time. If you are offsetting the metabolism with higher calories on occasion, either through high carb days or cheat meals or some similar protocol, you can go for a longer period of time on lower calories, but understand that even with these cheat meals or high carb days, you can still find yourself creating damage if you are hypocaloric for too long.

Cardio is a culprit, as well, because it not only burns more calories but it also can very simply be exhausting. There comes a point where an increase in cardio is not going to provide the cost to benefit when it comes to getting leaner. Example: If you are going hypo and feeling like you are going to pass out while doing cardio, that is a strong sign that you are pushing it to the extreme. If you do this long enough, the likelihood of metabolic damage should be obvious.

Take Some Pills

Supplementation is included because most people will use some sort of fat burner these days. Using a fat burner to help get you lean is fine but it turns un-fine when you start to rely on the fat burner and take them in higher and higher dosages for long periods of time. Some of the stronger ones I like to call “liquid cardio” because they can be exhausting to take—much like you are doing another hour of cardio every single day. A good sign that you are taking a fat burner too long is when you feel it isn’t working anymore for you or you don’t “feel” it in some way. It may be that it doesn’t make you jittery anymore, that you don’t feel as warm and aren’t sweating as much, or that you don't have as much of an elevated heart rate.

Any one of these variables above likely won’t cause damage, but when you put two or three of these together for months and months of dieting, it becomes easy to understand what the potential is for damage. The signs are always there, but people tend to ignore them. If you are dropping calories more and more and adding in more and more cardio but nothing is happening, you should be asking yourself if you might fit the profile for metabolic damage.

And let’s be fair here: A trainer is always in control and responsible for the client’s health and progress. However, the client is just as responsible if they are coming to a trainer after dieting for three shows over the last nine months and they want to get ready for another show in four months time. There is a level of accountability that belongs to the client that shouldn’t be excused. I realize we live in a time where someone else is always to blame when something happens to us, but in this case logic would dictate that if you are feeling like crap all the time, are a bitch to be around (and guys are most times bitchier than women), and are run down so much that you can’t function at your job or do typical, daily activities, you need to step back and evaluate.

There is a fine line between showing up on stage looking incredible and having metabolic damage. Just Sayin'.