Our coaching question of the week comes from a member of the Metabolic Mastery Club Facebook group, who we will call Eliza for the purposes of this post! If your goals involve embracing the idea of rest, while letting go of the idea that you always need to be working harder, we hope this blog post helps you! We hope after reading you’ll be able to understand the value of working smarter rather than working harder.

“Hi! I’m new to the detective process and am trying to learn more about how to achieve my body composition goals. I workout every day, sometimes twice a day. I swim, bike, run and follow a strength training program led by my personal trainer.

I’m hesitant to make any changes to my workout programming particularly if that means cutting back! But I’m reading so much about the eat less exercise more toggle (ELEM) being an ineffective way to manage my weight and hormones. What do you suggest I change at this point?”

Eliza, we understand that our approach to exercise may be different than what you’ve been exposed to in the past through other programs or gurus! Keep reading to better understand why Dr. Jade promotes resting over pushing, particularly when it involves strenuous exercise through longer duration, higher intensity sessions.

As Dr. Jade once said, “There is more to a healthy, fit lifestyle than eating less and exercising more. Your metabolism is not a static, predictable robot-like machine. It is adaptive and reactive. Its entire job is to adjust in order to get you back to balance.” In other words, your metabolism functions at its best when you work with it rather than against it.

Your metabolism functions at its best when you work with it rather than against it.

Dr. Jade encourages you to think of the metabolism as one big stress barometer. When you think of the metabolism in this way, it is easier to understand that your body expects a particular level of fuel each day (or caloric input) to be able to produce the right amount of energy to be able to properly handle what you expose your body to. Exposure in terms of your question refers to swimming, biking, running, and strength training in addition to the most basic daily demands of life. 

“Isn’t it funny that everyone wants to look and function like an athlete, yet they are doing the exact thing an athlete would never do (not an athlete that wants to be the best at their sport anyway)? Athletes don’t eat less and exercise more, they eat more to fuel their performance.” ~Dr. Jade Teta

By eating less and exercising more, you set in motion metabolic adjustments that lead to increased hunger, lower energy, increased cravings and decreased metabolic rate. Your metabolism acts like a thermostat by trying to protect your body from the stress of dieting. The “stress” is your body’s perception of “starvation”.  

The “stress” is your body’s perception of “starvation”.  

Your metabolism is just as strong, if not stronger, than your willpower. It becomes even more resistant the harder you work. I’m curious if your current level of training impacts your day-to-day choices as you try to manage your hunger and cravings while also trying to keep your energy levels high for exercise demands. For any “diet”  or training program to be successful, you need to have a “crew” in place to support you. In other words, you need a plan that helps control hunger, cravings and energy. Without a backup plan, a diet will always fail.

In response to what you might think about changing as a way to keep everything in better balance while honouring your enjoyment of exercise, consider these 3 tips: 

  • Exercise smarter. Add in leisurely walking, not power-walking, as much as you often can. This helps to lower cortisol. If you choose to add in structured exercise throughout the week, focus on short, intense bouts of activity for no more than 30 minutes (10-20 is often effective), three to five times per week. This type of exercise will burn fat and create far less compensatory eating reactions. 
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep is a hormonal reset button for your body. It lowers cortisol and balances Ghrelin and leptin, which means less hunger, balanced energy and decreased cravings the next day. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping with your current exercise routine, pay attention to how sleep improves with our recommendation to walk more while also reducing your longer duration, higher intensity workouts.
  • Practice “rest-based living.” Build restorative and relaxing practices into your life (quiet time, nap time, hot baths, nature walks, tai chi, restorative yoga, physical affection, reading, massage, meditation, conversation and time with loved ones). This lowers cortisol and elevates feel-good brain hormones, so you are less likely to have nighttime cravings. Although you haven’t specifically mentioned cravings in your question, Eliza, so often we hear that clients feel more in control of their diet and food choices when they are focusing on working smarter rather than working harder.

In a nutshell, becoming a better metabolic detective requires you to pay attention. Learn how diet and exercise, along with any source of stress, impacts your SHMEC (sleep, hunger, mood, energy, cravings). If you’ve taken time to observe how your body responds to things like twice-a-day workouts, with perhaps not enough rest or fuel to allow for proper recovery,  you can recognize the benefit of adjusting your approach. Focus on moving in a direction that balances and nourishes you. Once you’ve done that, you should have your own personal “metabolic formula” in place.

Understand that this approach also requires a shift in mindset. If you can let go of the idea that linear, predictable and sustainable results will be yours if you simply work hard, you’ll be in a better headspace. You’ll have more energy to devote to creating a level of consistency that allows for sustainable habits to be created. Remember, we don’t see a benefit to focusing on the “grind” and working harder. Instead, we want you to embrace learning, practicing and mastering your own metabolism by becoming a master metabolic detective. Let us know how our recommendations work for you, Eliza!

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash