When we eat more and exercise more, we shift the metabolism to tolerate food better (especially carbohydrates).

In other words, this is a time when extra calories are more likely to support energy needs and muscle growth. In the context of extra movement and exercise, the calories we eat are an important source of fuel. This balanced approach of “eat more, exercise more” helps to prevent metabolic stress and metabolic compensation reactions (hunger, energy, and cravings go out of check), which can make fat loss difficult and unsustainable in the long term.

On the other hand, when we “eat more, exercise less” – aka the “couch potato”, we tend to store excess calories as fat (for use as energy later, hopefully). Compared to “eat more, exercise more” or “eat less, exercise less“, this metabolic scenario is not a balanced approach. If you overeat and don’t move or exercise, excess calories get stored as body fat. Over long periods of time, this could lead to a metabolism that moves from normal function to compensation (HEC out of check), to resistance (ie. sleep and mood out of check), and ultimately to dysfunction and disease.

Essentially, movement and exercise improve nutrient partitioning – fancy talk for “where the calories go when we eat” them.

  • More calories go toward muscle growth
  • More calories support energy levels
  • Insulin sensitivity increases (allows the body to use glucose more effectively which reduces blood sugar)
  • Fewer calories go to fat gain (partly because of the previous point)

In a nutshell, the more we move, the better our nutrition works for us.

 The metabolism is a stress barometer

When it comes to sustainable fat loss, it’s important to remember Dr. Jade’s stress barometer analogy. Problems arise when metabolic stress is constant. Think yo-yo dieting or “eat less, exercise more”. Issues develop when we do the same thing over and over and the metabolism is overworked or never challenged. An example of this is when we over-exercise, under-exercise, or consistently eat too many calories. All of these may hinder the metabolism’s ability to flex and bend. 

When we do not support our metabolic health in a balanced way, we cause the metabolism to become inflexible, which can hinder our fat loss goals. This is why 95% of people rebound after dieting, and 66% of those people end up far worse than when they began. This highlights the importance of learning how to toggle and how to alter your movement and eating habits to best support your metabolism. 

This is the way … of the metabolic detective.

Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash