Nutrition Coaching done right...CICO & Metabolic Adaptation

CICO & Metabolic Adaptation

Nutrition Coaching done right...CICO & Metabolic Adaptation

By Lindsay Stiegler, MS

Metabolic Adaptation, Weight Loss, & Weight Gains Through Proper Nutrition Coaching.

Calories in vs calories out (CICO). This has been the main focus for anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight or alter their body composition.

It is well known and well researched that paying attention to how many calories you consume and how many calories you expend is an essential key to any successful change in fat loss or muscle gain. 

You won’t successfully lose fat if you consume more calories than you expend and you can’t put on weight/muscle if you don’t eat more calories than you burn.  

The problem arises when we oversimplify this statement. 

As many of you who have attempted to lose weight know, it isn’t this easy. There is a lot more to both sides of this CICO story and how these two factors interact to determine if your body is storing or using energy. 

Our bodies are constantly trying to reach and maintain homeostasis (balance, equilibrium, stability, etc). Every second of the day, there are a multitude of metabolic interactions taking place in your body that require fuel/energy to function.

Simultaneously, there are a multitude of support mechanisms and interactions that are happening to ensure the most efficient fuel/energy is readily available the second it is needed. 

Additionally, neurological signals and adaptations play a huge role in how your body prioritizes and utilizes energy - ie. how the calories you consume are being processed, “burned”, and/or stored for fuel. Quality AND quantity of the calories you consume impact these processes tremendously.

Imagine your body is like a car, driving down the freeway - If you are cruising along at the speed limit, or slightly above or below it, the likelihood of you getting pulled over is minimized. However, if you speed up...say 15-20 miles faster, or drive significantly slower than the limit... you’re the likelihood of you getting stopped and/or receiving an expensive traffic ticket is increased. You have to focus on that small range of difference in speed. 

The same goes for on-going calorie consumption. If your caloric intake is way too high - your body is going to store calories as fat, not good. If your caloric deficit is too low - your body is going to adapt and slow down.

Small variances within caloric consumption are much easier for your body to consistently respond favorably to - healthy weight maintenance, weight loss, or weight gain.

Why does this happen?

If you think about our ancestors and when food availability was inconsistent and uncertain, survivability favored the individual’s who could store up energy from food when food sources weren’t readily available. This way, when food was scarce, they could use that stored energy for fuel. Metabolic adaptation is your body's ability to use energy more economically during times of  famine, or in our case, caloric deficit. Our body’s amazing ability to store and hold on to food was essential. 

However, the modern Standard American Diet (SAD) is plagued with:

  • an over-abundance of food
  • poor food quality
  • calorically dense processed food-products void of nutrients

The above makes maintaining those small variances in caloric intake in an effort to lose body fat very challenging. Your body is essentially fighting back against the loss of stored energy sources - it wants to make sure that if you were ever starving it’s got you!

In this day and age, conventional wisdom says - if you want to weigh less you should eat less and exercise more.  

The harsh reality often becomes - if you haven’t achieved metabolic homeostasis prior to creating a caloric deficit (you’re undereating/undernourishing yourself) and you further decrease the calories you eat (famine) while increasing stress (exercise/caloric-output) ...CI<CO... the more likely your body is to STORE, not BURN fat. This is the opposite of how you want your body to respond if you are trying to lose weight. 

When seeking fat loss through nutrition coaching, a weight loss coach, or the latest and greatest DIY diet, learning how to apply the CICO principle and understanding the processes involved with metabolic adaptation will assist you in the long term succes you likely want to achieve.

If you're not sure where to start, ASK FOR HELP.

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