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Aug 3, 2010
Eat Less, Exercise More? Not So fast. As a general concept, this diet advice is true...for someone who sits on the couch and does nothing. But it's only a good idea for a short period of time because the body compensates. And without clarification, this advice is understood to mean eat as little as possible (whether it be carbs or calories), and exercise as much as you can (whether it be longer, harder, or more frequently). This regularly repeated mantra has limited use and, more often than not, backfires on those who try to adhere to it. It's been proven conclusively not to work for most people over the long run. The fact is, eating less and exercising more can easily disrupt metabolic balance and put a person in a metabolic tailspin of constant weight loss and regain.

Law 1 – The Law of Metabolic Compensation
This law illustrates the adaptive and reactive nature of metabolism. The metabolism is constantly seeking balance or homeostasis. As a result, when you push on the metabolism in any direction, it will push back against you.
This is much like a tug-o-war against an unbeatable opponent. The only way to win such a game is to let go of the rope so the other team goes tumbling helplessly to the ground.
You can do this with your metabolism by learning to play a different type of game than "eat less, exercise more." Most people use this simplistic mantra, and therefore view the metabolism as a calculator. They believe it has a linear, predictable, and stable function. All that's necessary is to punch in the right numbers and weight loss utopia is achieved. Of course, this isn't true in practice.
Now, different people will respond to this in different ways. But if you push on the metabolic system for any length of time in this fashion, it will compensate.
Not only will it compensate with changes in hunger, cravings, and other sensations, but it'll also slow its metabolic rate. This decelerated metabolic output aspect of compensation is known as "adaptive thermogenesis." In other words, through various mechanisms not fully understood, the metabolism will reduce its rate of caloric burn significantly. Some research suggests up to a 25% decline in daily energy expenditure.
These changes seem to be coming from a combination of muscle mass loss, changes in leptin/thyroid output, and a spontaneous decrease in non-exercise associated movement (NEAT).
This metabolic decline along with the strong urge for eating and other emerging metabolic phenomena are what I term "metabolic compensation." To "let go of the rope" and beat the metabolism at this game requires you to be diligent with your approach. Not going to extremes with diet and exercise, cycling the approach with periods of less food and exercise for periods of more food and exercise, and learning to read the body's metabolic signals are important strategic maneuvers for metabolic success.

Law 2 – Metabolic Multitasking

The second law has to do with the inability of the metabolism to multitask well. The body functions in an anabolic (building up) and catabolic (breaking down) cycle. The body either likes to be devoting its resources to storing fat and muscle (anabolism) or burning fat and muscle (catabolism). It can do both, but it's the metabolic equivalent of rubbing your head and patting your tummy. It's not easy and takes time to master.
This experience is individual and largely contingent on the type of exercise you do, as well as the type of diet you choose as you lose weight. We now know that a higher protein diet and a lifting-centered workout regime helps the metabolism multitask much better. Alas, many people miss these two critical points. They don't do the style of weight training that's best at building muscle, opting for fast-paced cardio-centered lifting regimes over traditional bodybuilding and heavy strength-training exercise. They also forego carbs and shirk on their protein. Carbs are the major stimulator of the hormone insulin (protein is too, and even more so in certain situations and in certain people), and insulin is a major anabolic hormone. Without insulin muscle building is compromised. The idea with this law is to get more nuanced in your training and diet. Find your Goldilocks zone: not too much, not too little, but just right. This is most important for carbs and cardio. You likely need both, but not too little or too much.

Law 3 – The Law of Metabolic Efficiency
There's no such thing as a 100% efficient mechanism, and the human engine is no exception. When it comes to metabolic efficiency, the most efficient metabolisms extract calories and store them more easily, losing less of that energy as heat. A less efficient metabolism doesn't extract calories as well and loses more of them as heat. If it's fat loss you desire, then a LESS efficient metabolic engine is what you want.
Much of this metabolic efficiency comes down to genetics and metabolic hormones. For example, those with normal thyroid function produce more metabolic heat and are less efficient. Those with lower thyroid function produce less heat and are more efficient. This is one of the reasons those with low thyroid function respond more slowly to diet. Certain parts of the body are more productive at storing fat and less efficient at losing it. These include the stubborn body fat areas like the hips, butt, and thighs of women, and the love handles of men. These areas of fat are more insulin sensitive (more likely to store and less likely to release fat) and have more alpha than beta receptors. Betas are like fat burning garage doors. Alphas are like tiny kitchen windows; fat can barely squeeze through. The Law of Metabolic Efficiency overlaps with the Law of Metabolic Compensation. Dieting makes the metabolism more efficient. That is part of what adaptive thermogenesis is doing. There are also things we've learned about macronutrients, toxins, and gut microbes that impact efficiency.

Law 4 – The Law of Metabolic Individuality
This law should be common sense, yet this is the one that seems to get the most blowback. We each are metabolically unique, psychologically varied, and have vast discrepancy in personal preferences.
I think it's the "metabolic uniqueness" that bothers some people. Sure, we humans share a metabolism that functions, by and large, the same from person to person. The best way to conceptualize this metabolic individuality is to think about appearance. There's no mistaking that the people you interact with daily are human. They almost always have two arms and two legs, they walk upright, and they interact with you in relatively predictable ways.
They are completely recognizable as "human," yet at the same time look entirely different. This is the way to think about metabolic individuality. Just as humans vary in their physical appearance, they differ in metabolic function as well.
It always amazes me that people argue this point. With the sequencing of the human genome we now know we can fluctuate substantially in how we handle and digest food, whether we're sensitive to bitter compounds, how insulin sensitive or resistant we are, our susceptibility to illness, and more. It's simply ignorant to deny the broad differences in metabolic function from one human to the next. There's nothing at all incompatible with the idea that we each share a vast amount (and the most important aspects of metabolism), but at the same time vary in ways that make a significant difference in our health, fitness, and appearance.
This goes for our psychological make up too. Our personalities differ. We have different relationships and coping strategies for stress, hardship, work capacity etc. Some of us are more or less susceptible to addiction. Some people like chocolate and others prefer vanilla. These psychological differences, and the personal preferences of each human, are not just somewhat important, they are HUGE. Imagine a person who loves chocolate being given a dietary regime that never allows for chocolate again? Do you believe they're going to be able to sustain this approach? Of course not! It is the height of ignorance to deny these concepts.

Law 5 – The Law Of Psychic Entropy
Entropy is a scientific term for loss of energy. Another name for this law is "the law of mental energy drain." We now know that willpower is like a battery. It can be drained and it can be charged.
Research has shown that any type of thought or "self editing" drains this battery. Self editing simply refers to the idea of judging, planning, and thinking about stuff you did, are doing, or have to do. You have a psychic reserve, and when that reserve is empty you're less likely to exert control over your behaviors and far more likely to revert back to habitual and pleasure seeking behavior.
This Law of Psychic Entropy is completely ignored in the diet and health industry. If you understand this metabolic law, you'll immediately understand the folly of trying to change ten things about your life at one time.
When you understand the law of psychic entropy you start to realize that willpower is more like "skillpower." Willpower isn't something you either have or don't have, it's something you develop through mindfulness and practice. Think of it as a conscious approach to charging your battery. We now understand much about how this works. For example, it has been shown that stress depletes the willpower battery, turning on pleasure seeking centers of the brain while reducing motivation centers. TV and computer time may seem relaxing and regenerative, and it is for a while, but within a short time becomes draining. Things that charge up the willpower battery? Creative pursuits, practicing gratitude (yes, really), relaxing activities, and meditation all can have an effect. This law describes the conscious and intentional pursuit of activities that rest, relax, recharge and recover the psychic energy that gets used up in the fast-paced modern lifestyle. Another way to consider this concept is "rest-based living." These activities must become the center-point and priority of anyone who wishes to keep the metabolism functioning at a high level, especially as they age.
Use these 5 laws as a way to understand and honor your metabolism.


New member
Jun 13, 2019
Awesome article! A useful tool I feel somewhat fits and pertains to the body/mind and such and the whole resting an recharge of the mind- Is trying the warm to cold shower transitions where the cold water heightens your senses and refreshes an awake you of seems...anyone else know anything on this??

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