Metabolic damage is a term that refers to the down-regulation of the human metabolism during periods of intense calorie restriction - basically your body slowing metabolic processes down and getting rid of as much muscle as possible in a primal attempt to not allow you to starve to death. This used to be an innate response used by the body as a defence against starving to death - it's now a mechanism predominately used by bikini competitors to stop their coaches from killing them.
Now because all those privileged enough to pursue any sort of fitness/ bodybuilding as a hobby/sport are in a position where actually starving to death is not a credible threat and all periods of intense calorie restriction will eventually come to end - often with immense gluttony as an immediate consequence of such restriction. Thus begins what I like to refer as the vicious circle of dieting which I will explain to you in point form:
1) Client A is a slightly soft, regular gym goer who maintains her current bodyweight of 72kg on roughly 2100kcal a day - she lifts hard and does regular cardio and is getting frustrated with her lack of consistency over the weekends so she decides she's going to do a show.
2) Client A sees a bro coach on Instagram and the incredible result they've gotten in such short periods of time. They're tanned and peeled and Client A naturally assumes that this is the place to be.
3) Client A slides in the DM with the classic " Hi there, I'd like to do a show. What are your rates?". Rates are discussed and Client A begins prep with her new coach, 12 weeks out from her first show.
3) Client A is immediately put on onto an intense regime of 5-6 bro style weight training sessions (with no form guidance or concept of the premise of progressive overload), 4-5 hours of steady state cardio a week and a 600kcal diet of predominately hake and broccoli.
4) The initial weight loss is dramatic. Client A's weight drops down to 68kg in the space of 10 days. Client A is sore, depleted and miserable but she assumes this is the correct way as the initial results were so incredible.
5) Two weeks have passed now on the same eating and training schedule with little to no interaction from Mr Bro. Client A's weight loss has come to a grinding holt despite her religiously sticking to the diet and performing the endless hours of cardio.
6) Mr Bro finally checks in and is astonished to see that Client A has stopped losing weight. He begins to throw things around like "you weren't sticking to the plan" or "you aren't cut out for this sport". Client A is mortified and is beginning to stress that she will not be ready in time for her competition.
7) Mr Bro masks his own complete lack of knowledge on anything nutritional or training related by prescribing Client A with T3, clen and winstrol. She doesn't really know what they do and he doesn't tell her - she just does what she's told as she fears that she will disappoint her bro or "fail".
8) She begins to drop weight again despite being on the same training and eating plan for her entire twelve week prep and eventually manages to step on stage with the help from couple of diuretics that bro gave her the day before the show. She places 4th out of a line up of 17 girls with a stage weight of 56kg. She's over the moon - she goes off stage and pounds a couple of litres of water and heads
out for a well deserved pizza.
9) She receives no guidance whatsoever from Mr Bro post show so she decides to drop him. She stops all the tablets he gave her and goes on a rampant two week junk food binge that leaves her horribly bloated and up to a weight of 69kg. She decided the post show binge is over and continues to exercise and eat the way she did prior to Mr Bro.
10) She continues to gain weight! She wonders what on earth is happening - she didn't expect to maintain her shape after her show but she didn't expect to look worse afterwards! She continues as is for another 3 months during which her weight has shot up to 78kg.
11) Her renewed frustration leads her to another Instagram champion of bro science and the process restarts itself. Eventually the metabolic damage compounds and the extremes in which the fitness community operate begin to take a mental toll on the trainee - ruining her relationship with food and ensuring that she will always be either be eating increasingly lower calories in order to maintain or lose weight or simply rebounding from the mental stress of constant calorie deficits and intense exercise.
Sad story yeah? What do you do about it you may ask? Well let's start by putting a stop to the idea that fitness competitors and bodybuilders are the pinnacle of health and start to open ourselves up to the idea that operating in extremes for the sake of operating in extremes is almost always counter productive. Reduce your calories gradually, increase your cardio gradually, reverse diet after long periods of calorie restriction, rely on HIIT cardio for the majority of your calorie expenditure outside of weight training and for all that is holy can we please stop prescribing androgens to bikini competitors.
Stay very, very woke.