It amazes me after all these years and so much information that is posted on the internet on “metabolic damage” that girls still manage to find trainers that hurt them. Perhaps it is the newbies who really don’t know any different, and end up unfortunately in the hands of the wrong trainer. Trainers have teams of girls, and they look good, so a newbie with very little experience just assumes this person must be a good trainer. The girls who end up looking like 2 different people post show – we just don’t talk about them. We see what we want to see.
Then there are the ‘trainers’. Perhaps these individuals [trainers] just don’t believe that metabolic damage actually happens, or they are not willing to change the method to get lean, as well, it works. But for how long?
I feel the need to write about this [metabolic damage] as I see girls in my gym who were at a normal weight/body shape before they began the dieting process for a show, and seemingly afterwards are anywhere from 20lbs to 60lbs over their normal weight months after the show is over.
The girls I speak of – do you know how many shows they did?
They try to eat a normal amount of calories, and gain weight, or they try to diet like they did for the competition, and think they are doing ok– and gain even more weight. Eventually they are unable to sustain that type of hard core dieting mentality and break down and have to eat. And when they eat – they binge eat.
This brings about this up and down roller coaster ride with food were they will try to ‘stick’ to another diet, and then somehow *think* they are sabotaging themselves by eating an apple, and then do 2 hours of cardio to try to fix the extra calories. It creates this emotional roller coaster with surrounding food, and exercise.
This process of gaining weight post show can be termed a ‘rebound’, ‘water weight’ or even metabolic burnout. If weight gain continues after eating a normal amount of food, or even try to diet – and you end up gaining weight this is termed ‘metabolic damage’. This is usually due to the abnormally high amount of cardio training recommended by a trainer prior to the show in the hopes to get lean, and a very low calorie diet.
The first time it works; the second time it is a bit harder, and the third – well, now you are up to 2 hours of cardio a day 10-12 weeks out from a show. Hun?
I too have to admit that I was a cardio bunny – in my early years. I would always wonder why girls had 2 separate wardrobes – one for the in-season and one for the off-season. Many followed this protocol of hours of cardio to get lean. I did. I did not have a trainer back in 1998 and the fitness magazine were the only information that could guide me. There was no Internet like it is today. I always thought that I would never be a big girl post show – however, my body told me other wise. I loved to eat – and a lot. I would binge on anything – and really through the message board that came after, there was solice in telling your story, and somehow it was looked at as normal. Luckily, I got pregnant, and everything returned to normal post pregnancy. I knew after having my son I could not spend that much time in the gym – and didn’t. I had to gain back all the muscle I had lost, and well, the weight basically came off with weight training. Little to no cardio. I found out the process on my own, however, there still exists that myth that you need to do hours upon hours of cardio to get in stage shape.
There is enough information out there on the Internet to inform girls about what might be in store for them pre and post show. If they do their research before hiring a coach to do your contest prep. And I say coach – as they should be coaching you through this process, including after the show, to help you transition out of pre contest diet, to regular healthy eating habits.
I have friends who are trainers themselves, and by being in the profession you would think that they would know better. This type of training style is not one they would prescribe for their own clients, but somehow when it comes to contest prep their common sense seems to be thwarted. They know in hindsight that this type of extremism is not necessary and perhaps no one has actually shown them the way to a more balanced contest prep.
Sometimes it is hard to know if you coach is a good one – especially if the girls he coaches look great and place an/or win shows.
“Just because a girl wins – does not always mean they have the winning formula” – Erik Ledin
Some girls can do this type of process a number of times before it catches up with them and the body refuses to respond. But it [the body] will eventually stop responding. Sometimes it is after one show – in the case of the girls at my gym – or after a couple of shows.
Methods to lose body fat such as, extremely low calorie intake, stressed, fasting, increased cortisol levels, overtraining, no salt diet, and high amounts of cardio such as 2-4 hours per day, over an extended period of time anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks can result in metabolic damage. All of these criteria do not need to be in place in order to suffer from metabolic damage however, it is the pairing of the high volume of cardio, absolute calories per day – below basal metabolic rate, and a long duration of a dieting period, that seems the biggest players in this metabolic equation.
Signs of metabolic Damage
- Weak nails
- Hair falling out
- Feeling lost
- Gaining weight while on dieting calories
- General Malaise – you feel terrible
- Bloating, cramps
- Digestive problems, digestive stress, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome,
- Menses abnormalities, colitis, and Crohn’s disease
- Living on caffeine or stimulants throughout the day
- Anti anxiety medication
- Anti depression medication
- Interrrupting sleep patterns
- Gaining weight, especially cellulite even while doing consistent training & diet
- Require sleep medications
How do you know if you have hired the right coach for you during the contest prep period? Unfortunately you don’t. But here are a few ‘red flags’ that you should watch out for, and perhaps consider hiring a different coach if you experience any of them.
Red Flag #1 – The girls who have trained with that trainer look like 2 different people in-season and off-season.
Red Flag #2 – You get a training meal plan that reads like this- about 10+ weeks out from the show.
meal 1: 4 rice cakes
4oz white fish
2 fish oil caps
Meal 2: 4oz white fish
1 cup cucumber
meal 3: 4oz white fish
6 spears asparagus
1 tsp olive oil
Meal 4: 4 oz white fish
1 cup cucumber
2 fish oil caps
Meal 5: 4 oz white fish (steak on sunday)
6 spears asparagus
2 fish oil caps
Red Flag #3 – Your supplement list is longer than your actually foods in your diet.
Red Flag #4 – Drug usage – need to say more?
Red Flag #5 – Your calories are set at an absolute level – like you are to eat “1200” calories today – and you just started your diet.
Red Flag #6 – Immediately cuts your salt out of your diet completely.
Red Flag #7 – Your training includes over 2 hours of cardio a day, 1 hour of weights over 5-7 days per week, starting at around 10-12 weeks out from the show.
Pre-contest dieting for a show requires a lot of discipline. You have to say ‘no’ to a lot, bring your cooler everywhere, prep food, and eat at specific times. So no wonder you might have difficulty adjusting to the off-season. Your training is intense, but in no way should you be training like a marathon runner on such little food. You should not suffer through your diet to the point where you are sacrificing your future health for only a few moments in the spotlight. If your common sense says that certain aspects of the ‘training’ does not feel right; it probably isn’t.
Articles on Metabolic Damage on the Internet
Tom Venuto –Burn the Fat.com
Scott Abel – ScottAbel.com
Kevin Myles – Bodysport.com
Update (Dec 02, 2011)