Metabolic Compensation: The Epidemic In Physique Sports
I can’t tell you how many athletes come to me to “fix them” these days. It’s always the same story: we review bloodwork, certain markers and hormones are out of whack, and we conclude that they have metabolic compensation. Metabolic compensation, which we refer to as simply met comp, is defined as dysregulation and dysfunction of the key hormones that regulate metabolic functions. Based on my “in-the-trenches” findings, I’d go so far as to say that 80% of women will experience it and maybe 20% of men in some form. But let’s be honest, met comp affects the ladies WAY more often and WAY more harshly.
So what is happening?
Dieting, cardio, training, stressing to get leaner and general stressing in life all add up to huge stress on the body. Our bodies’ response is to produce more cortisol. If you produce too much cortisol that is when problems start. Your body uses progesterone from the progesterone/pregnenolone pathways to create more cortisol. This is generally fine if cortisol stays in a normal range because for the most part there is plenty of progesterone remaining to still form other hormones. However, when cortisol gets too high, progesterone becomes depleted and you don’t have enough remaining for other critical hormone creation. You need progesterone to create DHEA and eventually testosterone, so if you create a chink in the pathways you will eventually be low in testosterone. I see this scenario very often.
Ok so now I have an athlete with high cortisol, low progesterone, and low testosterone. When testosterone goes lower, 9 times out of 10 you end up estrogen dominant (which causes many issues, one of which being difficulty losing body fat). The dysfunction also affects the thyroid as it starts to down-regulate due to the disturbances. This does not always occur, but most of the time it’s what I see happening. So now you have an athlete that is in full metabolic compensation, much more sympathetic dominant, not sleeping correctly, insulin insensitive, holding water, not burning calories or using them properly, etc. And what’s interesting is that most met comp cases have coinciding digestion issues since the body is not digesting food properly due to the fact that high stress/cortisol leads to lower stomach acid. It’s one big mess.
How do you fix met comp?
It’s a multi-dimensional approach covering training, diet, rest, cardio and supplementation. First, YOU NEED TO REST! Training should be pulled back to maybe 2 times per week and nothing should be taken to failure. Also, it’s helpful to add in 2-3 days of restorative yoga. The focus during this time is NOT to build muscle but rather to restore hormones.
For supplementation, I like to have the client start taking Cort-Eaze from my NuEthix line to start bringing down cortisol correctly since that is the main issue. If your cortisol is really bad then I recommend 2 caps in the morning to reduce stress and 2 in the evening before bed so you start to sleep better. I also add in Estro-Cort to bring down the estrogen dominance and help the body begin to raise testosterone since there is an inverse relationship. I will add in GDA-MAX as well due to the fact that when cortisol levels are high you will lose insulin sensitivity, which needs to be restored. I also add Thyro-Boost in order to support the thyroid during this time to minimize weight gain. We also need to address digestion in order to get the body properly utilizing nutrients again, which is vital for recovery, so I prefer our Utilzye digestive enzyme which has BOTH pancreatic enzymes AND betaine HCL. This product will be available soon. The final piece is adding something to boost progesterone. I first start with 250mg Chasteberry Plus (by Metagenics) 4 times per day. If that doesn’t work then we discuss bio-identical progesterone cream, which you can buy online and follow the label. NOTE: if someone complains of being super tired all day they will very likely need to also support their adrenal glands. Our Adrena-Health is perfect for this and will be launched in September.
What have we done with this protocol?
We have supported the body where it needs help for NOW as we endeavor to rest more AND raise calories over time. Each week calories should be going up and generally I prefer an increased rate of 20g carb bumps and 5g protein bumps per 1-2 weeks.
It’s best to take measures to prevent this entire wind up from happening, but how can you prevent met comp now? Any time you “diet” (eat in a caloric deficit) OR if you just have very high stress in your life I recommend using Cort-Eaze. For athletes who compete, I recommend keeping Cort-Eaze in the entire prep, as well as Estro-Cort, Thyro-Boost, and GDA-MAX. Then after your show or prolonged diet be sure to take Adrena-Health to get your adrenals back in working order since they were taxed heavily during the lean out phase. This strategy should help prevent that nasty wind up from occurring.
You will be glad you took the time to invest in yourself and keep your body healthy so that you can compete and stay in great shape for many years to come. Don’t be that person who comes into the sport with a bang and is gone in 2 years’ time or looks worse after competing than before starting, we see that all the time. Some upfront time and money can help prevent a lifetime of battle.
In good health,
Jason M. Theobald
CEO NuEthix Formulations