Background: Paleo/Low-carb for about 3 years. It worked wonderfully in the beginning but a multitude of issues have popped up. Low Body temp(96.8am/98.1pm), high cortisol, inability to fully sleep, anxiety, low Vit D, low iron, low testosterone, low progesterone. I have hypothyroid issues but the labs state my levels are fantastic currently. That could be a load of crap. I'm constantly tired and foggy.
I'm 5'9, 39 years old, weigh 160lbs and 27% BF. I lift heavy 4x a week and walk as much as possible. No cardio currently but I used to run and Xfit.
Calories are around 1700-1800 per day which I thought was fine. I have been full....not hungry and I eat if I'm hungry. Given everything I've read on down-regulated metabolism, I understand that my calories need to be higher. How much higher? 2-2500? Does it take years to heal a metabolism?
Does Matt Stone's "Eat for Heat" work? I kinda want to avoid eating crap.
The weight gain scares me but I want to feel human again.
asked byStressed (100)
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on December 14, 2013
at 03:22 PM
I put your numbers into http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/
and your Resting Metabolic Rate is 1673 calories. This is what you need to basically exist, without any movement whatsoever - i.e. sleep 24/7. Next, from
http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/harris-benedict-equation/ it sounds like you're in the very active range, so much so that you're stressed. Your calculated calorie needs are about 2844 a day.
So you're waaaay under-eating for your level of activity.
It sounds like you're also overdoing it on the exercise front. It's not that you are "at war with food", and that language all by itself is very telling of your attitude, which is problematic. You'll need to fix your inner game as well, but that's another "battle".
For your level of activity, you'll need to raise your carbs and/or protein. You work out very often and heavy, and eat low carb, to the point where your thyroid is going retro and your cortisol is going up. Cortisol goes up when your blood glucose is too low - that's the signal we use to invoke gluconeogenesis - that is the conversion of protein into glucose. (Also the adrenals and the thyroid cover for each other - if one is low, the other takes over, and in the long term, you can damage both.)
Certain very long nerve cells and red blood cells need a source of glucose. We don't actually need to eat carbs to keep these alive, our livers can make glucose from protein. But, if you don't consume enough excess protein, you'll go catabolic, and the process will steal protein from muscle tissue. Go on far enough down this path, and low protein, and you'll find that this process doesn't care what muscle it gets the protein from - remember your heart is a muscle, and you absolutely you don't want to have this process catabolize your heart tissue.
This process is also highly stressful and there's a good reason for this, since your life is so stressful, your body is trying to survive by packing on the pounds for when you will still have to expend this level of activity, but won't have access to food. You see, in our past, we went through periods of famine, and we're adapted for this eventuality. So, if you don't get enough nutrients, you'll downregulate your thyroid and go into storage mode.
In other words, you're eating too little - both carbs and protein, and perhaps even fat, for your level of activity, or your level of activity is insanely high and you need to back down.
I don't know how or why you're working out 4x a week with weights, perhaps you've split up your routine so you hit 1 set of muscles on each of those 4 days, and then you're resting them for 7 days, if so, that's great. But if you're working out the same set of muscles often, you're not resting enough, you will make no gains and instead cause damage to them. Ideally, seek out Body by Science, and do a single workout a week that hits all the muscles. If you really want to you can add another afterwards in the middle of the week.
Remember, you don't build muscles when you work out, you build them when you rest/sleep and with the protein from the foods you eat. If your cortisol is constantly high, you're catabolic, not anabolic, so you're not gaining muscle tissue, but destroying already damaged tissues, and telling your body to store everything it can because of the stressful situation.
Your thyroid numbers are misleading, if you go too low carb and have a very high level of activity, your thyroid will produce the inactive forms of its hormones, and the tests will look fine, but you'll feel like crap, and your cortisol will rise and you'll go catabolic. See:
Now, you currently are in a bad place. You'll need to do two things immediately. 1) address your stress issues, and 2) fix your diet.
As part of 1, you'll need to rest. Back off the workouts and the crazy walks for a few days. Do nothing, gets lots of sleep, stretch a bit, and take a few adaptogens to get the stress down.
You'll need to get: phosphatidyl serine, ashwaganda, eluthero, and some DGL or licorice root (the real stuff, not the candy.) You'll need large amounts of the phosphatidyl serine - something like 800mg/day - you'll probably finish the whole bottle in a week, and may need to do this for two weeks.
The DGL or licorice root let you recycle cortisol for much longer, so your adrenals won't have to make more. If you get licorice root, be careful not to use it for more than a week, as it can raise your blood pressure. Take the DGL/licorice root in the morning with the eluthero and ashwaganda. You can take some of the phosphatidyl serine in the morning too, but most it, at night.
In terms of your thyroid make sure you have a good source of iodine, preferably from shellfish/fish/seaweed, as well as some selenium. Both selenium and iodine are needed. You could also supplement with a bit of L-Tyrosine as it's used in the T3/T4 making process, but if you do that, make sure to get some 5HTP to balance it out. A typical protocol is 5000mg L-Tyrosine, 500mg 5HTP with B6, Calcium, Vitamin C, cystine, folate, though you're probably getting the rest from food if you eat meat/liver. So selenium, L-Tyrosine, and iodine in the morning, 5HTP at night.
You could skip this step, but your recovery will take far longer.
As part of fixing your diet, make sure you get 3 full meals a day, with the full protein requirement, as well as some carbs. Not a lot of carbs - you don't want them converting into body fat, so, maybe 20% from things like sweet potatoes and other good healthy paleo approved starches. Try to eat the carbs more at nigh, and eat some fat in the morning (avoiding fat+carbs together is a good thing if you want to prevent getting fatter.)
BTW, Matt Stone is lame, like a broken clock, he's right 2x a day, but other than that, stay away.
on December 17, 2013
at 01:09 PM
I ran into very similar problems after a year on LC paleo. What I was experiencing can be described along the lines of "adrenal fatigue" symptoms. I have spent a lot of money on doctors and supplements without much luck. I would consider the things you've been depriving yourself of the past few years on paleo. Namely...if you are under eating , yet never hungry, this is where matt stone becomes useful with his ideas of "junk". I personally have had great success adopting some of his and ray peats ideas... After correcting what I now believe was hypothyroid, the adrenal symptoms faded rather quickly. The ironic thing is, I used foods that were supposedly the worst for my adrenals . I used ice cream, orange juice with salt (about a quart a day), and generally high carb. I just kept away from gluten, grains, and muscle meats (which made me VERY tired)...I had deprived myself so long of salt, sugar( mostly in fruit form, like OJ to supply additional nutrients), and most importantly , more calories. I have been doing this about 4 weeks now and my sleep has improved tremendously. Once my sleep is improved, everything else seems to normalize quickly after, especially my hormonal system. Hope this may help you! By the way, I love paleo and the way it has changed my line of thought regarding not only nutrition, but overall health. HOWEVER, I do believe a fear of carbs /sugar in a unrefined form can be very dangerous for someone who is very active or frequently stressed. Just my experience, though.
on December 16, 2013
at 11:15 PM
Thanks for the feedback folks.
on December 14, 2013
at 12:51 AM
Search for damaged metabolism and you'll find plenty of info on how to recover.
on December 13, 2013
at 08:43 PM
Thanks for the replies...It's nice to know I'm not alone or the only one at war with food. That is a powerful statement but it's true.
I totally agree with the stress hormones being jacked. Calories are going up and perhaps they need to be closer to 3k for a while. I'll have to see how the body reacts to these changes. I PRAYING sleep is the first thing to improve. Sleep heals all.
on December 13, 2013
at 08:10 PM
I'm going through the exaaact same things. I seriously need to up my calories, but because of my "good health" I've been fighting it for forever. I suddenly started gaining weight most likely due to stress, though, so I am going to do my best to be less afraid of food, hahaha. Good luck to you, and let me know how it goes!!
on December 13, 2013
at 07:55 PM
5'9 160 lbs? And only 1700 calories. Wow. I'm 5'8 130 lbs and I get between 2500-3000.
"Fantastic labs" don't mean jack when the bell curve is situated around an unhealthy society.
Up your calories and consider upping your carbs. It sounds like your low carb and low calorie diet has made stress hormones shoot through the roof. No wonder your bf% is so high; your body thinks winter is coming. It's been Fall in your body's mind for three years now!
on December 13, 2013
at 07:17 PM
-I try to get at least 4-5 miles in per day on top of my workouts.
-My carb intake was close to 50-70 grams per day, mainly green veggie.
Perhaps my vanity is too immense but when you work your ass off training/dieting and you no longer fit into your clothing, It doesn't feel fit. I feel ashamed and out of shape.
As an overweight youth, losing/keeping off the weight has been a huge accomplishment for me. Gaining it back has been a fear that motivates me to push myself too hard at times. So now I am here...and it kinda sucks.
I'll increase my calories to around 2k...and see if that helps.
Appreciate the feedback:)
on December 13, 2013
at 06:44 PM
I think you have a clear energy mismatch.... not eating enough or working out too much. How long ago did you quit running & doing crossfit? Where you eating more at that point? I would suggest making small adjustments.
When you say you walk as much as possible.... a mile a day? 2? 5?
How low carb is you low carb? less than 100? less than 50?
You're fit. Your height, weight & BF% are all very good.
When you say "weight gain" scares you.... you;re afraid of getting too heavy?
Have you visited Matt's website & read the book reviews on Amazon?
Matt is not suggesting you "eat crap" forever just enough to boost your metabolism
One thing some paelo people tend to do ...underfeed as insurance to prevent "getting fat" or "returning to fat". I tend to do it because my hunger is no longer gnawing at me.
If expend energy ...you have to eat! Either good fats or more paleo 'ok' carbs.
I am not very familiar Stone's work but after a quick perusal.. it seems reasonable.
imo...it;s all about eating good foods in proper balance with your energy needs.