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How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point

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How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point

Your body weight is regulated to remain “set” at a certain point or range, but you change this for the better. Here’s how.

 

There’s no denying the fact that people’s body weight tends to remain settled in certain ranges over long periods of time.

There’s also no denying that “dieting” simply doesn’t work for most people. Sure, they can lose weight, but many regain it all once they stop the diet.

And to add a cherry of hopelessness on top, we’re also often told that exercise kind of sucks for weight loss too.

What are we to do, then? Accept whatever body weight nature and our environment has given us? Is there really no effective way to achieve and maintain an ideal body weight for the long term?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, there’s a counterpoint to the above research: evidence that about 20% of overweight people successfully reduce their body weight by at least 10%, and then maintain their new weight for at least 1 year.

What’s going on here?

What’s going on is a result of people’s body weight set points, which are very real and can either work for or against you in your quest to get and stay lean.

In this article, you’re going to learn why your body weight has “settled” to its current level, why it’s a pain in the ass to reduce your “default” weight, and how to actually do it.

What Is the Body Weight Set Point Theory?

The body weight set point theory is simple: it postulates that the body uses hormones, hunger, behavior changes, and other physiological mechanisms to “defend” a certain range of body weight (and body fat in particular).

A simple way to think of this is as a “thermostat” or “cruise control” system for body weight and fat levels. Whatever numbers are set are what your body strives to maintain.

There’s plenty of animal research to support this theory.

Starve a rat and its metabolism slows and appetite increases and it moves less to conserve energy. Then give it free access to food and it will quickly eat its way back to its starting weight.

On the flip side, when you force feed a rat to fatten it up and the opposite occurs: metabolic rate and activity level increase and appetite decreases and it quickly returns to its starting weight.

Us humans have similar mechanisms in place to maintain “preferred” weight ranges and body compositions, but, unfortunately in this case, we aren’t wired the same as rats.

Our bodies run on an asymmetrical system of bodyweight regulation that defends against weight loss more than weight gain.

This is why, for most people at least, it’s harder to lose weight than gain it, and why people tend to get fatter over time, not leaner.

“What about the people that can ‘eat anything’ but never gain weight?” you might be thinking.

First, research shows that some people do naturally respond to overfeeding more like rats, unconsciously ramping up their non-exercise activity levels and burning off the excess calories. (People that exhibit high levels of non-exercise activity thermogenesis [or NEAT, as it’s known] can burn upward of 2,000 more calories per day than low-NEAT types).

Second, the “eat anything and stay lean” types rarely eat as much as you or they think when measured calorically. Many will eat one or two large meals per day with little-to-no snacking in between and never struggle with hunger.

Combine a high level of non-exercise activity thermogenesis and a strong appetite shut-off switch and you have someone that simply doesn’t gain and hold weight easily. This applies to both body fat and muscle (a “hardgainer” in both regards).

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

The bottom line is it’s well established that our bodies do have a complex system for regulating body weight.

While a more accurate term would be “settling point” because “set” implies fixed and unchanging, and fortunately this isn’t the case, the basic premise of the body weight set point theory is sound.

How does this system work, though? And how can we change its programming?

What Determines Your Body Weight Set Point?

Your body’s set, or settling, point is determined by several factors. The primary ones are…

  1. Genetics
  2. Physical activity levels
  3. Diet
  4. Hormone profile (sex, appetite, and stress hormones in particular)

Let’s look briefly at each.

Genetics and Body Weight Set Point

When it comes to obesity, genetics are the go-to scapegoat for many.

They want to believe it’s not their fault. That they’re just programmed and destined to be fat.

Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s just not true.

Yes, there are genetic variants that can predispose us to higher or lower body weight set points, but their effects are small. Furthermore, epigenetic research indicates that certain “obesity genes” can be “turned off” through exercise alone.

The truth is this: while your genetics can predispose you to a certain amount of fatness, you can overrule them with the right behaviors.

Physical Activity Levels and Body Weight Set Point

When it’s all said and done, the maintenance of a given body weight over time requires a balance of energy as well.

That is, energy intake (calories eaten) must more or less match output (calories expended). (Yes, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the long story short.)

Regardless of your body weight set point, over- or undereat every day and you will gain and lose weight accordingly.

It’s no surprise, then, that physical activity levels play a large role in determining body weight set points.

People that are very physically active burn a lot more energy than those that are sedentary and generally have lower body weight set points.

Diet and Body Weight Set Point

Since we’re talking about how energy balance affects body weight set point, let’s look at the “energy in” part of the equation: diet.

Based on just what you’ve learned in the section above, you can rightly assume that energy intake per se doesn’t determine the body weight set point.

That is, eating a lot of food doesn’t necessarily increase your body weight set point or keep it high and eating little doesn’t necessarily decrease it or keep it low.

For example, as a subset of the general population, endurance athletes eat a lot more food than the average person but also sport lower-than-average levels of body fat. A lot of food but a low body weight set point.

And on the flip side, being obese doesn’t cost all that much energy and can be maintained on a (relatively) little amount of food. Millions of overweight people fall into this category: unable to fathom their high body weights considering how “little” they feel they eat every day.

Furthermore, you can exercise every day until your limbs fall off and fail to lose a single pound because your body is programmed to increase energy intake in response. And this instinct is stronger in some people than others.

So, as you’ve probably already concluded, it’s the ongoing relationship between energy intake and output that influences your body weight set point.

If you chronically feed your body more energy than it expends, even if only by 100 calories per day–that’s one banana more than you burn–you will slowly but surely gain weight.

As you gain weight, your body will employ strategies to try to “zero” the energy surplus and prevent further weight gain, but these inborn “anti-obesity mechanisms” are just no match for our modern lifestyle of over-consumption of calorie-dense foods and under-movement.

(Our woefully inadequate biological “defenses” against obesity make sense when viewed in the context of evolution. The ability to eat ourselves to death is a very new development whereas the threat of death by starvation was confronted almost daily for millions of years.)

And as you get fatter and fatter, your body weight set point rises as well.

The longer you remain in a given body weight range, the more your body “settles into it,” defending weakly against increases and strongly against reductions.

The implications of this are far reaching. Research shows that the significant increase in American daily calorie intake alone is enough to explain the dramatic rise in obesity rates.

The Diet Most Conducive to a Low Body Weight Set Point

If you were reading another blog, this is where the author would likely preach about the transformative effects of “clean eating,” Paleo ideology, low-carb dogma, or some other form of restrictive eating.

Well, good thing you’re here and not there, because I have better news for you:

The best diet for maintaining a low body fat set point is one that is best for maintaining a state of energy neutral energy balance.

That is, diets that promote overeating are bad for both your body weight and body weight set point and diets that promote a balance between energy intake and output are good for them.

And how does that play out practically?

Research shows it’s easier to overeat on a high-fat diet and obesity rates are greater among high-fat dieters than low-fat. Unless you’re going to strictly regulate your calories, a high-fat diet is, for most people, a recipe for a high body weight set point.

This isn’t particularly surprising when you consider how energy-dense fatty foods are and how easy it is to over-consume them (even the “healthy” ones like nuts, dairy, and oils). Remember that a daily calorie surplus of just one tablespoon of olive oil is enough to cause steady weight gain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Furthermore, there’s evidence that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet is an effective way to normalize and stabilize body weight set point.

This is at least partially due to the facts that carbohydrates are more satiating than dietary fats (thus discouraging overeating) and that the body is particularly good at burning off excess carbohydrate instead of storing it as fat.

This research is in line with what I see in my work as well.

Every week I hear from people floundering on a high-fat, low-carb diet, unable to break through weight loss plateaus. And every week I also hear from people I’ve saved from the low-carb doldrums, who are now leaner and feeling better than ever before following a high-protein, moderate/high-carb, and moderate/low-fat diet.

Hormone Profile and Body Weight Set Point

Like your genetics, your natural hormone levels affect–but don’t determine–your body weight set point.

For instance…

And while some people naturally have better hormone profiles than others–higher levels of testosterone, good leptin sensitivity, and generally low levels of cortisol–the good news is we can all have a healthy hormone profile by focusing on healthy living.

And that’s pretty simple:

And your hormone health will be more than adequate for maintaining a low body weight set point.

How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point

Now that we’ve covered all the relevant theory, let’s focus on the practical.

We know how easy raising our body weight set point is–chronic overfeeding is all it takes–but that’s probably not why you’re reading this article.

You want to know how to lower your set point, and that’s trickier. Trickier but doable.

There is no quick fix though. There aren’t any shortcuts or “biohacks” that will get it done.

Lowering your body weight set point takes patience, discipline, and consistency, but it isn’t particularly hard.

The payoff is well worth it, too. You can maintain low levels of body fat with relative ease and develop a “resistance” to fat gain despite bouts of overfeeding.

Here’s how it’s done in a nutshell:

Reduce your body fat to the desired level.

The whole point of lowering your body weight set point is maintaining a low level of body fat, so of course the first step is reaching a low level that can be maintained.

This is best accomplished through calorie restriction and the combination of resistance training and high-intensity aerobic exercise.

Add muscle to your frame.

Nothing helps maintain a low body weight set point like adding a substantial amount of muscle to your frame. (And no, you don’t have to get fat to do this.)

You see, muscle is a “metabolically active” tissue, meaning it increases the basal metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the more energy your body burns while at rest. And the more energy your body burns while at rest, the more food you get to eat every day without gaining fat.

Furthermore, research shows that the more muscle you have, the less fat you gain in response to overeating.

That means that the more muscle you have, the less you’re “punished” for eating too much. This “wiggle room” works wonders for long-term dietary compliance because a large amount of muscles lets you regularly indulge in high-calorie feasts with little-to-no consequences.

Simply put, the more muscle you have, the easier it is to get and stay lean.

Use your exercise and diet routines to maintain health and body composition.

As discussed earlier in this article, the longer you remain at a given body weight, the easier it becomes to stay there. And the healthier your body is, the better its hormones will support your efforts to stay lean.

They key here is that you first have to consciously manage your energy balance because your instincts are likely to lead you to overeating. This really just boils down to proper meal planning and “cheat meal management.”

Keep this in place and over time, everything will just “settle into place” with your eating habits, appetite, and energy expenditure, and you’ll have created a new “default” body weight set point that your body helps defend and maintain.

 

What’s your take on body weight set points and regulation? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Tim

    Great article.

    By the way, I can’t register to your forum. It clears out all the fields when I click “submit”

  • K

    Thank you, this is the article I’ve been waiting for. I find as a female, it is very difficult to maintain a certain percentage of low body fat for extended periods of time. I feel like my body will do whatever it takes to get back up to where ‘it wants to be’. I get it, but it’s still Frustrating lol!

    • Thanks! Yeah that’s how it goes. You CAN manipulate it though!

  • Chris

    Hi Mike,

    First congratulations for your page. As a long time reader I usually agree with your opinions and articles, but that one is one of the few that I don’t. Please, don’t take this the wrong way, I’m doing constructive criticism.

    In my opinion you hate fats too much. Ok, hate is not the word, but you see too many negative facts on them and too many good ones on carbs. For example you say ( and not only in this article ) that carbs are more satiating.

    Well, that’s probably not true.

    Carbs are more filling in the short-term. The study you link is very poor (self reported data ) and limited. And the conclusions only affect the conditions of this particular experiment. The researchers say that the effect may change depending on the food pattern of the whole day.

    On the other side, a low-carb/ketogenic diet is clearly more satiating than a high carb diet.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25402637
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17228046
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892194/

    Although the difference of satiation between CH and fats shortens when palatability is matched:

    http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/2/268.long

    Again, you have your ways and you clearly are a high carb guy. Just like me. I love carbs. But I don’t hide from the evidence, not just cherry picking studies to prove my points. Keto/LC is more satiating. Keto/LC is more filling. Keto promotes, because of this, better weight loss in the majority of people.

    And the majority of people eat too many carbs to begin with so…..there’s that.

    Cheers and keep it up man.
    Chris.

    • Thanks for the comment Chris! I’m all for constructive criticism and healthy debate.

      While low-ish carb dieting can make sense for sedentary folk, it just makes no sense whatsoever for physically active & relatively lean people wanting to build muscle and strength.

      I wrote all about this here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet/

      And KETO dieting? Lol why would you ever subject yourself to such misery?

      Remember I’m not only speaking from my research and experience with my body. I’ve worked 1:1 with thousands of people and ever week I hear from people who are amazed at how much better they feel in and outside of the gym after abandoning their silly low-carb ways, and in many cases how much better they look as well due to glycogen replenishment and reduced water retention.

      Regarding satiety, I’m always loathe to “one-up” with studies but the short-term satiety of carbs vs. fats is well established:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10435117

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17539869

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7900695

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10365993

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10365994

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9216571

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7956999

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9216571

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8475895

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15621063

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15215775

      Honestly I could go on (I have more saved in my PubMed, heh).

      If you want to test this, compare the satiating effect of an apple vs. a tablespoon of olive oil and lemme know what you find, haha.

      Part of the problem here is food volume, which plays a key role in satiety. Fatty foods are extremely energy dense so we have to eat more calories to reach a satiating volume.

      This is also why it’s well established that high-fat dieters are, in general, fatter than low-fat:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8839929

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9537305

      • Guest

        ..

      • Guest
      • Chris

        While keto/LC diet may be a misery for you, is a life saver for a lot of people, specially overweight people and a lot of women, that don’t need too many carbs to begin with.

        So, in my opinion saying that is a misery is generalize, at best.
        I agree with what you said that lean people tend to do better with high carbs. But dieting for those guys is not to gain size and strength.

        Keto adaptations take weeks and they need to be done it right. So, a lot of people mess low carb diets because they don’t know how to structure them in the first place. A lot of false research has been made with poorly done ketogenic diets and they bad results are to be expected.

        About food volume. Yes, it’s key. But a LC/Keto usually has more protein than a LF diet, and protein is a very satiating macronutrient, hope you don’t dispute that.
        And a LC/K diet is usually filled (or should be filled) with vegetables, that takes care of food volume pretty well. A HF diet is not only fat. It should have lots of fiber too. That’s a point that a lot of carb lovers just love to forget.

        And with carbs the one’s that are more satiating are the ones that have fiber.

        And btw, really?? An apple to a spoon of oil? Really? LOL.
        So, a fruit with fibre and water to a tablespoon of oil. How about a plate with 2 egg omelette, 2 stips of bacon and a salad compared to a bowl of sugary candys and a glass of sugary OJ? That would do it.

        How about an avocado vs 2 spoons of sugar? Lemme know what you find out….

        And again, an appetite suppression is more a diet thing than a single food thing. So, the whole diet is what we should be looking at. And, again, LC/Keto is more satiating when is well formulated.

        A lot of studies that you linked don’t really show that Carbs are more satiating, the majority are from the 90s, and you linked again the same study that you link in the article.

        • guy

          I do think that matthew is against low carb a bit too much, i for one never feel hungry on my calorie restricted lower carb diet. Although a big reason for that would be the protein, i find it very hard to overeat when eating healthy fat sources. I eat around 90-100g carbs a day and that i never feel that it drags down my workouts. I do think that one of the possible reasons why obesity rates are higher in high fat dieters is because it is becoming a trendy way to lose weight. Meaning that many overweight people may have recently transferred to that diet. It also depends on the lifestyle and the definition of high fat, because people on the SAD could be considered by some to be on high fat diet. But it is also filled with sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates.

          • Thanks for the comment. That said, 90-100 g of carbs per day isn’t really a low-carb diet. Especially if your calorie intake is around or under 2000 per day.

            Regarding high-fat dieting, that’s not it. If you check out the papers I linked you’ll see that there’s a lot of research indicating that high-fat dieting leads to passive overeating because most people’s favorite high-fat foods are extremely tasty AND calorie-dense.

        • As I’ve said before, I’ve worked directly with thousands of people, including the diabietc and extremely obese, and not ONCE have I ever needed to resort to keto. Sure, some circumstances warrant lower carb intakes but keto is pointless unless something is seriously wrong.

          And let’s not forget that it just sucks. Who wants to never eat a starchy carb again? Never have a sugar-laden dessert or whole-grain treat? A healthy diet is one that provides adequate micro- and macro-nutrition AND is actually enjoyable to follow.

          Keto dieting is not generally higher in pro than a proper balanced diet for weightlifters. And really nobody needs to ever eat more than 1 to 1.2 grams of pro per pound of body weight.

          Remember it’s hard to hit calorie needs when you eat a ton of veggies. And let’s face it: eating 20 servings of veggies per day gets old fast.

          Yes fiber is key.

          Haha an avocado has a ton more calories than a couple spoons of sugar. No fair. 🙂

          Pick a few of the studies I linked and read the full papers not the abstracts (you can often find them using Google’s filetype:pdf) and the picture will be clearer. Sure, there will be exceptions and some people will find low-fat dieting more satiating and enjoyable, but as I’ve said, I’ve worked with a LOT of people and those guys and gals are RARE. The majority of people do best on and are happiest with a high-protein, moderate/high-carb, moderate/low-fat diet.

          And please don’t say studies are invalid simply because they were conducted 20 years ago. That’s silly. The research I linked spans a couple of decades and the findings are consistent. That’s strong evidence.

          • Chris

            MY point is that the fact that sucks for you doesn’t mean it sucks for everyone. As I said, I’m a carb person but that doesn’t mean that carbs are the answer to everything and to everyone.

            Probably a lot of your clients do well with your methods because that’s what you bring to the table. But a lot of other “coaches” prescribe low carb diets and people get great results with those too.

            The best diet is the one you can stick to it and enjoy. Some people do great not having a sugar-laden dessert ever again. If that’s not you, ok. But that’s not a misery. That’s not a wrong approach.

            You can match calories between sugar and avocado. The result will be the same.

            And without checking macros a LC/keto is higher in protein by default. Then if you balance things out you can make a higher carb diet higher in protein. But by default, LC are higher in protein.

            Agreed with the protein limit.
            About the satiation recent metanalisis differ from studies conducted 20 years ago. So there’s that.

          • Low-fat doesn’t suck for me. Ironically my body does really well with just about any type of diet I want. But heavy weightlifting puts major carb demands on the body/muscles.

            Nah as I said I hear from a LOT of low-carbers that are surprised at how much better they feel when they come off it. This is the type of experience that’s common:

            http://www.precisionnutrition.com/low-carb-convert

            LC/Keto SHOULDN’T be higher in pro because you really shouldn’t ever exceed 1 to 1.2 grams per pound. More is just unnecessary.

            Which meta-analysis are you referring to?

          • Chris

            Yeah, but not everyone is you, has the metabolic flexibility that you have or train as hard as you.

            Funny you refer me to this article, when it supports what I’m saying since post number one. Read the “Higher carb or low carb… what’s right for you?” part, please. For certain individuals, low carb is probably the best diet choice. Now, if you are a somewhat lean individual who trains hard…low carb makes no sense at all.

            But if you are an overweight person….it’s probably the best choice. The last thing you need is a bunch of carbs messing with your metabolism.

            An average “american 60% carb” diet is probably deficient in protein. That means that, although I agree that you shouldn’t consume more than 1-1,2 grams per pound a bad high carb diet may not even get there.

            In reality….more than 0,8 grams per pound is probably unnecessary.

            The metanalisis is this one:
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25402637

            I linked it in the first comment.

          • I agree on all these points. Do keep in mind though that this blog is really for people that are going to exercise at least semi-regularly.

            Thanks for the study. I’ll get the full paper and review.

          • ken

            I have to agree with Mike. His views are far more realistic. Way to go Mike!

          • Thanks!

          • guy

            One last thing, 90-100g could be considered to be a low carb diet depending on who is defining it. There is also a difference between low carb and ketogenic which is a VLC (very low carb) diet. I don’t think there are any official definitions of what constitutes each. For example, i remember one study was conducted on “low carb dieters” eating 150g carbs or less a day. Personally i view anything under 65g as VLC and 65-100g as low carb. Generally i think that most people probably consider a VLC diet to be one where the person is in ketosis, but im not sure. One website even qualified a VLC diet as a diet that has less than 25% of calories coming from carbs. Which sounds pretty stupid to me, but oh well. Still, good articles matt.

          • guy

            ha, should have said mike, i kept calling you by your last name for some reason. my bad :p

          • Hehe

          • 90-100 g carb per day would only be low-carb if you’re also eating an absurd amount of calories every day. It’s percentage of total calories that’s relevant not absolute amounts of carbs.

      • Anthony Giangrande

        Not so fast!

        Here’s WHY you might want to endure such “torture”:

        http://www.jissn.com/content/11/S1/P40

        Uh oh. The moderately high carb, moderately low fat boat might have sprung a leak! 😉

  • Wildjack82

    Mike,
    Good article. I am a little surprised that you didn’t add anything about a reverse diet. Correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn’t you say that for somebody that is hanging around in a calorie deficit for a long enough period of time to adjust the ‘set point’ wouldn’t it be best to reverse diet up slowly so they don’t have to remain in a calorie deficit forever? I would think the main goal of re-setting the set point would be to enjoy at least maintenance calories while not regaining any extra fat.
    I may have missed it in your article but what I interpreted from your recommendations was to just stay in a calorie deficit. Kinda left me hanging.
    As always good stuff

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Mike,

    This is one of the heaviest articles I read in a while. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to write it.

    I often suspected people of having genetic set points. It sounds unfair, but at the end of the day, being dedicated to what you eat and working out 3-5 times a week is the only way to get a handle on your weight.

    It takes dedication and consistency… For the rest of your life.

    I personally like your emphasis on carbs. I’ll tell you, nothing makes me feel fuller than eating carbs. They say protein is satiating, but I’ve often eaten a half pound steak with vegetables and STILL felt hungry.

    I lift heavy (RPT format) and have higher carb needs on lifting days. There’s a lot of talk about Paleo/Primal and becoming fat-adapted, but I like the fact that you have the courage (and data to back it up) to talk about carbs.

    There are others too; Nate Miyaki, Shaun Hadsall, Jason Ferrugia, (and others) talk about the importance of carbs for people who engage in heavy resistance training.

    I think the “fat adapted” crowd has a lot of valid points. I’m just not into anyone castigating one food group and making another one out to be superior… everything in moderation.

    Anyway, you walk the walk and I can find more free info here on your blog than many people who charge for this stuff.

    I appreciate that a lot. You’ve got my trust and respect.

    Raza

    • Thanks brother. It was a bit of a pain in the ass to research and write but I’m happy with how it turned out.

      You’re definitely right. Some people do just have a genetic advantage but the majority of us need to consciously regulate our food intake if we want to stay lean and strong.

      You may like this article of mine:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/low-carb-diet/

      I really don’t see the point of keto unless you have a serious medical condition that warrants it.

      Thanks again for the kind words and support. You rock.

      • I really appreciate that you make the time for personal interactions on this site. I know it’s not easy, but it really sets you apart. I can tell you care about people.

        I’m having a hard time signing up on your forum. Do you have a tech support person I can reach out to?

        Thanks,
        Raza

        • My bad Mike. I realized I had created an account a few months ago. I just didn’t realize.

          I just made a few posts in there.

          Thanks!
          Raza

        • Thanks man. 🙂

          Cool on the forum.

  • bryce

    Hi mike i just have a quick question, Right now im around 16% body fat and lots of people are recommending me to bulk before I cut, but i have annoying love handles I cant seem to loose. Wont bulking just make this worse when im trying to lose it during the cut? Any advice i would appreciate.

  • acirpr

    By far the best articles around. Thanks mike. Love love them , your books and phoenix!

  • Alex

    Hi Mike, unrelated question sort of but I’ve heard/read about the launch of BLS 2.0. However, the second edition of the book is already for sale on Amazon so I’m sort of confused. Thanks!

    • Haha yeah I had to make it live first to make sure all was good. 🙂

  • Joe Kasprzak

    Great info, Mike. Have been doing this set-point reset process for the last 3 months. I was easily maintaining 12 to 13 % BF for years, but wanted to reach the low 10% and stay there while continuing to gain lean muscle growth. Have been maintaining 10.4 to 10.6% BF for several weeks and still making strength gains in my squats and dead lifts. So I achieved “leaner/stronger” and recently it’s now focus on bigger/stay lean/stronger. 😀 BTW, I turn 61 on the 19th and have abs….

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike-
    I read everything you put out, and I think this might be your VERY BEST article.

    1. It helps people understand what they should be really trying to achieve with weightloss/fatloss ie resetting to a new plateau, not yo-yo ing.

    2. This resetting process you describe in the article is EXACTLY in-line with my experience over the last year or so.

    I followed your guidance through BLS and then with a few email discussions (where you helped me to figure out a cut first, and then bulk) and your article is EXACTLY in-line with my experience.
    Through your program I’ve reset by bodyweight and metabolism to ~10%BF, 155-160lbs and (with the exercise) I’m eating ~2900 cals to slowly, slowly gain muscle.

    And with a few off weeks over the holidays (and some good Christmas eating), I just stuck at 155lbs! Amazing, particularly as I was 170lbs and >20%BF before starting with exercise and your BLS program. And a 5’10” guy, aged 42 with a sit-down office job.

    I owe you a before/after – but I want to wait until the “after” journey is complete to memorialize it.

    Thanks for a GREAT article, and I certainly have found that high protein and low fat + BLS worked WONDERS for me. As soon as I focused on those macros and my cut, my BF dropped from 15% to 10% in 6 weeks. It felt like magic.

    • Thanks Andrew! I really appreciate that.

      Wow great job man. You’re killing it. I’d love to feature you on the site. Definitely shoot me an email man.

      Keep up the good work!

  • Johnny

    Great article, I will need to reread it a few times so it all sinks in……quick question though, it seems to suggest to me that when/if I acheive the level of leanness I desire I should stick at maintenace calories for quite a while (few months) before upping the calories to bulk. Am I on right track? Thanks

    • Thank you!

      Yeah basically. And you’ll want to slowly increase cals, not jump into a big surplus.

  • houmanka

    ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. nothing more to say.

  • Rod

    Hey Matt,

    After successfully cutting for 1.5 months, I’ve been stuck hovering between 10-12% BF for the past month and my strength has plateaued. I’m also feeling ravenous, tired and no libido all the time, which was not a problem in the early stages of the cut. I’ve tried upping my carbs, have “refeed” days at maintenance or slightly above, upping the healthy fats, and nothing seems to work. I’m super light (hovering between 138-140 lbs but don’t look scrawny, I’m 5’7, decent strength) so I don’t think I should lower my BW setpoint, but rather increase it.

    What can I do? Currently eating between 1400-1500kcal on rest days and 1800-1900kcal on training days, have had very few maintenance days, have only seen further fat loss on weeks I drop to 1200kcal on rest days and 1600kcal on training days but then I feel like crap and can never sustain it. Besides resistance training 3-4 times I week I walk around a lot almost every day, but no cardio. I’m scared of eating more, this is the leanest and strongest I’ve ever been and I can manage to maintain it, but on the other side I have clear signs of low leptin and possibly testosterone and am stuck. I want to drop to 8-9% and then lean bulk forever.

    HELP!

  • Gentleman Gym

    Interesting that the reference you posted on the high calorie intake of endurance athletes highlights “a low intake of carbohydrate …. and a high intake of fat”. That obviously contrasts with your philosophy of moderate-high carb and low fat – though I don’t think it invalidates your approach by any means, as endurance athletes are a very different bunch to most of us ordinary mortals. They obviously need as much calorie density as they can get; whereas most of us struggle to fit enough activity into our day, and could certainly do with the lower calorie ratio found in (complex) carbohydrates vs fats.

  • Melissa

    Another fantastic article!! I am one of those people you mentioned in “saving” from a low carb high fat diet.. Although I notice the water weight drop off when I eat that way I did not realise to the extent I was always hungry and overeating until I changed it around! Thanks again

    • Thank you! Yup reducing carbs reduces water retention and is useful for getting ready for a photo shoot and such but that’s about it. 🙂

  • Darragh Hayes

    Real Interesting read as always Mike, been looking forward to this
    article! Just to summarise what I’ve taken away from it in a sentence
    though:

    Cut to your desired level of body fat and maintain this level until it becomes “normal,” and work towards building muscle.

    Would
    I be correct in saying this? It’s great to see the research to back it
    up but when it’s put so simply, it doesn’t exactly sound like new
    advice. 😛

    Great read nonetheless 🙂

    • Yup that’s the gist of it. 🙂 The WHAT is obvious but the HOW trips people up.

  • Max M

    Hey Mike!

    I have 5 days left on a 6 week break I had to take from your BLS plan (broke my left leg). Before I paused, I just started my cut and phase 5. I’m 176 cm, and now my weight is down to 175 lbs from 182 before my break. My body fat has increased from about 10% to 11% as I tried to do maintenance eating but failed and lost weight. I was eating 3250 calories a day then down shifted to 2250. Ive done some bodyweight exercises, but not much.

    1: Where should I resume my workout at, phase 5? (Or back to 4, 3…?) 2: Should I rebulk? Or start with a cut again?

  • Poppy

    Great article. I have a lot of protein and veg and I think I probably ought to have more compex carbs, just cooked up some wild rice. Thanks for the nudge.

  • Meera

    Great article. My issue is not with the article, but the ad for your books. As a woman struggling to add muscle, it would be really great if you didn’t decide that your “thinner” book was for women. I want to get stronger – and bigger. Not all women seek to be thinner, just as all men aren’t trying to get bigger. Thanks!

    • the goal of most women is to get thinner.

      That being said, if you follow the program in TLS and set up your meal plan correctly for a mild surplus, you will get stronger and bigger. 🙂

  • Morgen

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the article! I’m a little confused about calculating calories for cutting. Do you base calories, protein intake, etc. on goal/target weight or current weight? Thanks 🙂

  • James

    Hi Mike,
    Insightful article you got there. I’m a little confused as to how long I should maintain my weight at a given range. Eg; Do I cut down from 160lbs to 150lbs then reverse diet and maintain my weight for a period of time? How long do i need to maintain my weight and what is the range for my weight maintenance(within 3 pounds of 150lbs)?

    Thanks!!

    • If you’re trying to lose fat, you keep cutting until you reach your goal or till you’re unable to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

      Then, you’d reverse diet to speed up your metabolism and keep cutting.

      Once you’re happy with where you’re at, you can maintain there.

      Make sense?

  • Myra Esoteric

    I have a question. How many years do I have to maintain my weight loss to “change” the set point if I was obese as a child and throughout my 20s?

    • Good question and unfortunately there isn’t a good pat answer. For me, it took a good 4 to 6 months and I’ve never been overweight.

  • Gustav

    Hi Mike,
    I have some questions: let’s suppose that I am bulking for 6 months (or do you recommend cutting even if I am not bigger enough?) then I decided to cut until I get the body fat % (10% eg) , then I should start a diet with my maintenance calories in order to change my body weight set point ,so…
    – what are your advices related to training in that period,do i have to try to increase the weights i lift ? .
    -When finishing the maintenance phase then I should begin a low bulking period right? What do you consider as a low bulking, 2 pound per month maybe?
    -And the last one is: it possible to gain muscle during the maintenance period?

    Thanks for
    your dedication, sorry for my bad English.

    • Yeah your training doesn’t change. Keep pushing/pulling/squatting heavy weights and keep trying to get stronger.

      Only thing to know is when you’re in a surplus your intensity/volume can be a bit higher than when you’re in deficit.

      After cutting you’ll want to reverse diet:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      And yes you can gain muscle while maintaining.

  • Valery

    Hello, Mike, thanks a lot for your job!
    My set point now around 15%, I think, and now I’m on my first cutting. Weights in excercises increasing, body fat dropping. When I’ll be at 10% mark do I need to “reset” my point, or for beginner like me It doesn’t have much sense?

    • If you want to maintain at 10% BF then you should. However, if you plan on bulking to put on muscle after reaching 10% BF, I’d just reverse diet to your bulk.

  • Jerry Bruton

    I’m on a ketogenic diet of 70% fats. My body fat percent has dropped from 10% to 7.5%. Changing your body composition is about balancing caloric intake and physical activity. Being concerned about some set point is unnecessary.

  • Maruan

    If i’m at my desired bf and just want to maintain and get it as a new setpoint, how long does it take until my body stops screaming for food and overeating?

    • Haha it really depends on your body, diet, mental state, etc.

      Most people find things settle within a couple of months.

  • Joy Meyers

    Another great article! I absolutely love this one, never ever have I read about having a default body set point, this is fantastic.I’m going to run to Barnes n noble and grab your book!! So if I understand everything right, I just need to have a calorie deficit to reach my weight goal, then calorie surplus to gain muscle, and the ride the wave on maintenance calories until my body feels it’s natural? Or what are you supposed to do until your body sets it’s default point?

    • Thanks, Joy! Cool you plan on picking up my book. 🙂

      You want to bulk and cut as many times as needed to reach the muscle mass you want. From there, you do one final cut to get lean and then you stick to maintenance cals for a while to maintain that weight and composition. Eventually, that new weight/composition will become your new set point.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Greg Comlish

    The reason the author doesn’t link to any peer reviewed scientific literature to support his theory How to Change Your Body Weight Set Point is because there is nothing in scientific literature to support his ideas. I’m sorry folks, but there are currently no examples in modern science of individuals chancing their set-point, much less is there a replicated peer-reviewed methodology. The author of this article is just repacking failed conventional wisdom on dieting and exercise because that’s intrinsic to his business model. If the author were to acknowledge the fact that there is currently no known method to extrinsically lower the body’s set point, then he wouldn’t be able to sell as many weight loss advice and custom meal plans.

    Here’s the facts: there is currently no established method for lowering your set point. The sad truth is if you lose a lot of fat then you will have to perpetually battle your body which will reduce your metabolism and increase your hunger until it regains the fat; It doesn’t matter if you lose the weight fast or slow. Furthermore, dieting and weight-loss cycles, including bulking and cutting, can wreak somebody’s innate metabolism permanently raise somebody’s set point. Don’t take my word for it, read the scientific publication, ask a scientist.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18842775

    “CONCLUSION: Declines in energy expenditure favoring the regain of lost weight persist well beyond the period of dynamic weight loss.”

    In other words, even if you sustain weight-loss for a while, your set point doesn’t change.

    • Pascal Aschwanden

      Greg, you are right on the money. This is just another article, using click-bait to get more views. They know, everybody in the world wants to lower their set point – and they don’t have any clue about how to do it. They might as well call the article – “how to win the lottery and win a million dollars”

  • Deepak K Neelakantan

    There was post by someone who thinks that this article is BS, but I beleive that there is some evidence to this. To me, it seems to indicate
    that there “may” be a set point, but camouflaged by our “normal” dietary
    practices. Thx

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990627/

    • That’s a good review. I read it before writing this article, actually.

      There are several different models for the physiological phenomenon and one is the body weight set point theory outlined in this article.

      • Deepak K Neelakantan

        Happy to be on your side, Mike. You and your BLS are my heroes these days!!!

  • Phillip

    I am about to (hopefully) finish my last cut.
    If I am properly incorporating many of your teachings, in order to MAINTAIN a lean physique, should I finish my cut with a final refeed day, reverse diet back up to my new maintenance, and continue to eat a maintenance with proper lifting, nutritious foods, and intermittent fasting(it makes it easier for me not to over eat) ?

    Does that sound like I’ve covered everything?

  • Francisco Velasquez

    Thank you so much for this article, it has provided me with so much relief. I’ve finally entered the desired single digit body fat range- many thanks to your guides and products as I genuinely feel that they helped me speed the process. Anyways, most of my life i grew up hovering at about 18-20% bf, and I’m a guy so it was pretty bad. Now that I’m at 9% bodyfat I felt paranoid about having to “forever diet” to remain how I like. However, the longer I remain lean the more my bodyfat will adjust to a lower setpoint, right? Also true to your point about more muscle being forgiving I’ve also noticed when I do binge after a few days when the water weight comes off I feel like I didn’t really get any fatter, in fact, sometimes I look better! Anyways my point is thanks for giving me the closure of knowing I wont have to deprive myself for the rest of my life!

    • Glad you enjoyed the article and got a lot from it. Great work getting down to 9%! That’s right. Your current status, habits, and activity level will be more “forgiving”. That’s really awesome man! Sounds like a big load was released from your shoulders.

  • Neil

    Excellent article, I feel that in addition to weight set point and specific to body fat, gut dysbiosis is an important point. Equally contrary to you experience with higher carb approaches and using the same notion of satiety, I prefer a greater percentage of kcals from protein and fats over carbs. Slowing the rate of ready available glucose and the requirement of glycolisis has always been successful for me and most clients, some approaches need adjusted. The relationship with glucagon and regulating blood sugar consequent insulin secretion and improved sensitivity all positive. I also find from a kcal perspective and eating mostly veg, meat and fish, using butter or coconut oil to cook and olive oil to garnish raw. I find it very hard to go especially high on kcals and some decent research suggested a leeway of 300kcals extra for the same fat loss as high carb approach for fat loss. The addition protein also presents itself as useful for adaptation to training with potentially improved scenario for protein synthesis at the muscle over time. Just a debate really I think healthy choices that reduce hypothalamic inflammation and improve gut health all will help the body adjust the weight set point and perhaps reset at a lower level over time. Like I said a great read

  • Mike’s Mother

    what kind of dumb shit you’re writing?
    in the end, your so called body weight set point is basically works towards the weight that you want thru training and diet, and having DISCIPLINE to maintain that lifestyle.
    you just wasted your time writing a bunch of fluffs. and wasted everyone’s time reading it.
    and get your facts right, FATS satiate. CARBS does NOT.
    you SUCK

  • Jimmy Perez

    Read/Listen to The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. That way u can skip these kind on poorly researched posting and most of the comments. Also, The Great Courses, have many outstanding programs that cover this topic form different points of view.Some of the points made here r correct but the conclusion is wrong for a a stand alone conclusion. This is just a starting point, from here you can search other advise and create the body and life that best fits you and your dreams.. All the best to all of you

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