I always consider 3 important truths of how our bodies work when designing a lifestyle, diet, and workouts for my clientele and myself. I don’t believe the medical, fitness, and holistic health communities address these substantially.
It is imperative to consider these physiological phenomena if long-term optimized health and fitness is a goal of yours. Attenuation, adaptation and homeostasis help us to survive and thrive. But if poorly understood, can work against your goals.
Attenuation is the reduction of the force or effect of something. Our bodies attenuate to almost every stimulus, food, and supplement over time. In a sense, we “get used to it”.
The effects of exercise, supplements, even drugs like alcohol, all diminish over time if we are engaged with them too frequently. Changes in the dosage, frequency and/or intensity of such things are necessary if one is to experience their desired effects over the long term.
The morning of writing this article I was listening to a social media influencer with over 64,000 followers as he guided his listeners to supplement with Tonkat Ali indefinitely. Over time his recommendation is likely to cause more instability than promote health, because our bodies attenuate to supplements. They will even down-regulate endogenous production of their end-products; testosterone being one of them in the case of Tonkat Ali. I’m not comfortable telling any of my clients to take any supplement every day
This influencer’s recommendation also ties nicely into the second principal we should be considering which is, Homeostasis. Homeostasis is the range a given physiological parameter needs to be within to maintain optimal function when at rest. In other words, homeostasis is when the body is most in balance, recovered and minimally stressed. It is wise to consider if a recommendation is likely to perturb homeostasis over long periods of time.
Take, the homeostasis of our stomach Ph which is around 1.5 to 3.5, pretty acidic. Or the homeostasis of our body temperature, 98.6 degrees. The homeostasis of our blood pressure, 120/80 depending on age. There are homeostatic conditions for your microbiome, ventilation rate, and countless other biomarkers. As the body attenuates and adapts, new homeostatic norms are created. If you go above or below homeostatic ranges for too long you can get fatigued, sick or even die. In the example above for instance, taking any supplement everyday over time will perturb homeostasis and too much testosterone can manifest as oily shiny skin, hair loss/excessive bodily hair growth, and mood swings.
What the science literature makes clear is that imbalance drives disease, and anywhere we see balance, we see health.
Cancer is an imbalance of tissue growth. Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Huntington’s are imbalances of energy production in the brain. Obesity is an imbalance of energy storage. Edema is an imbalance in fluid retention. Diabetes is an imbalance of insulin production.
Sustained long term inputs of almost any particular thing will drive imbalance. The problem with most diet and supplement recommendations is that over the long-term they all promote imbalance. I have personal experience with each of these diets.
Early Keto recommendations promote the imbalance of fat which can lead to disease, dyslipidemia, and insulin resistance. Now in 2023 keto proponents are saying it is okay to balance fats with more with protein. 45% fat and 45% protein I believe are the new macro recommendations for keto.
Carnivore promotes the imbalance of animal proteins and causes dysbiosis, ferments cancer promoting compounds and leads to insulin resistance.
Fasting, if done too frequently slows metabolism, weakens the body and leads to insulin resistance.
The list of modern diets goes on and on. What they all seem to have in common is they all work in the short-term but their health benefits eventually hit a hard stop because they all promote imbalance.
The third and final consideration, adaptation explains why the vast majority of dieters regain the weight they lose.
Quite simply our bodies adapt to stimuli over time. The sun stimulates our skin cells to adapt and produce melanin. Exercise can be thought of as a stimulus to produce an adaptative response.
ADAPTATION IS THE REASON MOST DIETERS REGAIN THE WEIGHT THEY LOSE!
The weight reduced phase/post fast loss is considered an injury and physiological state of trauma. After a period shrinking fat cells, the body feels it is starving and needs to increase its chances of survival through any future famine. The weight reduced phase has been codified by an emerging number of science papers, it is a real thing yet completely ignored. It sets in motion mechanisms or adaptations that ultimately promote weight regain.
Adaptation, attenuation and homeostasis together, can all be thought of as similar physiological phenomena that increase our chances of survival. Because after all, the number one priority our body has for itself is to survive.
It goes without saying our bodies are infinitely complex but using these principals as our true north to health, fitness and optimization is a great way to simplify your journey. Whenever I’ve neglected these principals or truths over longer periods of time, it has always resulted in diminished health and fitness. So, as you proceed in your health and fitness endeavor a good rule of thumb is to take two steps forward then one step back and include variety. This will help ensure you respect attenuation, adaptation and homeostasis, and in turn optimize your health and fitness.
I welcome your questions about attenuation, adaptation, and homeostasis! The contact page on my site is the best way to reach me.