#484: Is Metabolic Adaptation an Illusion? – Eric Trexler, PhD

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Guest Information
  3. Overview
  4. Related Resources
  5. Premium Content
    • Detailed Study Notes
    • Transcript


Metabolic adaptation refers to the process by which the body adjusts its metabolism in response to changes in energy intake or body mass. This adjustment can occur in both directions, meaning that the body can increase or decrease its energy expenditure in response to changes in energy intake or body weight.

When someone consumes fewer calories than their body requires for energy, the body will respond by decreasing energy expenditure to conserve energy. This can make it harder to lose weight and maintain weight loss over time. Conversely, when someone consumes more calories than their body needs, the body will increase energy expenditure in an attempt to counteract the excess energy.

There are several open debates in science about metabolic adaptation, including the actual magnitude of it, its relevance to weight loss, what measurement methods should be used, and the mechanisms underlying the contributory factors.

Some people have framed metabolic adaptation as so significant that it makes weight loss attempts futile. While others, including in research, have referred to metabolic adaptation as an “illusion”. So what do we actually know about this concept and what is the pragmatic significance of it?

To discuss the nuances of the topic, Alan and Danny are joined by Dr. Eric Trexler, who has published on this topic and has followed recent publications closely.

Guest Information

Eric Trexler, PhD

Dr. Eric Trexler is Director of Education at Stronger By Science, where he co-hosts the SBS podcast. He also is one of the four contributors to the MASS Research Review.

Eric has a prolific background in exercise science research, with more than 30 publications to his name by the time he completed his PhD at UNC-Chapel Hill.


  • Weight loss and adaptive thermogenesis
  • How should we define metabolic adaptation?
  • Is metabolic adaptation a barrier to weight loss maintenance?
  • Is metabolic adaptation an illusion?
  • “Spendthrift” and “thrifty” phenotypes
  • Current open questions & debates

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