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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eat more to lose weight


"Ok, time to get Scott a prescription for some crazy pills. Now I know, I didn't just read that I need to eat more to lose weight!"

Actually that is not a typo. You could be eating too little food to lose weight. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone but there are some people who will read this who, believe it or not, are not eating enough to lose weight. You see our bodies are very good at keeping us alive. In fact, looking good in a swimsuit for the summer doesn't even come into play from a biological standpoint. Survival is paramount. Most people who go on a diet severely restrict the amount of food that they eat so that they can lose weight as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that only works for a very short period of time. Within a couple of weeks your body starts to react to keep you alive (remember, survival trumps swimsuit season) by reducing your metabolism to closer match your food intake. Once this begins to happen you are no longer consuming a calorie deficit and you stop losing weight. Now what? Typically people get discouraged at this point and either stop the diet or blame themselves for not "wanting it bad enough" and reduce calories even more, eating even less, reducing metabolism even more. Eventually survival wins out and the diet goes out the door and normal eating habits return, usually with a vengeance. Now people consume even more calories than before, essentially kicking the horse when its down. The new, lower metabolism has them eating an enormous caloric surplus. The pounds come back...and thanks to your body's survival mechanisms...they bring friends. Don't fight your body...you won't win.

How do you know if you need to eat more?

If you aren't watching what you eat and how much, more than likely you are not eating too little. This isn't the magic bullet you've been waiting for that allows you to eat whatever you want and lose weight. You should click on the link at the bottom of the page and fill out the form to determine your maintenance level of calories. If you log your food for a day and find that you are eating far below that number of calories, then you simply need to eat more. You should never eat less than your maintenance level of calories minus 500 to maintain long-term fat loss. For women, 1200 calories is the lowest you should go. Men should not go lower than 1500 calories. If your maintenance level of calories minus 500 dips below these levels, the answer is not eating less, but exercising more to offset your sedentary lifestyle.

How do I stop the downward spiral?

The short answer is to eat more. My suggestion is to go for 3 weeks eating at your maintenance calorie level. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out how many calories per day you require to maintain your weight. The bad news is that you will gain weight...maybe a couple of pounds, but that is what it takes to repair and increase your metabolism. In the long run, you will easily lose the gained weight and more. After the 3 weeks is over, then drop your calories down to no lower than maintenance minus 500, but no lower than 1200 calories for women and no lower than 1500 calories for men. If you aren't doing any strength training, start doing it. Its primary benefit to someone trying to lose weight is to maintain muscle mass and metabolism and make sure that the weight being lost is really fat.

How many calories do you need each day to maintain your weight?

Click here to find out: http://www.yeraze.com/scripts/calories.php

Simply fill out the form and click the 'Calculate' button. On the result page, use the chart at the bottom of the page to determine your activity level and calories needed per day. Don't kid yourself, most people fall into the 'Sedentary' category.

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Duane said...

"Actually that is not a typo. You could be eating too little food to lose weight. Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone but there are some people who will read this who, believe it or not, are not eating enough to lose weight. "

Didn't you just say the opposite on my blog? :P I agree with that statement though, that your body can change it's metabolism based on what you eat.

Fit Club Scott said...

If someone consumes a calorie deficit, the body will turn to fat as a secondary energy source to make up the difference, but it can't be too extreme of a deficit. Fat can only be consumed in the presence of carbohydrates and sufficient oxygen. A high calorie deficit doesn't provide as many carbs to burn fat, therefore your body goes to its third energy source, protein and your skeletal muscles are consumed for fuel, lowering your metabolism. This is bad for 2 reasons:

1. You are losing weight, but it's not fat...it's muscle mass.

2. You're metabolism is getting down regulated, preventing additional fat loss.

Reasonable calorie deficit (500 Kcal or less) = less muscle mass consumed, lose fat for a longer period of time before your body reaches a fat loss plateau, metabolism is down regulated some

Extreme calorie deficit (>500 Kcal/day) = more muscle mass consumed, lose fat for a shorter period of time before a fat loss plateau is met, metabolism is extremely downregulated

This is a classic example of someone who is a "yo-yo dieter". Extreme diet resulting in some weight loss, mostly muscle mass, then a weight-loss plateau. They get off of the diet and regain the original weight, as fat, plus more due to the down regulation of their metabolism. The additional weight up regulates their metabolism, but not to the level it was before the diet.

Repeat this process for several years, and you end up with a person who has a high level of body fat, low amount of lean body mass, and an incrediby low metabolism, who eats 800 calories/day and can't lose weight.

So what should a person in this scenario do? Eat more calories, accept the fact that they will gain a few pounds in the process and strength train to regain some muscle mass (weight will increase, but so will metabolism, that's a good thing). Once their metabolism is back to a normal level, diet down using a calorie deficit no greater than 500 Kcals/day.

Thanks for checking out the site.