A common solution to the weight loss challenge is to attack the problem by increasing the amount of exercise (especially cardio) and reducing calories.
The idea of course is to create a caloric deficit, meeting the objectives of less calories in and more calories out. Being in a caloric deficit is definitely the right idea, but like most things in life, working in the extremes, for too long will result in an outcome that is often times opposite of what you want. And this is what happens when someone remains in an indefinite caloric deficit.
If losing weight was as simple as just eating less food, the process would be very straight forward. Eat less, lose weight. Done.
It of course is not that simple. While this approach can produce a weight loss result in the short term, it very rarely is sustainable over the long term. The reality is eating less than 1,200 calories per day is too few for the majority of adults. Not only are you minimizing the energy your body needs, by reducing the volume of whole, nutritious foods, you are also reducing the amount of necessary macro and micro nutrients your body uses for healing, repair, and function.
One of the main reasons why maintaining a large caloric deficit over an extended period of time is that it slows down the metabolism. Simply, stating that your body needs less calories, and burns less calories. In effect, you have made your body super efficient (burning less calories with the same amount of effort), kind of like a Hybrid Electric Car is efficient. Your body, recognizing the energy deficit will look to store energy on the body (aka adipose tissue, aka body fat) for use when energy from food is not available.
If you are in this “linear” approach, your only way to continue to lose additional weight would be to cut calories further and/or exercise even more. This of course will lead to lower energy and physical fatigue. It’s not sustainable.
The approach that is sustainable is to cycle your calories in alignment with your bodies Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). We want to create cycles of maintenance and deficit to create a lifestyle plan as opposed to dieting/not dieting. The goal here is to maximize the amount of calories as well as macro and micro nutrients to ensure the body is operating at it’s highest levels (healing, repair, function). Partner this with a solid plan of resistance training and cardio to ensure your metabolism stays high; A FAT BURNING MACHINE.
I explain more about this process in the following video presentation.
Here are some terms that will help to understand this info.
- Metabolism: The process of using energy (chemical reactions) to maintain bio-organic activities
- Calories: A unit of measure, basically the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1°C (1.8°F). Think of this as the amount of energy your body gets from the foods you eat. Calories are necessary to ensure your body functions properly.
- Resting/Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): Your body needs a certain number of calories to function. Think of all the biological functions that require energy to work from brain function, digestion, to hormonal balance. This is the energy you need before you do any activities or movement.
- Activity Induced: This is how much energy you need to move your body. Whether it’s getting up and heading to work, working out, doing house work or going dancing. Every time you move your body your body is consuming calories.
- Diet Induced: Here is an interesting concept. Your body burns calories when you eat. Digestion is a biological function that requires energy to break down and metabolize what you eat.
One of the really amazing things about the human body is the way it adapts to the environment and circumstances we are exposed to. We know that more calories in than calories out will lead to weight gain and that less calories in than calories out will lead to weight loss.
So, as mentioned earlier, the body adapts to how many calories we bring in by increasing or decreasing metabolism. So, when we are in a caloric deficit for too long, rather than just dropping weight the body slows down the metabolism in order to make sure those base biological functions still happen.
Another key effect of prolonged calorie deficit is a reduction of muscle mass. Muscle is much more metabolically active than body fat. So the less muscle you have, the less metabolically active your body is. People who lose weight as a result of being on a very low calorie diet, typically lose both body fat and muscle mass. One of the goals we have for our clients in our program is that they maintain and increase muscle while dropping the fat, in order to achieve this, we need to keep calories consumption at a reasonable level.
Some other key areas of concern when our calorie deficit is too high and/or sustained for too long include lower nutrient levels, lower bone mineral density, and a weaker immune system.
Bottom line to create a Lifestyle plan (as opposed to a diet). We want to know and understand our BMR number, factor in the impact of activity we do throughout the day/week. From there an appropriate deficit can be determined to drive FAT LOSS, maintain or increase MUSCLE MASS. Periodically, we will want to go into a maintenance mode to allow the body and metabolism to recover and then repeat the process throughout the year.
If you are interested in working with me on creating a lifestyle plan, please provide your contact information below for a consultation and goal review.