Wacky Wednesday. Is Calorie Cutting Good?

Probably the most common thing I see people doing wrong in their pursuit of fat loss is that they cut calories way too low. Everyone is in the pursuit of instant results and many believe that drastically reducing their calorie intake is the fastest way to shed those unwanted pounds. Little do they know that by reducing their calorie intake to such low levels makes it even harder to lose fat and get in great shape.  This is really truly frustrating to watch.

Our metabolism is the most important factor for successful fat loss. We should train and eat in order to stimulate it. The simplest way to have a fast metabolism is to have muscle. This is because muscle is metabolically active…by that I mean that it burns calories. Every extra pound of muscle we have burns an extra 50-100 calories a day. This is why it is imperative to add or at try to maintain as much muscle as possible when trying to lose fat.

Compare our metabolism to that of a car engine. The larger the engine the more fuel it burns, even when it’s sitting at the lights. That’s how we want our metabolism to run. A faster metabolism helps us burn more calories in every activity we do, including sleeping. Now obviously, we don’t want a metabolism than burns fuel as slow as a scooter!

Now the problem with low calorie dieting is that it burns a lot of muscle, which slows down our metabolism. This happens because the body realizes that there is less food coming in, so it slows down how many calories it burns so that it can survive on the newer lower calorie intake. It becomes a bit more careful of using up energy, and becomes more selective. This is obviously bad!

The reason this happens, is because our excess body fat, is our last ditch survival plan. It is stored to prepare for times of food shortage. You see, if we cut calories too far, our body will realize that food is scarce and it will go into a state of panic. It will do its best then to hang onto its fat stores because it doesn’t know how long this food shortage is going to last. Since there is not enough food coming in, and our body wants to hang onto our fat, it alternatively breaks down muscle tissue to use as energy. This loss of muscle means a slower metabolism. Boo! That’s why when people say “I have a slow metabolism” yeah well you did this to your body and you can train it to actually run at a much more efficient way.

You may have experienced this first hand, getting good initial results on a low calorie diet for a few weeks. However after a few weeks your results have come to a standstill. This is because your metabolism has slowed right down to adjust to the calorie intake and is burning next to no fat, because it doesn’t want to!

Let’s face it, it’s no fun eating a low calorie diet. Constantly feeling hungry and tired, who wants that? Restricted calorie diets are just way too hard to stick too. They deprive us of not only eating enough food, but also of eating foods that we enjoy. This double whammy causes our cravings to intensify to the point that it becomes unbearable, resulting in us giving up.

To achieve dramatic and long term fat loss, you have to be consistent for a considerable amount of time. However, low calorie diets are just too extreme and unrealistic to stick to for any considerable period of time. They more often than not, result in ‘yo-yo dieting’.

Obviously gaining weight makes it hard to actually lose weight. Problem is that’s exactly what restricted calorie diets cause. The combination of losing muscle from low calorie dieting and the undeniable cravings they create, cause us to put on even more weight. The lost muscle now results in a slower metabolism, so if you go back to your normal pattern of eating, you now might experience some weight gain. Problem is, after a low calorie diet, we don’t usually return to our normal eating patterns. The cravings created through dieting cause us to binge eat and pig out for a while to satisfy our urges (well that’s what I did anyway!).

Well then what should you do? The answer is simple. Eat enough whole real food to ensure your body that it is safe to use its body fat stores as an energy source. If the body realizes that there is a plentiful supply of food coming in, it will think that keeping fat on the body is useless and it will start using it more readily.

Move your body at least 3x a week from 30-60 minutes. This includes some cardiovascular work for your heart and some weight training for your muscle mass

One last thing, forget the scales. Men store fat around the waist and women the hips and thighs. So if your pants are getting looser, you know it’s working. Use measurements, how your clothes fit and how you look naked in front of the mirror. These things tell the whole truth way more than a scale. Take progress pictures wearing the same clothing.

Remember try to get in fantastic shape in 5-6 months instead of 1-2. If you try to do it in only 1-2 months you will get stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle. You may look exactly the same 5 years from now! Taking it slower will actually get you there faster in the long run and is much more enjoyable, healthy  and pain free.

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