Yesterday, I got a question from one of my followers on twitter asking me the following regarding weight loss and calorie deficits:
1. “If you reduce the calories you eat [to lose weight], how are you supposed to have energy for workouts?”
I answered that you should increase your caloric intake to fuel a good workout but then got asked this:
2. “How do you create a shortage from increased calorie intake [to lose weight]?”
Simple questions but the answers are complicated. I actually researched for a couple hours to see if someone could explain this thoroughly. I couldn’t really find anything sufficient so I will do my best to explain this as best as I can without making your heads blow off.
So let’s attack question #1…”If you reduce the calories you eat [to lose weight], how are you supposed to have energy for workouts?”
We need to be talking about reducing calories from WHAT. If you’re reducing calories from your daily energy requirement (amt of cals it takes to function as a human at your daily activity level – ie. sleep, eat, walk around, go to work, go to school, etc.) then NO you will not have energy to workout. It takes a certain number of calories to function at a certain activity level. If you’re going to add more activity then you need to add more calories.
Think about calories as money and your activity level as paying bills. Right now say you make $3000/mo and you spend $3000/mo to pay rent, the phone bill, buy groceries, and go out once in a while. You are not in debt but you are not saving up either. What comes in also comes out. You are simply SURVIVING.
Now say you want to buy a new bag for a wedding you’re going to, it’s $500. How are you going to afford it? You can’t just buy the bag out of nowhere. You have to make $500 more to spend $500 on the bag.
To basically function in your day to day activities, say you require 1400 calories. You aren’t losing weight or gaining weight so 1400 is perfect for maintenance.
Now you want to workout to tone up for your friend’s wedding. It will take extra energy to add this into your daily lifestyle. The workout will burn 500 calories. You can’t just eat 1400 cals and just suddenly tack on a madwoman workout. You don’t have available energy – where does the energy come to fuel a workout that will burn 500 calories?
The FINAL answer to question #1:
To fuel energy for workouts, do not decrease calories – in fact, eat more. No this does not mean you are at maintenance again but just at a higher level. Strength training will help build lean muscle mass so that each time you workout, you will burn more calories at rest. Lean muscle mass does that. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn in general. The 500 calories that you torched in that 1 hr at the gym actually equals a surplus of calories burned throughout the day on top of your basal metabolic rate. Let me say this again, YOU WILL BURN EVEN MORE CALORIES THROUGHOUT THE DAY THANKS TO YOUR WORKOUT. That’s why it is ok to eat more.
Now then comes question #2…“How do you create a shortage from increased calorie intake [to lose weight]?”
Remember, you have increased calorie intake but with the PURPOSE of fueling a workout. If you simply increased to increase, you will gain weight from the excess if you do not figure out a way to utilize your extra energy. Because this increased calorie intake is now appropriate for your new activity level – this is your base – and you can create a deficit from this new number. Do not look at your old daily energy requirement. Yes it is higher but you are a different person now, you do different things. You are no longer just living a sedentary life, you have a new activity level and a new daily energy requirement to function as a human being who works out.
You got promoted and now are making $5000/mo instead of $3000/mo. How do you create a shortage from an increased paycheck? You can now afford to buy a new phone, a new computer, that bag and a pair of Louboutins. Oops, you’re in debt now.
So now you feed your body 1800 calories of nutritious foods – an increase from your 1400 previously. Because of your increase of 400 calories, you can finish a crazy workout and torch 500 calories in 1 session AND burn extra calories throughout the day (on top of your basal metabolic rate) because of your increased metabolism and increase in lean muscle mass. You are in a caloric debt now and on your way to fat loss.
The FINAL answer to question #2:
Yes you can create a deficit from increased caloric intake because this new number is just your new daily energy requirement. You don’t need to compare it to what you consumed in the past unless you are comparing similar activity levels. A more intense activity level requires a higher caloric intake for proper human function and optimal performance.
Umm, I hope that all made sense? OMG if not…here are the take-away points:
-When looking at calories in and calories out, a 500 calorie meal does not fuel a 500 calorie burning workout. Sometimes you wake up and all you need is a 110 calorie yogurt or 200 calorie bowl of oatmeal to get you through that morning spin class.
-A calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie. Not all calories are created equally.
-If you are looking to lose weight, choose to fill yourself up with nutritious and filling calories full of fiber and protein. You’ll notice that a 350 calorie sweet potato, chicken breast, and broccoli meal will fill you up longer than an 800 calorie hamburger and fries combo.
-In the end willpower will get you through the workouts and closer to your goal.
Ok that was my attempt at answering the questions. I just read this over again and am thinking that I may have potentially lost some of you along the way. Can you tell me if this makes sense or not? HONESTLY. Any feedback or rebuttals would be appreciated. Or if you can find an article that explains this better, please share with me! I couldn’t find anything that would go beyond the usual 3500 calorie deficit per week = 1 lb loss thing. No one talked about the science of the calorie deficit and how it affects your will power.
Anyway, time for bed. 2:45am. Kinda late. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow to reread this post, it will not make any sense. Romena, hope that helped ;P