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Question about calorie deficit


Mollum

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I have been tracking my calories and eating better for about a month. Previously I ate a lot of sweets and drank Coke a lot. Cutting that down and eating more veggies, fruits and meat has been going well - although getting enough protein is a real challenge. I am 180 lb and a woman, 5'2". I have been eating 1200 calories to drop weight, which, if I eat healthy, leaves me quite full at the end of the day. My bmr is 1500, and my tdee is like 2000 I think. Does that seem okay? Or should I be eating more? I am not noticing any negative side effects like headaches or tiredness from what I eat now but in this month the scale has stayed stagnant (even though people are commenting that I look thinner).

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1200 is pretty low but you are pretty short.

You might eat a little more and start working out. Don'T worry about the number on the scale, that will change by itself soon if you focus on intake and output. Keep sticking to good foods.

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As a 5'3" person I don't count my workouts when I need to cut unless I'm absolutely ravenous. The 300-400 calories extra you burn can just be an extra pound lost over the course of 2-3 weeks. If you're feeling good and the scale hasn't budged you might be underestimating intake. Count and measure everything on a food scale for a week or two to make sure you're accurate. (I had this problem last year, I was undercounting by a solid 800 calories because my perception of a tablespoon was WAY off. Makes a huge difference with calorie dense things like oil when you're cooking and peanut butter!)

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Spaz Ranger

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My best friend is a Marine.  She sought my assistance in preparation for joining the Corps because she needed to drop some weight and up her PT scores.  Besides my advice, she took that of her recruiter to cut her calorie intake in order to lose weight.  While cutting calories does help you lose weight, it also causes a calorie deficit if you are working out.

 

All through her physical training, she found that she was sucking it.  She was wiped out at the end of a normal training program even when I was doing great (mind you, I was hovering at about 35% BFI back then).  She may have had better endurance, but I could out-muscle her in all the exercises we were doing.  It was a little pathetic, because back then I knew I was majorly out of shape.

 

She finally plateaued the last two months before she shipped for Paris Island.  She couldn’t lose the last few pounds or raise her pushups and crunches she needed to actually ship.  So, she took my advice and went out the day before a mini-PT test with her recruit group.  I made sure she got the bacon cheeseburger with onion rings and ranch dipping sauce.  The entire mean was equal to her daily caloric intake according to her recruiter.  She ate it for dinner, but ate normal meals for breakfast, lunch, and her snack.

 

The next day, she found that she had lost 1 pound and she practically maxed her push-ups (adding the 10 necessary to ship).  She took my advice and raised her caloric intake to what it should be for someone exercising while losing weight.  She is 25, stands 5’10â€, weighs 160, and was very active; her caloric intake to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week should have been 1925 with her maintenance being 2675 (her recruiter had her on a 1400 calorie a day diet).

 

On top of that, she had one meal a week where she fills in whatever calorie deficit she may have developed.  That means, she gets the thing that a normal dieter would probably faint from seeing.  She told me that her last was a full steak with fries, milkshake, and pie.  Cheating on the diet for one meal a week is also good to keep your motivation up and prevent you from binging during the rest of the week.

 

The moral of this story is that sometimes eating more will help you lose weight and gain fitness.  Starving yourself only tells your body to store fat and conserve energy by regulating it to the muscles.  I should probably let you know that she’s recently found a love of bodybuilding and is in the 80th percentile within the USMC for female weightlifters.

 

For you, with a BMR of 1500, I’d say you were 28.  If that’s the case, then it all depends on what kind of a program you are doing.  If you’re working out 3 to 5 times per week, then you’re looking at 1575 calories per day.  If you’re working out 6 to 7 times per week, then 1837 is the goal for daily intake.  Those should drop you between 1 and 2 pounds of fat per week (the safe rate) without causing your body to go into starvation mode.  Also, don’t forget to have one meal a week where you eat whatever you want regardless of calories (though try not to exceed two thirds of your calorie limit for the day on that one meal).

 

Finally, don’t look to your weight as an indicator of fitness.  I only dropped 3 pounds in the past month of daily workout, but I dropped 4% from my BFI (13.9 pounds of fat).  All of my military classes told me that the key to health is your BFI.  According to the military, my weighing 225 at 6’2†was overweight, but I was an average of about 12% BFI through my career, so it was all good.

 

You shouldn’t take everything I say as set in stone, though.  We are all different.  If you have any specific questions or concerns, check with a nutritionist.  I can only give you a suggestion based on what you have typed.

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Thank you Flagwaver and Slates; that was really helpful. I'm 23. I guess I will raise the calorie limit! Does it matter what the calories are? I've been trying to keep it mostly protein and healthy carbs like vegetables and fruits...

I've been trying hard to measure accurately but a lot of the time, what I eat (mostly Indian food) doesn't show up on the app. Are there any ways for me to figure out the calorie content of what I eat at home? I'm also getting a bit weary of constantly counting calories so I am trying to switch to "eating clean" (I don't want to go paleo though). If I am doing that, do I need to track calories as accurately?

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Thank you Flagwaver and Slates; that was really helpful. I'm 23. I guess I will raise the calorie limit! Does it matter what the calories are? I've been trying to keep it mostly protein and healthy carbs like vegetables and fruits...

I've been trying hard to measure accurately but a lot of the time, what I eat (mostly Indian food) doesn't show up on the app. Are there any ways for me to figure out the calorie content of what I eat at home? I'm also getting a bit weary of constantly counting calories so I am trying to switch to "eating clean" (I don't want to go paleo though). If I am doing that, do I need to track calories as accurately?

 

Re: caloric intake in general... Experiment!  Every body is different, and BMR estimates are just that...estimates.  The only way to find out what your body does is to be methodical in testing and tracking.

 

Re: food content and tracking...

 

Some people don't need to count calories to get where they want to go, others do.  It really depends on your habits.  Try dropping it for a week and see what happens compared to a week where you track.  I, personally, find that I really do need to track when I'm managing things like medication changes, sleep changes, or anything else that threatens to make me forget to eat, and when I travel and am trying to mitigate the diet screwups that can cause (read: eating too many carbs).  The rest of the time, it doesn't really matter for me.

 

Favor protein over carbs, always... protein helps build muscle, has minimal glycemic impact, and so on.  Carbs are a rollercoaster for your endocrine system.  Let's assume you are getting "enough" protein (for some value of "enough")... after that, it comes down to how many carbs your body can tolerate without having negative effects like a bloated feeling, fat gain, energy crashes, and so on.  That limit is different for everyone, and different for different carbs (e.g. fibrous veggies will have far less impact than rice, bread, and other grains).  Experiment and you'll find your limits.  I didn't mention the other macro yet: fats.  Healthy fats (i.e. not overprocessed ones) are in between protein and carbs as far as glycemic impact.  I tend to neither ignore them nor seek them out.  YMMV.

 

So, it comes down to how you experiment.  Take whatever your baseline is right now.  Do it for two weeks, or until you've accumulated two weeks of consistent behavior.  Pick one thing to change (e.g. calorie increase, change in macronutrient balance, stopping tracking) and try it for a week or two.  See how it impacts your body.  Keep the change or throw it out the window.  Give your body however much time it needs to get used to its new norm (two weeks if your aren't sure, but after you do this a while you start to get a feel for when you are or aren't in a state of flux), then test another change.  The key is to never test more than one factor at a time, and to be willing to go back to base and test again if life intervenes.  For example, I'm not testing anything right now because house-buying stress has completely nuked my sleep schedule.  That's enough to confuse the results of my self-experimentation.  I'll start experimenting again in a few weeks when things calm down.

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"What's the goal here?  What's the lesson here?  What's the best use of my time right now?" <-- Rory Miller's "three sacred questions"

"Lacking in humility?  Don't worry, the bar will give you some." <-- Me.

 

HedgeMage, Orc Ranger

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I will disagree with Flag, I would caution to not increase your calories at the moment. Try to stick with your current goal. If you read Steve's blog and all of the NF Guild Leaders they will all tell you that starvation mode is bunk.

 

You can eat more food with a higher fiber content to feel fuller but if you're feeling ok I'd recommend cutting calories 100 a day every two weeks until you see the scale or tape measure start to slide. Focus on how you feel, if you feel faint, you know you need to up your intake, if you feel fine you can lower it until you start seeing changes. 

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Spaz Ranger

BATTLE LOG

You can have results or excuses. Not both

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Ahhh so helpful HedgeMage :) Thank you!

So I eventually decided to raise my calorie limit to 1500, give or take a 100 depending on how much I've exercised that day. I am also doing the 4 week challenge and have decided to prioritize protein and cut carbs, like you said (tracked my macros and found that carbs were taking way too much precedence over protein). I will continue to track for now because I'm not good at estimating my macros yet, tend to underestimate carbs. I will keep this going until March 25 and see if these things have a different effect.

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Ahhh so helpful HedgeMage :) Thank you!

So I eventually decided to raise my calorie limit to 1500, give or take a 100 depending on how much I've exercised that day. I am also doing the 4 week challenge and have decided to prioritize protein and cut carbs, like you said (tracked my macros and found that carbs were taking way too much precedence over protein). I will continue to track for now because I'm not good at estimating my macros yet, tend to underestimate carbs. I will keep this going until March 25 and see if these things have a different effect.

 

You are very welcome, I'm glad I could help!  BTW, I had one of my Indian coworkers go through my food tracking app's database, and they said it had coverage of most of the really common Indian foods, but not in all the sold-in-India brands.  The app is "Lose It!".  You might check that out if better tracking of the food you like would help you.

"What's the goal here?  What's the lesson here?  What's the best use of my time right now?" <-- Rory Miller's "three sacred questions"

"Lacking in humility?  Don't worry, the bar will give you some." <-- Me.

 

HedgeMage, Orc Ranger

Battle Log | IRL Info

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The moral of this story is that sometimes eating more will help you lose weight and gain fitness.  Starving yourself only tells your body to store fat and conserve energy by regulating it to the muscles.  I should probably let you know that she’s recently found a love of bodybuilding and is in the 80th percentile within the USMC for female weightlifters.

Allow me to respectfully disagree. The moral of the story is that starving yourself while trying to improve your performance just won't work. You need the extra calories for a harder performance, just like you need them when you're trying to gain muscle mass.

 

Which brings us to the next topic, what you're actually losing. Eating at a caloric deficit means loss, but is it fat or muscle that you're losing? Obviously, losing the latter will affect your performance in a negative way. Also, remember that muscle is a lot more dense than fat, meaning the same loss in weight means a huge visual difference in mass.

 

5-pounds-of-fat-vs-5-pounds-of-muscle-ma

 

 

One last thing I'd like to point out, as far as the "eat more protein and less carbs" thing goes. I used to be on the same train, even eating no carbs and minimal fat at one point. Not pretty, I was gassed out before the warmup was even done. Carbs are the body's main source of fuel, the difference is the density of carbs in your food, because as we all know, a calorie is not just a calorie.1000 calories from a sugary drink will not make you as full as 1000 calories from salad greens

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As I said before, what I am doing has worked for me over the past month plus and it worked for my friend.  However, remember that moderation is the key to success.  I fully agree with the increase in protein for the same reason Hedge stated.  However, I disagree that you should cut out carbs.  Cutting back on carbs is better, but removing them completely may not be the best.

 

I’ve always been a big follower of the “moderation in all things†mantra.  This includes moderation in dieting (thus the cheat meal once a week).  Some sugars, even processed ones, are okay in moderation.  For instance, I can’t stand the taste of my tap water and instead drink homemade ice tea (1½ gallons) that’s sweetened by normal sugar (¼ cup).

 

Above all else, find what works for you.  Take people’s suggestions, test them out, and find out what works best for you.  When you find it, let everyone know.  What works best for you may be the key to someone else’s fitness.

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Allow me to respectfully disagree. The moral of the story is that starving yourself while trying to improve your performance just won't work. You need the extra calories for a harder performance, just like you need them when you're trying to gain muscle mass.

 

Which brings us to the next topic, what you're actually losing. Eating at a caloric deficit means loss, but is it fat or muscle that you're losing? Obviously, losing the latter will affect your performance in a negative way. Also, remember that muscle is a lot more dense than fat, meaning the same loss in weight means a huge visual difference in mass.

Thank you DarK_RaideR. 

 

 

I will disagree with Flag, I would caution to not increase your calories at the moment. Try to stick with your current goal. If you read Steve's blog and all of the NF Guild Leaders they will all tell you that starvation mode is bunk.

Thanks Slates.

 

So after some thought, I've decided to up the protein, and focus on getting carbs from roti and vegetables (so no bread or rice). I will keep my caloric intake at 1200, and try to track accurately.  I have been estimating things like an ounce and a tablespoon so maybe I need to try using the food scale for a week - just to check if my estimates are correct. I'm also going to try and go harder in my workouts - heavier weights, less reps, and push myself harder during cardio. Today I definitely felt like I had only worked up a light sweat and the workout felt a bit like it had plateaued.

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I think you already answered your question in your previous post.

1. Progress moderately in your strength training (get stronger and build muscle). Take your time, the less you rush the better the long-term results. Initially your strength will progress quite fast due to your neuromuscular system adapting to the new demands. Eventually it will take more time. So set a set progress schedule and whenever you cannot complete a given set, lower the weight for a few days or even a few weeks as you get better.

2. Push yourself during cardio. Vary your cardio too, sometimes do slow, longer pacing (marathon) and sometimes do higher intensity (short all-out sprints) and sometimes do moderate-high intensity (short 90% effort sprints with longer moderate 60%-70% intensity in-between). Changing the activity is also recommended every few months. Biking, running, swimming, a mix, etc. Again, take it slow and gradual.

3. Listen to your body. Sharp pains, dizziness, etc. are a sign you are overdoing it. Make sure you have adequate rest in-between workouts since rest is when you build muscle. Only you can tell what works best for you, so experiment. Say, do alternating days for 3/week or try even 2/week and higher intensity. If that seems too prone to injury or fatigue, moderate down to more frequent, less intense workouts. This is also a good overall strategy, as our bodies respond best to variety.

4. I personally detest calorie counting. I basically take whatever plate/bowl I am going to use and and measure out fractions of the major food groups and take an assessment every week. If diet and exercise are working you WILL notice in the mirror (photos are great) and during your workouts. Document your progress in a notebook. No need to be too detailed but good things to note are: warmup exercises, each exercise: weight, repetitions in each set and how many sets, a quick perceived effort, summary at end (how you feel, injuries, pain, progress on fat loss) and your warmdown stretches.

Sent from my SM-N900 using Tapatalk

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So after some thought, I've decided to up the protein, and focus on getting carbs from roti and vegetables (so no bread or rice). I will keep my caloric intake at 1200, and try to track accurately.  I have been estimating things like an ounce and a tablespoon so maybe I need to try using the food scale for a week - just to check if my estimates are correct. I'm also going to try and go harder in my workouts - heavier weights, less reps, and push myself harder during cardio. Today I definitely felt like I had only worked up a light sweat and the workout felt a bit like it had plateaued.

There's a saying, "it doesn't get easier, you get better" ;)

 

Remember that working out means burning more calories. Your body needs extra fuel to cope, so you might need to eat a little more during workout days. Or you might need to save bread/rice for those days. Just some ideas.

 

Whoops I also meant to ask - how do I make sure I lose body fat and not muscle?

Measuring body fat per se is tricky and complicated. There are many methods and none of them claims to be 100% percise. I think the easiest way is to take measurements (waist, chest, arms, thighs, neck, calf) and re-measure every month or so. Ideally, waist should be going down as you lose fat (maybe thighs a bit as well) and the rest should be going up as you're putting on muscle. Progress photos also help a lot for reference

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Whoops I also meant to ask - how do I make sure I lose body fat and not muscle?

If you're eating at least .8g per lean lb of body weight it is nearly impossible to lose muscle

 

http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/

 

So as long as you hit that, play around with whatever else you eat. You can still maintain a decent deficit and eat about 150ish calories of something carby (like a banana) 30 mins before a work out to fuel it. Unless you're eating for performance, which is different than eating for weight loss, eating significantly more on workout days isn't necessary unless 1. you feel dizzy/not well when you work out or 2. are training at (or close to) an elite level.

Spaz Ranger

BATTLE LOG

You can have results or excuses. Not both

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If you're eating at least .8g per lean lb of body weight it is nearly impossible to lose muscle

 

http://bayesianbodybuilding.com/the-myth-of-1glb-optimal-protein-intake-for-bodybuilders/

 

So as long as you hit that, play around with whatever else you eat. You can still maintain a decent deficit and eat about 150ish calories of something carby (like a banana) 30 mins before a work out to fuel it. Unless you're eating for performance, which is different than eating for weight loss, eating significantly more on workout days isn't necessary unless 1. you feel dizzy/not well when you work out or 2. are training at (or close to) an elite level.

 

.8g per lean lb or just per lb of body weight? 

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If you like protein and want to eat more, also, by all means. But this is just the amount that's needed to keep muscle. If you prefer protein in your diet over carbs/fat you make it a bigger percentage of your diet based on that but if you like carbs (lots of fruits and veggies) and find that you can't seem to fit them in there because of protein just know you have wiggle room, more protein does not mean you build more muscle past that point. I went from a super protein heavy diet to a more balanced one allowing for things like fruits, nuts and granola because of my tastes and preferences. 

 

Again, all about balance and what will work for you in the long term!

Spaz Ranger

BATTLE LOG

You can have results or excuses. Not both

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Measuring body fat per se is tricky and complicated. There are many methods and none of them claims to be 100% percise. I think the easiest way is to take measurements (waist, chest, arms, thighs, neck, calf) and re-measure every month or so. Ideally, waist should be going down as you lose fat (maybe thighs a bit as well) and the rest should be going up as you're putting on muscle. Progress photos also help a lot for reference

 

That’s what I used to do in the military and what I began doing starting last month.

 

Neck at the base of the shoulder.

Chest at the nipple.

Waist at the navel.

Hips at the widest part of the buns.

Bicep at the widest part.

Thigh halfway from hip joint to knee.

Calf at the widest part.

 

There are also some programs on the net where you can plug in your height, neck, waist, and hip measurements and it will give you an estimation of your BFI.  I use THIS WEBSITE.  Calipers are a little more accurate, though.

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If you're feeling good and the scale hasn't budged you might be underestimating intake. Count and measure everything on a food scale for a week or two to make sure you're accurate. (I had this problem last year, I was undercounting by a solid 800 calories because my perception of a tablespoon was WAY off. Makes a huge difference with calorie dense things like oil when you're cooking and peanut butter!)

 

Finally pulled out my trusty old food scale this morning to weigh the meat I took to work - you were right Slates, I have been underestimating intake :) Time to weigh everything! Is it weird if I take the food scale to work...? (the good thing is that that means I've been getting more protein than I thought I was getting).

 

Thanks for pitching in, everyone! Also, DarK_RaideR, that's a pretty great saying :) Kept that in mind this morning while working out. 

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