It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to lose weight, or gain muscle, what you eat and how much of it you eat heavily affects the results you see.
Many of these clients find themselves unaware that they’ve been placing their bodies under the pressure of extremely low calorie diets of less than 1200-1400 calories per day, whilst maintaining an exercise routine.
But I Thought I Needed To Be In A Calorie Deficit To Lose Weight?
A calorie deficit occurs when a person’s calories out/used are greater than their calories in/consumed.
Whilst most people understand that a calorie deficit is the key to weight loss (fat loss, muscle loss or both), what they don’t realise is that an extreme calorie deficit can actually have the opposite effect.
While a slight caloric deficit (10-15% below maintenance calories or 150-300 calories per day for many females) or in some cases a moderate deficit (20-25% below maintenance 10-15% below maintenance calories or 350-500 calories per day for many females) can aid with fat loss when correctly implemented, larger deficits can hinder fat loss and/or muscle growth/toning goals.
How Is My Body Doing This? Hormones!
Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain a constant internal environment (aka. homeostasis). So when you place your body under the stress of a large calorie deficits, the bodies hormones, thyroid and adrenal hormones all being ‘slowing down’ in order to reduce your overall caloric output. In addition, the excessive stress on the body can often elevated cortisol levels aka. The stress hormone. Such hormonal changes can lead to the retention and gain of body fat even when whilst in a calorie deficit, along with a long list of other negative health effects.
So How Many Calories Should I Be Consuming?
The trust is, there are a lot of factors involved in accurately determining how many calories a person should be consuming to reach their goals, however a basic online BMR calculator such as FoodCoach BMR Calculator can be a great and simple place to start. Such calculators not only take into consideration your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) but your activity levels as well.
BMR is the number of kilojoules or calories (a calorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C and is also equal to 4.18 kilojoules) required on a daily basis to maintain your weight based on your lifestyle.
After gaining an understanding of your BMR, you can then use a food tracking app such as MyFitnessPal or CalorieCounter to help you gain a somewhat accurate understanding of just how many calories and macronutrients you are consuming. I often recommend clients track their food consumption over a week long period of time, as food consumption during weekends and weekdays tend to be extremely different.
By comparing the recommended calorie intake from your BMR calculator and your actual intake from your food tracker, you can then gain a greater understanding if you may potentially be under (or over eating) and thereby hindering your results.
Of course, everybody’s body is unique, and the way a person’s body responds to stimulus can vary. So if you do find yourself struggling to shift a couple extra kilos, tone up, or get the results you’re after, do seek help. There are plenty of Personal Trainers, Dietitians and GPs who have been trained with the right skills and knowledge to help guide you to success on your health and fitness journey.