Key Topics Covered
Calories in vs Calories Out
- The overarching fundamental principle involved in weight management is calories in vs calories out (CICO). This should not be a controversial statement.
- The body is literally made up of calories (1kg of fat contains around 7-8k Cals, whilst a kilo of muscle contains around
- The body burns calories every day doing a variety of things – heart pumping, lungs breathing, brain functioning etc etc
- We only get calories externally from food. And we have internal stores of calories.
- Calories are a unit of energy, so they can’t just be created from nothing, and they also cannot just disappear either.
- When we eat more calories than we burn, it is easy to see how this leads to fat/muscle gain.
- When we eat LESS than we burn, it is easy to see how this leads to fat loss.
Understanding this is important since it helps us filter through stuff that doesn’t matter. Everything that works has to fit into this model in some way.
Figuring out how many calories you need
- The simplest starting point is to get an ESTIMATE using something like the calorie calculator on our website.
- There are many ways to use this. But as an example, you could estimate your maintenance calories, and then follow that for a few weeks and see what happens.
- Assuming your activity is relatively consistent we could then go through the following check-list:
Did you gain weight? If yes, it was a surplus. If you want to find maintenance calories, decrease your intake.
Did you lose weight? If yes, it was a deficit. If you want maintenance, you would need to increase your calories.
Did you maintain weight? If yes, that was maintenance calories.
- Then if you want a deficit, decrease your calories below that point, while keeping activity consistent.
Troubleshooting the above system
- Firstly, you do not technically need to track calories to do the above process. We are just using that to show how it works.
- The reason why we specify that any formula or calculator only provides an estimate is because the numbers or your tracking might not be perfect.
- It is not uncommon for people to overestimate their activity and therefore calorie expenditure and/or underestimate their intake with calories tracking
- But the definition of a deficit involves weight loss, since it involves consuming fewer calories than you burn.
- The other thing to add to that above system is that you technically do not need to find maintenance calories first. You could jump straight in and estimate your deficit calories.
How much below maintenance should you go?
- A solid starting point is to go ~20% below your maintenance calories. But this is super individual.
- If you take away too many calories you might get super hungry, feel restricted, struggle in training and have a list of other downsides associated with low calorie intake.
- If you take away too few calories, you would just lose body fat really slowly.
Can you go so low calorie that your body stops you from losing fat?
- Technically no.
- Never in the research in controlled settings do we see this issue.
- The body CAN adapt and downregulate energy expenditure to compensate for reduced energy intake.
- But these adaptations never outstrip the reduction in energy intake.
- And they also often do not result in a large reduction of energy expenditure, beyond say a 200-calorie reduction.
- For example, if you ate 1000 calories less than normal, the body wouldn’t reduce energy expenditure by 1200 calories. These adaptations might reduce it by 100-200 calories.
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