Episode 59 Transcript – What Should You Do If You Overeat While You’re In Calorie Deficit

Aidan Muir (00:09):

Hello, and welcome to episode 59 of The Ideal Nutrition Podcast. I am Aiden Muir and I’m here with my cohost, Leah Higl. And today we are going to be talking about what you should do if you overeat in a calorie deficit, or when you’re trying to be in a calorie deficit.

Aidan Muir (00:25):

And I’m making the assumption that you come into this podcast with a bit of an understanding of energy balance and how that plays a role in weight management. Understanding that part of why a calorie deficit leads to weight loss, is that the body’s literally made up of calories, and if we are burning a certain amount of calories and we’re eating fewer than that amount of calories, that is why it’s called a calorie deficit. There is a deficit there. And energy, and calories is a unit of energy, has to come from somewhere and because we are not getting it through food and the body is made up of calories, it comes from the body and that’s part of why it leads to weight loss. So looking at it through that lens, say you’re trying to be in a calorie deficit, and one day you eat too many calories, we’re going to be looking at what should you do next.

Leah Higl (01:10):

So the first thing we’re going to start with, is just let’s do nothing. So, you go over your calories and you move on with your life and you start the very next day fresh. This has to be one of my favorite approaches to going over your calories, because ideally you’re consistent enough on a day-to-day basis, that occasionally when you go over your calories, it’s really not going to matter in the grand scheme of things. Like if it’s once a week or once a fortnight where maybe you’re eating at maintenance that day, but every other day’s been in a pretty decent deficit, you’re still going to make progress. And that’s just part of having flexible dieting or a flexible approach to dieting.

Leah Higl (01:50):

So, it’s definitely my favorite approach, and even just talking through how this could work in practice. So, say you have a 500 calorie deficit and you do that six days of the week, ideally you would’ve done it for seven, but you do it for six, and that equals a 3,000 calorie deficit. So going over your planned calories by 500 calories on one day, so eating at maintenance, it’s still going to be a 3,000 calorie deficit for the week. If you ate seven days in a row at that deficit, would’ve been 3,500, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s not a huge difference as part of your weekly deficit. So even just looking at your weekly calorie budget rather than being so wrapped up in your daily budget, can really be helpful in this circumstance. Because, it shows you that it’s super manageable just to start again the next day, you try to hit your planned calories, and forget about the day before and not really do anything to counteract the fact that you did overeat.

Leah Higl (02:50):

I think the issue becomes when you overeat for one day, and then you go, “Oh man, I’ve stuffed up this week,” so then you overeat the next day and the next day, and then all of a sudden it’s three or four days where you’ve gone over your calories. But if you’ve just done it the one day, move on with your life. That’s my opinion in most circumstances.

Aidan Muir (03:10):

Yeah. Yeah, and I think you summed it up all there with the whole thing about when you do the maths like that, it’s very clear that one day is rarely the issue.

Aidan Muir (03:18):

Yeah. Even if it’s 500 calorie deficit, six hours a week, you still end up in a deficit, even if you overeat pretty significantly on that one day.

Leah Higl (03:26):

Yeah. Even if you were in a slight surplus for one day, because you just had a big night out or something. Total of the week’s still deficit.

Aidan Muir (03:33):

Yeah. So that’s easily my preferred approach in a lot of situations, but there’s also no right or wrong, and you can go about it with other approaches. The second option I’d propose is kind of the opposite of that first approach, and it’s eating less the next day. This is probably the one that most people are intuitively drawn to. They overeat one day, they want to undereat the next to kind of compensate. But let’s go through some mathematics on that as well. Say you overeat by 500 calories one day, if you eat 500 calories less the next day, it balances out. The obvious benefit of this, is it means that you stay on track at the exact same rate of weight loss. It doesn’t slow down at all. And in some cases it can fit.

Aidan Muir (04:15):

The obvious downsides of that though, is you would obviously be hungrier, you’d have less flexibility on that day, probably be harder to train if you train on that day, exercise and everything like that, probably just have less energy, you might be more moody. There’s a whole bunch of things that come alongside that. It’s harder to get micronutrients in as well. And I also think it’s worthwhile also thinking through that, the only reason you’d really be contemplating this if you were already in a calorie deficit, is that you are already planning on being in deficit. What size deficit were you aiming for originally? If you were aiming for a 500 calorie deficit originally, you would now have to be aiming for a 1,000 calorie deficit. If you were previously aiming for a 1,000 calorie deficit, it’d be even more.

Aidan Muir (04:54):

Yeah. And most people already get a little bit hungry and struggle a little bit in a deficit, so it kind of makes it even harder. So it can fit, and it’s probably more viable for times where you only go over it by a little bit, or that you have a larger calorie budget to start off with. But it does come with some potential downsides as well, even though it means you stay on track with that weekly kind of weight loss rate. And that leads to the obvious other downside of it could potentially lead to a cycle of struggling to stick to the plan. And then you unintentionally go over again and you’ve got this cycle.

Leah Higl (05:27):

Yeah. It reminds me of very much, kind of a binge-restrict cycle at it’s very worst case scenario. And you could easily fall into that if you were constantly overeating and then trying to make up the next day.

Aidan Muir (05:38):

Yeah. And to be clear, there are still some clients who I have used this approach with, just eating less the next day or something like that. It’s just rarer for me to go with that approach.

Leah Higl (05:45):

Yeah. It just depends on the person and that individual circumstance. And the third option we’re going to talk about, is kind of a middle ground between those two. And it does take some of the negatives away from option number two. And that’s just eat less calories, but spread that over multiple days instead of trying to rectify that overeating in just one single day, the next day. So for example, it could be like the previous example, in that you overate by 500 calories on one day, but instead of trying to make that all up the next day with a 1,000 calorie deficit, you instead spread it over two days. So you’re eating at a, what would that be, 750 calorie deficit over two days.

Aidan Muir (06:27):

Yeah. Yeah.

Leah Higl (06:28):

Yeah, quick math. So, that would be more manageable than say a 1,000 calorie deficit for one day. And obviously the numbers can all be changed and there’d be different circumstances, but it would make that approach a little bit more viable in a lot of situations, because you don’t have this one day where it’s this enormous deficit that you potentially really struggle to get through, or maybe end up in a restrict-binge cycle.

Leah Higl (06:51):

So it’s a bit more of a middle ground in that you can rectify your overeating, but it’s a little less aggressive than option number two. So personally, if I am not going with option number one, I kind of like option number three if you’ve really overeaten. So yeah, that’s option number three and you could definitely go with that.

Aidan Muir (07:09):

Yeah. And another addition of that onset is the more you spread that out, the less of an impact it has because it’s got all the same downsides of option two, just on a smaller scale. But if you spread it out over more… those downsides kind of disappear a bit.

Aidan Muir (07:23):

One gym trainer I work with, as part of their gym challenge, they like the idea of calorie cycling in a way, almost like a cheat meal kind of thing. But what they did, was they take away 100 calories per day and that would give them 600 calories more on a Saturday or something like that. And some people, they would even take 200 calories away per day and that would give them like 1,200 calories extra over the course of the weekend.

Leah Higl (07:47):

Totally. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I think that can really work for some people. So this is kind of calorie cycling or calorie budgeting in reverse.

Aidan Muir (07:53):

Yeah, exactly. It’s like the opposite. It’s like, rather than being like, “Well, what if we accidentally overeat,” it’s just kind of being like, “Well, we can kind of prepare for it by doing this as well.” And once you see the numbers, it’s harder because we can’t visually show it, but something that I found interesting, is they had a little calculator kind of thing to kind of formulate this, but they did it with macros as well. Where it’s like, because your protein needs don’t really change, that would therefore mean if you took away a 100 calories, that’d just be a 100 calories coming from carbs and fats. And that could actually look like quite a lot of carbs and fats when you add the 600 calories.

Leah Higl (08:25):

Yes, absolutely.

Aidan Muir (08:27):

So even more flexible than you’d think, but yeah. It’s an interesting idea. Not something that I use with a lot of clients, but it’s like, when you spread this out over multiple days, it can fit a lot better too.

Leah Higl (08:37):

Yeah. And I think option two and three in terms of rectifying your overeating, it can make sense especially if you only have a certain amount of time to make weight for something, or if you’re prepping for a bodybuilding show, or if there’s something you’re working towards where the timeline isn’t super flexible, these options can be good options to have.

Aidan Muir (08:56):

Yeah. For sure. Easy. Well, we’ll wrap up there. So this has been episode 59 of The Ideal Nutrition Podcast. As always, if you could please leave a rating or review, or if you haven’t already, we would greatly appreciate that.