Most of clients I see at Strive Fitness and Performance come in looking to lose weight, become leaner, drop a few clothing sizes, have more energy, and feel better. Nutrition plays a huge role in these goals, obviously.
Now, the majority of my clients are over-eaters. Meaning, they consume more calories than they expend on a daily basis. For folks in this category, a caloric deficit is needed to create weight loss.
However, in my 5 years as a fitness coach, I have come across a handful of clients who want to lose weight but were under-eating their calories. By under-eating, I mean consuming below 1200 calories per day. This has become very common among younger women trying to lose weight. They try to lose weight by eating less and going crazy with the cardio….Sound familiar?
It’s easy to assume that a very low-calorie diet would provide enough of a deficit to achieve weight loss, but the opposite is actually true. Under-eating can prevent you from losing weight. Large reductions to your overall calorie count (like dropping from 2,000 calories to 1,000) changes your body’s metabolism. But this isn’t a good change.
But that doesn’t mean you can never lose weight. The simple fix is increasing your caloric intake to an appropriate level.
One of the easiest formulas I use to determine this is your bodyweight multiplied by 13-14. This will provide a maintenance level of calories for most individuals. Maintenance meaning, it’s enough calories to neither gain nor lose weight.
Since an extreme caloric deficit can wreck havoc on your body’s hormones and metabolism, the goal with increasing your calories to a maintenance level is to create hormonal and metabolic balance. Once you have done this, then you can begin to experiment with small reductions in calories (100-300 calories i.e.) to create long-term weight loss.
*On a side note, once have established maintenance, that may be enough calories to start seeing reductions in body weight. You may not even need to worry about creating another deficit. Something to be aware of as you do this.
So, let’s say you weigh 130 pounds and are only consuming 800 calories per day. If we use the formula from above, we’d get this equation: 130 x 13= 1690.
You’d essentially be doubling your total calories. Now, this may seem hard at first but there’s one easy trick I like to have my clients start with when attempting this caloric increase. And that’s increase the protein intake.
If you look at the amount of calories per gram in protein, carbohydrates, and fat it would look like this:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Protein is very hard to store as fat and as an added bonus it is a major factor in healthy nutrition. It helps build muscle, which helps our metabolism go into high gear. Most people do not eat enough protein (main reason, this is usually our first step in our habit based nutritional guidance). Adding more protein will not only increase calories, but it will also get our protein numbers up.
When attempting this caloric overhaul, slow and steady is the key. Using our example from above, it may be hard to take in 800 extra calories right off the bat. Instead, try increasing by a few hundred (200-300 i.e.) to start.
Remember, no matter if your goal is to lose weight, gain weight, or anything in between calories are very important. They provide your body with vital nutrients to function properly and keep you healthy. And your body must function correctly to create weight loss.
So, if it seems like you can’t lose weight no matter how hard you try, track your calories for a few days. You can do this with an app like Myfitnesspal. You might be surprised to learn that you aren’t taking in enough. This simple change could be all it takes to get you back on track to your weight loss goal.