How to Set Up Your Diet for Long Term Success
Do you want to lose weight quick?
Eat 1,000 calories a day.
Want to regain all of it back within a year, feel like crap, and probably get hurt? Eat 1,000 calories a day.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We’ve gotten used to everything being at our fingertips.s. Despite the fact that less than a pound a week of weight loss is normally a healthy progress, it’s just not good enough for us.It should be seven pounds a week!
This skewed mentality makes people try things like detox diets, juice cleanses, supplement protocols, or ultra low calorie diets (aka, starvation diets).
Yes, you lose weight, but what else happens to you? Let’s take a look at what your body composition is made up of.
When you look on the InBody scale, you can see your body composition, which is made up of fat and fat-free mass. Fat-free mass is everything that isn’t body fat, such as protein (muscles and organs), water (blood and lymph), and minerals (bones and iron in blood).
When you choose the all-or-nothing approach, you’re going to break down lean body mass. A study done on mice found that after 3 weeks of eating 50% of their daily caloric needs, they lost weight, but also reduced fat-free mass by 5%. When this state is maintained, muscle and organ size can be reduced by as much as 20%! That includes your heart and brain, and we know that reducing calories to ultra low levels reduces brain function.
When you lose significant fat-free mass, you also start running the risk of reducing your bone density. Not only is this increasing your risk of osteoporosis later in life, you’re increasing your risk of injury right now. Conversely, increasing lean body mass will help increase your bone density.
In an email Devin did a while ago, he went over the Biggest Loser Study where researchers followed up with participants of the TV show Biggest Loser. They found that almost all participants gained all their weight back, but their metabolic rates were actually lower than when they started the show. This was eight years after the show ended for them, so it’s not like the temporary reduction in your metabolic rate typically seen with healthy dieting. Extreme diets followed chronically, reduce your metabolic rate making it easier to regain the weight you lost and then makes it harder to lose weight in the future.
So, cutting calories ultra low is really bad.
But what if you’re stuck right now and don’t know what to do?
Remember Jeff’s email about Minimum Effective Dose on Wednesday? That’s how you want to approach dieting.
While weight loss this way is slower, you can sustain it long term and then maintain it. When you starve yourself to a lower weight, you’re decreased metabolic rate will make it impossible to live a normal life because any time your calories creep up, your body will store it as fat.
To find out how many calories you need to eat each day, you need your lean body mass number (found on your InBody print out) or your body weight (for men under 15% body fat, and women under 20% bodyfat).
Multiply that number by 12 to get your calories for a STARTER diet. So if you have 120 pounds of lean body mass, that would be around 1,440. That’s still pretty low, so you want to double check your estimated basal metabolic rate (BMR) on the right-hand corner of the page (of the InBody printout?).If your BMR is greater than what you just multiplied, use 10% above BMR as your starter diet. So if that same person who we just calculated for has a BMR of 1,500, instead of 1,440, this person will use 10% above the BMR to get a diet starting at 1,650.
Why do we want to start the diet with the highest number of calories possible? Remember, Minimum Effective Dose (MED). The number of calories you start at won’t be the number of calories you end at. As you lose weight, you’ll plateau and need to reduce your caloric intake. If you start the diet with the lowest possible number you can go, you’re stuck.
So, the person above has 1,650 calories, and they lose one pound a week for four weeks. On the fifth week, the weight loss stops. What should they do? Continue being strict for one more week(maybe going out to dinner or a kid’s birthday party caused them to stall). If they’re still stuck on week six, decrease the calorie intake by 10%. Continue this process until one of two things happen:
They reach a diet that is less than 9 calories per pound of body weight or lean body mass
They reach their goal.
If the first point happens first, it might be time to take a short break from dieting. This doesn’t mean going back to what they were eating when they first started. Now it’s time to reverse diet. That means slowly increasing your calorie intake without increasing body fat by a large amount.
To do that, do the exact opposite of what I said to reduce calories. Increase the calories by 10% and stay there for a week or two. Keep doing this as long as the body fat doesn’t pile on fast. If it starts to,pull back and stay at a specific calorie level for awhile.
If you’ve reached your goal, congrats! Now how do you keep it? Follow what I said above about reverse dieting. Slowly increase the calories over time. This will help keep the body fat off, help build muscle, increase energy levels, and feel better overall.
Using this method, women who train consistently (3+ times per week) can push their calorie intakes up to around 2,000-2,500 per day while maintaining lean levels of body fat, and men can push calories higher than that.
The higher calories allow you to have more energy for training in the gym and outside of the gym (hiking, kayaking, running, yard work, house projects, etc), but will also make it easier to diet in the future if you want to get lean for a trip to the beach or a vacation. It’s way easier to cut out calories from a 2,000 calorie diet than it is a 1,400 calorie diet.
One final note, the composition of your diet is very important. Make sure you are eating a high protein diet for weight loss. This means at least one gram per pound of lean body mass or per pound bodyweight, but you can go higher than that. Pushing the protein goal to 1.25-1.5 grams won’t cause you to gain body fat, but it often times pushes out the stuff you know you should be eating less of because protein rich foods are so filling.
To wrap this up:
Don’t cut calories down to ultra low levels.
Find your starter calories and stick with that until you plateau.
When you plateau, don’t immediately cut calories.Make sure you’ve been strict with your diet.
Finally, when you need a break, or you reach your goal, reverse diet for a week or two so you don’t put on all the body fat you just worked so hard to lose.
For any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected]