If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. We know that, right?
But what if that “weight” is actually muscle? We are aware that to build muscle mass (and get stronger) you need to be in a slight calorie SURPLUS, however when you’re dieting and trying to lose fat, eating too much just doesn’t cut it. Being in a caloric deficit is the key for fat loss! You may not spend every single day of your diet in a deficit but on the whole, you need to be eating less than you burn.
So if we reduce our intake to lose fat, then eating a lot less will mean we lose fat faster, right?
Seems logical on the surface but this is simply not the case, in fact, under-eating can be just as detrimental on your physique as over-eating! Like all things in life there is a balance..
Less is not always more, don’t lose out.
Your body can only burn fat at a certain rate (relative to your muscle mass) but if the calorie deficit is too large than you will start lose ALL size (including muscle mass!) meaning all that lean body mass and your hard work will start to disappear as well! Like I said, its balance and means we have to drop the calories to slight deficit and then reassess every week. Ah wait, you thought this was going to be easy…
You can’t fight biology
Your body is designed to change, flex and adapt to its surroundings. This means your metabolism can (and will) adapt to whatever is thrown at it, so if you consistently under-eat your body will simply recognise this and adapt by switching to “survival mode” and prevent fat loss. Hormones will down-regulate, you’ll burn fewer calories, and your subconscious levels of NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) decrease.
You’ll also feel tired, fatigued and irritable. It’s also the reason why many people following extremely low-calorie diets tend to plateau or even gain weight!
How do you have it all?
Simple. Dietary adherence. AKA discipline. AKA hard work. AKA effort! This is the big one!
Too many people think they’re only eating 1,000 calories per day, and then wonder why they can’t seem to lose weight. In actual fact, what they’re doing is probably sticking to this five or six days per week, and binging on the other one or two. Try looking at your caloric intake on a WEEKLY basis or total… this can be a game changer for many people.
By slashing your calorie intake right down, you make yourself hungrier, throw off your hormone levels and increase cravings. A small amount of these is perfectly normal, after all, on a diet we are driving change but the lower your calorie intake, the more you’ll experience hunger pangs and negative effects that WILL drive you to the biscuit barrel.
Willpower only stretches so far, as your body’s physiological and psychological need is for more food to help it “survive”. And so, try as you might, you can’t sustain yourself and ignore the cravings, and so you give in. This normally result in binge where you smash up to 5 times as many calories as you would’ve normally.
This why I preach if you start a diet and know you cannot maintain this for life then it’s not for you.
Is it Ever OK to Under-Eat?
A calorie deficit could theoretically be categorised as under-eating, as you’re consuming less than your body needs.
However, there’s a difference between a small to moderate calorie deficit, where you lose fat, but maintain muscle, strength and sanity! Compare this to a large calorie deficit where you’ll likely lose mass, your performance will decrease and you’re at a higher risk of binging and ultimately taking a backwards step.
I like to encourage my own clients to eat as many calories as possible whilst still being in sensible and sustainable caloric deficit. This might be a slower method than the 8-week turbo cabbage diet, but it’s certainly more sustainable and chances are your results will hang around for longer too. Plus it will keep you with good lifestyle habits.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare…..bare that in mind and keep those hard earned gains for life!