Calorie Cycling: Are you cutting out TOO MUCH?
Today I want to take a second and talk about weight/fat loss and dieting. While I always drive people to have performance goals, a great percentage of the clients I deal with do have weight loss goals as one of their reasons for wanting to start with training.
Some are completely aesthetic goals. Some are health related.
But whatever the reason, weight loss is a very common goal.
And many people think that weight loss or body fat loss means cutting everything out.
But can cutting out TOO MUCH actually be the reason why they aren’t seeing results?
If you cut out too much, your body is going to think it is starving. And when your body thinks it is starving, it is going to try to slow everything down so that it can protect the stores that it has.
AKA your metabolism slows down, which fights against you losing the weight/fat you were trying to lose.
Not to mention that if you aren’t fueling properly, your body is going to be stressed, which will negatively affect your hormone levels.
And you aren’t going to have the energy to workout or even really make it through the day functioning at a high level.
All those hours you are putting in at the gym may not be paying off because you don’t really have the energy to push your body to work as hard as it needs to for you to make the strength/muscle/cardiovascular gains you are looking to make.
And I bet you are now shaking your head, thinking, “But I need to really cut calories or I won’t lose weight! Even Bob Harper’s diet says to eat only 800 calories a day for three weeks!”
If you eat 800 calories a day and expect your body to function at a high level, you are kidding yourself. At that rate, you are going to stall very quickly and your body is going to revolt.
Plus, 800 calories from meat and veggies is going to affect your body way differently than 800 calories of M&Ms. You are going to see drastically different results if you eat the RIGHT FOODS.
You now may be thinking, “Ok so you are one of those “quality matters more than the number of calories.”
I do think creating a calorie deficit matters. BUT I think that quality of the food you consume matters just as much.
And while I’m a fan of low carb, I do believe that cutting out too much of ANYTHING, be in calories or a macronutrient, for prolonged periods of time leads to plateaus and potentially even backslides.
So what do you do if cutting out a ton of calories isn’t the way and it isn’t only about eating the right foods?
I call it carb cycling, but it could very well be described as calorie cycling as well.
I meet my body’s needs.
And every day my body doesn’t need the same thing.
Some days I completely deplete my glycogen stores. I do a super tough workout and have had a few days of lower carb. And now my body needs carbs.
And if I don’t do a carb refeed, I’m going to be a grouchy low-energy person. I’m going to be angry and not very fun to be around. My workouts will suffer and that will only serve to make me more peeved.
So I avoid letting that happen.
I do a carb refeed. I respect what my body needs.
Just like I respect the fact that on some days my body wants breakfast and on others it doesn’t. Some days it needs 3,000 calories and other days it is fine with only 1,500.
And the thing is, your body functions best when it is getting what it NEEDS!
If you want to lose fat, if you want to lose weight, yes, you’ve got to make changes to your diet. And yes, you will need to create a calorie deficit at points, but you’ve also got to respect what your body needs to keep functioning at a high level.
Because when your body functions well, it will also do a good job of losing the weight and performing well.
But on top of that, cutting out “enough” calories to lose weight, or cutting your carbs, doesn’t mean you do it to the same extent EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Cycle in high days. Cycle in low days. When you workout, fuel your workout. Replenish your body.
When you don’t workout, don’t give it calories or foods it doesn’t need.
The cycling allows you to create the calorie deficit and/or carb fluctuations you need over the weeks, months, or even years to lose the weight/fat without your body feeling deprived or stressed so that your hormone levels and metabolism work against you.
If you’re progress has stalled, take a look at your diet. You may just be cutting too much out.
Just like we vary our workouts to create some “muscle confusion” since our body adapts, we need to vary our diet since our body will adapt and try to prevent starvation if we cut out too many calories.
Have you ever suffered from the, “If I barely eat I’ll lose more weight” mentality?
When did you realize that NOT STARVING yourself actually led to greater results!?! (Maybe right now…..)
NOTE: STOP WEIGHING YOURSELF EVERY DAY! If you cycle calories and carbs, your weight will fluctuate day to day. Pick one day a week or even each month to weigh. Do not put it right after your carb refeed.
Posted on July 9, 2013, in Conventional Wisdom - How I hate you, Diet and tagged calorie cycling, calorie deficit, carb cycling, counting calories, cycling, diet. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
Great post and great advice. It really is in line with the “food is fuel” mentality – more activity, more fuel and less activity, less fuel.
Absolutely. I always say if you are trying to lose weight you should eat as many calories as possible while still losing weight, and stop trying to lose it so fast!
Yes! So many people think they will just starve themselves to lose the weight quickly so they can be “done,” but it doesn’t work that way!
Slow and steady wins the race!
“Done” is right, there is no done!
I have never understood how people could follow low calorie diets and still workout. I guess it depends on your body, but I know that if I don’t get about 1500-1600 calories I am dragging and my workout suffers. Plus on big training days my body wants MORE!
Yea. If my body says “FEED ME,” I must listen!