Calories are king in my fitness program and believe it or not, you could currently be sabotaging your own metabolism by not eating enough calories and you may not even know it! Does this scenario sound familiar….You decide you need to lose a few pounds so you tell yourself okay, I am going to start my diet tomorrow. Of course by diet, you mean eating less as you figure this will surely get you to lose this extra weight. Tomorrow rolls around and you severely begin reducing your calorie intake and you start going to the gym to exercise on a more regular basis. You manage to continue to do this for several weeks and are quite successful but after week 4 you hit a plateau and your weight loss completely stops! Fed up and discouraged you go back to your old ways. Or, maybe your scenario is a slightly different one, maybe you’re an athlete or a runner eating 1,000 calories a day and wondering why you might be feeling cranky, tired and unable to lose that last 5-10lbs. One of the reasons why the people in the above 2 scenarios are not losing weight is due to a nutrition program lacking in the appropriate amount of calories. By severely limiting their calorie intake, they have wrecked havoc on their metabolism and it has ground to a stop and is no longer working efficiently for them…hence the plateau in weight loss. Like I said above, calories are king and you might actually need to be eating more calories than you think in order to lose weight. Now I know this sounds counter intuitive and goes against everything you’ve read that basically says the less calories you eat the more weight loss you will lose. However, let me explain why it’s so important to be eating the appropriate amount of calories for your body so that you can get past sabotaging your metabolism and on to stoking and revving that metabolism of yours to burn some major calories so that your body ends up working for you instead of against you. So it seems everything we read says to cut calories but if you don’t know what your calorie range should be and instead you’re just mindlessly slashing calories then that is considered reckless behavior in my books. When you don’t get enough calories into your body, it begins to panic and goes into what’s known as “starvation” mode, slowing down your metabolism and fat-burning processes. If it’s being starved of calories, it has to hold onto all of the energy stores and calories that it can. Think of your body as a furnace. If there’s not enough fuel, the fire just simmers for a long time without really burning hot. If you’re not eating enough calories to match your activity level, your body just simmers and no real progress is being made. The danger is that people react to this type of plateau by eating even less, which of course just makes the problem worse and harder to recover from. It’s a horrible cycle that can lead to some serious problems.
The key is to increase your calories with highly nutrient dense food to fuel your body! In terms of diet, I would focus on lean protein sources (chicken breast, turkey breast, egg whites) and lean fibrous carbs coming mostly from non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, yellow squash, green peppers, etc.) Try and limit all starchy carbs from your diet and limit fruit after 6pm, since it contains lots of simple sugars which can affect your insulin levels and hinder your weight loss. Your plan should be sure to include 3 meals and 2-3 small snacks per day so that your blood sugar stays stable throughout the day. Remember to also add weight training to your exercise routine. It can add powerful calorie burning pounds of lean muscle which will keep your metabolism stoked throughout the day!
If your wondering exactly how many calories you should be eating, there are 3 factors involved: Your weight loss goals, your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns via normal, everyday functions), and how much exercise you get. First, calculate your BMR. Next, consider how much activity you get. Add the calories you burn through activity and exercise for one day to your BMR. This is your baseline for daily calorie needs. To lose 1 pound per week (if that’s your goal), you’d simply eat 500 calories less than this number each day. Whatever your baseline is, more than 1,000 calories per day below that (resulting in 2 pounds lost per week) is not a good idea. Your body needs enough nutrition and energy to deal with whatever exercise level you choose. At bare minimum, no matter what, I strongly urge women to not drop below 1,200 calories daily and men to not drop below 1,500 calories daily. Any lower than that and starvation mode – or worse – will almost always kick in. Since menus and eating realities change daily, average ranges work better than absolute percentages. For the most part, depending on your goals, your calorie intake should come from: 40-65% Carbohydrates 10-35% Proteins 20-35% Fats It’s important to try to meet these ranges every day to fulfill your energy and nutrient needs without creating more fat storage. But if you miss these ranges periodically, don’t stress too much, just keep an eye on it and work on improving your habits. Trying to match an exact number – or even a range -- every single day is unrealistic. If your results are within these ranges over time, that’s what matters most. If you need assistance in determining a good calorie range for you based on your current activity level and health I recommend speaking to a nutritionist or dietician to get you started on a healthy program with the right amount of calories so that you are working for your body instead of against it.