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  • eat more vs eat less, metabolism and fat loss

    It's been my experience in the past that simply eating less makes the fat come off. But there is a cost. Your metabolism slows down.

    Now days I've been eating 1000 extra calories per day than usual, but not gaining weight. I wondered why. (Previously my calorie intake was rather low, and I'd have to cut calories down even further to lose weight.)

    And this also goes right along with what a few others asked me. They wanted to know why they were eating so little and still not losing weight.

    I think I've figured out the answer to both questions.

    When you cut your calories severely for an extended period of time, the metabolism slows down. Also, the more times you diet, the more resistant your body can become to fat loss. This can be troublesome and cause frustration.

    In order to lose weight you have to consume less calories than you burn. This still applies, even with a slow metabolism. And knowing that, one would realize that a possible solution at that point would simply be to eat even less. Surely that would work, but wouldn't be a comfortable process. Clearly there are other options. If you can find a way to keep your metabolism from dropping while dieting, you've solved the problem.

    So one thing I would argue is that in many cases people are just kidding themselves about how much they're eating vs how much they need. I've seen it with my own eyes. The person tries some sort of strategy, thinking they are doing it right, meanwhile their calories are still WAY too high and they wonder why it isn't working. It's because they aren't being realistic and they really just need to eat less.

    On the other hand, you've got dedicated dieters who have seen the results, but have eventually stalled, even though their calories are rather low. In such cases, their metabolisms are too low. The solution? Well, they could just eat even less, and it would work, but I think I have a better idea. Do what you have to do to increase or maintain the metabolism. While dieting, one could simply include 1-2 high calorie days, and that would help maintain a good metabolism. High intensity exercise also helps keep the metabolism high.

    As you can see, this idea is a lot more realistic than the fairy tales that people always tell themselves that don't work. How many times have you heard the idea to keep eating more and and more frequently in order to keep your metabolism high? I suppose it works if your only goal is to keep the metabolism high, but it isn't necessarily going to result in shedding the fat. Why? High metabolism or not, you still have to be in a calorie deficit to cause fat loss; there's no way around it.

    So, to sum things up:
    You still have to cut calories in one way or the other to lose weight. (Hopefully you've found a comfortable way to accomplish this.) You have to. There is no way around this. Unfortunately this causes the metabolism to slow down, so you have to have a way to combat this. Eating more all the time can't be the solution because it would cancel out the fact that you need to create a calorie deficit. Instead, include a few high calorie days and the problem is solved. Also, include intense exercise as well.

    I hope that clears up a few questions for anyone and possibly throws out some ideas. I know I've definitely learned something both last year and this year already. Eating less works. But eating more once in a while helps too, because it makes it so you don't have to take "eating less" to the extreme.

    Note:
    Please don't take this out of context however. Eating more to restore the metabolism is only applicable to those who have already been eating less. Everyone else needs to eat less first.

  • #2
    When you lose weight there's going to be a metabolic slowdown no matter what. A smaller body burns less calories than a larger body. A further metabolic slowdown on top of this can occur if you have been dieting too extremely but is mostly overestimated by people. It can also be mostly prevented by carb refeeds.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ripped View Post
      While dieting, one could simply include 1-2 high calorie days, and that would help maintain a good metabolism.
      When I look at people I know who have maintained a healthy weight their entire lives, they all eat this way. Most days they eat quite modestly, probably a little under their daily calorie requirement. And then when they go out to dinner or on vacation or some other random occasion, they eat more. They don't think too much about it or feel badly about stuffing themselves or feel badly about going back to eating more modestly afterward.

      Dieters call that calorie cycling or carb refeeds, but I think that's a mistake. I think it puts your head in the wrong place. It's just eating like a thin person.
      50yo, 5'3"
      SW-195
      CW-125, part calorie counting, part transition to primal
      GW- Goals are no longer weight-related

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Forgotmylastusername View Post
        When you lose weight there's going to be a metabolic slowdown no matter what. A smaller body burns less calories than a larger body. A further metabolic slowdown on top of this can occur if you have been dieting too extremely but is mostly overestimated by people. It can also be mostly prevented by carb refeeds.
        This is exactly what I'm talking about. I don't think there is anything wrong with dieting extremely, if fat loss is needed. If anything, and this is based on the studies I have seen, (if you're of normal weight or over) eating less should actually be more healthy for you and might even help you prevent diseases and live longer.

        However, I am convinced by now that if one is dieting severely, a periodic refeed is very helpful in keeping the metabolism high. Sure, you can still continue to lose fat without it. But you'll do a lot better with the refeeds.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by LauraSB View Post
          When I look at people I know who have maintained a healthy weight their entire lives, they all eat this way. Most days they eat quite modestly, probably a little under their daily calorie requirement. And then when they go out to dinner or on vacation or some other random occasion, they eat more. They don't think too much about it or feel badly about stuffing themselves or feel badly about going back to eating more modestly afterward.
          Sure. They also fast naturally just the same, without worrying about it.

          Originally posted by LauraSB View Post
          Dieters call that calorie cycling or carb refeeds, but I think that's a mistake. I think it puts your head in the wrong place. It's just eating like a thin person.
          I think that makes perfect sense for general long term maintenance. That's actually how I eat. And it works.

          However, for someone who needs to kick themselves in the but to diet temporarily to lose weight, it does make sense. For example, if you needed to drop 10 lbs, it might take several weeks along with making your diet a bit more strict on the calories during that time period. The strategy can still be dirt simple, but you still have to have a plan of action. And I think within such a plan, it "might" be helpful to include purposeful refeeds.

          I guess the way I see it is, strict dieting is for when you have a little bit of weight to drop. But ordinary eating is for when your just maintaining. And after all, who needs to diet? Anyone who in previous years made the mistake of getting fat. And anyone who is already in great shape and wants to show further improvements.

          I'm just saying. I agree with you. But there's also a time and place for a diet.

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          • #6
            Great write up. Thanks Ripped!

            Originally posted by LauraSB View Post
            Dieters call that calorie cycling or carb refeeds, but I think that's a mistake. I think it puts your head in the wrong place. It's just eating like a thin person.
            Love this. Think it's the ideal attitude for gradual, long-lasting weight loss, or maintenance.
            "I think the basic anti-aging diet is also the best diet for prevention and treatment of diabetes, scleroderma, and the various "connective tissue diseases." This would emphasize high protein, low unsaturated fats, low iron, and high antioxidant consumption, with a moderate or low starch consumption.

            In practice, this means that a major part of the diet should be milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, fruits and coconut oil, with vitamin E and salt as the safest supplements."

            - Ray Peat

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Ripped View Post
              I hope that clears up a few questions for anyone and possibly throws out some ideas. I know I've definitely learned something both last year and this year already. Eating less works. But eating more once in a while helps too, because it makes it so you don't have to take "eating less" to the extreme.

              Note:
              Please don't take this out of context however. Eating more to restore the metabolism is only applicable to those who have already been eating less. Everyone else needs to eat less first.
              Thanks for posting. I am glad it was referenced in another thread or I would have missed it.

              I was chronically low I think. But I was full. And PB spells out the refeed part, but it didnt register with me - so it's totally my own fault. So now I am trying to find my groove again, and paying attention to the calories also, and trying to make sure I have some higher days. My trouble now is though, I still have trouble eating up to maintenance But I do have days higher than before, but still only on the upper end of my range for losing weight.

              But that has been easier since I switched macros around & have added in exercise. The exercise just makes me hungrier.

              A few weeks ago, I bought Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle where he discusses all this, just so I could understand it better and apply it.

              There is also this calculator that I refer to sometimes, and when I first punched in my numbers, I was still eating under the recommended calories, much less the maintenance level. But I am working on it.

              Calorie Calculator - Daily Caloric Needs
              Last edited by gopintos; 02-18-2013, 07:25 AM.
              65lbs gone and counting!!

              Fat 2 Fit - One Woman's Journey

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              • #8
                Totally agree! I always referred to it as calorie cycling (theme of the forum today!). I mentioned in the other thread how it made losing my first 90 pounds more pleasurable. I even run a group for it on Spark People with several hundred members, haha. I think it makes perfect sense to change things up and often, including activity, fasting, etc. Variety is good and makes things interesting.
                | My (food) Blog | Follow me on Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter |

                “It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” - Samuel Adams

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                • #9
                  How many days/weeks/months does it take of not a lot of food to affect the metabolism? If I have 10lbs to drop, and I am restricting carbs and calories, when should I consider a cal/carb refeed? After a month? A week? A day?

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                  • #10
                    Avg calories in the last seven days: 1428/day. Highest calorie day: 2887. Lowest calorie day: 722. It's not what you ate yesterday that determines your weight, it's what you ate this last year.
                    "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

                    B*tch-lite

                    Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JoanieL View Post
                      It's not what you ate yesterday that determines your weight, it's what you ate this last year.
                      I must have ate a fat women. Wish I would have opted for the skinny biatch instead
                      65lbs gone and counting!!

                      Fat 2 Fit - One Woman's Journey

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                      • #12
                        as a 43yo male at 5'10 and 207lbs , I have yet to drop a pound the last 6 weeks and yet I'm eating 1600 cal a day. Maybe a high calorie day once in a while would help?

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                        • #13
                          Do calories matter? « The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D. The Eating Academy | Peter Attia, M.D.
                          The Champagne of Beards

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                          • #14
                            Attias article is beyond the point, but I agree that nobody need to count calories, but if weightloss is the goal then everybody must eat LESS than the body need for maintaining its weight, so portion control can work just as good! Estimating your daily calorie expenditure and creating a deficit can be a useful tool when setting up a diet , but there after is it fully possible to manipulate weightloss by reducing portions when stalling etc...
                            "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

                            - Schopenhauer

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by aimlow View Post
                              How many days/weeks/months does it take of not a lot of food to affect the metabolism? If I have 10lbs to drop, and I am restricting carbs and calories, when should I consider a cal/carb refeed? After a month? A week? A day?
                              I'm not really sure. It's been my experience that if I reduce calories I'll steadily lose weight for several weeks until fat loss stalls. My bet is that's probably how long my body typically takes to adapt to the lower calories.

                              But anyways, I do know a lot of diets prescribe one refeed day per week, and a lot of people have had success with that. I know once weekly seems rather arbitrary. It's just a strategy and I don't think there's an ideal number you can put on it anyways.

                              Also realize that if you do it too often your only canceling your diet out by eating too much all the time. I think that's why once per week seems reasonable from a strategic perspective.

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