I just read a very interesting article from burnthefatinnercircle.com which was written by Tom Venuto. Unfortunately the link is for “members only” and I got a sneak peak but I thought I would talk about the main idea of the article.
Most people think that as long as you eat fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. This is true. However, depending on your current weight you could be losing a lot of lean mass (muscle) as well. Many people have it in their head that women should eat 1200 calories and men should eat 1800 calories. While this may be a good average, it doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re a larger woman who has a TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure – the amount of calories you burn in a day including normal means and exercise) of 2800 and you only eat 1200 calories, you are basically starving yourself.
The idea behind the article is that you don’t want to use static numbers to lose weight but instead use a percentage. You also don’t want to maintain the same caloric deficit as you lose weight. Every time you reach a goal or start a new program you should adjust your percentage. This is an excerpt from the article:
The fix is simple, instead of using 500 or 1000 calorie per day deficits as fixed standards, use a percentage, and set up a sliding scale that accounts for your goals, your desired rate of weight loss and your starting body fat percentage.
15-20% below maintenance calories = conservative deficit
20-25% below maintenance calories = moderate deficit
25-30% below maintenance calories = aggressive deficit
31-40% below maintenance calories = very aggressive deficit (risky)
50%+ below maintenance calories = semi starvation/starvation (potentially dangerous and unhealthy if not medically supervised)
This also isn’t as simple as “I want to lose fast” or “I want to lose slow” but it depends on your body type. Lean people have a tendency to lose more lean mass than fat, and fat people tend to lose more fat while maintaining their lean mass. When you start your lifestyle change (NOT a diet) you need to find out where you stand on the body fat scale. If you have a lot of weight to lose – like me – you can start with an aggressive deficit which is 25-30% below maintenance. That means if I burn 4600 calories in a day (I do with my exercise, if not more) than I can safely and aggressively lose weight eating 3220 – 3450 calories each day. But if I lose weight and get to where I only burn 3800 calories in a day, I am not even in the “conservative deficit” anymore, so it will need to be adjusted.
The basic idea is that you should learn your body fat percentage and how much you need to lose, learn your TDEE, and figure out how much you should eat. You should continually adjust the calories as you lose weight and get more healthy until you go from aggressive to moderate to conservative and finally to maintenance.
This may be a “duh” moment for some people, but I never really thought about it this way. Hopefully it is helpful to someone else as well!