Why very low calorie diets don’t work
You must, must, must address your body’s energy needs in order to lose weight and maintain health. Your body burns some number of calories every day to maintain your your muscle and vital functions. In nutrition terms, we call this Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the minimum calorie requirement needed to sustain life at rest—in other words, the amount of energy (measured in calories) you will burn if you remain in bed all day!
You must never, ever eat less than your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) in calories or you will waste muscle.
Please don’t be tempted by 500 calorie/per day fad diets supported with hormones, herbs or for that matter anything called calorie reduction. These and other crash diets put you into severe caloric deficit resulting in, yes weight loss (usually short term), but they also cause health complications and damage to your metabolism long term—and yo-yo weight as your body slows down its metabolism and it is now even lower than it was when you begin to eat more after you end your temporary diet.
But who sleeps in bed all day?
You must, must, must include the fact of getting out of bed and doing something in the number of calories you allow yourself to avoid general damage to your health. So of course there is another fancy name and acronym for that: Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories your body burns each day taking into account your activity level.
And to go over the top, you want to know how much of these calories should come from proteins and how much from fat if carb calories are getting cut.
This nifty tool does it all.
Complete the following tool fields as follows:
- under “Activity Level” choose the best fit:
- “moderately active” if you do something to get your heart rate up 20 minutes or longer 3X per week. Notice there are no “sedentary” or “low” options. You will not lose weight unless you do something to elevate your heart rate into an aerobic range (see below) at least 3X a week with your heart elevated for at least 20 minutes. In practice, this means you must allow 30 minutes of heart-rate-elevating exercise: It usually takes another 5 minutes after you start exercising to achieve an elevated heart rate and you honestly should cool down for 5 minutes after each training session.
- “very active” if you elevate your heart rate as above for 30 minutes or longer most days of the week.
- “extremely active” if you are doing serious endurance training or long aerobic activities.
- select your gender
- leave the “show TDEE” and protein fields in their default settings.
- enter your body fat as calculated in Step 1 or if you have calculated it more precisely using calipers or other then enter that number.
- enter your target carbs from Step 3:
- Kick Start: 100-150 grams of carbs daily
- Fat Burner: 50-100 grams of carbs daily
- Elite Performer: 20-50 grams of carbs daily
- Trim for Life: 80-100 grams of carbs daily
Just know that the higher your calories from carbs, the slower your weight loss. But slow weight loss is healthy and much better than a drastic change you can’t make and keep.
Understanding and using your results:
This probably looks overcomplicated. What you do with it depends on whether you like simple or precision.
The Basal Metabolic Rate is calculated three ways but ignore it. If you are overweight or obese, the Harris-Benedict Formula is considered more accurate. Leaner people tend to approximate the Mifflin-St Jeor calculation. But this just gives you and idea of how many calories you burned by staying in bed all day.
The important number is your TDEE – total daily energy expenditure – as that takes into account your activity level.
What should you eat?
NOW look at the amount of proteins, fats and carbohydrates you should roughly get from food. Pretty surprising?
1. This is probably a bit more protein then you have been getting
2. Increase your healthy fats, a LOT.
3. Don’t succumb or dive into more fat-storage, energy-burn decimating carbs—but do have occasional carrots or other root veggies.
4. Eat unlimited amounts of green veggies.
And please skip the labels that say Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine, or Jenny Craig—these are pricey convenience foods that are still too high in carbs and rely on old-school calorie counting and portion control. They work if you don’t mind going hungry.
Especially don’t go near the 500 calorie per day HCG diet, please. I’ve honestly had to help more people undo the aftermath of this diet than any other. And now you know why.
Carbohydrates are your weight loss enemy #1
Very low calorie fad diets are your weight loss enemy #2
The recipes on this site will help you achieve your carbohydrate, fat and protein goals—do skip the deserts though. Want more? A few of the cookbooks based on the Paleo Diet do an excellent job of helping you cook using a fairly low-carb approach (be selective though, many are sneaking in things that aren’t really Paleo). Try this Paleo cookbook or this one.
Questions? Would you like some help choosing the right foods? Eating more fat? Just ask.
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