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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Caloric Restriction - Is It The Best Way To Lose Weight?

Caloric Restriction is a very popular weight loss method. But is it the best way to lose weight? Is this the reason why I lost 14lb in one month on my "One Ingredient Diet"?

According to the USDA's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" I should be consuming 2400-2600 Calories a day. I have been consuming an average of 2191 Calories a day. So there it is, mystery solved! It looks like a reduction in caloric intake is the reason why I lost weight.

Not so fast! Lets do some math...

  • 1lb of fat = 3500 Calories
  • Lets say I need 2600 Calories a day to maintain my weight
  • 2600 Calories - 2191 Calories = 409 Calories I am restricting every day.
  • 409 x 7 = 2863 Calories I am restricting every week.
  • 2863 x 4 weeks = 11452 I restricted during the one month.
  • 11452/3500 = 3.27lb I should have lost.
If Caloric Restriction was the reason I lost weight then I should have lost 3.27lb during the one month. But I lost 14lb! Something doesn't add up. It can't be as simple as Calories in, Calories out.

Calories do matter. There have been numerous studies and trials showing that a reduction in Calories will lead to weight loss. There was the "Twinkie Diet" (less than 1800 Calories a day), the "Subway Diet" (around 1000 Calories a day), The Cabbage Soup Diet, Slim Fast, and many more.

What is the one thing all these diets have in common? They don't last! How many of you know someone that has tried one or more of these diets? I can guarantee they didn't stick to it for more than a couple months.

The reason people don't stick to these types of diets long term is because they are starvation diets. You are depleting your body of key nutrients (usually fat and other vitamins and minerals) and depleting your body of energy. Your body needs certain nutrients in order to work properly. When you deplete your body of certain nutrients you will develop cravings. A craving is your body's way of asking for something it needs. Eventually you will give into these cravings and go off the diet. Your body will also slow down its metabolism (rate at which your body makes energy). This is a big reason why caloric restriction (starvation) diets don't work. The body's metabolism will slow down if you restrict your caloric intake too much!

Have you ever tried a low Calorie diet? How long did you stick to it before falling off the wagon?

Did I lose weight because of Caloric restriction? Yes and no. I think it was a factor, but not the entire story.

Tomorrow I will look into low carbohydrate diets and see if this is the reason for my weight loss...


Yeah, I don't buy into the calories in-calories out and nothing else matters theory either.

I couldn't open that calorie chart, but I lost 2.5 pounds a week for 12 weeks on about 2,200 calories a day, and I'm a fair bit smaller than you are, so I'm guessing the chart's inaccurate.

I think your carb analysis is going to be telling, but I think as you delve deeper, you're going to find a few things:

- It's not all about the macronutrients
- It's not all about fat (you lost 14 pounds -- what did your body fat percentage do?)
- What did you change in terms of your liquids (specifically water), and how did that affect your weight?

The other question that I don't have an answer to (and I've never asked anyone to address) is how/why does the weight come off unevenly? While I averaged 2.5 pounds per week, my first week I lost 8.5 pounds. I'm guessing you didn't lose a half pound a day in s straight line.

@Josh I did not measure my body fat percentage before and after the one month. I had two reasons for this: 1. The scale we have here at the club is not very accurate and I don't trust it's measurements. 2. (the more important reason) I don't care what my percentage is. My main goal in this was for increased performance. Weight loss was a side goal. (I knew if I was lighter my performance would increase, ie. more pullups, pushups...)

Looking back I think I should have measured it because I have had a few people ask me that same question. I know the 14lb was not all fat, that would be impossible. There is always a certain amount of muscle loss when losing weight. But, my strength numbers are still going up, so I must be doing something right.

This weeks posts are geared toward why I lost weight, and hopefully dispelling some common weight loss myths. Down the road I will go more in depth about performance and how nutrition plays a role.

As far as why we lose weight unevenly; there are a lot of factors! All the reasons aren't precisely known, but water retention, metabolic rate, caffeine intake... are all factors. That is why I tell my clients to only step on the scale once a week. It can be very discouraging to see you gained a pound from one day to the next! But it happens.

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