Welllllll, it depends.
Lowering your energy input by eating less calories will result in weight loss in the short term. Hopefully this loss of weight is body fat and not muscle because you are resistance training right??
Raising your energy input by eating more calories will result in weight gain in the short term. Again, hopefully adding mostly lean muscle resistance training and not too much body fat. I have never heard of someone who wants to put on body fat.
But it isn’t that simple in the long run.
If you have every been on a diet or restricted calories purposely or just simply ate less food you know that eventually your body will stop losing weight. It just stops and then you cut calories again and maybe lose a few more lbs. Maybe you can do this cycle a few times over a 6 or 9 month period and then it everything stalls and you don’t know why.
Eventually, just eating less food simply does not work.
Your body adapts to the new caloric intake you are providing it and if you are consistently eating less calories than your body needs to survive your body relaliates to your little ‘diet plan’ by storing those 900 or 1200 calories as fat.
So, when you are complaining that “I eat less than I was eating 1 year ago but weigh more!!” You, have essentially been slowing down your metabolism enough to the point that everything (or at least some it) you eat is stored as body fat.
You are not doomed though!! Don’t give up, please don’t give up.
This is when that new popular concept of “eat more to lose weight!!” has really taken off. But, hold on a minute.
Eating more food just doesn’t make sense to lose weight in the short term….in the majority of cases. Increasing your total caloric intake from 900 calories to 1600 calories because your doctor told you to or because your Myfitnesspal app said so will probably result in quick weight gain. Now, some of this weight gain will be water, but some could be fat gain. This is not what you want.
Here is what you should do:
- First, you need to actually make sure you are under-eating. This means accurately logging your food and total caloric intake not just on Monday through Thursday, but also on the weekends. Remember, 1-2 days of binge eating can offset 4 days of being in a calorie deficit pretty easily. If you aren’t binge eating on burgers and pizza and ice cream after not eating all day you might be under-eating. I do see some people who are under-eating and have some metabolic slow down, but I also see some people who simply record their food intake wrong and believe they are under-eating, but are not.
- If you find that you are under-eating and this may take a coach or nutritionist helping you figure this out, then it is time to reverse diet. This means slowly adding food back into your diet. By, slowly I mean no more than around 100 calories per day each week, while scale weight maintains. If scale weight is going up, then you are increasing calories too fast. This process takes patience 🙂
- Get more active!! There are two ways to improve your metabolism: eat more and move more. Hopefully, part of your moving more is resistance training. If you start to gain more muscle then your metabolism has to improve. What do I mean by metabolism improving? I mean that your body will start to burn more calories so you can afford to eat more and not gain weight. OMG that sounds fun doesn’t it?
- Try some sort of calorie or carb cycling where you eat different amounts of carbs and/or calories on different days depending on your activity level. This works great when you have hit a plateau.
I am a good example of this. This winter as I dropped from 200lbs to around 180lbs I was eating on average 2600-2700 calories per day over a 7 day span. This included 6 days at 2100-2400 calories and 1 day at 3500+ calories…….see how that one high calorie day bumped up my daily average. Crazy. I stopped my weight loss around 180-182lbs.
For the past three months I have been adding calories back into my diet. I began at 3200 calorie average and am now at 3700 calorie average each week. Up around 1000 calories per day on average. Guess what my weight is?
182-183lbs. No real scale weight change. I am even shocked!
How??? Well, my thought is that I have more exercise volume meaning I am lifting a larger total amount of weight each week and my metabolism is simply running more efficiently because I am not hungry all the time. My body is burning more calories now because I am feeding it more and my workouts are more intense. I have more muscle on my frame than 6 or 12 months ago and can simply eat more food without gaining weight. Where do I go from here? I need to keep adding in more calories….slowly…if I want to gain weight. This weight being as much muscle as possible.
The takeaway from this and from my experience over the past year gaining weight, losing weight and now purposely gaining weight again is this:
- Eating less food will cause short term weight loss, as in over the next 2 weeks or 2 months or 9 months. Eventually eating less isn’t enough.
- Eating more won’t usually cause short term weight loss, but it will aid in long term weight loss since your metabolism is improving. IF……
- You MUST be moving more and gaining muscle from resistance training to be able to eat more. If you simply eat more and lay on the couch all day…well that just isn’t smart. This is the obesity epidemic that is hitting the United States.
I would rather make the ‘sacrifice’ of doing more intense exercise (lifting heavy weights) so I can eat more of the food I enjoy eating and think of my health and weight in the long term…instead of starving myself to only see short term weight loss. What sounds better to you?