4

votes

Fat Intake vs. Calorie Deficit

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 04, 2012 at 7:32 PM

How does one juggle eating enough fat on the paleo diet while also staying at a caloric deficit to ensure weight loss?

From what I understand, even when eating a high fat/protein, low carb paleo diet consisting primarily of meat/poultry/fish and vegetables, you still need to be at a caloric deficit in order to lose weight. But please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm just stating what I've read thus far. I understand that 2k calories/day of plants and animals is not the same as 2k calories/day of potato chips and ice cream. And I also understand that your body composition will be vastly different under both of those scenarios. But what I'm most worried about is eating too much fat which translates into X amount of calories and then not being at a caloric deficit and thus not losing any weight.

Am I being paranoid or can someone explain all this to me?

Thanks for helping to all who respond.

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 05, 2012
at 02:04 PM

Totally agree. I was never what you'd call obese, but I'm finding that my body is taking a very long time to restart my "set point" -- it's been more than a year since I got to my ideal weight, but still I'm always just a little bit hungrier than I should be if I don't want the weight to start creeping up again. It may well be that it isn't as simple as "calories in calories out", but I find that calories DO matter.

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 05, 2012
at 02:01 PM

I'm with animaleater here. Some people will undoubtedly find that their "set point" will adjust as they lose weight, but not everybody, and it is dependent on all sorts of other factors -- age, hormones, etc.

Medium avatar

(2417)

on October 05, 2012
at 05:37 AM

Doesn't work for everyone. I am always a bit leaner than most at any calorie level, BUT, I am NEVER satisfied, no matter how paleo, how natural, how healthy, at what macro nutrient ratio, how often, or how much I eat! If I trusted my appetite, I'd never stop eating. When I count calories, I know where I'm at and where I need to go I achieve my leanness goals. To the original posters question, at some point VLC, youll hit your minimum protein intake as you drop calories, an thus you've got to eat less fat. The ratio will begin to skew towards more calories from protein.

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 05, 2012
at 01:20 AM

@ nada - with liquid calories vs solid, the solid fat calories being part of a whole food source will be assimilated differently from the liquid fat due to the greater thermic effect of the solid food, requiring a larger energy expenditure to be broken down. Enzymatic activity will favor the breakdown of solids over liquids. LPL, a fat storing enzyme in the body, can easily and quickly store excess liquid fat when energy requirements are being satisfied by the fat from the whole food source.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 05, 2012
at 01:18 AM

+1 for the brain wiring answer. Getting to where I can trust my appetite is a demonstration of healing, and it may never happen.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 05, 2012
at 12:29 AM

I suspect there isn't one, that is based just my N=1 though. Interesting that Fineman was involved in that metabolic advantage math. I hadn't heard that.

00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3

(2411)

on October 04, 2012
at 11:53 PM

That study is short-term; that's why I was careful (I hope) with my language. Despite Richard Fineman's theoretical metabolic advantage of low-carb eating, there are no long-term clinical trials that prove or disprove his hypothesis. I hope NuSi can fund a long-enough study to test this hypothesis.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:58 PM

Weird, post refreshed with yours and not his. Huh. Sorry about that. For my part I don't think it is smart to add extra fat to whole foods. If you want to be keto focus on fatty meat, eggs, nuts, avocado. People, especially who do un-weighed and un-measured paleo, seem to drastically under-estimate the caloric content of added fat. I've seen people try and lose weight by eating 1/4 cup of coconut oil at a sitting.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:52 PM

I was talking to Eddie.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:52 PM

Is that study short or long term? It seems to me that the 30% inefficiency is probably during keto-adaptation.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:50 PM

@Nada - I'd happily answer any question that relates to what I actually said. I don't really feel it is my job to deal with rather poor attempts to strawman my statement.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:43 PM

and why is the added fat more likely to be stored as fat than the "natural" fat?

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:38 PM

and why would the added fat be more likely to be stored as fat than the "natural" fat?

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:36 PM

why do you think added fat would be poorly metabolized?

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:35 PM

2100 cals seems about right

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:22 PM

Thank you for your answer and for sharing your story. I think I'm just getting a little paranoid only being ~2.5 weeks into being full paleo and being anxious to see results. I have not eaten fruit or nuts, even though they are considered paleo, because nuts are calorically dense and fruit is high in sugar and I have read that it is beneficial to cut these foods out at first if the goal is fat loss.

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:19 PM

I just used your calculation of bodyweight*13=daily caloric requirement. So at ~203 lbs, my daily calorie requirement would be 2639 calories/day. Then reducing that by 20% gives me a target of 2111 calories/day in order to lose weight without sending my body into starvation mode and thus slowing my metabolism way down. Am I on point with this? Do those numbers sound right to you, given my height/weight/age/gender profile? The daily caloric requirement of 2639 cals/day sounded high to me, but what do I know. I've never tried to determine this before and always thought that 2k cals was avg.

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Thanks for the answer, Eddie. Below is a littler background info on my story: I've been pretty strict paleo for ~2.5 weeks now and have seen some decent progress as far as how I look and feel. Definitely feeling less bloated than before. I was gluten-free for about a month prior to going full paleo, so these first couple weeks of being full paleo haven't been too hard for me. I started at about 215-220 lbs and am now weighing in around 202-203 lbs. I think I probably lost ~5-10 lbs during my month of just being gluten-free, and then probably another 5-10 lbs since going full paleo.

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 04, 2012
at 08:25 PM

yes agreed, get the fat from food-based sources (what fat is naturally in the food) rather than adding extra, this naturally occurring fat is also metabolised more readily than added oils which can be more easily stored as fat if consumed in excess. To hit the macro ratios outlined in my post you shouldnt be concerned about consuming protein from lean sources

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9 Answers

6
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on October 04, 2012
at 07:59 PM

If you are eating a diet primarily consisting of fat and protein you can start to trust your appetite to govern your calorie intake, instead of having it confused by refined-carbohydrate induced sugar rushes.

Calorie counting wasn't invented until the 1950s - for most of the time since we've been in the grip of an obesity epidemic. For at least 200 million years before that our calorie intake was governed by our appetite and obesity was rare or non-existant.

I don't believe that carbs make you fat per se, but I do think that (in large quantities) they disregulate your appetite to the extent that you end up taking an excess of calories.

Ignore the calories. Trust your appetite.

Medium avatar

(2417)

on October 05, 2012
at 05:37 AM

Doesn't work for everyone. I am always a bit leaner than most at any calorie level, BUT, I am NEVER satisfied, no matter how paleo, how natural, how healthy, at what macro nutrient ratio, how often, or how much I eat! If I trusted my appetite, I'd never stop eating. When I count calories, I know where I'm at and where I need to go I achieve my leanness goals. To the original posters question, at some point VLC, youll hit your minimum protein intake as you drop calories, an thus you've got to eat less fat. The ratio will begin to skew towards more calories from protein.

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 05, 2012
at 02:01 PM

I'm with animaleater here. Some people will undoubtedly find that their "set point" will adjust as they lose weight, but not everybody, and it is dependent on all sorts of other factors -- age, hormones, etc.

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 08:17 PM

If you are trying to lean out I'd avoid any added oil. That means, lard, butter etc...

I don't see that it is worth while to add tons of extra fat calories if trying lean out. I don't buy particuliarly lean cuts and find a .5-1 lbs of burger has plenty of fat to cook my veggies in.

I don't avoid avocado, eggs, bacon etc... I just don't see adding fat to food.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:50 PM

@Nada - I'd happily answer any question that relates to what I actually said. I don't really feel it is my job to deal with rather poor attempts to strawman my statement.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:52 PM

I was talking to Eddie.

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:43 PM

and why is the added fat more likely to be stored as fat than the "natural" fat?

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:36 PM

why do you think added fat would be poorly metabolized?

2e6e673ce3eb647407d260d4d57a731b

(1021)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:38 PM

and why would the added fat be more likely to be stored as fat than the "natural" fat?

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 04, 2012
at 08:25 PM

yes agreed, get the fat from food-based sources (what fat is naturally in the food) rather than adding extra, this naturally occurring fat is also metabolised more readily than added oils which can be more easily stored as fat if consumed in excess. To hit the macro ratios outlined in my post you shouldnt be concerned about consuming protein from lean sources

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:58 PM

Weird, post refreshed with yours and not his. Huh. Sorry about that. For my part I don't think it is smart to add extra fat to whole foods. If you want to be keto focus on fatty meat, eggs, nuts, avocado. People, especially who do un-weighed and un-measured paleo, seem to drastically under-estimate the caloric content of added fat. I've seen people try and lose weight by eating 1/4 cup of coconut oil at a sitting.

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 05, 2012
at 01:20 AM

@ nada - with liquid calories vs solid, the solid fat calories being part of a whole food source will be assimilated differently from the liquid fat due to the greater thermic effect of the solid food, requiring a larger energy expenditure to be broken down. Enzymatic activity will favor the breakdown of solids over liquids. LPL, a fat storing enzyme in the body, can easily and quickly store excess liquid fat when energy requirements are being satisfied by the fat from the whole food source.

2
00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3

(2411)

on October 05, 2012
at 12:21 AM

In response to borofergie,

While it tempting to endorse the "trust your appetite" approach (Grok didn't need anything but his/her instinct to guide his/her eating), it shouldn't be a general rule of thumb for newbies. People who display the signs of metabolic syndrome (central obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL, and exaggerated post-prandial glucose readings (>140 mg/dl after 1 hour), are likely to have distorted reactions to and preferences for food for a long time after switching to a better diet. A brain scan study contrasting the reactions of anorexics and obese people in response to images of food gives some evidence that obese people are literally wired differently. Although we can re-wire our brains to some extent, it's unclear that the distortions of obesity are entirely reversible. For those new to the paleo way of eating, tracking intake for a few months ensures that they get some empirical confirmation of what appropriate amounts of food are.

Also, regarding whether carbs make you fat per se, that's a topic that's debatable, given studies of the wide range of carbs eaten by indigenous groups today and extrapolations from ethnographic studies and biologic analyses of paleolithic hominid bones. It may be that the location of one's ancestors, particularly Western Europeans, predisposes them to obesity with large consumption of carbs, since their ancestors didn't eat nearly as much of them as those people in the tropics. It may also be the case, as Lustig and Taubes speculate, that excessive refined sugar consumption initially breaks people's carbohydrate processing mechanisms and then makes eating all types of carbs problematic.

792634a784ec6a636c3137d0903e11b4

(1196)

on October 05, 2012
at 01:18 AM

+1 for the brain wiring answer. Getting to where I can trust my appetite is a demonstration of healing, and it may never happen.

366c23d69eadce094a2b22299c58a424

(2988)

on October 05, 2012
at 02:04 PM

Totally agree. I was never what you'd call obese, but I'm finding that my body is taking a very long time to restart my "set point" -- it's been more than a year since I got to my ideal weight, but still I'm always just a little bit hungrier than I should be if I don't want the weight to start creeping up again. It may well be that it isn't as simple as "calories in calories out", but I find that calories DO matter.

2
91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 04, 2012
at 08:04 PM

what are your body composition goals? current height and weight and target weight or bodyfat percentage?

for weight loss you will likely need to be around a 10-20% caloric deficit from your daily caloric requirements in order to keep your metabolism from slowing down on too low of an amount of calories. First figure out that number (try bodyweight in lbs x 13 for a rough estimate), deduct 10-20% from that number, then get your macronutrient ratios in order, maybe starting with the following:

50% calories from fat
35% calories from protein
15% calories from carbs

at an intake of 1800 calories per day this would look like:
fat = 100 grams / 900 calories
protein = 158 grams / 630 calories
carbs = 68 grams / 270 calories

keep your food sources clean, aim for .7 to 1 gram of protein per lb of lean body mass and adjust your fat and carb ratios accordingly based on your body composition goals. This can start you at a good baseline to see if you are in range or headed in the right direction

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:15 PM

Thanks for the answer, Eddie. Below is a littler background info on my story: I've been pretty strict paleo for ~2.5 weeks now and have seen some decent progress as far as how I look and feel. Definitely feeling less bloated than before. I was gluten-free for about a month prior to going full paleo, so these first couple weeks of being full paleo haven't been too hard for me. I started at about 215-220 lbs and am now weighing in around 202-203 lbs. I think I probably lost ~5-10 lbs during my month of just being gluten-free, and then probably another 5-10 lbs since going full paleo.

91119f53c3827f5c7fc90b98cab85b04

(799)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:35 PM

2100 cals seems about right

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:19 PM

I just used your calculation of bodyweight*13=daily caloric requirement. So at ~203 lbs, my daily calorie requirement would be 2639 calories/day. Then reducing that by 20% gives me a target of 2111 calories/day in order to lose weight without sending my body into starvation mode and thus slowing my metabolism way down. Am I on point with this? Do those numbers sound right to you, given my height/weight/age/gender profile? The daily caloric requirement of 2639 cals/day sounded high to me, but what do I know. I've never tried to determine this before and always thought that 2k cals was avg.

1
Ef777978cfeb8fbdd18d75c4f6c4cb23

on October 04, 2012
at 08:38 PM

I'm happy to share my experience. I make no claim that it'll work for everyone. I was about 20lbs overweight and lost the weight over 4 months. I reduced the carbs, no pasta, bread, rice, potatoes or sugar, but kept eating a couple of pieces of fruit a day. Luckily I didn't much fancy alcohol during this time, so only had a couple of glasses of wine at weekends to be sociable. In less than a week I could feel that I was fat-burning.

I am now at a weight I am comfortable with. I'm not super-skinny. I eat when I like & stay off the pasta etc. In the transition phase I occasionally got hungry for fat. I ate double cream with my fruit. Strawberries and cream, anyone?

Now I only get hungry after a big workout, when I eat pretty much what I want.

My feeling is this. It is actually quite difficult to eat a lot of fat if you are not eating processsed foods. If you have got to the point where you know you are fat-burning then your appetite will regulate things much better than before. If you are not there yet, keep your fat intake relatively high, so you don't get hungry. If this means having to postpone your weight loss for a couple of weeks, so be it. It's worth it. If you get the fat-burning right, you can do this for a life-time.

If you eat normal portion sizes 3 or less times a day you will be hard pushed not to create a caloric deficit, if you stay off the carbs and don't eat processed food.

good luck

1719a6d839f02b0e1524449725e70764

(20)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:22 PM

Thank you for your answer and for sharing your story. I think I'm just getting a little paranoid only being ~2.5 weeks into being full paleo and being anxious to see results. I have not eaten fruit or nuts, even though they are considered paleo, because nuts are calorically dense and fruit is high in sugar and I have read that it is beneficial to cut these foods out at first if the goal is fat loss.

0
Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

Occasionally, I track my food intake on Cronometer (there are other sites). I don't do it all the time, but once in awhile to see where I am. This means keeping track of your food intake, but isn't an exact thing. I don't weigh my food, but will think, "I used 3 teaspoons of butter/olive oil/cocnut oil for X today." It just gives you and idea of whether you're doing okay or vastly undrestimating your intake.

0
Medium avatar

on December 08, 2012
at 06:25 PM

People lose weight on paleo diet because it pushes us toward food our bodies evolved to eat. Hence, thus the paleo delivery company I use slogan “eat the way your body was made to.” We did not evolve eating refined flours. Most Americans eat food made from refined flours daily. These foods are loaded with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates turn into fat if they’re not burned right away. Second, refined flours work against us causing spikes in our blood sugar. Why does this matter? These spikes cause our bodies to gain weight. The Paleo Diet helps people lose weight because it eliminates grains and refined sugars from our diet. It encourages muscle growth and balances out blood sugar. Third, carbohydrates cause our cells to hold onto the unnecessary water that comes along with the carbs. People on the paleo diet will not have this excess water weight. Finally, the Paleo Diet can cause weight lose because it removes many of the foods that people are commonly sensitive to: dairy, soy, and refined sugar. Many people are sensitive to gluten and they don’t even know it. Unless the label says “Gluten Free” gluten is a protein that is found in breads, pastas, cookies, crackers, most pastries, tortillas, cereals, granola, and on and on that unless it says “Gluten Free.” Food sensitivities can distress your hormones and thyroid function, not to get deep into it now but these systems have much to do with body weight. Also if we eat foods we are sensitive to, our bodies will hold onto water to use as a buffer to protect itself. So when you take out a sensitive food from our diet, the excess water goes with it.

Hope this helps.

0
Medium avatar

on October 05, 2012
at 05:46 AM

I buy the same cuts of fatty lamb and beef from the same sources regularly. On my VLC/ZC days (leangains rest days) I slap the same grams of meat on the scale every day. As I lower my calories over a cutting leaning out cycle, I trim more and more visable fat from those same cuts of meat. So I keep thing constant and have one variable. As you get lower calories, you'll hit your minimum amount of protein required, do the only thing to give is fat. So added fat is an unnecessary variable, and trimming your fatty meat cuts a little more each week is the only option to lower calories. I eat super lean beef on workout days, with sweet potatoes. On those days, I can decrease carbs to lower calories. Protein intake thus remains constant all days.

0
00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3

(2411)

on October 04, 2012
at 07:57 PM

AFAIK, there are three parts to this answer:

  • The calories in your food
  • The calories you spend processing your food
  • The caloric deficit required to lose weight safely

I'm going to take the issues in reverse order. From what I've read, a 200 cal/day deficit is a safe target for many people. That level encourages the body to use its stored energy (fat) for fuel without prompting a starvation response, leading to slower metabolism and stopping weight loss. But this number is highly individual,varying with gender/sex, age, activity level, reactions to specific foods, and hormonal health.

There's a single study (published in 2012) that gives an indications that a low-carb diet (carbs 30% or less of calories) is less metabolically efficient than a high-carb diet, and so, causes a person to spend about 300 calories/day extra just to meet the body's energy needs.

So, it's plausible that you could eat a 2,000-cal., low-carb, high fat diet and lose weight. But given how different we are metabolically, plus sex, age, and activity variations, it's equally plausible that you would need only 1400 calories to lose weight. You need to track your eating for awhile to see what caloric (and carb) level permits you to lose weight. That's the only way to be definite about how much and what types of foods work for your body.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 04, 2012
at 09:52 PM

Is that study short or long term? It seems to me that the 30% inefficiency is probably during keto-adaptation.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on October 05, 2012
at 12:29 AM

I suspect there isn't one, that is based just my N=1 though. Interesting that Fineman was involved in that metabolic advantage math. I hadn't heard that.

00cd3b6f51530a6832fcda1712edbec3

(2411)

on October 04, 2012
at 11:53 PM

That study is short-term; that's why I was careful (I hope) with my language. Despite Richard Fineman's theoretical metabolic advantage of low-carb eating, there are no long-term clinical trials that prove or disprove his hypothesis. I hope NuSi can fund a long-enough study to test this hypothesis.

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