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Caloric deficit - Losing body fat vs Keeping it off

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 02, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Hey all, I don't know if I'm going to word this right because I'm not 100% sure about the question in the first place. Basically I feel like I've inferred some of this from other posts but haven't seen anything that discusses it directly.

Onto the good stuff. I know it's not always so simple, but right now I wanted to discuss weight loss through caloric deficit. What I'm wondering is, if you lose fat this way, is the "deficit" now expected to be your new normal, or are you supposed to return to the old amount and still maintain the lowered weight because you aren't "storing extra"?

Hopefully someone gets what I'm trying to ask. I'll try shooting out a way oversimplified example quick -

Say I eat 2000kcal a day and maintain at 200lbs. I switch down to 1800kcal to lose weight, and over whatever course of time I get down to 190lbs and decide I'm happy there and want to stop restricting. At that point if I start eating 2000kcal again would I expect to:

A) return to my normal 2kcal eating weight of 200lbs or B) maintain my weight of 190lbs or C) somewhere in between/something else?

I guess the root of this question is whether it makes sense to set a goal of a caloric deficit for a period of time in order to lose weight, then returning back to normal while keeping it off? My gut (haha) says that might not make sense, but I haven't found a direct discussion on it yet.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 03, 2013
at 06:37 PM

you realize you can add a comment to his answer. You don't have to place another answer

Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 03, 2013
at 03:20 PM

Gosh and begorra. There'll surely be another potato famine if we all did that.

E55f9d7e5cf69fddc6ed5de6b8e94960

(70)

on July 03, 2013
at 01:15 PM

Thanks everyone! I was pretty sure this was going to be a relatively simple answer, and I think I got it: you can NOT return to your original kcal consumption if you expect to keep weight off, though it may make sense to restrict further than you need for your goal weight to cut the pounds off before returning part of the way back.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on July 02, 2013
at 05:02 PM

@BGottfried, weight loss rarely comes with lean mass gain. Generally you're lucky if you can maintain it. Funny when I see 300 pound dudes targeting 230-240 because they plan on losing no lean mass. It takes a lot more lean mass to move around 300 pounds than it does 240.

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:28 PM

AxialGentleman noted. Body fat percentage is important, because you rarely just shed pounds without gaining muscle (provided you're exercising). For a more accurate comparison, you could try using this calculator, which takes into account body fat percentage: http://www.hussmanfitness.org/bmrcalc.htm According to this calc, a 30 year old male, height 72in, weighing 200lbs with a BF% of 25% has a BMR of 1851-1947 (variable). However, a 30 year old male, height 72in, weighing 200lbs with BF% 15% has a BMR of 1994-2079. So BF% definitely matters.

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:23 PM

It's important to note that the decrease in BMR isn't quite as profound as the caloric deficit most people embark on to lose body fat. EX: A male aged 30, height 6'0'' weighing 200lbs has a BMR (ROUGHLY calculated) of 2022.4 kCal. A male aged 30, height 6'0'' weighing 190lbs has a BMR of 1960.1 kCal. So if you cut 200 kCal a day to get to 190, you could add back up to 120 of those kCal (according to this calculator) without regaining weight. Calculator is here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ However, this calculator doesn't take into account body fat percentage, as

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7 Answers

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6
72cf727474b8bf815fdc505e58cadfea

on July 02, 2013
at 04:13 PM

In theory it should be somewhere in between. You need to consume more calories than when you were losing weight because your body was previously making up some of the deficit by burning more fat than it was storing, and now you want it to even out. But you also need to consume fewer calories than before you started losing weight, because a lighter body requires less energy to run (though if you put on muscle, that increases your caloric requirement more than a similar mass of fat).

However, if you lost weight in a way that made your body think you were starving, then it may have reduced your basal metabolic rate. That means you now need fewer calories than if you had always been this weight, rather than going over it and back down. Avoiding this kind of metabolic adaptation is a key concern for dieters of every persuasion -- except for caloric restriction practitioners, who want to lower their metabolism in order to live longer. It's commonly believed that losing weight slowly (i.e., a small caloric deficit) and being active will help prevent it, but I don't know if there's any research evidence for that.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on July 02, 2013
at 05:02 PM

@BGottfried, weight loss rarely comes with lean mass gain. Generally you're lucky if you can maintain it. Funny when I see 300 pound dudes targeting 230-240 because they plan on losing no lean mass. It takes a lot more lean mass to move around 300 pounds than it does 240.

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:23 PM

It's important to note that the decrease in BMR isn't quite as profound as the caloric deficit most people embark on to lose body fat. EX: A male aged 30, height 6'0'' weighing 200lbs has a BMR (ROUGHLY calculated) of 2022.4 kCal. A male aged 30, height 6'0'' weighing 190lbs has a BMR of 1960.1 kCal. So if you cut 200 kCal a day to get to 190, you could add back up to 120 of those kCal (according to this calculator) without regaining weight. Calculator is here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/ However, this calculator doesn't take into account body fat percentage, as

C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

(880)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:28 PM

AxialGentleman noted. Body fat percentage is important, because you rarely just shed pounds without gaining muscle (provided you're exercising). For a more accurate comparison, you could try using this calculator, which takes into account body fat percentage: http://www.hussmanfitness.org/bmrcalc.htm According to this calc, a 30 year old male, height 72in, weighing 200lbs with a BF% of 25% has a BMR of 1851-1947 (variable). However, a 30 year old male, height 72in, weighing 200lbs with BF% 15% has a BMR of 1994-2079. So BF% definitely matters.

2
61a27a8b7ec2264b1821923b271eaf54

(3175)

on July 02, 2013
at 07:45 PM

It's a tough pill to swallow, but if you are maintaining at 200, to get to 180 and maintain there requires a long-term change in eating, ie. less calories.

There are things you can do to lessen the pain. IF until noon every day. Eat plenty of fiber and resistant starch to ensure the healthiest guts possible. Once your guts are healthy, nutrient partitioning becomes more efficient and you will feel fuller on less food leading to long-term weight reduction.

Try one of the fast fat loss 'hacks' like the potato diet...eat nothing but potatoes for 7-14 days, you will lose fat so fast it will make you giggle like a school-girl to step on the scale in the morning, then go back to regular eating, but be mindful about good eating habits.

I was once 250lbs, I've been maintaining at 170 +/-5lbs for 2 years now. I find periodic overeating does not lead to long term weight gain, and periodic undereating does not lead to long term weight loss, but finding a good balance and making small changes that lead to long-term habits have the biggest effect in the long-run. Losing weight is EASY! Keeping it off is harder.

2
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:13 PM

Your metabolism at 190 will be lower than at 200. Contrary to what fat folk say, they do not have slower metabolisms than skinny people.

So if you eat like you did at 200 pounds, you will eventually hit 200 pounds again.

Count your calories, create a deficit of around 500 calories per day (eat less, move more)... easy as it's going to get.

0
Eb5ad630bb366c5f7dcf656810aa3f95

(506)

on July 03, 2013
at 04:55 PM

I agree with AxialGentleman, only I'll add that in your example, weight loss is going to take a long time! Shaving off 200kcals a day is a mugs' game and is how WeightWatchers etc. make their money, you are likely only to be shuffling around your stored glycogen.

If you want to lose weight, track calories on a weekly (not daily) basis and aim for significant cuts - remember, there's 3000 calories (approx) in a pound of body fat so you need to be eating half your recommended calories 3 times a week to lose 1lb.

Even quite strict calorie tracking is so imprecise that if you're trying to reduce your daily intake by 200kcals, you may as well not bother. You'll be paranoid every day, it will feel like massive hard work and most importantly, you won't lose weight!

Look into intermittent fasting and spend big chunks of time with major calorie deficits, then occasionally reward yourself. It works.

0
1b0a3a523de9eeb765c619556573e62d

on July 03, 2013
at 07:36 AM

"eat nothing but potatoes for 7-14 days"

Akman, yeah that sounds realistic to me.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 03, 2013
at 03:20 PM

Gosh and begorra. There'll surely be another potato famine if we all did that.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on July 03, 2013
at 06:37 PM

you realize you can add a comment to his answer. You don't have to place another answer

0
Cbb1134f8e93067d1271c97bb2e15ef6

on July 03, 2013
at 03:36 AM

How you lose it matters. This has been my experience in maintaining a 90lb weight loss from 02-10 and with additional weight loss, for a 110lb total weight loss since Oct '11. I am at the lower end of my optimum weight range. BMI =21.

"Glucose and NEFA were higher, and amylin, leptin and subjective ratings of appetite were lower at week 8 than after refeeding.Conclusions:The circulating concentrations of several hormones and nutrients which influence appetite were altered after weight loss induced by a ketogenic diet, compared with after refeeding. The increase in circulating ghrelin and subjective appetite which accompany dietary weight reduction were mitigated when weight-reduced participants were ketotic.European Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23632752

This is only one factor, but imho, it is a very important factor indeed.

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on July 02, 2013
at 04:47 PM

I started out counting carbs for diabetes control, then switched to counting calories to lose weight. In the end the weight loss cured the diabetes, though the carb counting certainly helped control it when I was obese.

I've maintained my weight for 6 years eating more than I did at 215. I greatly increased my activity to lose most of the weight, and I got hungrier. When I reached my target weight I started eating more while at the same time I kept the same level of activity. Without the activity I'd have to cut my eating by 600-700 kcal/day.

So in sum I like to eat more than I mind the exercise.

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