Do you need more calories or less calories after losing weight?

Answered on January 14, 2014
Created January 12, 2014 at 11:09 PM

I have heard in the past that when you lose weight, you have to eat less calories to lose more weight or to maintain your new weight. This concept seems a little strange to me. Wouldn't you need to eat more calories to sustain your workouts since you are no longer burning as many calories from stored body fat? The more fat I lose, the hungrier I seem to be. I used to be angry at myself when this happened, cutting more calories for fear of gaining weight back. However, that "conventional wisdom" doesn't make sense when I think about it. So, my question is, for those of you who count calories, have your caloric needs increased as your body fat has decreased? I'm curious about your experiences with this.


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3 Answers



on January 14, 2014
at 02:08 AM

My food needs are very reduced. This is a double-edged sword as you might guess. I'm not in dire need of food, as requirements go, but i'm also unable to eat calories above that need. It's freeing and damning at the same time. I lost 100 pounds -fast- a decade ago, and if I had it to do over would do it slower and with weight training included.

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on January 14, 2014
at 12:28 AM

As Bill notes, the less you weigh the lower your metabolic rate. The Harris Benedict BMR equation shows it as a linear relationship. Less weight, lower metabolism.

I saw the same effect you did as I lost weight. Hunger wasn't a big problem when I was obese, nor for the first 25 lbs I lost. Beyond that hunger became a big problem. I started to eat more, and to lose more weight I had to exercise much more than at the start.

I lost an additional 25 lbs and then gave it up. If I had wanted to lose more I believe that I would have had to go to more intense exercise.

When I stopped the weight loss I could eat more than I could when I was losing weight without regain. But that wasn't enough. I was hungry and wanted more, and to do that I had to continue exercising.

Today I eat about as much as I used to eat when I was 50 lbs heavier and I use exercise to maintain my weight. I could probably recondition myself to do less and eat less, but I'd rather exercise for more food. With me, the old eating habits die hard.


on January 12, 2014
at 11:41 PM

Weight loss is usually associated with a reduction in metabolic rate, so you will likely require fewer calories than before. To an extent, this depends on diet; Ebbeling showed that diets lower in carbohydrate and higher in protein tend to blunt this (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22735432). You also burn fewer calories during exercise after weight loss (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19889869).

As body fat declines, so does leptin. This likely explains why you're getting hungrier.

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