Why Eating Too Little Doesn’t Always Work For Weight Loss

Hey!

If you’re reading this then chances are you saw the corresponding video on our Facebook Page.

If so, then you already heard that actually WAY too many people nowadays are under-eating for their goals, be it weight loss mainly… Of course there’s always the complete opposite, if you’re putting on weight consistently then it’s going to be due to the amount of food you’re putting into your mouth. Period.

So why can it work both ways you ask? Well it doesn’t actually work the same way, so let’s show you…

Some Quick Science

First of all let’s start at the beginning with an equation showing the 4 categories of energy expenditure for the amount of calories we burn a day:

Energy In = (BMR + TEF + TEA + NEAT) + any subsequent change in body stores (fat/muscle/glycogen)

Where:

Energy in = the energy of we attain from the food and drink we consume.

BMR = Basal metabolic rate – the amount of energy our body uses to function at complete rest (everyday tasks such as breathing, digestion, growth and recovery…)

TEF = Thermic effect of food (the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients).

TEA = Thermic effect of activity (the energy we burn through our exercise of choice.

NEAT = Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (any other activity that isn’t classed as ‘exercise’ such as menial house chores, fidgeting, moving).

Subsequent changes in body stores will occur if we’re not feeding our body what it needs (it has to get the required energy from somewhere, so pick between muscle/fat/stored glycogen).

So as a result:

Energy IN = Energy OUT + Change in body stores.

Something has to happen somewhere, and according to physics we can’t create or destroy mass spontaneously, s0 we can’t just put body fat on if we’re not eating enough to do so… And same on the other side, we can’t avoid a change in body stores (increase in fat) if we’re eating too much compared to the energy we expend.

Yes, there’s actually other ways of putting MASS on, not fat, but mass. Sometime our body can hold onto extra water if we’re ill, had a heavy session in the gym or other factors. Likewise, glycogen which is derived from carbohydrate consumption mainly, binds to 3g of water for each gram of glycogen, bringing excess water into the body.

Now we can visualize there’s only really one way we put on body fat or lose it, and that’s to consume a calorie surplus or deficit respectively…

So Why Am I Eating Too Little?

Well there’s a term called ‘Metabolic Adaptation’ which may be to blame.

Our body is pretty clever and actually can be likened to a thermostat to some degree as quoted by Lyle McDonald, a big figure in the field of bodyrecomposition and weight loss…

That is, that our body reacts similar to a thermostat by reacting to an external condition and our body is set to a specific ‘set point’. This set point essentially being a specific body fat % or a bodyweight.

Whereas a thermostat will react by heating/cooling the house up to maintain the number set, our body will increase or decrease the natural calories burnt in a day to keep close to this ‘set point’.

Consider your weight loss endeavours. The initial weight loss happens after a heavy diet, but then you find you can’t shift as much weight or body fat after a few weeks or months. Well, our body has reacted by decreasing our metabolism to ensure that when excess food becomes available again it can immediately go on it’s way to get to our set point as fast as possible…

Actually, various physiological processes are happening here…

For a start when our metabolism decreases:

  • NEAT = Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is reduced – activities like walking actually burn less calories than usual, or our body prevents us from fidgeting as much to reserve energy.
  • Our Sympathetic nervous system activity reduces. This can slow our heart rate down and conserve energy this way.
  • Hormone production is drastically reduced to conserve energy. Both sex hormones (testosterone and eostrogen) and metabolic hormones like leptin and ghrelin production is reduced (responsible for telling you you’re hungry or full).

Such physiological processes actually result in decreasing the amount of energy you use on a daily basis, so that when you eventually crash and succumb to binge eating that we finally give the body the energy to get back to it’s ‘set point’.

Well that’s a ball-ache, right!?

So what we’re saying is that if we reduce our calories too much then we down-regulate our energy expenditure and have to reduce calories even more to do so…

Yup! But stop there. There’s nothing to be gained from decreasing calories further, other than potential metabolic issues or just down-right shite. your body will be trying to run on fumes.

It’s been proven over and over again that if we eat too little then we actually hinder our efforts to lose the fat at all, and actually just crash our body and ultimately relapse…

But there’s light at the end of the tunnel. A tunnel where you can actually eat more food and effectively reset our ‘set point’ and allow us to eat more and lose weight…

 

 

So What Do We Do Instead?

The best thing to do is to do what’s called a ‘reverse diet’…

That is to slowly reintroduce calories back into our diet slowly. Literally increase your diet by 100 kcal a week and let your body adjust and respond to these extra bits of energy we give it. It’s been shown in a number of experiments that actually when we’re consistent, our ‘set-points’ of calories needed in a day can increase over time when we slowly reintroduce calories.

This means that eventually we can eat more and more calories, give our body the energy it needs to work the necessary healthy processes to function, and then can we start a diet again, but now from a  MUCH more healthier baseline.

Essentially you can go from consuming 1300 calories and having a fair bit of body fat to slowly increasing calories patiently over time (weeks & months) to, say,  2500, and if you go slowly enough your body will recognise this 2500 calories as it’s new set point.

You’ll end up fidgeting more (increasing NEAT) to burn excess energy, we’ll end up producing the relevant hormones for optimal health and we’ll stop suppressing our nervous system. All of this will consume the the calories we’re finally giving our calories now.

And now when we’re at this much MUCH healthier set point, only now should/can we start a slow calorie restriction to lose body fat we wanted to in the first place.

The BEST thing about this method is also the ability of the body to burn the body fat as we increase calories over time. You may find, and it’s been shown time and time again, that becauase our body is now efficiently utilising all our fuel, that it starts the fat burning processes anyway.

WINNER, right!?!?

The issue is that’s it’s been so ingrained that we need to consume less calories to lose body fat that we go into a vicious cycle!!

I’ve even seen one client with a trainer I know go from 1700 calories to 3500 calories over the period of 6 months and lose a tonne of body fat before she even. CHECK HERE!!!

How much better is it to actually lose the weight you want and eat more!! Because it’s possible… We just need to stop restricting food on ourselves and give our body what it requires!!!!

Closing Words:

This is a plea. Just to ask you to try a different way. A lot of you would make a lot more progress if you got out of a restrictive mindset. This doesn’t mean stuff your face though, this means track your food intake and slowly increase it by 100 calories a week and observe the body changes.

Try something different for a change, cause restricting our diet certainly isn’t helping you do it and a restrictive diet certainly isn’t helping you in your day job or gym either…

What do you think?

Keen to give this a go? 🙂

Dan x

 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19386028

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/4/807/4564599

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