Weight Loss: When Calories and Cardio Don't Cut It
Recently, I've come across more and more new clients who have been eating 1200-1400 calories for A LONG TIME. I'm talking months, maybe even a year or more. And they tell me that they want to lose weight. My first reaction is to hit the pause button on that conversation.
Here's the thing. To maintain the benefits of working out and calorie cutting, you need to stay sensitive to them. How do you stay sensitive to them? Well you don't do those things all the time. Why? if you start to restrict your calories consistently, your body is going to adapt, and cutting calories or doing more cardio isn't going to work for you like it used to.
Let's use your caffeine intake as an analogy. If you're a regular coffee drinker, you need your usual amount to be at your baseline energy levels. That might be two cups for some, or a whole pot of coffee for others. Without it, you're going to experience withdrawals. What this means is that your body has adapted to caffeine and expects it every single day. Take away your coffee for a week or two, and I bet you that the effect of caffeine will be WAY more intense then it was. And you won't need to drink that pot of coffee anymore for energy. A single cup might be sufficient to get you going.
How can we relate this to calories and exercise? If your body is used to being in a caloric deficit or is used to doing hours of cardio, then those things are NOT going to have the same effects they once did. You're going to have to cut more calories and add on more cardio to your routine. Even worse, you're most likely doing a number on your thyroid and metabolism. Everything in your body will down-regulate, and you may end up in starvation mode where your body tries to hold onto every ounce of fat it can. Fat loss stalls.
Can we fix this? Yes. How? BY GETTING OUT OF THE CYCLE OF CUTTING CALORIES AND DOING HOURS OF CARDIO. Let go of your short-term weight goals and focus on your long-term health.
I gradually increase a client's calories every two weeks or so. We discuss easing off working out intensely for a short while to allow your body some much needed rest and to lower your stress levels. You should eat at maintenance (no weight loss and no weight gain) for a good chunk of time. We'll focus on food quality and food variety. This includes eating whole, minimally processed foods, 100% grass fed protein, and a variety of fruits and vegetables so you get a wide range of micro-nutrients in your diet. Some people say 3 months is enough, but it can take others much longer to recover. As you recover, you'll begin to notice incredible things, like a big boost in energy levels, improved mood, an increased libido, and better sleep quality, just to name a few. Your quality of life will improve dramatically.
Eventually, your body will leave its addiction mode to cardio and dieting. Once it does, we can chat again about going into a short cut, if your goals still align with that. But we will do so in a sustainable and safe way while focusing on your long-term health.
Author: Megan Markoff, Black Iron Nutrition Coach, @megmarkoffcoaching