Why We Aren't Cutting Calories (Yet)

Just because you hired a nutrition coach and put “fat loss” as your goal, it doesn’t mean you’re going to start a caloric deficit right away.

I try to put my clients on maintenance calories most of the time when we first start together (excluding special scenarios like yo-yo dieters and chronic dieters/under-eaters).

What are maintenance calories? They are a calculation of how many calories you can eat to maintain your current weight within a few pounds after considering your activity level, age, weight, and height. Maintenance calories are FLUID. They are NOT set in stone. Most people have a range where their maintenance calories fall into. You CAN work with your coach to make your maintenance calories HIGHER (a post for another time), thereby making your future efforts towards dieting more flexible. 

I place clients at maintenance for a variety of reasons.

First, I need to see if my clients’ bodies are ready for a cut. If they’re even sensitive to calorie cutting. Nutrition for the most part should be periodized. Meaning that we can enter caloric deficits if we’ve been eating at maintenance for a good chunk of time, AND if other factors like sleep, stress, health markers, etc. have been addressed and are in a good place.

For example, if I get a client who has chronically dieted their whole life and/or are stressed the F out - cutting calories isn't going to work for them like it used to. They’re going to have to keep slashing their calories lower and lower, or they’ll have to add in a TON of cardio to try and lose weight. And that’s NO way to live! Why make yourself that tired, hungry, and miserable all the time if you don’t have to!?

Plus, living in a chronic caloric deficit for an extended period can increase cortisol, increase inflammation, decrease leptin, increase ghrelin, our metabolism adapts to lower calories.... the list goes on. Long story short, this causes issues with thyroid function, sex hormone production, digestion, sex drive, energy, sleep, immune system, and cognitive function…just to name a few. So yes, you NEED to return to maintenance after your cut!!!

Second, I need to see that my clients have the skills in place to track their macros consistently. Folks need to show they can stick to their targets *most* days during the week, handle social situations, handle stress/other emotions that may impact our eating habits, manage travel, etc., all at a higher caloric intake. If we haven’t mastered the skills we need to master at a higher caloric intake, then things could end in a bit of a train wreck at a lower caloric intake. Consistency is a skill that takes practice - and this is a huge part of our nutrition plan. 

A lot of folks are impatient to cut. They want to see results NOW. But I’m not in this to give my clients short term results. I want them to see their results last for the REST of their lives. Period. 

Author: Megan Markoff, Black Iron Nutrition Coach, @meganmarkoff