Eating Enough Calories While Cutting Calories

Say quoi?

In this post I hope I can address how important it is to eat within the right range of calories to keep your body happy.

These days I feel like I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. I’ll credit a lot of that to eating Paleo and maintaining a balanced protein/fat/carb ratio. I still train and perform in the same circus disciplines I did when I was 16, but I have more endurance and better energy levels than I remember having back then. I don’t stress about my body as much as I used to, now that I know more about how it works. It took more tries than I would like to admit, but I’ve finally learned my optimal eating patterns.

Trial and error has shown that some things are still true, not matter what diet you try:
#1 If you are not genetically gifted, there is no way to keep a low bodyfat percentage without counting calories.
Let me get specific:

  • You MUST meet your calorie requirement for the amount of energy you expend EVERY DAY. Why? Because you will loose muscle and water weight. Ever hear the term skinny fat? Yeah. Yuck. Figure out your calorie needs by going to 2 or 3 online calorie counting sites and average your scores.
    Hint: the average sedentary person uses a MINIMUM of 1000-1200 calories just to live and be. If you exercise, you’re gonna need more than that to stay healthy and maintain muscle. Everyone’s cal requirements are different based on gender, height, current weight, and level of activity. Get calculatin’.
  • You must eat enough to keep your muscle, but you cannot eat buckets of calories willy nilly. Ok? Those of you with naturally fast metabolisms please disregard this. Everyone else, listen up! If you want to look “athletic” you have to build muscle AND keep your calories in check. You can probably maintain your already athletic and trim bod by eating at or above (no more than 300 calories above) the # of calories you need to support your age/gender/height/weight + level of activity.  If you are working to lean out your frame or do some light “cutting” you will want to eat 300 calories less than that #. Be careful, it may seem easy to cut more than that, but it’s better to be patient than to loose muscle or to undercut your athletic performance.
  • The kind of calories you eat will accelerate your progress by a substantial amount! Think clean eating, few processed foods, and balanced macronutrient ratios. Eating the right foods will reshape your body. Think “sculpt”. You can count calories and stay in your healthy caloric range while eating junk, but chances are you’ll have some ill effects in the mood/brainpower department. And there’s a likelihood your body will start getting soft ‘n squishy, even as you drop “weight”. Candy bars are not nutritionally dense. Swap those calories for protein and fruit/veggie carbs.

photo by Insomniac Studios

There is no such thing as being successfully no-carb. Your body will readjust your leptin levels when you don’t eat carbs and your weightloss will stall after the first initial drop. Two days without carbs can be useful between heavier carb re-feed days, but that’s IT. Three days is the MAX! Otherwise you’ll undo all your hard work.

The carb cycling (re-feed system) always works when calories and macronutrient ratios are appropriately balanced!  I picked up this tip when I was following Burn The Fat Feed The Muscle, and it works with any diet. This technique is a bodybuilder favorite. Carb cycling is perfect tool to pair with careful calorie cutting for zapping the last bit of “padding” that covers your abs.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like carb cycling. But I love the results and I know that it works because I’ve used it for plenty of photoshoots. Typically I stick to watching my calories during the week on fitday.com and letting the online calculator make sure my calories from protein are highest and that my calories from carbs and fats are almost even. On weekends or when I’m in a hurry I try to “eyeball” my number of calories and go by the “eat when hungry, stop when full” rule. This doesn’t work for more than a day or two (I’ll err and eat too few or too many cals), but my brain needs a break from counting every once in a while. For me, carb cycling only gets used for extra-special-look-very-toned occasions.

 

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