“I’m always hungry, but I’m not losing weight.”
“I eat healthy, I don’t understand why I’m not seeing results.”
“I’m so hungry at the end of the day, I can’t help but reach for those nighttime snacks.”
Have you heard the saying “calories in vs. calories out?” When we think of this in terms of weight loss, we think that by eating less than we’re burning, we’ll lose weight. And while this may be true for some, there’s much more that goes into this equation than just that.
We have what we call a resting metabolic rate. This is the calories required to keep you alive (your basic body functions) combined with the calories needed to support your daily non-training activities. If we are a bit more active, like we take the stairs at work or we take our dog for a long walk, that number will go up a little. Combine that with your intentional exercise calories and that is considered to be your ‘calories out’ part of the equation. If we’re looking to drop some body fat, we’ll have our ‘calories in’ be slightly lower than this number.
What typically happens though is that we see this equation and we think, ok, well I want to lose weight faster, so I’ll just create an even bigger calorie deficit. You end up eating WAY less and guess what? You don’t see any results.
So, what happened? Your body is very smart. It knows when it is not getting enough calories in to support its basic functions, so it slows down your metabolic rate to compensate. So instead of your resting metabolic rate being somewhere around 1200 calories, your body has adjusted its resting metabolic rate to somewhere around 900 calories.
Now you’re burning less calories overall AND to top it off you’re also hungry. You’re dealing with sleep and hormone issues and you’re not seeing results which can lead to some serious frustration.
Your body wants to stay in a safe space to support fat loss, and if it feels out of balance, it will adjust your metabolism to do so. So, while we do want a calorie deficit in order to lose weight, your calorie deficit needs to be appropriate to support metabolism and promote fat burning. We need to eat enough but not too much.
While calories in versus calories out is a basic principle in changing your body composition, it’s not as simple as it appears. The goal is to decrease your calories just ENOUGH to burn fat without causing changes in your metabolism.
When I start working with a nutrition client, one of the first things we do is get a baseline for their current nutrition habits. We walk through what a typical day looks like for food: how much they’re eating, what times they’re eating, and what food and liquids they’re consuming. Nine times out of ten, people are just not eating enough. It seems counterintuitive to us to eat MORE food to lose weight, but if you work with your body and fuel it properly, you can start to lose weight without having to be hungry and miserable. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather feel full and satisfied than hungry all the time.
Keep in mind that when you start to add in more food than you were used to eating, your body will need some time to adjust before seeing changes. It can be a few days or weeks to start seeing that fat loss. You’re also going to be eating more food and you’ll probably be feeling full for a while as your body is adjusting. If you’re someone who has been eating a lot of processed foods, which are not really nutrient dense, adjusting to more whole foods, which can be more filling, will definitely take some time.
If you’re guilty of eating less to lose weight and you’re tired of being hungry all the time and still not seeing the results you want, please reach out. At B3 Gym, we work with Registered Dietitians through Healthy Steps Nutrition to make sure you’re getting the right amount of food to get your metabolism in a safe space to help you burn fat.