How to Become a Millionaire
We have all heard that you have to “burn more calories than you take in to lose weight.” Yet why do so many people struggle to lose weight, if doing losing weight is supposed to be so simple? Unfortunately that statement simply states the obvious, it doesn’t tell us anything about how to take in less than we burn. In a way it’s like saying “to become a millionaire you have to make a million more than you spend.” Again this statement is obvious, but it doesn’t tel us anything about how to make a million dollars. With this mantra in mind, people set off in search of calorically light foods, and restrict themselves whenever possible. They also tend to do hours and hours of excessive activity in an attempt to burn more.
Sticking with the money analogy, this would be like trying to work as many hours as possible, without knowing what your hourly rate is, and spending as little money as possible even though you have no idea how much you have (and potentially not spending money on necessities) In fact, eating is a lot like balancing your financial budget (hopefully that’s something you do). Most of you know how much money you earn through work, as well as what your expenses are (mortgage/car payment/cell phone, etc…). Do you know how many calories your body needs to be healthy? Do you know how many calories you burn a day? Bonus question: do you know what happens when you cut your calories too much? Let me answer that in the form of a question: Is it worth selling your house and living on the street in an attempt to spend less money? No, it’s not. Just like severely cutting your calories in an attempt to lose weight isn’t a good idea either.
Balancing the Budget
We all have a “basal metabolic rate” (BMR), which is how many calories we burn throughout the day (this is without exercise factored in). There are several factors that effect your BMR, including your age, height, weight, gender, and LBM (lean body mass). The more you weigh, particularly if that weight is predominantly muscle, the more calories you naturally burn. As you age, your metabolism naturally slows down, so older you are, the lower your BMR will be. Let’s take a look at what the numbers say…
Using a generic BMR calculator, a 40 year old woman, weighing 180lbs at 5’5 needs to eat 1,555.5 calories per day, just to maintain her body’s tissues. This is if she is extremely sedentary. Let’s say she joins a gym and starts exercises 3x a week. The extra stimulus will require a greater caloric intake. Using the Harris Benedict Equation we can estimate that she needs roughly 2,411 calories per day to maintain her body’s tissues and functions.
But I’m guessing you don’t want to maintain…you want to lose weight, right? Let me be very clear about this: Too much of a deficit will damage your metabolism and can potentially lead to other health problems and injury. It’s pretty simple…if you could eat a lot of food and still lose weight, why wouldn’t you? On top of that you’ll have more energy, feel better, and be able to push harder in your workouts.
A good place to start is with a 10% deficit. Using the example above that would be 2,169 calories per day. What does that look like in actual food?
As you can see, that’s a TON of food. Definitely not the restrictive or deprived diet we typically think of when we think about losing weight. So what happens if you don’t eat enough? It’s pretty simple really…your body finds “homeostasis” at a lower caloric intake. That means that your metabolism slows down to conserve energy because you aren’t getting enough fuel (this usually happens in the form of a suppressed thyroid). Essentially whatever amount you are currently eating becomes your “break even point” where you’re not gaining or losing any weight. It’s house overweight people survive on low calorie diets…it’s also why forever lowering calories doesn’t work.
Fixed Interest Rates?
I’ve got some bad news. If you are someone that’s been dieting on and off for a number of years, if you’ve done things like extreme low calories, extreme exercise, low carb, low fat, etc…you’ve probably done some type of damage to your metabolism. How long will it take to repair the damage? Science hasn’t figured that out yet, but what I have observed is, the longer you abused your body, the longer it will take to repair. What that means is, if your body is supposed to be naturally burning 2,000 calories a day, and you’ve been getting by on 1,300 when you do start eating the amount you’re supposed to, you’re going to gain weight. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you do this, because not only will that weight gain eventually lead to an even greater amount of weight loss, it will be a healthier weight loss. You’ll feel better, sleep better, and perform better. It’s also worth noting, that if you try to bump up your calories to where they should be, and then fall of the wagon, and then bump them up again, you’re not going to see the results you are looking for. Your body needs time to adapt. It’s not going to happen overnight.
A Sign of the Times
There are several signs and symptoms of being underfed, as well as under-recovered and over trained (which are all intertwined). Read through this list and ask yourself if any of this describes you:
- You’re caffeine dependent- Do you need a coffee or soda to make it through the day? Do you get a headache if you don’t take in caffeine? Do you need it to “wake up” in the morning?
- Your body temperature naturally runs “low”- Does your body temp read less than 98 degrees in the morning? Body temp is an indicator of thyroid efficiency…or inefficiency if you’re seeing low numbers on the thermometer.
- Your hands and feet are constantly cold- A sign of poor circulation, and poor metabolic rate.
- You have a hard time falling asleep, or staying asleep- This is a classic sign of over training, which can develop by not feeding yourself enough to recover from your workouts.
- You’re constantly sore/stiff/achey from your workouts- Not giving your body enough nutrients from food, will lead to poor recovery from training sessions, which makes your training sessions not only useless, but dangerous.
- Your weight loss has completely stalled even though you “watch what you eat”- more often than not- Unfortunately what usually happens here, is strict dieters become even “more strict,” only furthering the damage. They also usually blame it on small things like the handful of cookies they ate at the company party last weekend, or the two breadsticks they had at a dinner date last night. Sorry but, small intakes of “bad” foods can’t be held responsible for you busting your ass and not seeing results.
There are many more, but these are some of the major indicators there is a problem with your training, nutrition, or both. At this point you might be thinking “But hey when I first started cutting my calories back, I lost weight!” That shouldn’t surprise anyone. You’ve found homeostasis at whatever your caloric intake was, and then you created a deficit from that. Some weight loss is to be expected. But I bet I know what happened after that…you plateau’d. So then what? Cut back another 500 calories a day? And then another 500? Until you don’t eat anything? You don’t have to take my word for it though. Check out Dr. Layne Norton’s take on the subject. If you’re not familiar with Layne, he’s an all natural bodybuilder, has a PhD in nutritional sciences, and is also one of the most highly sought after physique coaches in the country.
In Our Coaches We Trust
It’s pretty simple, if you’re a client, do what I tell you to do. That’s what you pay me for. I realize that out there some where in the world, there are people who hire professionals in hopes that they’ll tell them what they expect to hear (eat less+ do cardio), and that way when they fail, they have an excuse for that failure. You’re probably not that person though. You probably actually want to get into shape. You probably actually want to feel good, and if you do, good! I want you to get in shape and feel good too! But, this is the best way to do it. I don’t care if it goes against “what you’ve been taught your whole life,” because what you have been taught your whole life has led you to a place where you need to hire me to help you get in shape. So maybe it’s time for a different approach, eh?