Being a lighter athlete means a faster athlete.
Two ways to lose body fat. Eat less or move more. Before you decide to do both let’s look at what happens to the body on a scientific level.
Track your calories for one week just to get an average of how many calories you are consuming on a regular basis. If you haven’t lost or gained weight in the last 3 weeks, then this is your “maintenance” calories. Meaning that you are eating the same amount of calories you are burning each day.
Now if you decide to cut your calories from what you are currently eating, in three weeks your body will get used to this new number. Which is not a good thing. Here’s how the numbers work. IF (for number purposes only) you are eating 3,000 calories a day and you cut out 500 calories a day, you will lose one pound of fat in a week. That’s the good news. (500 cal x 7 days = 3,500 cal = 1lb of fat) If your body never gets used to this formula then in 3 weeks you would lose 3lbs, in 52 weeks you would lose 52lbs and in 3-4 years, you would be dead. Ouch!
Seeing that’s not the case then what does happen?
Your body will close that 500 cal deficit in 3-4 weeks. We are made to adapt, that’s just what we do. Now you say, “but I’m not at my goal weight so I am going to cut another 500 cal a day”. Great, now you go from 2,500 cal down to 2,000 cal a day and in 3 weeks you’re still not at your goal and you decide to cut another 500 cal a day. Now you’re at 1,500 cal a day and still not at your goal and you can no longer maintain this low number of calories. So you decide to just bump your calories back UP to 2,000 cal a day. Congratulations, you will now gain weight on a number that you were once losing weight on.
So what should you do?
Go after exercise!! Going back to your 3,000 cal a day which we have determined is your “maintenance” number of calories. Let’s look at your current exercise program and tweak that. Let’s assume you are currently working out 2 days a week with resistance and 3 days a week of cycling. Can you increase the intensity on the bike? Yes? Great, do that first and burn more calories in the same amount of time. Be careful that you do not increase your calories at the same time. This is very common because with the new increase in exercise you may be hungrier. If you do increase your calories, this will defeat the purpose. When you see a plateau in 3 weeks, then and only then will you make a change to your exercise. First increase intensity again. If you can’t increase the intensity anymore, then increase the duration of each bike ride and if that doesn’t get you to your goal then increase days of the week. Make small changes in the workouts as you will need as many “tweaks up your sleeve” as possible to continue to make changes in your physique. You can also use your resistance workouts as tweaks to your body fat goals. The same programming applies. Intensity first, then duration and then frequency.
In 31 years of training clients, I have never had to cut someone’s calories. I always increase the workouts. At some point you will either hit your goal or you will have to reevaluate your goal.
Feel free to contact me with any Nutrition, Fitness or Recovery questions.
A Personal Fitness Trainer since 1987 — I work with clients of all ages from 13 years old to 90+ years young. I have studied the areas of The Kinetic Chain, Biomechanics, Sports Movement, Balance Training, Flexibility, Soft Tissue Work, Fascial Movement Taping and Nutrition. My specialty is helping clients improve their ability to move freely in daily life which allows them to achieve their goals of altering body composition — less fat, more muscle.
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