Eat More to Lose Weight: How Many Calories You Should Be Eating
If you’re new to macro counting and flexible dieting – you may be undereating.
I’m 24, 175 cm (5″10), 224 lbs. I am a fairly active woman (I workout 4-5 times a week) and your calculator puts me at 2033 calories a day, 154c, 227p, and 56f. I just think 2033 calories is fairly excessive and I’ve been on diets all my life and have never passed the 1300 calorie range as I am considered overweight.
It can seem strange to eat so many calories when you’ve been told all your life that the only way to lose weight is to follow a low-calorie diet.
But, for many, eating more is the key to losing more.
Why you must eat more to lose weight
In the above example, she was accustomed to eating 1300 calories.
She would probably burn about 400 calories at the gym, leaving only 900 calories to fuel her bodily processes and general movement on exercise days.
According to our calculator, her sedentary calories are 2218.
Sedentary calories are what she needs to maintain her current weight. Therefore on exercise days, she is putting her body in a 1318 calorie deficit.
Our basic understanding of weight loss principles would say, “Wow, she should be at her target weight in no time!” Unfortunately, the body doesn’t quite work that way.
Your body is a complex machine whose goal is survival, even at the cellular level.
So what’s the body to do when it needs 2218 calories, but you only give it 900?
What is Starvation Mode?
A few days of a drastic calorie deficit is fine and causes no changes.
Consistently eating very low calories puts the body in a preservation state.
Our body is very clever, and we still don’t fully understand how it can survive in stressful situations.
This explains why some people stranded at sea can survive for months on practically nothing. The body slows down the metabolism to maintain homeostasis.
What happened to the Biggest Loser contestants?
Long-term outcomes from The Biggest Loser contestants confirm this theory.
Those who lose weight quickly, using drastic calorie reductions – lower their metabolic rate by up to 500 calories. This drop can still exist even years after.
For those on extreme diets, fat burning slows, and muscle breakdown occurs for energy, especially when weight training is included.
What is muscle catabolism?
Muscle catabolism occurs when your muscles are broken down by the body and used as fuel for other parts of your body.
Drastic calorie deficits cause this, as well as inadequate amounts of protein.
As you work out different muscle groups throughout the week, your body will break down one to repair the other and vice versa.
One study showed that they both happen in parallel instead of fat loss occurring and then muscle loss during starvation.
How do I prevent muscle catabolism?
You must eat enough calories and protein. Ideally, you want extra energy from your fat reserves, not your muscles.
- Healthy muscle tissue is the key to a healthy metabolic rate.
- If your muscle tissue is suffering, then so will your metabolic rate.
- Keep that muscle tissue strong by feeding it what it needs to thrive. This isn’t just protein – your muscles run on carbs.
How many calories should I be eating – to lose weight?
There isn’t a fixed amount of calories you should eat to lose weight, but it’s a unique amount, just like you are.
Unless you are very obese and under the direct care of a physician, your calorie deficit should be less than 400-500 calories.
Alternately, subtract 20% from your TDEE calories (including exercise factored in).
For those already lean and have 5 pounds to lose, calorie deficits can be even smaller.
Make sure you are eating enough to:
- Support your bodily processes
- Support the growth and activity of your muscles.
But not too much! Then your body will burn a small amount of fat reserves to compensate for your slight deficit.
I think I’m eating too much!
It can be very challenging for some to eat more, especially if you have been doing low-calorie diets for a large portion of your life.
Eating the recommended amount of carbs can also be challenging if you have had “carbs are bad” drilled into your head.
It’s time to start eating again and develop a better relationship with food.
Slow and steady weight loss is the goal. This is sustainable over the long term because you will not feel deprived.
Check your expectations
Avoid diets promoting over 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week, as they’re unsustainable and don’t teach safe calorie consumption.
A diverse range of body types exists, making it unlikely for many to achieve the highly edited figures featured on influencers’ feeds and other high-profile fitness models.
- Break free from your low-calorie and low carb mindset
- Begin eating again
If you want to break the weight loss plateau, you must give your body enough fuel to leave the launch pad.
Bottom line: Eat more to lose weight.
- Schwartz, M. W., & Seeley, R. J. (1997). Neuroendocrine responses to starvation and weight loss. New England Journal of Medicine, 336(25), 1802-1811.
- Owen, O. E., Smalley, K. J., D'Alessio, D. A., Mozzoli, M. A., & Dawson, E. K. (1998). Protein, fat, and carbohydrate requirements during starvation: anaplerosis and cataplerosis. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 68(1), 12-34.
- Chaston TB, Dixon JB, O'Brien PE. Changes in fat-free mass during significant weight loss: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity (2005). 2007;31(5):743–750.
- Tarnopolsky, M. A., MacDougall, J. D., & Atkinson, S. A. (1988). Influence of protein intake and training status on nitrogen balance and lean body mass. Journal of Applied Physiology, 64(1), 187-193.
- Price, T. M., O'Brien, S. N., Welter, B. H., George, R., Anandjiwala, J., & Kilgore, M. (1998). Estrogen regulation of adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase—possible mechanism of body fat distribution. American journal of obstetrics and