As we get ready to kick off our Nutrition Kickstart for 2020 and as many others around the world develop a goal to lose weight, change their body, or become healthier in the new year, it's important to understand if you're in the right place to diet, or if you should think about a reset first.
Generally, all individuals have two goals when changing body composition: gain weight (muscle generally), or lose weight (fat generally). However, people often forget the critical middle step between these two changes in body composition, called maintenance. When moving into a “massing” stage, where your body is in a calorie surplus, or a “cutting” stage, where your body is in a caloric deficit, you have to earn it – making sure your body metabolism is ready to support these changes.
Laurie Christine King uses a great example when talking about being in a caloric deficit.
● You’re stranded on an island and all you have is a single backpack of food. Due to the circumstances you would be forced to ration every bit of that food you have in order to survive.
While in a long-term calorie deficit, your body begins to believe it is in this type of “survival” mode, where it must learn to conserve and be efficient with the little amount of energy it is receiving. Similarly, although you might not believe it, eating in a caloric surplus can have similar effects. At some point your body recognizes a calorie surplus and slows or altogether stops weight gain. This is a great example of why you must have specific times of “dieting" or "massing” and specific times of “maintenance”.
When trying to lose weight, many might see a stall in their progress. This is usually due to being in a calorie deficit for too long. Weight loss phases should only last 4-12 weeks at a time and should only happen one or two times a year. The other time should be spent at maintenance calories or even a surplus if you are trying to build muscle. Yep that’s right, you have to eat in order to build muscle!
when shouldn't you diet?
- If you have just had surgery or a baby
- Women, if you are missing your menstrual cycle
- If you have a low sex drive, or difficulty with arousal
- Low energy, difficulty recovering from workouts
- If you’re chronically hungry
- If you’re never feeling hungry
- Poor sleep, waking up multiple times a night
- Feeling like crap in the gym
- Poor gut health or digestion issues
- Hair loss
- Mood issues, hormonal imbalance
- If you have been eating less than maintenance calories for the last 3-4 months.
Now, if you find that you meet some of the criteria above, or when you evaluate your daily intake and it appears to be far too low and has been for some time, it’s important to slowly re-evaluate your eating habits and coming out of your diet or calorie surplus. If you add the calories back in or cut them out too quickly, your body will yo-yo in the opposite direction. It’s best to slowly add back or remove calories 100-200 calories each day, a week at a time, and track how your body reacts. Once you’ve got a stabilized and healthy maintenance eating plan, maintain that for at least 6-12 weeks to allow your body to return to balance before re-engaging on a cut or mass phase.
What do maintenance calories typically look like?
Men: Maintenance calories for men can vary depending on the person and their activity level, but most can handle over 2500 calories per day.
Women: Usually, women's metabolisms can handle well over 1800 cals per day
The thing is guys, we can’t constantly keep our bodies in a deficit or surplus. In order to reach your goals, you need to have a plan. You can't keep pulling from an empty tank. Eventually, if you do, there won't be anything else to pull from.
If you need help with your nutrition or knowing if/ when you should be dieting talk with us next time you're in the gym, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org . We are here to help you reach your goals, whatever those may be!