How Increasing your Calories can Jumpstart your Weight Loss

If it is not his genetics then why is Josh not losing weight even when he is in calorie deficit.

Josh is maintaining a 500-calorie deficit every day; according to basic math, he should be losing a pound a week; then why does his weight loss stop after a few weeks? This story of Josh repeats so often. Go to any gym and you will see a lot of strong bulky guys, but a lean and strong guy is harder to find. This is especially the case, as we get old. Why does this happen, why is it so hard to continue losing weight without plateauing? We saw that when Josh saw his weight loss was not working, he increased his calorie deficit further; it helped him a little bit but eventually his weight loss stopped again. What if we were to tell you, that increasing his calorie deficit was a mistake and that increasing his calorie intake would have been a smarter choice?

To appreciate what is happening to Josh, imagine that you have gone camping. It’s a cold night and you are sitting besides the campfire. You have just now started the fire by burning paper and twigs (called tinder), which catch fire easily. For the fire to last the whole night you have big logs with you but the tinder burns of quickly before these logs can catch fire. So you add small sticks (called kindling) to the fire. Kindling catches fire from the tinder and can sustain the fire long enough to start burning the big logs. Your metabolic system is similar to this fire, consider the kindling as calories you intake and the hard to burn logs as your body fat. Just like the big logs cannot burn without the kindling, in order to burn your fat you have to fire your metabolic system by ingesting calories. Without these calories there will be no fire to keep that fat burning.

Consider Josh’s situation, he was bulking during the winter, his fire was raging strong with all the calories he was ingesting. When he went into calorie deficit, it will be the same as decreasing the amount of kindling we add to the campfire, the fire as a result will weaken and those bigger logs will burn much slowly. In other words by decreasing his calorie intake, Josh’s metabolic system slowed down. This explains why his weight loss was not working anymore. What did Josh do to counteract this slowing down? He decreased the kindling even further to his fire, thus weakening the fire even more. Burning of the logs stalled and again Josh realized his weight loss was not working.

Going by the analogy between campfire and our metabolic system one can easily conclude that adding more kindling for a short period of time would have been a better approach to burn those logs then to decrease the kindling; yet most of us do the opposite intuitively, whenever we see that our weight loss is not working anymore we decrease our calorie intake.

The most common tactic used to continue to keep our metabolic fire burning is the approach called “Carb Cycling”. In this tactic Josh can chosen one day of a week to consume more calories. Most of these additional calories should come from carbs. Carbs are the easiest to convert into calories and hence are the best source for the kindling to be added to our fire. This kindling will reinvigorate his fire and keep his big logs burning. Besides boosting his metabolic rate, carb cycling is also a good break from the monotony of the weight loss diet.

Although carb cycling is a great tactic for weight loss, eventually the body will adapt to the new diet and Josh will notice his weight loss slowing down even with carb cycling. If that happens then Josh can increase his calorie intake to weight sustaining levels for a week or two and then come back to weight loss. In general, it is a good practice to introduce a re-feeding week after being in calorie deficit for 6-8 weeks.

Bottom line: You must realize that fat loss is not just about calorie deficit, you have to also make sure that your body does not drop your metabolic rate to adapt to the calorie deficit. If you observe a plateauing in your weight loss, don’t just blindly increase your calorie deficit rather increase your calorie intake temporarily to fire up your metabolism and then come back to calorie deficit.

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