Why a calorie deficit won't help you lose weight

We keep making this one, huge weight loss mistake. 

In the last two decades working in health and fitness, there’s a weight loss strategy that I’ve seen over and over, but it doesn’t work. In fact, it actually makes weight loss nearly impossible. 

I call it the crippling calorie cut. 

Living in a caloric deficit and chronically undereating is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your weight loss journey. Here’s why: 

Chronic undereating lowers your metabolism

Cutting calories long-term will only teach your body to burn fewer calories in the day. Here’s what happens to your metabolism when you continue to undereat.

How undereating affects your metabolism 

Each person burns a certain number of calories per day. Researchers call that number your total energy expenditure (TEE). Your TEE is determined by four main factors:

  • Exercise: the average number of calories you burn daily during your workout
  • NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis): the average number of calories you burn daily doing non-exercise activities
  • TEF (thermal effect of food): the average number of calories you burn daily chewing, digesting, and storing food
  • RMR (resting metabolic rate): the average number of calories you burn daily for your body to maintain its basic functions

Because many factors affect how many calories a person burns, the range is quite large. The average adult woman, for example, expends between 1600 to 2400 calories per day. For decades, people have been trying to lose weight by cutting calories alone, and when that stops working, they cut them down even more.

Continuously cutting your calories creates a starvation cycle. The fewer calories you eat, the fewer your body will burn. Chronically eating fewer calories that your body needs can decrease your metabolism by as much as 25%! Even worse, this adjustment in your metabolism can last long after you stop your calorie-restricting diet.

How to mend your metabolism for weight loss

We all know how to increase our daily calorie burn by increasing our workouts. But increasing our metabolism, or RMR, is a little less intuitive. 

While there isn’t a quick fix, mending your metabolism is worth the effort. Who wouldn’t want to burn an extra 50 calories while watching TV at night? With time, you can manipulate your metabolism and increase weight loss by making these three small changes

Recovering from a low-cal diet isn’t impossible either! Just like your body adjusted to dropping calories, your body will adjust to adding calories back. This strategic method of increasing the calories you can eat without gaining weight is called Reverse Dieting, and I teach you how to do it here!

Chronic undereating leads to inadequate protein intake

If you’re living a low-cal life, you’re most likely skimping on the most important macronutrient for weight loss: protein.

How cutting calorie cuts protein too

Protein is satiating, healing, and critical for healthy, long-term fat loss. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers showed that high-protein meals increase metabolism

Eating too little protein will slow down your weight loss and hinder your overall health. Low protein can lead to a weakened immune system, bone fractures, hair loss, high blood pressure, and hormonal imbalance.

Ideally, you should consume about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. That’s about 68 grams of daily protein if you weigh 150 pounds—a hard number to hit when you’re only eating 1200 calories a day.

The healthiest protein-rich foods, like fish, eggs, hemp seeds, and chia seeds, tend to also be high in fat (and, as a result, calories), making it difficult to reach your daily protein goals within a calorically-restricted diet.

Protein and fat are paired in many foods for good reason! These two macronutrients work together to help you shed pounds. They keep you full and satiated for hours, and they keep your insulin levels low as you digest your meal.

How to maximize your protein intake for weight loss

The adequacy and quality of the protein in your daily diet directly affect your body weight. Here is a closer look at protein and weight loss, plus 5 tips to help you increase the protein in your diet and maximize its fitness benefits today.

Chronic undereating promotes binging

Ignoring your hunger cues while cutting calories can only last so long. Eventually, your body’s need for energy and nutrients will override your diet goals. 

How chronic calorie cutting leads to a binge

Eating less than what your body needs to thrive can result in cravings so strong, you’ll be scraping crumbs from the bottom of the chip bag before you can say “binge.” You need adequate food to sustain your body’s basic functions, like breathing and circulation. You need more food to complete simple tasks, like showering, getting dressed, and washing the dishes.

Chronic calorie cutting leads to a slowed metabolism as we mentioned above. Over time, your body will also compensate for the calorie deficit by shutting down the reproductive system, because you don’t need it to live. Then, bone demineralization begins along with a lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, and many other health issues.

Eventually, regardless of how much willpower you have to stick to your diet, your body will rebel. Thankfully, something internal takes over and decides that your body’s health is more important than dropping two more pounds. Your body will demand whatever energy-boosting, calorically dense food is nearby. The snack cabinet suddenly becomes irresistible. Your diet is forgotten.

How to beat the starve-binge cycle

Undereating hurts both your weight loss efforts and your overall health. For long-term success, ditch the deprivation diet and learn how to have a healthy lifestyle. I’ll share the key to consistency and long-term weight loss here!

Ready to Lose Weight the Healthy Way?

If weight loss still feels mysterious to you, I’ll come alongside you and help you repair your metabolism, optimize protein for weight loss, and learn how to build a healthy lifestyle. 

During my 7-week health and fitness program, you’ll lose excess body fat, tone those muscles, feel more energized, and set habits that will last! Learn how to exercise and fuel your body the right way with LEAN! 

For more practical tips and tricks on health and weight loss, sign up for my weekly newsletter. You’ll receive one or two emails a week packed with my favorite healthy recipes, personal workouts, and special promotions. Sign up today

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