There is nothing better than seeing the results when you start adjusting your eating habits or begin a “diet.” On the flip side, there is nothing more frustrating that not seeing the results of all of your effort. Have you ever felt like you are eating all of the right things but can’t seem to shed the weight you desire losing? It can feel awful and quite discouraging.
While some may have conditions linked to their unexplained weight gain, for most, it’s as simple as taking in more calories than they’re burning, or what is called ‘eating at a caloric surplus’. This means you are consuming more energy, or calories than you are able to use as fuel.
When most of us think about food that can make us gain weight we think: junk food, processed foods, sugary foods, etc. We don’t always consider that overeating the “healthy” options can contribute as well.
When trying to lose weight, eating at a caloric deficit, is almost always necessary. This means to eat roughly 10-25% fewer calories than than your basal metabolic rate. This means that regardless of whether your extra 500 calories a day are coming from healthy meals, it could still be hindering your weight loss.
With that being said, there is a time and place for healthy calorie surplus. For example, if you are trying to increase muscle volume or body build or if you are trying to increase athletic performance or output. It is also a good idea to be in a caloric surplus when your body (and mind) are going through a stressful situation. This would be an appropriate time to eat more calories than you burn to ensure your body has enough resources to maintain a level of health. Science has shown that it is possible to maintain or even gain muscle mass on an extremely calorie restricted diet, but very high dietary protein and weight training are absolutely required as to not lose muscle. This study put its participants on a 40% caloric deficit!!
A couple tips to help you remain in your caloric deficit and continue to make healthy choices:
Track your food (eating AND COOKING, ALL OF IT)
It is so easy to miscalculate how many calories you are taking in daily, and if you aren’t tracking, you are just guessing. Tracking platforms like my fitness pal or TriFIT Wellnesses VIP Coaching App allow you to monitor how much you are truly eating. Being mindful of dressings and oils is extremely important, as these things can add hundreds of “extra” calories to a meal .
Caloric/Nutrient Density of food should must considered
When deciding what to eat throughout the day, make sure you ask yourself “is this a sufficient fuel source?” or “will this keep me full and satiated for a long enough period of time?”
Consider if you had to pick between a three teaspoons of peanut butter and a medium sized apple (approximately 365 calories) or a 4oz chicken thigh and 2 cups of broccoli (331 calories) to eat after your workout and last you until dinner? While the calories are nearly identical, the micro and macronutrients are vastly different. The chicken and broccoli meal is much more nutrient dense and optimal to build muscle. Being mindful about these things while eating at a calorie deficit being can really make the difference between a rewarding meal, or a torturous one.
Try shortening your feeding window
When you consider the time and effort that went into what our hunter gatherer ancestors ate, it’s hard to imagine them eating extremely calorie dense foods for 10, 16 or even 24 hours out of the day! Our bodies are not meant to routinely take in such a high amount of calories, especially when the physical exertion does not match the amount taken in. Restricting the amount of time you take in food is helpful in more ways than one when your goal is eating at a deficit. Besides the obvious of having less time to eat and consume calories, it also helps regulate hormones that control both feeling hungry and how you store your leftover energy. Intermittent fasting even two days a week has been shown to have benefits.
Drink more water
Drinking water can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to kick a craving and reduce hunger. After you eat the appropriate portion that you designate, drink a glass of water before consuming a second portion of food. The same principle can be applied if you a craving a snack shortly after you ate or right before bed. Drink a glass of water, as sometimes thirst can be mistaken for hunger.
Get enough sleep
We cannot stress enough how critical it is that you get optimal sleep for recovery, muscle gain, and weight loss. Sleep quality controls numerous hormones that tell us when we are hungry and how much food it takes to make us feel full. When our sleep is off, those hormones aren’t as well regulated causing us to feel hungrier throughout the day and to store more of what we do consume. From our memory and cognitive function, to our immune and physical health, sleep is crucial in every aspect of our development and well-being.
To find out what would be the optimal caloric deficit (or even perhaps surplus) for YOUR goals click here!