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This is a Calorie In/Out question

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Old 12-22-2010, 11:01 AM   #1
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Default This is a Calorie In/Out question

ok. So I know that you're supposed to eat at least 1200 calories for the body to function properly. Anything lower is dangerous. What I'm wondering is, if I eat 1200 on a given day. Then I burn 500 calories. The net calories my body receives is only 700 calories. Should I be increasing caloric intake on the days I work out?? Will my body feel as if I'm not getting enough calories and start to hoard onto whatever comes in?

I have noticed a weird trend where I keep calories low (1200) and work out daily, I see no significant loss. However, I up my calories and slack off on exercising and I lose.

I've been revving up my protein intake lately. I read it helps builds muscles, which in turns helps boosts metabolism. I am seeing a difference, I have dropped 2 pants sizes since starting. I now have a collarbone (whoooo hoooo) and I can actually see definition in my face. I'm not complaining just want to make sure, what I'm doing now, is a good plan for the future.

EDIT to say: 1200 isn't my daily calorie intake. I do calorie cycling or sorts. I don't eat the same meals day in/out. Some days it's more like a 1600 day. The number bounces but no less than 1200, no more than 1600.

Just would like to know on very active exercise days should I be upping intake or is it ok if I had a low calorie day? I'm a little confused on how it works.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:08 AM   #2
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It is certainly ok to eat more than 1200 calories a day. Lots of people lose while eating more than that. The ideal number is a result of your age, sex, height, weight, activity level, personal metabolism, and, frankly, how carefully you are counting.

I would start with http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm. That gives you a range, but you will still want to experiment, and even after you find your "sweet spot", it takes tweaking as you lose weight/up your exercise.
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:28 PM   #3
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If you are losing at a higher calorie level, GO THERE! I'm not at all against 1200. That will likely be my maintenance level. But I started out there way too soon and eventually there isn't any way to go. Your body will adjust to whatever calorie restriction you place on it. That's the problem. The body gets really efficient. I'm currently attempting to correct my own mistakes through calorie cycling and I must say, it's working.

You also mentioned you lose when you DON'T exercise. This may be true on the scale, but it doesn't necessarily (or probably) mean you are losing FAT. If you are not participating in strength training then as much as 40% of what you lose could be muscle. We strength train to retain muscle, not even really to build it. But it makes the scale a much less accurate tool.

Finally, I would never eat back my calories. I keep them totally separate. I exercise for my health. My diet is for weight loss.
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:58 PM   #4
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There is some confusion about whether the "1200 cals" refers to energy or to nutrition. Good nutrition is eating foods that supply adequate nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, not just energy. A calorie is a measure of energy.

What I have read is that a person cannot get good nutrition eating below 1200 calories average, and exercise calories burned does not come into this. There are not enough nutrients in less than 1200 calories, unless you are supplementing. Medically supervised weight loss programs may have people on a lower calorie intake, but they are also taking certain supplements.

On very active days, you'll feel hungrier. Since you're already cycling, you can choose those days to eat more.

When people are eating a low number of calories and also exercising a lot, more is not going to necessarily be better. People have lots of differing opinions on this, but if weight loss stalls under those conditions, the answer may not be to increase exercise even more and decrease food even more. That gets into too much physiological stress. Stress means cortisol, cortisol means water retention and weight gain.

I'd warn against totally believing the calorie burn numbers on exercise machines or online databases. They are often inaccurate averages. Don't base your estimate of weight loss on those numbers.

Instead, use your daily average burn estimate for the number of times a week you work out, figure out a number to subtract that doesn't take you below 1200, and eat that amount on average. (So for me: 1639 daily burn with exercising 3 days a week, minus 400, would be 1239. I got the daily burn number from freedieting.com.)

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Old 12-22-2010, 03:02 PM   #5
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When you say you see better losses when you raise your calories and don't exercise, my guess is that what you're actually seeing are coincidences.

Remember that what you lose on the scale today is not necessarily a result of what you did yesterday or even the day before. In fact, what you see on the scale can and often is a result of what you did for several weeks before.

Any experiment that runs for less than six consecutive weeks, doesn't tell you much about what's really going on.

So unless you're saying that after five to six weeks straight of no exercise and raised calories, you've lost more than when you've lowered your calorie level and increased your exercise for six straight weeks AND you repeated this experiment several times to rule out coincidence, you've probably drawn a false conclusion.

In other words it's going to take you 3/4 of a year of experimenting before you can truly conclude that lower calories and exercise results in less weight loss than higher calories and less exercise.

Most people don't experiment long enough before concluding that something works or doesn't. Because of the menstrual cycle, an experiment of less than six weeks is likely to be skewed just by hormonal fluctuations.

Also people notice and remember unusual or unexpected results better than ones they're expecting. So you're more likely to remember unexpected results on the scale. It can make it seem like the unexpected result is occurring more often than it actually is. And everyone is prone to that bias. Even people who know it exists aren't exempt from it.

I was surprised at how many false conclusions I had drawn, when I really started analyzing my food and exercise journal results. I found that some of the patterns I would have sworn were real weren't. and I also missed patterns that took more than two weeks to emerge. They weren't even on my radar.
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Old 12-22-2010, 03:38 PM   #6
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I feel like my body and my wave length are completely out of sync. I can't get a read on her (me).

@elaina, when I wasn't losing, i was still keeping my calories low. i was counting daily, but not exercising. Saw no loss. But when I first started, I could completely slack off with exercise (only doing it once or twice a week, 10 mins each time) and eat more along the lines of 1800/1900 a day. i was losing 2.5 lbs a week! Now i'm lucky if i break 1 lb.

Then came the stalls. I would stay at the same weight for 2-3 weeks at a time. Admittedly i been trying to "tweak". I still am finding my rhythm. I introduced B-complex vitamins and (a crap load) of green tea. first couple days were awesome. I lost like 1 pounds in 2 days. THEN I was constipated for like 3-4 days straight. Then had a 4 pound whoosh. Along with the constipation, my hair was shedding. i was freakishly hungry. I got freaked out and cut out green tea. At the advice of some of the ladies here, I believe it was the high levels of caffeine that was doing me in. I went from drinking no caffeine to having 6-8 cups a day of it.

I work out way more than I did when i first stated. I could barely get through 5 mins, without sweating and having my side hurting and having to stop.

I just have no idea what works for me. But im chugging along. I'm not gaining, so i'm happy. Just was wondering if i'm doing myself in when I dip down to 1200, and still work out hard.

I do a bit of strength training. Mostly interval and cardio. I need to buy a good set of weights. I don't go to the gym. I just go crazy to my online exercise videos. I ♥ Kendell Hogan. I have the biggest crush on him.

@shmead very good link. I will experiment with upping my calories. maybe do a 1800 day once or twice in the week.

I can't wait to find my "sweet" spot. Either way, no matter if it takes me 1 month to lose 10 pounds or 3. at least i'm losing.
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Old 12-22-2010, 04:13 PM   #7
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Another thought to add to my PP above... a 500 calorie difference between "daily burn" and "daily intake" (as I calcuated it above) would supposedly result in a 1-pound a week loss. But that number varies widely. I found that 4 pounds in a month is about as fast as I can realistically lose.

I'd suggest that people not use 1200 calories as their target unless their daily burn is more like mine is. Some people will get a much higher number for their daily burn, and that means that to get a 500 calorie deficit, they could be eating more.

My own opinion is that eating more while losing weight is a good deal. I wasn't in so big a hurry, myself.

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Old 12-22-2010, 04:29 PM   #8
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I had myself down to 1350 calories at one point on a calorie-tracker site and was losing nothing at all, while exercising all the time. Now that I upped them to 1600 (or so) and have been doing more casual workouts, like wii fit, I've been seeing results.

But I was wondering this the other day- I burned 400 calories during a workout, and thinking that there was no way I'd be able to eat all my 'exercise calories' on top of my regular ones! So when this happens, usually I just eat some of what is remaining since I have a hard time reaching my calorie goal anyway. I think if you have reached your calorie goal for the day, it's not necessary to eat the exercise calories as well, but then again, I'm not a doctor. :P
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Old 12-22-2010, 06:55 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
When you say you see better losses when you raise your calories and don't exercise, my guess is that what you're actually seeing are coincidences.

Remember that what you lose on the scale today is not necessarily a result of what you did yesterday or even the day before. In fact, what you see on the scale can and often is a result of what you did for several weeks before.

Any experiment that runs for less than six consecutive weeks, doesn't tell you much about what's really going on.

So unless you're saying that after five to six weeks straight of no exercise and raised calories, you've lost more than when you've lowered your calorie level and increased your exercise for six straight weeks AND you repeated this experiment several times to rule out coincidence, you've probably drawn a false conclusion.

In other words it's going to take you 3/4 of a year of experimenting before you can truly conclude that lower calories and exercise results in less weight loss than higher calories and less exercise.

Most people don't experiment long enough before concluding that something works or doesn't. Because of the menstrual cycle, an experiment of less than six weeks is likely to be skewed just by hormonal fluctuations.

Also people notice and remember unusual or unexpected results better than ones they're expecting. So you're more likely to remember unexpected results on the scale. It can make it seem like the unexpected result is occurring more often than it actually is. And everyone is prone to that bias. Even people who know it exists aren't exempt from it.

I was surprised at how many false conclusions I had drawn, when I really started analyzing my food and exercise journal results. I found that some of the patterns I would have sworn were real weren't. and I also missed patterns that took more than two weeks to emerge. They weren't even on my radar.
This is exactly correct. I am extremely mindful of correlation and causality and I sometimes get my observations confused. It takes a long time of careful tracking to note trends. I think it is time well spent.
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Old 12-23-2010, 12:44 AM   #10
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This is all very interesting. I wish I were more scientific and kept "data" so I could figure this stuff out. I just know I target 1200 calories but honestly probably end up with 1500 calories per day. I exercise usually 6 days a week and strength train 3 times a week. If I feel a little extra hungry I take a healthy nibble... I work out so much that I think my body needs it. especially on my strength training days. But then if I go a week or two without losing I take some of my special things away. Last weekend I also tried the "refeed" and had a hamburger with a bun. Just to surprise my body and keep it working.
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:01 AM   #11
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I've never worried about what I burn.

My thoughts have always been....I will eat enough for my body to sustain and lose weight from the 'lesser in 'caloric intake

then I'll ge to lose more because I'm burning some fat too.

So I just roll with it. Stay between 1200-1600.

There have been days where I have only eaten 800-1000 calories felt completely full and content and all great food options. I think you can drop below 1200 and have it still work for you :-)
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Old 12-23-2010, 11:56 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stacygee View Post
This is all very interesting. I wish I were more scientific and kept "data" so I could figure this stuff out. I just know I target 1200 calories but honestly probably end up with 1500 calories per day. I exercise usually 6 days a week and strength train 3 times a week. If I feel a little extra hungry I take a healthy nibble... I work out so much that I think my body needs it. especially on my strength training days. But then if I go a week or two without losing I take some of my special things away. Last weekend I also tried the "refeed" and had a hamburger with a bun. Just to surprise my body and keep it working.

What is "refeeding" i've heard that mentioned before on 3fc.
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Old 12-23-2010, 05:04 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stacygee View Post
This is all very interesting. I wish I were more scientific and kept "data" so I could figure this stuff out. I just know I target 1200 calories but honestly probably end up with 1500 calories per day.
This stuck out to me. Are you estimating calories or tracking and counting calories? There is a world of difference between the two. When we estimate we almost always underestimate portion sizes (and therefore calories consumed) and overestimate exercise burn. If you want to be really sure you need to weigh and measure EVERYTHING you eat, then track it all on paper (or on a website, or a database, etc.) Also remember that if, at one point, you were able to estimate fairly accurately that doesn't mean you can anymore. Something called "portion distortion" kicks in and almost always leads us to eat more than we think we are. I still have to measure out my cereal and such every couple of weeks and, almost every time, my portions have grown when I'm estimating.

Just something to keep in mind!
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