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Net calories??? Someone explain this to me in a way I can understand.

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Old 05-23-2009, 04:15 PM   #1
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Default Net calories??? Someone explain this to me in a way I can understand.

I keep track of my daily eating and exercise on livestrong/dailyplate. A friend of a friend is a dietitian and today he stopped by to give me some pointers after I was whining about my weight plateau and bouncing around 135-140 no matter what I do for the last 7 months.

He asked if I kept a food journal, so I showed him that website and my last four months of tracking. He said my calories are all wonky and made an appointment for me to see him and the doctor he works for at his office and get labs done and everything first thing on Tuesday. He seemed concerned, and was babbling about net calories, which I know is on the consumption total table. But I have no idea what it is.

According to this thing my BMR (I have it on sedentary) is about 1100, and my daily scheduled exercise burns about 1100. I usually eat about 1200 calories a day, my net cals always ending up around 100-350. Sometimes they were in the negative. This really seemed to worry him, and he said some scary words. Namely "starvation mode" and "destroy your metabolism."

So help me out. Am I supposed to have consumed 1200 NET calories after it is all said and done, or am I doing this right? Is there a certain amount of net cals you're supposed to have? I'm lost, and now i'm worried too.
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Old 05-23-2009, 04:23 PM   #2
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It's my understanding that according to your BMR, around 1100 calories is what your body would be using for all essential daily functions if you did absolutely nothing (no getting food, no getting up to walk to the bathroom, no nothing). So if you're burning 1100 calories (are you sure its 1100 a day? That seems like a lot) you need to be eating more than 1200 total. Your body needs to have around 1100 available to use for basic survival, and you're only giving it 100-350 if your numbers are accurate. So your body does think there is a drastic shortage of calories and it needs to conserve every one it possibly can.
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Old 05-23-2009, 04:37 PM   #3
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Thank you. Okay, so that would explain everything. And yes, 1100 is probably a conservative estimate. I do 30 day shred every day, which I estimate at about 250 cals, an hour on the elliptical at level 7, and on alternating morning and evenings I coach soccer and teach 1 hour ballet classes. I walk and/or ride my bike everywhere and I take some of the girls I coach in soccer on 3 mile runs and do hill sprints 4 days a week for conditioning. This not including my 10 mile Sunday hikes, and Kayaking. I'm hyper.

I'm just going to concede that I have no idea what the crap i'm doing. I knew it was bad news when he gave me a really weird look and started asking me if I was tired, hungry, sleeping excessively, and if I was still getting my period. The answers being not at all, no, nope 8 hours as always and fresh as a daisy (barring a hangover), and I get it like clockwork every month.

Had there been some negative side effects like that I would have paid attention way sooner, but I feel fine other than not being able to budge the scale and work off this layer of flub I have left.
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Old 05-23-2009, 05:28 PM   #4
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Great that this friend caught you!
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Old 05-23-2009, 05:50 PM   #5
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Looking at your height/weight, it looks like you're currently smack in the middle of "normal" BMI range, with a goal to put you at the lowest possible BMI in the normal range. I'm wondering if your body isn't trying to tell you it's at a good place now -- sometimes, we want to be a number that's lower than is actually healthy for us, even though it's "technically" healthy on the scale. With as much exercise as you get, you probably have pretty good musculature. Perhaps you're trying to go too low?

Just a thought. I'm sure your dietician friend will be able to shed more light on what's going on with you.
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Old 05-23-2009, 08:05 PM   #6
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OMG, well glad that you are here, what do you eat anyway.
Yeah he probably wants you to eat 2000 calories (ish)
and burn off 800 Calories in workouts - if that's safe, i think it's high but that's just me
you need those 1200 calories to get up and go to the bathroom, blink, talk, those sorts of things
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Old 05-24-2009, 12:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Betony View Post
Looking at your height/weight, it looks like you're currently smack in the middle of "normal" BMI range, with a goal to put you at the lowest possible BMI in the normal range. I'm wondering if your body isn't trying to tell you it's at a good place now -- sometimes, we want to be a number that's lower than is actually healthy for us, even though it's "technically" healthy on the scale. With as much exercise as you get, you probably have pretty good musculature. Perhaps you're trying to go too low?

Just a thought. I'm sure your dietician friend will be able to shed more light on what's going on with you.
I'm small-framed, just tall. For me to be even close to my "skinny" weight, I would have to get down around 110-115, which I was while I was in ballet. 125 is just "comfortable." Could still eat ice cream and cheesecake once in awhile and not worry about it. 140 is heavy for me, i'm very doughy. No hint of visible muscle definition even though I can feel it under this two inch layer of fat I have all over my body.


But that still leaves the question, how do net calories work? I always thought weight loss was exercise more, eat healthy and eat less, you lose weight. Wouldn't it be counter productive to eat twice as much as I do normally (which, honestly, I could not do. I feel full all the time as it is with what I do eat) just because i'm exercising? That seems like it would cause me to maintain, not lose.
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Old 05-24-2009, 12:39 PM   #8
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You need fuel for your body before you start losing weight- that's why people say if you are at a plateau, increase your calories for a week and see if that helps. Sounds counter-intuitive but I have noticed for myself that when I am not losing weight it's either that I'm lazy and the food I'm eating is crap, OR I'm eating well but not enough.
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Old 05-24-2009, 01:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NishKitten View Post

But that still leaves the question, how do net calories work? I always thought weight loss was exercise more, eat healthy and eat less, you lose weight. Wouldn't it be counter productive to eat twice as much as I do normally (which, honestly, I could not do. I feel full all the time as it is with what I do eat) just because i'm exercising? That seems like it would cause me to maintain, not lose.
I'm not sure about Net and Gross calories - but I understand the concept of starvation mode.

Think about it this way - your body needs 1200 calories to function on the day to day - that's what your body will burn on its own, so its like you have "free" calories that you don't have to work off.

Now, you're eating that, but burning most of it, so your body only has 100 calories to run itself. Vixjean is right - they're probably going to want you to increase your calories - since you're very very active they may ask you to go up to 2000. You don't have to increase the volume of food you're eating, but maybe eat higher calorie/fat foods - the healthy ones, like nuts, avocados, etc.

A friend of mine just went to a nutritionist and this was her problem - she was eating 1000 calories a day and working out for 2 hours and not losing any weight (she also has an eating disorder but they're working on that too). The nutritionist explained to her that she wasn't eating enough and because of this her body was holding onto all of her fat. Starvation mode is basically when you're not eating enough/burning too many calories and your body holds onto your excess fat as a way to sustain itself.

When you're trying to lose weight, the assumption is that when you gained it you were eating too many additional calories (above that 1200) and not burning them off. So yes, eat less, exercise, etc, but only to a certain degree. If you do under that magic number, your body won't let go of any fat and will burn your muscle for energy, because its more efficient energy. You have to gradually decrease your consumption of calories as you lose weight.

I just think of the WW model - you have a certain amount of points (1 point = 50 calories, if there's no fat/fiber) - you go down 10 lbs, you lose a point - and you still lose weight - so your gradually decreasing your consumption, but still giving yourself enough to sustain your body - but you can never go below 18 points - that's the bare minimum - and I'm guessing that works out to be 1200 calories once you include fat and fiber.

I hope this wasn't too much of a ramble...
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Old 05-24-2009, 01:48 PM   #10
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Stella, not at all.

THAT made sense to my brain. Hm. Now I have to redo my entire menu. Or maybe i'll just include dessert or something. Thank you.
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Old 05-24-2009, 09:51 PM   #11
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You're welcome
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Old 05-24-2009, 09:57 PM   #12
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ok now im kinda confused...

Ive been trying to stay under 1500 every day and i work out everyday and walk for an hour every day-3x weight 3x cardio. so is that a safe range or will i not be able to lose weight because of starvation mode?
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Old 05-24-2009, 10:03 PM   #13
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ok now im kinda confused...

Ive been trying to stay under 1500 every day and i work out everyday and walk for an hour every day-3x weight 3x cardio. so is that a safe range or will i not be able to lose weight because of starvation mode?
I think the amount of calories your body needs to "survive" varies from person to person. If you're doing that and losing weight, you're probably fine.
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Old 05-24-2009, 10:06 PM   #14
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i havent yet, its only been like 5 days but i dont want to waste my time if its going to hurt me
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Old 05-24-2009, 10:27 PM   #15
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i havent yet, its only been like 5 days but i dont want to waste my time if its going to hurt me
I've read a lot of people on here staying under 1500 and they seem to be doing okay. Dunno.
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