Know the critical concept of "Maintenance Calories" for weight loss
Fat loss is a goal. It's a top priority for an overweight individual with a high body-fat percentage. Being overweight causes a myriad of health issues which builds up over a period of time. Losing fat can make you look a different person, much younger and instill confidence in you.
The road to achieving fat loss is not easy. If it was easy, everyone would have done it. But it is definitely not impossible.
Your diet plays the most important role when it comes to reducing fat and after that, comes your physical activity. A good combination of weight training and cardio is ideal for fat loss; don’t just rely on cardio alone.
When you go to the gym, the first thing you need to do is weight training followed by a 10-15 minutes cardio session. You need to use the maximum amount of your energy in lifting weights. Remember, weight training will help you burn calories throughout the day because when you lift weights, you break down your muscle fibers and your body is going to burn calories to repair them.
When it comes to the diet, it is all about the calories you consume minus calories you burn every single day. Just think of fat loss as a company or enterprise that generates revenues and incurs expenses. If the company's revenue is more than expenses, it gains profit. If the revenue is less than expenses, the company makes a loss.
Similarly, when the calories you burn are more than the calories you consume, you incur loss but that is a tangible fat loss. That is to say, if you are consuming lesser calories than what your body needs to maintain its weight, you are going to lose weight.
Does this mean you restrict yourself from eating? No! First and foremost, you need to know your maintenance calories.
For fat loss, you need to stay in a caloric deficit, meaning the total calories you consume every day should be less than your maintenance calories. Now, you can use any calorie calculator from Google to calculate the same.
But, these calorie calculators can only give a rough approximation and not the exact number. Because they don’t take into account your recent lifestyle (for e.g., how active or sedentary your lifestyle was), eating habits and genetics.
So, the best thing to do is to experiment. You can start with a maintenance calorie number you get from any calorie calculator and try that for a few weeks. If you don't see any changes in your body, you will have to revise your maintenance calorie number downwards and eat below it.
To quantify this, let’s say that your maintenance calories are 2000 calories/day. You will reduce 100 calories from your maintenance calories every fortnight. Meaning, you will start with 1900 calories and gradually reduce 100 calories every fortnight.
The biggest mistake one should avoid is to drop your calories drastically. Let us say dropping to 1200 calories/day from 2000 calories/day at the beginning of your weight loss journey. If you drop your calories significantly, in the first few weeks you will experience rapid weight loss. But, your weight loss will slow down after a few weeks and you will hit a “Plateau” very soon.
What a weight loss plateau?
A plateau happens when your body is used to consuming certain or fixed amount calories and it is no longer reducing weight. Let me explain this with an example, in a formula one race, the car is in a mint condition at the beginning of the race. During the race, the car is subjected to wear and tear and hence slows down. After that, it has to be taken to a pit-stop to change tires, to refuel it and replace the worn out parts. Basically, the formula one car is resetting itself at the pit-stop.
Similarly, when you start your weight loss journey, as you reduce your calories over a period of time, you may feel at some point that the progress has slowed down or it isn’t happening at all and you start to get cranky.
Basically, your body is just telling to you take a break from months of dieting. So, in this case, you need to increase your calories back up to your maintenance calories for 7 to 10 days for the body to recover and reset itself and then you can start the calorie deficit cycle again.
So, this was the critical concept of maintenance calories for weight loss. Please note you may also have to change your workout routine as well when you hit a plateau. For example, if you are training a single muscle group every day, you should try two muscle groups every day (Chest and triceps on Monday, back, and biceps on Tuesday, legs, and shoulder on Wednesday and vice versa).
Modified 20 Feb 2019, 15:18 IST