In one of the previous posts, I wrote about dieting vs. clean eating and what are the differences. The topic I want to discuss today ties a little bit into that same mindset and I am writing it with the intention to provide more knowledge about long term weight loss. Often times I tell my clients that weight loss is the easy part. Healthy weight maintenance is when your knowledge and new habits are put to test. Because I don`t like the transition between weight loss and maintenance I prefer to avoid the dieting mindset altogether.
So, here is the scenario.
Imagine that for the last few weeks you`ve been putting in hard work at the gym and in the kitchen. You got healthier, stronger, leaner, and you feel amazing. This is such a great feeling! You are happy and comfortable with where you are and now it is time to transition into the maintenance phase. You feel good about it but there is this feeling of unknown.
Before we start with the plan, the number one thing is to define what maintenance means for you.
A general description is reintroducing back calories you took out in order to lose body fat while maintaining a current workout regimen.
Make sure you are eating enough during fat loss phase
Ok, this was important when you started your weight loss journey because it would have made the transition into maintenance easier. Hopefully, you`ve considered how many calories your body burns before you created a deficit in order to lose body fat. Let me explain that.
Our bodies require a certain amount of calories to function properly. This is your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate). RMR number is a reflection of your metabolism. This number is dependant on your age, height, & lifestyle. Slow metabolism requires fewer calories, therefore, your RMR will result in a low number. Fast metabolism allows for more calories which means that you ultimately get to eat more food.
After you`ve discovered your RMR, you need to account for lifestyle calories plus workout calories. For example, My Resting Metabolic Rate is 1650 and I burn about 500 calories on a daily basis from just walking around, doing housework, etc. Then, I burn roughly 500 calories in my workout. When I add up all of these numbers I end up with 2650 calories burned on days when I workout. If I am looking to lose weight I need to go into a caloric deficit. This is where my goals and lifestyle play a big role. The fact that I am trying to lose body fat and maintain my muscle mass means that I can`t go too low with calories. If I do that I am risking losing my hard-earned muscle.
I also want to make sure that transitioning into maintenance is as painless as possible, therefore, I need to start with a slow calorie reduction.
Every time we go in a caloric deficit, our bodies adapt to that new number. Now imagine if you start very low, how many times can you push that deficit before you are eating like a rabbit? The answer is that you want to eat as close to your RMR number as possible. For me, that would be 1650 calories a day if I am trying to lose body fat. This way I am not altering my caloric needs yet I am still in a deficit considering I will workout and move regularly throughout the day.
Introducing calories back during maintenance
Start slow, incremental calorie increases to allow your body and metabolism to adapt. That way, you’re more likely to use those calories for beneficial things like performance and strength instead of storing them as fat. An important thing to keep in mind is that we are not reintroducing unhealthy calories.
Maintenance is not time to start eating junk again. It means continuing with new, healthy habits.
Use the same healthy foods you were eating during your fat-loss process, and start by increasing your daily total calories by about 20 percent. You also want to allow enough time for your body to adapt, therefore, spend one month at your new calorie intake before you go any higher. Every four weeks assess your body and your performance. If you feel good about where you are, increase your calories again by 15 percent. If not, decrease new calories by 15 percent and stay there for two weeks. This calorie advancement should continue until you have increased calories by 50 percent and you feel comfortable with where you are.
What else matters
Ok, calories are one thing, deficit and all that, but your habits will take you far. You have created a new lifestyle that is now serving you well so you need strategies to succeed. Don`t forget the reason why you gained body fat in the first place.
1. Surround yourself with people who share your goals and who won't sabotage your progress. This is so important. Especially if you are a people pleaser. Set boundaries and know what you`ll allow.
2. Stick to your plan and remember, everything in moderation.
3. Keep yourself accountable. Maybe you are tired of your food journal but it is the only window into what goes on your plate. Maybe you don`t need to track daily but do weekly check-in with yourself to recognize where you are heading.
4. Continue adding muscle mass to your body. Don`t allow your body to get comfortable with your workout regimen. Keep adding more weights and challenging your body with new routines. At the end of the day, the more muscle mass you have will be using more energy at rest and burning more fat.
Before I let you go I want to mention two things. You cannot out-exercise a poor diet AND you cannot lose only body fat without exercise! Period. Integrate both, healthy nutrition and exercise regimen to reap long-term, sustainable benefits.