Relatively light people trying to get leaner

I'm going through my blog here on MFP and finding a few pieces I think are worth sharing on the main board. This piece specifically was a blurb from a conversation I was having with a relatively lean female who was "having problems" getting leaner.

**************

Where I'm going with this is... being a light female, you don't have a lot of room to wiggle, calorically speaking. 12 calories per pound is typically where I'll start my clients who are interested in fat loss. That's assuming a maintenance of around 14-15 calories per pound and frequent exercise.

So in your case, 12 x 122 = 1500ish calories per day.

You're most likely eating close to that after you eat your exercise calories back. Plus, keep in mind that mostly everyone under-reports actual calorie intake. Humans are just very poor at doing this accurately. I have papers showing dietitians significantly under-reporting their true intake, believe it or not.

So in this case, we're assuming your maintenance is 14 x 122 = 1700 leaving you with a 200 cal/day deficit.

Given that there are 3500 cals in one pound of fat, assuming all you lost was fat (which isn't the case), it would take you 17-18 days just to lose one pound.

And even with that, smaller women who are trying to diet invariably deal with all sorts of water balance issues. Part of it is glycogen, as mentioned above. Each gram of glycogen that is stored carries along 3 grams of water. But it also has loads to do with hormone balances that tend to get wonky in women in your position.

So your fat loss could be happening at this excruciatingly slow pace and even then, you won't realize it on the scale as it can be masked by 2-5 lbs of water weight.

I see it all the time... women in similar shoes heading in the "right" direction but they never stick with things long enough to realize it. They solely use the scale to measure progress so they never actually realize they're losing fat and this is coupled with short-term perceptions/expectations. They never stick to the plan b/c they allow water weight to dominate their emotional well-being. More often then not they cave, binge, and try again next week or month or whatever. It's a viscous cycle.

More often than not, managing expectation along with tracking weight/body comp over many weeks and plotting a trend is what's called for. Or to put it differently, it's a matter of patience, assuming you have your nutrition and exercise dialed in correctly.

I'm just finishing working with a woman who's a fitness competitor. Over the course of a 2 month cut she averaged under .5 lbs of fat loss per week. And her weight remained the same throughout much of that time. Think about that.

Also, keep in mind that your maintenance may very well be under 14 calories per pound. Say it's 13. That puts maintenance at 1600 and if you're consuming 1500 cals/day, that gives you an average daily deficit of only 100 cals. At that rate, again assuming you lose nothing but fat, it would take you 35 days to lose one pound of fat.

See where I'm going with this?
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Replies

  • sngnyrslp
    sngnyrslp Posts: 315 Member
    I'm confused. are you saying that light people shouldn't bother trying to lose fat?
  • jabdye
    jabdye Posts: 4,059 Member
    Great post! Thanks! I am in a similar situation. I have been running for about 2 years -- and after an overuse injury decided to do a little more cross training. I started weight-lifting, swimming and biking on my non-running days. After 5 months I have gained 3 pounds! It's very discouraging. Luckily I did do a body composition analysis before I started -- and look forward to comparing before/after results. I know I have toned so I should have a lower body fat %. I tend to be a slave to the scale but am trying desperately to quit using it until my 6 month assessment....next month.

    Thanks for the great info!
  • smuehlbauer
    smuehlbauer Posts: 1,041 Member
    Great post!
    I really have given up with the scale numbers now that I am this close to my goal and that I am just working on toning and not really losing any more. I understand that water and muscle are going to play a lot bigger role for me when I jump on the scale!
    I really wish now, that I would have had my body fat tested. But at that time I didn't know that I would ever come this far.
    Once again, great post!
    Thanks,
    Steph
  • Alleghany
    Alleghany Posts: 200
    That's great!!! Thx for thinking of us and posting this! :flowerforyou:
  • jabdye
    jabdye Posts: 4,059 Member
    Great post! Thanks! I am in a similar situation. I have been running for about 2 years -- and after an overuse injury decided to do a little more cross training. I started weight-lifting, swimming and biking on my non-running days. After 5 months I have gained 3 pounds! It's very discouraging. Luckily I did do a body composition analysis before I started -- and look forward to comparing before/after results. I know I have toned so I should have a lower body fat %. I tend to be a slave to the scale but am trying desperately to quit using it until my 6 month assessment....next month.

    Thanks for the great info!

    You're very welcome.

    If I were to make one suggestion... if you're a runner logging significant mileage, on your non-running days I'd either be relaxing or strength training. Don't do more cardio. High volumes of cardio (distance running, swimming, biking, circuit training, etc) can do wonky things to lean women trying to get leaner.

    Plus, you're interested in optimizing your body composition, obviously. Being lean is a function of fat loss AND muscle gain/maintenance. Strength training is what facilitates the latter, yet very few people prioritize it and/or do it correctly.

    hmmmm.....something to think about. Right now I am training for a half-marathong and I usually have 2 short running days where I run 5-6 miles -- and one long run 10-15 miles. When I switch to marathon running my mileage will increase significantly. The other three days I spend 45min weight training/35 min spinning/ and 35 min swimming. Without that extra calorie burn I feel like I dont' get to eat enough:ohwell: Maybe I need to add more weight training :grumble: -- of course, I enjoy cardio so much more than weight training but have definitely seen results from it.
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    Great post!
    I really have given up with the scale numbers now that I am this close to my goal and that I am just working on toning and not really losing any more. I understand that water and muscle are going to play a lot bigger role for me when I jump on the scale!
    I really wish now, that I would have had my body fat tested. But at that time I didn't know that I would ever come this far.
    Once again, great post!
    Thanks,
    Steph

    Glad you liked it Steph. And just checked out your photos - you look great!
  • lobster888
    lobster888 Posts: 861 Member
    Thank you for a great post stroutman81 - I am really haveing problems losing the last 3 pounds - I just have an number stuck in my head! But everything you said makes sense. I have gotten more lean and the closer I get to my goal the harder it is. I DO get very disappointed but I have not given up yet. I am still trying. Thanks again!!!
  • jabdye
    jabdye Posts: 4,059 Member
    No need to apologize for babbling! and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. you're insight is very helpful....still ultimately confused....so I will continue my workouts cause they make me happy :bigsmile: And i'll try to be patient (not one of my strong points) until I can meet my goal. Thanks again!
  • sngnyrslp
    sngnyrslp Posts: 315 Member
    I'm confused. are you saying that light people shouldn't bother trying to lose fat?

    Huh? Not at all.

    I'm saying light people need to really focus on objectivity and manage their expectations because, in general, what they expect is far from the reality of the situation.

    Oh okay! Nevermind then :laugh:
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    And while I'm rambling, I'll add to the original post with another concept I see time and time again in this population.

    More times than I can remember I've had clients come to me (men and women) who've been chasing leanness for a year or more. They're still in a calorie deficit, they're still doing lots of low force stuff (like cardio, circuit training, etc), and they typically aren't doing any real forms of strength training.

    Here's the deal...

    The last things these people need is more dieting or weight loss. I know it's all the rave to assume a calorie deficit leads to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.... but it's not always the case. These folks I'm talking about are already skin and bones. Loosing more would more than likely lead to looking sickly.

    Would your abs eventually expose themselves? Of course. But at what price? Survivors of concentration camps could see their abs. They also looked like walking skeletons.

    Here's a link to one of the participants of a famous metabolism study known as the Minnesota Starvation Experiment:

    http://i162.photobucket.com/albums/t264/stroutman81/Forum/minnesotastavation.jpg

    Even then there's a chance you won't see your abs depending on genetic proclivities.

    I also don't believe this is the result anyone is after, man or woman. Yet, some of the dieting and exercise programming I come across would suggest otherwise.
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    Thank you for a great post stroutman81 - I am really haveing problems losing the last 3 pounds - I just have an number stuck in my head! But everything you said makes sense. I have gotten more lean and the closer I get to my goal the harder it is. I DO get very disappointed but I have not given up yet. I am still trying. Thanks again!!!

    You're welcome.

    In all honesty, a goal weight is great when you have a lot of weight to lose. When you get to a position where you're relatively lean trying to get leaner, in my opinion, one's focus needs to shift from a particular weight to more important factors.

    Weight is pretty much meaningless at lower weights. What I'd focus on more is body composition (via measurements and pictures), strength levels, performance, etc.

    Another important concept that I promote quite a bit with my client base is "form follows function." By that, I mean at this stage in the game more attention should be paid to the process rather than the physique. If you focus on the correct sort of programming and make consistency and hard work your goal, the body will follow suit. The body becomes merely a byproduct of your goals, rather than the goal itself, if that makes any sense at all.
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    No need to apologize for babbling! and I appreciate you taking the time to respond. you're insight is very helpful....still ultimately confused....so I will continue my workouts cause they make me happy :bigsmile: And i'll try to be patient (not one of my strong points) until I can meet my goal. Thanks again!

    Well feel free to hit me up whenever you want. And by all means, don't be worried about changing things for my sake. If you're happy and getting the results you're after... that's what matters. If a time comes where you're not happy, my door is open.

    Best to you.
  • jabdye
    jabdye Posts: 4,059 Member
    Thanks -- but you may regret that offer. I will probably pluck your brain :bigsmile: I have been trying desperately to find someone who could answer my questions. The "happy" I refer to is the stress relief I get from exercising...or the runner's high! I love that feeling which is why I spend so much time exercising. but I have been told lately that I need to focus on quality not quantity. Weight lifting-wise, I met with a trainer and currently lift twice a week for 45 minutes. I do each machine for 3 sets of 12-15 reps...and I have definitely seen results. I try to keep increasing my weights and have almost doubled them in 5 months. So -- question #1 -- are you better off to lift fewer reps with heavier weights?

    I hope you aren't already regretting answering my questions :ohwell:
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    Thanks -- but you may regret that offer. I will probably pluck your brain :bigsmile: I have been trying desperately to find someone who could answer my questions. The "happy" I refer to is the stress relief I get from exercising...or the runner's high! I love that feeling which is why I spend so much time exercising. but I have been told lately that I need to focus on quality not quantity. Weight lifting-wise, I met with a trainer and currently lift twice a week for 45 minutes. I do each machine for 3 sets of 12-15 reps...and I have definitely seen results. I try to keep increasing my weights and have almost doubled them in 5 months. So -- question #1 -- are you better off to lift fewer reps with heavier weights?

    I hope you aren't already regretting answering my questions :ohwell:

    Hahaha...

    First let me start off by saying I appreciate questions. That's why I belong to communities like this - it gives me a chance to outlet my passion. Part of my passion is education. And frankly, I'm almost ashamed at times to admit I'm a member of the "fitness profession" due to the sad state of affairs it's in. It completely bogged down with ignorance and dishonesty. So being able to slice through some of the BS that plagues most people is a joy.

    On to your question...
    are you better off to lift fewer reps with heavier weights?

    The answer to almost every question like this is, "It depends." I actually just answered this same question via email, too, so it's a common one.

    Before answering specifically, let me refer you to an interview I did with Lyle McDonald. If you've not heard of him... he really is the master of exercise and nutrition research. He's also a brilliant author. In the interview, I asked:
    I’d like to shift gears and talk about resistance training now. What used to be something only the big guys in the local gyms would do has become something most every health-conscious person is interested in. What would your advice look like in relation to the overweight/obese novice, keeping in mind most people reading this probably have 50-100 lbs to lose? How would you progress the person as their conditioning improved and they traveled closer and closer to their ideal weight? It’s common to hear things like, “heavy strength training preserves muscle.” Is that something this population needs to worry about? Why should or shouldn’t they consider resistance training? Yeah, I can hear you now, “Steve, I thought you said we were going to do this interview one question at a time. You just asked me 5 questions at once!”

    His reply was:
    Everybody knows that asking lots of questions burns mad fat. Anyhow, when I originally got into this stuff, most of what I was reading was coming from the bodybuilding/athletic subculture, which is positively obsessed with avoiding muscle loss while dieting. This is ultimately because, and this is especially true for natural athletes, muscle loss tends to become very problematic when people are trying to get very lean. This is an issue I’ve dealt with to some degree in almost all of my books and for lean people who aren’t using drugs, it’s a huge problem. Sufficient protein, the proper kind of weight training, and a lot of other strategies are necessary to stave off muscle loss in this population.

    Now, originally I tended to feel that the same attitude (all muscle loss MUST be avoided) had to apply to the obese but this turns out to not be completely correct. When people get fat, some of the weight gained is lean body mass (which encompasses not only muscle mass but also connective tissue and some other stuff); on average 25% of weight gained is LBM. To reach an ideal ‘weight’ (whatever that means exactly) often means sacrificing some of the LBM that was gained during the period where the person originally became obese. Many obesity researchers feel that allowing up to 25% of the total weight lost in the obese to be LBM is not only acceptable but may be necessary to get their weight down. Some even get more detailed by dividing LBM into inessential LBM (the connective tissue, minerals, etc) and essential LBM (muscle mass). Basically, they don’t think it’s that big of an issue for the most part and I don’t either.

    Now add to that the fact that, the more fat someone is carrying, the less LBM/muscle mass they tend to lose under any condition in the first place. Whether it’s fasting, dieting, etc. the more fat someone has, the less LBM they tend to lose and vice versa (leaner people tend to lose more LBM and less fat under any given condition). For example, even with total fasting, someone who is carrying a lot of fat may only lose 10% lean body mass; a lean individual could lose up to 33% of the total weight as LBM. Basically, the fatter individual doesn’t have to worry about it quite as much. So a lot of the obsession about getting fatter individuals into heavy training (especially muscle maintaining heavy weight training) may be both unnecessary and irrelevant. There is also the fact that extremely overweight/sedentary individuals are unlikely to have a large tolerance for exercise in the first place. I’ve had clients who couldn’t walk more than 5-10 minutes on a treadmill initially and anything outside of the simplest weight training (and I always used machines to avoid the coordination aspects of free weights) would have been impossible.

    Tangentially: I read a lot of diet and weight loss related stuff and a current trend in the industry is a focus on bodyweight, high intensity circuit type stuff. Reading these manuals, I find it interesting that the models demonstrating the movements are always light and in-shape. I wonder if any of these trainers have ever tried doing this with someone who’s 350 pounds and has never exercised in their life. My hunch is that they haven’t or they’d know better than to try to suggest something so inherently stupid.

    Now, this isn’t to say that fitness won’t or can’t improve fairly rapidly in these folks. But the reality is that, initially, the likelihood of significantly impacting on energy balance with exercise in the obese is a losing proposition. This has always been one of those great ironies, about the only people who can burn a ton of calories with activity are trained athletes; and they don’t usually need to lose weight.

    Frankly, I think most overweight people would probably do better doing lighter, higher rep types of weight training in the first place. There’s a lot of research showing that some of the issues associated with obesity are muscles that are packed full of both carbohydrate and fat. Depleting those tends to increase how well the body burns fat during the day as well as giving a bigger ’sink’ for incoming calories to go into. The heavy stuff just isn’t needed for muscle mass maintenance and lighter stuff may be better tolerated and have more beneficial metabolic effects in the short-term. As well, it provides a base of training for when heavier stuff is brought in later on.

    Of course, and this goes to, I dunno, your third question or something… as folks get leaner, the role of exercise (either to maintain a sufficient deficit or spare LBM) can begin to play a larger role. And, of course, if it was included at some level (and building basic fitness doesn’t take much training each week) from the outset and increased gradually and progressively the individual will be capable of handling a lot more training as they do lose weight (and need the exercise more) than if someone waits until they have already lost a bunch of weight to start but this is a minor quibble.

    So yeah, that Q&A was about resistance training in obese populations, but hopefully you were able to draw the applicability of it to this conversation. High rep, low rest, light weight resistance training might be considered ideal for heavy populations who are carrying a lot of excess fat.

    On the flip side, their leaner counterparts need to be focusing on the muscle building/preserving stuff, which is heavy weights relative to your strength. The heavy weight dictates a lower rep range, as you can't do as many reps with heavy poundages. How many reps? Anywhere from 1-12 per set if you forced me to pick a rep range.

    But this is only part of the picture. Developing a well-rounded resistance training program with the goal of muscle maintenance goes beyond how many reps per set. I wrote up an extensive article about this which you can find here in my MFP blog:

    http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/stroutman81/view/resistance-training-foundation-19725

    Now let me ask YOU... are you regretting asking me questions? lol :)
  • iplayoutside19
    iplayoutside19 Posts: 2,305 Member

    Another important concept that I promote quite a bit with my client base is "form follows function." By that, I mean at this stage in the game more attention should be paid to the process rather than the physique. If you focus on the correct sort of programming and make consistency and hard work your goal, the body will follow suit. The body becomes merely a byproduct of your goals, rather than the goal itself, if that makes any sense at all.

    This is the mental state that I am in. At this point I'm not real sure that my goal weight is attainible (w/o losing a lot of muscle), but the mirror says there's some significant fat loss that needs to take place. I am also training for a Half Marathon..and I lift pretty heavy on my non-running days.

    I've decided I'm going to weigh myself 2 more times before the event in October. But other than that I'm just going to stick the training plan and see what happens. After the marathon I plan on getting my BF% tested to get a better idea of where I stand, and adjust from there. And start planning some other bucket list items that will require extreme endurance.
  • jabdye
    jabdye Posts: 4,059 Member
    http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/stroutman81/view/resistance-training-foundation-19725

    Now let me ask YOU... are you regretting asking me questions? lol :)

    WOW -- that's a lot of information--- you are quite knowledgeable and verbose :bigsmile: -- but I think it's safe to say I need to up my weights with less reps....I'm on it!

    What about cardio and weight-lifting in the same day -- do you weight lift before or after?
  • stroutman81
    stroutman81 Posts: 2,482 Member
    This is the mental state that I am in. At this point I'm not real sure that my goal weight is attainible (w/o losing a lot of muscle), but the mirror says there's some significant fat loss that needs to take place. I am also training for a Half Marathon..and I lift pretty heavy on my non-running days.

    I've decided I'm going to weigh myself 2 more times before the event in October. But other than that I'm just going to stick the training plan and see what happens. After the marathon I plan on getting my BF% tested to get a better idea of where I stand, and adjust from there. And start planning some other bucket list items that will require extreme endurance.

    Nice! Good luck with the iron man!

    Personally, I don't ever weigh. I own a gym that has 3 scales in sight and I step on one of them maybe 5 times per year. I just don't care what I weigh. I care what I can do (big on mountaineering) and how I look. But I train for performance and how I look follows suit.