It seems this is new information for a lot of people and it could potentially relieve a lot of anxiety about weight gain when increasing calories. So for anyone who thinks, "But 1700 calories IS my maintenance amount!" Or, "I must just have a really slow metabolism because when I go over 1200 I gain." ... this post is for you.
The reason most people think they have to eat so little to maintain their weight is because our bodies naturally store glycogen and water in our muscles. This is the body's ready energy. When you eat at a caloric deficit, the glycogen stores (and the water molecules they must bind to in the cells) are shed first. That's why you get a big loss the first week of any diet. You just depleted your glycogen stores and now the body has no choice but to resort to fat in a continued caloric deficit.
So you keep up your deficit and your body is burning both glucose from the food you're eating and fat from your body (and some lean mass because you're in a deficit and that will just happen anyway) and you finally get to a weight you like. So you increase your calories to stop losing...
Or, you just decide to ditch the caloric deficit for a weekend of eating without discretion...
Or Christmas rolls around or you go on vacation and you eat to satisfaction and maybe a touch more...
... and you find you almost instantly put on 5 lbs.
All that has happened is your body has restored its glycogen stores and the water that glycogen must be stored with. In fact, trained endurance athletes will deliberately store extra glycogen by carb-loading before major events in order to have more energy for sustained effort. The body will, under perfect conditions, store this energy for use. It's part of being human.
So suppose you want to maintain your weight at 125 lbs. You diet down to 125 and then think, "Awesome! I will diligently increase my calories to maintenance." So you were eating 1700 calories/day to lose and you increase to 2000 calories daily... and after 1 week you've put on 1.5 lbs... so you cut back down to 1800 and your weight stays the same but now you're at 126.5... but you want to be 125lbs, so now you're just pissed off. So you go back down to 1500 calories for a week and you get back down to 125lbs. Then you increase by only 100 calories/day for a week and your weight stays the same... so you do it again... and you stay the same. You think, "Yay! I'm maintaining!"... And any time you eat over 1800 calories daily you start to gain again.
Because your body just wants 5 lbs of glycogen stores. The solution? Cut down to 5 lbs under your target weight and then eat at maintenance. Your body will rebound up to a healthy non-glycogen-depleted state and you'll be able to maintain relatively effortlessly and eat more food.
May 19, 2013 8:56PM
edited July 2016