Advice on when (or if) to up my calories

Hi Sara and SideSteel,

I am nearing my goal weight (only 18 more pounds to go), and I'm wondering when (or if) I should up my calories. A little about me: I started working to lose weight last year. I was at 200+ in January 2012. I actually stopped weighing myself when I hit 200, so best guess on starting weight is 210-215. I managed to lose 50 lb last year with the help of a trainer. He had me doing a lot of HIIT and bodyweight exercises. Then he moved on to another job, and I got lazy and stopped working out. I pretty much ate my way through the holidays, and ended up gaining 20 lb. In January 2013, I started working out again and found another trainer who understands my goals. I began working with him in April. Since April, I've lost 12.5 lb and 2 percentage points off my body fat %.

My question is.....I'm set to lose 1 lb week and I'm losing at least that or more. I lost 5 lb in April and 7.5 lb in May. But I'm finding, especially in the last couple of weeks, that I'm hungry more. True physical stomach-rumbling hunger. So I'm wondering if I need to adjust my goal to 0.5 lb weight loss a week. My body fat % is still pretty high (see stats below), so I'm not sure exactly what to do. Any help or insight would be much appreciated.

Provide your stats (height/weight/age/bodyfat% if you know it/etc)
* Age 47, height 5'0", current weight is 158 lb. Goal weight is 140 lb (both my physician and my trainer believe this is a good goal weight for me). Body fat % = 43% (down from 45% in April, and I shudder to think what it was back when I was 200+ lbs! Yikes)

What's your current gross intake of calories, on average?
* 1650 to 1750 on workout days, 1200-1400 on rest days. My TDEE based on my FitBit stats is around 1900-2000.

What's your current average intake of protein, carbs, and fats, in grams? (GRAMS, not percent!)
* 100g protein, 100g carbs, 100g fat

Do you use a food scale and measure everything?
* Almost always. I pack breakfast, lunch and snacks for work and weigh all of that. Usually weigh my dinner and evening snacks also, but when I occasionally eat out, I have to guesstimate, especially if at a restaurant where they don't publish nutrition info.

Do you track all of your intake, daily? (Everything?)
* Yes, with the exception of water. I tracked it for a month and I'm always way over on water intake, usually exceeding a gallon per day so I stopped tracking just to make it easier on myself. I usually drink only coffee (black, no milk or sugar) and water, and occasionally unsweetened iced tea.

Do you take cheat days or days off?
* Occasionally. I usually have a cheat meal maybe once a week or so. Usually not a whole cheat day, unless it's for something special, like my birthday.

How much weight have you lost so far and over what time period?
* 52 lb since January of 2012.

Describe your activity (exercise and non exercise) and did you change that activity withing the last couple of months?
* Began working with a trainer in April. He has me lifting 30 minutes (usually compound lifts.....deadlifts, squats, chest press, etc) followed by 30 minutes of HIIT (run 2 minutes, walk 3 minutes x 4 with a 5 min warm up and cool down). I do this 4 days a week. Other than that, I'm pretty sedentary. I have a desk job. Take the dog on two 15 minute walks daily. But that's about it.

How long have you been stalled and if it is not a complete stall please be very specific as to how much you have lost over the stalled period.
* Currently not stalled at all. Worried I'm maybe losing at too fast a pace......?

Are you breastfeeding?
* God no. LOL

Do you have thyroid issues/risks or PCOS?
* Yes, I am hypothyroid and take Synthroid daily. My last thyroid labs were normal on the medication (have been on it about a year). No risk of PCOS.

Also, please ensure that you have your diary open.
* Will do as soon as I post this.

Replies

  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Tagging
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Do you prefer eating to a static number or more on days that you workout? When do you get hungriest the most. Also, what time in the day do you workout? Morning/afternoon/evening.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    I have been eating back my exercise calories because for me it's a good motivator to work out (i.e., getting extra calories for the day). But I'm not opposed to trying eating at a static number.

    I usually get hungriest in the afternoons, and I've usually gone through all my snacks by then.

    I work out in the evenings (somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00, getting home from the gym around 9:00 p.m.) That might be part of my problem with eating back my exercise calories. I usually have 400 calories to "cram in" before bedtime. Maybe eating at a static number would help that.

    Advice?
  • SideSteel
    SideSteel Posts: 11,069 Member
    tagging
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    I would continue what you are doing for now, but up your base calories by 300 a day. This should help with your hunger and based on your results you can 'afford' it. If you want to 'leave them on the table' when not hungry, that is fine, but definitely use them when you are hungry.

    Your macros look good to me - the higher fat and protein and the lower carbs often work better for people with hypothyroid, even when they are on medications for it.

    Your exercise routine also looks very solid based on what you mention.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Thank you, Sara. I'll give it a try. I think you're right.....I can afford an extra 300 calories. Although I'm looking forward to getting to my goal weight, I've change my focus from that to getting fit and lifting. If I continue to lose inches, I'll be a happy camper. :happy: Thanks for responding. I really appreciate you guys taking time to help us out.
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Locking for now so we can track active threads.

    If you could update us with your weight in a few weeks that would be great so we can add any additional recommendation. Please PM either myself or SideSteel with a link to this thread and we will unlock so you can update.
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Unlocked at OPs request
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Hi Sara and SideSteel,

    First, an update......I adjusted my MFP settings to 1300 and have been eating that + plus exercise calories for a few days now. It's certainly helped with the hunger, and I'm thinking of adding another 100 calories maybe next week. I may even try eating an even number and stop eating back exercise calories. If I decide to go that route, I'll post again and see what you guys think would be a good "steady" number for me.

    Also, I had a question about lowering body fat. Even though I'm getting *this* close to goal weight, I still have a very high body fat (43% when it was checked 2 weeks ago). Am I correct that I'll need to continue to eat at a deficit even when getting to my goal weight? As a reminder, I started lifting 2 months ago (compound lifts mostly......just learned OHP last night and LOVED it!) I would love to get my body fat down in the 20s range. What can i expect while I'm working toward that? Is it going to take me months? years? At what point will I be eating at maintenance? Any tips on getting my BF% down?

    Thanks again for all your help and encouragement!

    Jody
  • SideSteel
    SideSteel Posts: 11,069 Member
    Also, I had a question about lowering body fat. Even though I'm getting *this* close to goal weight, I still have a very high body fat (43% when it was checked 2 weeks ago). Am I correct that I'll need to continue to eat at a deficit even when getting to my goal weight?


    Hopefully these answers aren't too vague or generalized but:

    1) If you're 43% bodyfat then your goal weight is probably just set too high and you would likely want to keep eating in a deficit.
    2) However, several bodyfat estimation tools have a high degree of error (http://www.myfitnesspal.com/topics/show/830595-body-fat-estimation-methods ). That being said, certainly let the mirror be your guide as to when you think you are happy with your body. Ultimately, that's what matters.
    I would love to get my body fat down in the 20s range. What can i expect while I'm working toward that?

    Lots of pain and suffering =)

    What you can expect is to continue eating in a caloric deficit while exercising, ideally continuing with some form of resistance training as a portion of your program.
    Is it going to take me months? years? At what point will I be eating at maintenance?

    That depends entirely on the rate of loss. Going from 43 to 20% would take a while*
    Any tips on getting my BF% down?

    Yes, as a matter of fact I do have some tips.

    I really believe you should do everything in your power to minimize the things that are unimportant and focus on the things that ARE important. Your GOAL in this should be to make your adherence as high as possible. In order to do that you need to find a way to make this either the most enjoyable or the least painful.

    The things that I think are physiologically important are:
    1) A reasonable caloric deficit.
    2) Reasonable macronutrient intake for your goals
    3) Some form of exercise, ideally some resistance based training thrown in but you don't need to become an olympic lifter by any stretch.
    4) Adequate rest.


    * And don't let the statement with the * by it get you down. Focus on the process and the results will happen over time. Let the day to day stuff go and monitor what happens over weeks and months.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Thanks for the advice, SideSteel. You're right......it's what I see in the mirror that matters, not some arbitrary number on either a scale or body fat estimator. Good to remember. I do understand this will be a lot of work, but I think I've almost found a workable program and eating plan for myself, something I can live with long term. While I'm strict with my diet 90% of the time, I actually like the stuff I'm eating. And I allow myself some cheat meals here and there so I don't get too bored.

    Lifting has really helped me in a lot of areas. First, I'm seeing almost immediate results and that keeps me motivated. I also like focusing on how much stronger I'm getting as opposed to the scale. On top of that, I've had a lot more confidence. Just walking into the free weight area and not feeling (too) awkward has given me a big boost of confidence. Plus I feel like a real [email protected]$$. :happy: For the first time I'm actually enjoying working out.

    I do have one final question. I've decided that I'm being pretty consistent with my exercise, so "eating back my exercise calories" isn't the motivator it once was. So I'm thinking of eating at a static number (TDEE-some%). I'm assuming given my still high body fat, I should go for the -20%, which puts me about 1600 per day. Any thoughts?

    Thanks so much for your and Sara's insight, advice and support. It's great to have a place to ask questions and get solid advice.
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    It is great that you are starting to have a love affair with free weights. There is nothing wrong with other forms of resistance training, but for me, lifting heavy arsed weights is very fulfilling and it is great to see your lifts going up, especially if weight loss is in one of those frustrating periods. Weight loss is often up and down, even when you are doing everything 'right' due to water weight fluctuations and it is great to have some other progress to focus on (this is not only the case for weight lifting, but for anything).

    We will get back to you shortly re caloric intake suggestions
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Yep, I definitely got bit by the Iron Bug. LOL. If you would have told me a year ago that I would enjoy lifting weights, I would have thought you were crazy.

    I'll await your calorie advice. Thanks again.
  • vegannlg
    vegannlg Posts: 170 Member
    *rubberneckin'* to see replies
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Just popping in to add an update. This past week has been particularly challenging. Work has been super crazy. And I've had a family situation that's taken a lot of my time. Because of that, I haven't worked out since Monday and I had several high calorie days, one of which I didn't even fully log. I know was way over on calories (per MFP and FitBit). I did have a couple of days where I was hungry, but that had more to do with my hectic schedule than it did with my calorie count since I wasn't even really tracking it well. LOL.

    Even with all that, this morning I logged my lowest weight in over year. I'm at 155.8 lb, down another 3 lb since my original post on 6/12/13. So I'm pretty sure upping my calories will not hurt my weight loss much, if at all.

    Interested to see what Sara and SideSteel's calorie recommendations are.

    P.S. Vegannlg, feel free to rubberneck! I've learned a lot reading posts others have posted too. :smile:
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Seems like you are definitely losing too fast.

    'Life' situations can be odd on weight loss. A lot of people eat more when busy/stressed (some eat less). Being tired can also impact hunger levels as well as weight loss. Often people are surprised that they lose weight, for example, while on vacation as they eat more. However, they forget that often they are also moving a lot more. I know I move a lot more when I have a lot going on so this probably counteracted the increase in calories and did your weight loss no harm at all.

    As noted before, I would up your base calories by 300 a day. However, as you are losing so quickly, I would actually try to eat them rather than only doing so if hungry. You can 'bank' some of them if you want and eat, say 200 extra a day and then use the difference on a 'splurge' meal or a 'splurge' day. Whatever works best for your preference. Usually, people get a little pop in weight due purely to the increase in food and water weight, however, as you have had some higher calorie days you may not get this, so I would implement the increase immediately.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Thanks for your response, Sara. Since I'm wanting to switch to eating a constant amount as opposed to eating back my exercise calories, would I add 300 to my "base" amount (1200 + 300 = 1500) or should I add it to what I've been averaging (the last 4 weeks, my average has been 1688, so roughly 1600 + 300 = 1900)? Actually 1900 seems pretty close to my TDEE of 2000, so maybe somewhere in the middle, so maybe 1700?

    Thanks too for you feedback on "life situations." We definitely don't this fitness thing in a vacuum. But I've learned in the last year that as soon as the crisis is over, it's important to get back to the routine. Which is why I'll be back in the gym beginning tomorrow. :smile:

    Edited to correct a typo.
  • Sarauk2sf
    Sarauk2sf Posts: 28,079 Member
    Based on your losses, I would up the calories to the 1,900 static number (no eating back of exercise calories).

    If your average has been about 1,700 over the last 4 weeks and you have lost as quick as you have, your TDEE is higher than 2,000. Fitbits, other similar devices and online calculators are not completely accurate and can be off for many. Your results are what give a more accurate representation of your TDEE.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    OK, that makes sense. I'll gradually up it to 1900 and report back. Thanks again for your help.
  • jody664
    jody664 Posts: 397
    Sara, feel free to lock this thread.

    Also wanted to report that I got my @$$ back in the gym yesterday after almost a week off. Ironically it was one of my best workouts yet! I had a ton of energy and felt fantastic. Maybe I needed the week off. Or maybe the additional calories gave me a burst of energy. Either way, I was happy to be back.
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