The 500 calorie deficit myth

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  • franurra
    franurra Posts: 17 Member
    I got as far as if I cut 500 calories I wouldn't lose 4 stone........ I did and I did so I am not reading anymore. Everyone is different and studies are good for research but everyone needs to know how their own body and metabolism works, and thats by trial and error.

    spot on, exactly my point, ppl like to judge too quick, every one is different individual. guidelines are just that, guidelines, nothing written on stone.
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,139 Member
    I think the big lesson from ALL the studies is that no one can really know what any one person's metabolism is doing. They can look at overall average numbers from large groups of people to try to predict the outcome - but when it's you on your own diet/fitness plan, you don't know whether you're exactly average, or leaning towards one end or the other of the spectrum - ESPECIALLY when you consider that your own metabolism will change as your body adjusts to the diet, so even that isn't ever 100% known at any time either.

    The only thing you can do is choose a healthy diet/fitness plan that works for you, and stick with it long enough to ascertain whether it is working, and then make adjustments in physical activity and calories to correct your metabolism, which will change as your diet does.

    Thanks for the advise! im going to try cleaning up my calories abit as in the nutrition im getting. i always have high sugar levels when the dr takes my bloods and really need to control that. i think that can play a big part in stopping me from loosing as the first thing the body burns is glucose. it also effects my hormones massivley!

    clean eating has nothing to do with weight loss ….

    reading over the assumptions in the blog, no one is claiming that if you just reduce by 500 calories that exactly one year later it will lead 52 pounds exactly lost. Weight loss is never linear. Your body weight in water, poop, pee, etc fluctuates about +/- five pounds a day and that has nothing to do with fat. Additionally, after you lose about ten pounds you are going to have reset your calorie intake and make adjustments. Finally, as you lose more weight your body will fight to hang on to the remaining weight that you have and it will be harder and harder to lose and you will have to increase calories and/or exercise in order to keep losing, or you will probably have to up calorie levels and do a recoup….this is all dependent on what your goals are.

    Also, no one is claiming that you if you do a 500 cal deficit that you will lose "pure fat" …some muscle loss is expected that is why it is suggested that people get adequate protein levels and do some kind of weight lifting regimen….
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,139 Member
    The men in this experiment were already at a healthy weight which is why the results don't really work when applied to over weight or obese people

    im not sure if i have understood correctly but if i am at a healthy weight but am just trying to loose a stuborn 5kg then does that mean that 500 deficit wont work for me and its a matter of eating healthier foods??

    If a 500 calorie deficit is above your BMR and you get enough protein (and fats and carbs, but particulary protein) AND do some form of weight-bearing exercise, you should be totally fine. Well, if your goal is healthy. Trying to become underweight is a different story in terms of what goes on.

    thanks - so i may be doing this wrong in that case.. i do strength training 3 time a week my weight is 62kg im 170 cm my BMR is 1400 and TDEE is 1800 and i aim to eat 1200 calories a day... should i up my calories my 100?

    a 20% cut off your TDEE is a 360 calorie deficit..if you only have 5 pounds to lose this would seem more ideal ….you are currently in a 600 per day deficit?
  • ndj1979
    ndj1979 Posts: 29,139 Member
    I do believe that is not as simple as calorie in/calorie out (Most people will come and say it is as easy as that, but this is just my opinion). I also believe that what is really important is not losing weight but being a healthy human being with a healthy and active lifestyle, and that's much more than being on a deficit.

    so you can eat more than you burn and still lose? I would like to know how you defy the basic laws of math….
  • angelb1983
    angelb1983 Posts: 159 Member
    I both agree and disagree with this information. I agree that high calorie restriction does lead to feelings of deprivation and a likelihood of gaining weight back and then some, I have been there. On well known programs I have lost up to 50 pounds just to regain 70 when I returned to "normal" eating (because I felt deprived). I agree with all of that, but….I know that a calorie deficit does work, and work well…IF it is set to a healthy amount. For instance MFP has me set to around 1400 calories for a loss (way too low for me). I can eat anywhere from 1700-2000 a day and still lose weight at a slower, more obtainable rate.

    If I do not track my eating I find myself going way over what I should. At my highest wait I was between 230-240 from not paying attention to what I put in my mouth. I also got little to no exercise. By keeping a food/exercise log I am held accountable for how I treat my body. I have to because I have seen what happens when I do not. Some people have good self discipline, they do not need the accountability. I would love to be one of those, but unfortunately I have to pay attention to every bite I put in my mouth.
  • SunofaBeach14
    SunofaBeach14 Posts: 4,932 Member
    At the risk of ad hominem, the author's own reply to her article:
    "Thanks for your comments everyone, but take a look around. The population has never eaten so little and yet been so stricken by obesity-related disease. Sure, if you dramatically change your macronutrient and general food quality intake as a result of counting calories, then you will have success. But sadly most calorie counters fall foul of the enormous marketing machine that is the 'low calorie' food industry, and subsequently end up living on high sugar, high sweetener, nutrientless processed rubbish in order to get as much (sweet/refined) bang for their calorie quota buck as possible. These are the exact foods which equate to toxins in the body and which trigger insulin release and subsequent fat storage."

    Cuckoo.

    Oh. Ok then. :indifferent:

    This. There is an enormous amount of utter garbage out there, OP. I honestly stopped reading about three sentences in. I suggest you do the same in the future.
  • MissMormie
    MissMormie Posts: 359 Member
    To your body, you have a lot of expendable muscle. Fat is the last-resort emergency back-up. When faced with a calorie deficit, your body will go to muscle first, since it's metabolically "expensive".
    I don't think so. Muscle only 'costs' 6-10 calories/day per pound, and only provides around 600 per pound. Fat supplies around 3500 calories per pound. And obviously muscle is useful tissue whereas fat is primarily there for calorie storage. The body burns glycogen first, then fat, and protein (muscle) as a last resort, I believe.

    Do you have any science to back up your belief?
  • shor0814
    shor0814 Posts: 559 Member
    The population has never eaten so little...

    I'm sorry, no professional can be that out of touch. The article author is flat out lying, as we know for certain that Americans have never in history been eating more than they do today.

    To be fair, she is in the UK so maybe they eat less than in America? Been a while since I was anywhere in the UK outside of an airport or read anything about the healthiness of the country.
  • dawnrpurvis
    dawnrpurvis Posts: 27 Member
    Just thought I'd mention that there was a little more to the experiments than the blogger says

    Quote - 'The regime was tough - during the six months they were being starved, the men were expected to walk or run 22 miles (36 kilometres) every week, expending over 1,000 calories more than they consumed each day. '

    Source - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25782294

    The following is my opinion only!

    So basically, whilst they lost weight as expected (as they weren't eating enough for what was being expended), their bodies were in 'Starvation mode' (not that I like that phrase) and holding onto everything it could as that is what the body has to do to survive.

    As I understand it, on a 500 calorie deficit your body does not really notice. Go too low however and you body starts reacting and doing everything it can to conserve energy and keep you alive. this is why it is never a good idea to go under your calories as this could slow weight loss.
  • MrGonzo05
    MrGonzo05 Posts: 1,120 Member
    Nice wall of text. Counting calories worked for me, both to lose the weight, and to maintain it.
  • focuseddiva
    focuseddiva Posts: 174 Member
    Here is my science. When I was 180 lbs and on 1200 caps and exercised, I lost 1-2 lbs a week. When I got to 155, weight loss stalled. I had to increase exercise a good bit to lose the last 13 lbs, which took months and months. I then got injured and could not exercise at all. At 140, I was maintaining on 1500 caps and lots of exercise. With no exercise due to injury, I dropped back to 1200 cals. And, after 8 weeks of this ... I weighed the same. So at 1200 cals with 40 lbs to lose and exercise, I lost. At 140 lbs on 1200 cals and no exercise, I maintained.

    what I learned... I personally need far fewer cals than I thought. Anyone on 1200 cals with or without exercise should be creating a deficit and losing. I did not. It does seem to defy science, but it is factually what happened. And that was years ago. No surprise that I regained some of the weight and now, being older, what worked 7 years ago does not work for me now.
  • msf74
    msf74 Posts: 3,498 Member
    That article was hilariously bad.

    Firstly the 3,500 calories to 1lb of body fat is based on the fact that white adipose tissue is about 90% lipid (stored triglycerides). 1lb equals 454 grammes and so 90% of this equates to about 400 grammes. Fat provides the body with 9 calories (units of energy) per gram. 9 x 400 = 3,600 calories of energy per pound of fat. This is rounded down to 3,500 calories as it is a lot easier to think of a deficit of 500 calories per day than 514.286 (rounded up.) That's hardly mythical or some dodgy formula.

    Secondly, it states that calorie counting or energy deficits don't work but then cites the Minnesota semi starvation experiment where, errrr, these were applied and the participants errrrr, lost a significant amount of weight.

    Thirdly, it usefully highlights the negative impacts that severe restriction, deprivation and lack of choice has on dieters, particularly their psychological profile, and falsely seems to attribute this as being causally created by calorie counting. Ummm, no. It was created by the structure of their diet which was imposed upon them, not the tool used to track it.

    So what lessons do we learn? Create an environment where you are in a consistent and not overly aggressive calorie deficit where you do not feel severely restricted, deprived or lacking choice and you will lose weight and mitigate the negative impacts. How you choose to do this is personal to you. It may involve calorie counting. It may not.

    Finally, and most importantly develop a healthy skepticism and learn to think for yourself. There are f*ckwits everywhere....
  • Greenrun99
    Greenrun99 Posts: 2,065 Member
    Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.
  • martyqueen52
    martyqueen52 Posts: 1,120 Member
    Article is so full of broken down "Bro-Science" it's stupid.
  • angelb1983
    angelb1983 Posts: 159 Member
    I can't believe I wrote "at my highest wait"….*weight*
  • lavaughan69
    lavaughan69 Posts: 459 Member
    For the vast majority of people on this website, the 500 calorie deficit will work just fine. It worked fine for me and it's worked for 100's of people.

    The key problem that the study highlights, which is a real world problem for most people that go on "diets" is that anytime you use a system to lose weight, most people will gain weight if they don't develop good habits while using the system. Weight watchers in particular dooms people to failure because it encourages people to survive on their prepackaged meals and many (most?) people can't keep it up when they go back to real world food.

    Now, there is a point where you have to be smart about what you eat. Too many people on this site are impatient and deprive themselves of food and do put themselves into situations where their metabolisms get honked up. Losing 1/2 lb to 1 lb per week is fine and people need to remember that life is a marathon....not a sprint. The numbers work out in the long run as long as people don't get ridiculous.

    Uhm, no. WW promotes their products but by no means do they encourage people to survive on their meals. They promote healthy eating and healthy portions using a points system. It's the points system that I found to be difficult to maintain. I find it much easier to count calories than points so I've stuck with it longer. I have several friends that follow WW and to be honest food wise we eat pretty much the same thing. Ultimately no matter what plan you opt to use to lose weight will fail if you haven't chosen something that you can maintain for a lifetime.
  • WalkingAlong
    WalkingAlong Posts: 4,926 Member
    To your body, you have a lot of expendable muscle. Fat is the last-resort emergency back-up. When faced with a calorie deficit, your body will go to muscle first, since it's metabolically "expensive".
    I don't think so. Muscle only 'costs' 6-10 calories/day per pound, and only provides around 600 per pound. Fat supplies around 3500 calories per pound. And obviously muscle is useful tissue whereas fat is primarily there for calorie storage. The body burns glycogen first, then fat, and protein (muscle) as a last resort, I believe.

    Do you have any science to back up your belief?
    I've read it in books. I'm not going to google up a bunch of articles in support because to me it's kind of intuitive that it would, anyway. Below might be just someone's blog, I don't know, but it seems to reference biochemistry textbooks.

    http://www.virtualmedstudent.com/links/healthy_living/understanding_how_the_body_burns_carbs_proteins_fats_simple.html

    Do you have science to back up that the body burns it's fat last, after muscle?

    I agree that WW isn't about eating their products. Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are, I think.
  • msf74
    msf74 Posts: 3,498 Member
    To your body, you have a lot of expendable muscle. Fat is the last-resort emergency back-up. When faced with a calorie deficit, your body will go to muscle first, since it's metabolically "expensive".
    I don't think so. Muscle only 'costs' 6-10 calories/day per pound, and only provides around 600 per pound. Fat supplies around 3500 calories per pound. And obviously muscle is useful tissue whereas fat is primarily there for calorie storage. The body burns glycogen first, then fat, and protein (muscle) as a last resort, I believe.

    Do you have any science to back up your belief?
    I've read it in books. I'm not going to google up a bunch of articles in support because to me it's kind of intuitive that it would, anyway. Below might be just someone's blog, I don't know, but it seems to reference biochemistry textbooks.

    http://www.virtualmedstudent.com/links/healthy_living/understanding_how_the_body_burns_carbs_proteins_fats_simple.html

    Do you have science to back up that the body burns it's fat last, after muscle?

    I agree that WW isn't about eating their products. Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem are, I think.

    It's roughly an additional 6 cals per pound:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9688626

    I don't know where this idea that adding muscle to your frame significantly boosts REE comes from. There are lots of good reasons to engage in resistance training - boosting your REE isn't one of them however.
  • prattiger65
    prattiger65 Posts: 1,657 Member
    Here is my science. When I was 180 lbs and on 1200 caps and exercised, I lost 1-2 lbs a week. When I got to 155, weight loss stalled. I had to increase exercise a good bit to lose the last 13 lbs, which took months and months. I then got injured and could not exercise at all. At 140, I was maintaining on 1500 caps and lots of exercise. With no exercise due to injury, I dropped back to 1200 cals. And, after 8 weeks of this ... I weighed the same. So at 1200 cals with 40 lbs to lose and exercise, I lost. At 140 lbs on 1200 cals and no exercise, I maintained.

    what I learned... I personally need far fewer cals than I thought. Anyone on 1200 cals with or without exercise should be creating a deficit and losing. I did not. It does seem to defy science, but it is factually what happened. And that was years ago. No surprise that I regained some of the weight and now, being older, what worked 7 years ago does not work for me now.

    Second sentence says.. When I.......anecdotal=/=science.
  • miladymarathoner
    miladymarathoner Posts: 78 Member
    This study is super interesting, but not relevant to overweight people looking to permanently change their weight by an incremental calorie deficit.

    If you are losing weight in a moderate way, then this study is not representative of the results you can expect.

    Two big differences are

    - % of calorie deficit
    - healthy v. unheathy starting weight

    Also, in theory, no one losing weight healthily and to be at a healthy weight would engage in the 'refeeding' process described, which for these men amounted to a binge to get them back to their old weight.

    Bottom line: don't worry about what the results of this study are, worry about what results you have with your chosen methods of weight loss.