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Weight gain trying to find maintenance

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Hi all, I posted recently about knowing whether to eat back exercise calories during maintenance (which I now know not to so thank you to everyone who responded) and I had calculated based on my movement (5 gym training days a week both powerlifting and cardio) plus a long walk on both days of the weekend averaging 16,500 steps a day and I don’t drive so I literally walk everywhere and all the TDEE calculators I used gave me around 2400 calories which I consumed on my first week (the week before last) and I weighed in and I gained 1.5kg or 3.3 pounds and I looked into it and everything I read said this is normal, it’s extra stomach contents and more glycogen because of increased carb intake, so I decided to lower my cals to 2300 last week just to see if that would stabilise my weight or reduce it a little bit and I gained another 0.4kg or 0.88 pounds. I weigh my food when I prepare it I measure everything and log it literally down to the decimal and I know what my activity level is like. Do I need to lower my calories again? My head is telling me to go back into a deficit but I need to do this as I am struggling with hunger and my weight loss has stalled and I have only a few kilos left to get to my final goal weight, do I just need to keep reducing by 100 cals a week until I stop gaining? I’m feeling really disheartened.. I knew this was going to be trial and error but it’s actually a lot more difficult than anticipated..

Replies

  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
    edited February 5
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    Personal experience: I tried with TDEE at the beginning of maintaining, and the weight began creeping up. So, after 6 weeks without changes in this direction, I changed method, that is I began eating the minimum set by MFP for my maintaining (lower than TDEE) + all exercises' calories (based on week, not daily, so some days I eat less than allowed and others I eat more than allowed, but the week's total has to be ok or a little under) and the weight stopped, exactly where I needed it. Note: about exercises' calories, I eat back all them but I always consider the lower value present in MFP. Example: I walk a lot, and at brisk pace, but I log "walking, slow pace". Ditto for aerobics, I always use "low impact" even when I make it intense, or stationary bike. It's not a big difference, I eat a lot and have no hunger problems, but it's enough for me to break even. Maybe it wouldn't work for you, but you could try, for me it's perfect.
    (PS: for hunger, the other things that really weres magical to me, also while losing, were eating a veeery lot of vegetables - volume - and adopting the "plate diet", that is mixing all the nutrients in each meal. It keeps me filled. I'm eating the same foods I ate before, but this new "order" is way more satiating. Again, maybe it'll not work for you, but could be worth trying)
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 13,677 Member
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    I eat back exercise calories in maintenance. My calorie target is NEAT, not TDEE, so I'm supposed to eat back calories from intentional exercise whether losing, gaining, or maintaining. In maintenance, my calorie target isn't supposed to have a deficit. If I didn't eat back exercise calories, I would be in deficit.

    One thing that might work well if you are a consistent logger and have the data, look at the last month of weight loss before you started maintenance. See what your intake was and what your loss rate was. Then reset your target to increase from your deficit target based on your actual personal loss rate. Use the estimated 3500 calories per pound.

    Then do what you're doing - work with the target and observe the results. If your results match your expectations, keep it up. If you're losing or gaining instead of maintaining, change your target. You'll get it dialed in, and then just be prepared for the scale to go up and down several pounds forever. Maintenance is a range. Some people have larger ranges. Mine is pretty big. I went up 3.6 in one day and other pound the next day - it's mostly just noise, so I ignore it and look at my trend. That's another good tool - weigh daily but ignore the number and instead use a weighted moving average.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 33,009 Member
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    I'm with @mtaratoot: I eat back all exercise calories (after estimating them carefully/conservatively), and did so all during weight loss (obese to healthy weight) and for nearly 8 years of maintenance since. But TDEE method can also work: You'd still be eating back exercise calories, because there's literally no way to stabilize weight if not eating all of the calories we burn (in whatever way we burn them).

    The issue is figuring out how to estimate that number accurately. The TDEE method averages exercise calories in to give you a fixed calorie goal each day. The MFP method (sometimes called NEAT method) estimates pre-exercise calorie needs, then expects you to log exercise and eat back the calories when you do the exercise (though it's fine to spread them over more than one day if that's easier).

    You're right that going from weight-loss calories to maintenance calories will add some scale weight from water retention and extra digestive contents, even if we hit calories exactly. But it's also pretty common to have to tweak calorie level a bit at first in maintenance to find the right calorie level. What MFP or any other so-called calculator spits out is just the average for large numbers of demographically similar people, but each of us is a unique individual and may differ from average. Most people are close to average, but some can be surprisingly further off, either high or low. Multi-week average weight changes are what tells the most accurate story.

    There's a thread over in the "Most Helpful Posts" part of the "Goal: Maintaining Weight" part of the Community where MFP-ers talk about various ways to figure out maintenance calories:

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10638211/how-to-find-your-maintenance-calorie-level/p1

    Personally, I chose to gradually add calories when I reached goal weight.

    I knew I needed to think of maintenance as a weight range, not a single number. The "gradual add" method had 2 benefits for me, that may or may not apply for you. One was that I did keep losing, but slower and slower, so got to the bottom of my intended maintenance range while figuring out the right maintenance number. That was a psychologically reassuring place to start maintenance, for me.

    Also, by gradually adding, I skirted the potential that - hedonist that I am - I'd maybe add some big treat food daily if adding several hundred calories to my days all in one chunk. By adding gradually, I was able to keep my monkey-brain focused on small, pleasant, mostly nutritious tweaks to my eating habits instead of the "one big treat" thing. You may not be the weak soul that I am in that way, though! :D

    For sure, I don't make big changes in my eating/activity regimen based on a week or two of results: That's not enough time for averages to settle out. I'm in menopause, so I don't have to worry about hormonal water weight fluctuations, so I usually think in terms of 4-6 week trends. Someone with monthly cycles should probably compare body weight at the same relative point in at least two different monthly cycles in order to estimate average weekly gain/loss.

    If you don't already use one, a weight trending app (or your own moving-average weight spreadsheet) may be helpful in visualizing the trends. There's Happy Scale for Apple/iOS, Libra for Android, Trendweight (requires a free Fitbit account but you don't need a device), Weightgrapher, and probably others. They're not magically accurate crystal balls, though: They just use some statistical techniques to try to smooth out the water weight/digestive contents fluctuations and estimate the actual body fat changes to weight. It's not perfect!

    Don't panic, you can and will figure this out: It may be a little bumpy at first, but you'll get there. Best wishes!

  • Alysha892016
    Alysha892016 Posts: 4 Member
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    Thanks for the responses guys, I’m just a little bit confused about eating back exercise calories, doesn’t your TDEE include your exercise level? I’m sorry if I sound stupid
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 13,677 Member
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    Are you using a calorie target from the MyFitnessPal Guided Setup? Or are you using a calorie target that you got from a TDEE calculator like Sailrabbit?

    The calorie target you generate on MFP is not TDEE which is Total Daily Energy Expenditure. That does include an estimate of your "average" daily exercise. That may or may not be valid, but it's one approach. What MFP uses is "Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis," or NEAT. It's what you burn by being alive and breathing plus your non-exercise activities, like what you do from day-to-day such as in your job.

    For the calorie target you get from MFP, you have to also add in your exercise, and it increases your calories.

    An example: Let's say I'm a 150 pound 35-year-old 5' 10" man. I'm not but whatever. My NEAT, according to MFP's setup, would be 1870 calories. That would keep my weight at 150 pounds assuming I didn't exercise. But let's say I went out and danced for an hour. That would burn extra calories, so I'd need to add those or I'd lose weight.

    Same example, but looking at TDEE: If I'm a lightly active person who does light jogging five to seven days a week, I'd need closer to 2300 calories to maintain my weight. The difference is exercise.

    The challenge is if I use a TDEE calculator and I tell it that I'm going to go jogging six days a week, and then I eat 2300 calories a day, but I actually only jog twice a week... then I'm eating more than I burn and I'll gain weight. It that case, I'd need to reduce to below 2000 calories a day to maintain my weight.

    The nice thing about using the MFP goal setting is that you have a base level of calories before you do any exercise. Only when you do exercise to you add those calories.

    Both methods work. If you are very regular with your exercise routine, a TDEE number might be easier. Your daily calorie goal won't ever change. But if you are not consistent, like maybe exercise six times one week and twice the next week, even if it's the same activity level, the NEAT method can serve you better.

    Confusing? A little bit. You will figure it out. Observe and make small changes.
  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
    edited February 6
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    Thanks for the responses guys, I’m just a little bit confused about eating back exercise calories, doesn’t your TDEE include your exercise level?

    TDEE yes, and in fact is what could potentially lead you to eat too much: if (for instance) you set high level of activity, but then something prevent you exercising a day (or, other example, you are not very great a day, so you exercise but not so hard), it doesn't consider it: TDEE is fix, so to say. Instead, try to set MFP for maintaining and compare numbers: you'll see that the number is lower than TDEE, right? And that's because MFP starts from your maintainance without exercise, only to live: so, you have to add exercise to this number (log them in exercise page, tag next to foods, and you'll see the total amount of calories you can eat in "foods" going up).
  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
    edited February 6
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    Simplifying a lot: you can eat:
    1) TDEE (= breathing etc + living - as chores etc) + exercises): is *all* included, so eat TDEE and nothing more
    2) maintainance set by MFP (= breathing + living as chores etc): eat this + exercises' calories that you log by hand (use a conservative estimate)
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 13,677 Member
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    Sett2023 wrote: »
    Thanks for the responses guys, I’m just a little bit confused about eating back exercise calories, doesn’t your TDEE include your exercise level?

    TDEE yes, and in fact is what could potentially lead you to eat too much: if (for instance) you set high level of activity, but then something prevent you exercising a day (or, other example, you are not very great a day, so you exercise but not so hard), it doesn't consider it: TDEE is fix, so to say. Instead, try to set MFP for maintaining and compare numbers: you'll see that the number is lower than TDEE, right? And that's because MFP starts from your maintainance without exercise, only to live: so, you have to add exercise to this number (log them in exercise page, tag next to foods, and you'll see the total amount of calories you can eat in "foods" going up).

    Not exactly.

    If you use MFP, whether you set up for maintenance or loss, you are NOT looking at TDEE. When you use MFP to set a calorie goal, it does not include intentional exercise. The activity settings in MFP are for things you do in a normal day other than exercise. If you are a delivery truck driver, you are more active than if you write code. Whether you are a delivery driver or write code, if you go for a bike ride or run after work (or before) you use extra calories.

    You have to use a different calculator to set a Total Daily Energy Expenditure. I like Sailrabbit. If you use a TDEE, then yes you need to actually get the exercise that you say you will or you will be eating more calories than appropriate to meet your goal.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 13,677 Member
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    Sett2023 wrote: »
    Simplifying a lot: you can eat:
    1) TDEE (= breathing etc + living - as chores etc) + exercises): is *all* included, so eat TDEE and nothing more
    2) maintainance set by MFP (= breathing + living as chores etc): eat this + exercises' calories that you log by hand (use a conservative estimate)

    Not exactly. If you tell MFP you want to lose 0.5 pounds a week, it gives you a 250 calorie per deficit below your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT. It does not include exercise. If you tell MFP you want to maintain, it gives you a calorie goal that should equal your NEAT. Either way you must add exercise calories. That's how it works.

    You can read more at "How does MyFitnessPal calculate my initial goals?"
  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
    edited February 6
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    mtaratoot wrote: »
    Sett2023 wrote: »
    Simplifying a lot: you can eat:
    1) TDEE (= breathing etc + living - as chores etc) + exercises): is *all* included, so eat TDEE and nothing more
    2) maintainance set by MFP (= breathing + living as chores etc): eat this + exercises' calories that you log by hand (use a conservative estimate)

    Not exactly. If you tell MFP you want to lose 0.5 pounds a week, it gives you a 250 calorie per deficit below your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or NEAT. It does not include exercise. If you tell MFP you want to maintain, it gives you a calorie goal that should equal your NEAT. Either way you must add exercise calories. That's how it works.

    You can read more at "How does MyFitnessPal calculate my initial goals?"
    ---
    Yes, what you write is what I intended: MFP is not TDEE, but neat (so you add exercises, right?), while in TDEE (fromm other calculators) exercises is already included, right? (As for chores etc, I specified it is in MFP ifyou set it at maintainance. At losing, no, that's the part that give you a deficit). Perhaps I explained bad in English, don't know...

    PS: maybe there is also another fact: I consider "chores" and like as part of person's normal activity, not as "exercise". But this impacts only a part of the whole, the main thing I was saying was: OR you eat TDEE (from other calculators), OR you eat MFP maintain + exercises (or MFP losing + exercises, but OP was speaking about maintain.)
  • Mpenny1001
    Mpenny1001 Posts: 4 Member
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    I probably do it "wrong", but I don't and never have paid any attention at all to exercise calories during loss or maintenance. That said, I do have a very consistent activity routine (i.e. every Monday is cardio, very similar in duration and intensity to last Monday, every Tuesday is a short, moderate strength session, etc). When I was ready to enter maintenance, I just increased my calories by a small amount, which for me as a very petite 52 year old female was 50 cal/day over my usual 1450 baseline. Then I waited a month, took stock of what happened, and adjusted accordingly. Repeat repeat repeat.

    I've used the same strategy when changing up my activity level. I'm currently doing more strength work but am increasing weight very slowly to avoid the injuries that I'm prone to. So, I increase my lifting a small amount and do that for a month before I even think about any more increases. This lets me determine if I seem like I'm on my way to an overuse injury, and also see what my weight is doing. I take stock, adjust accordingly, and off I go on another month.

    I've been doing this about a year now, and am happy with my results. The couple of times that I gave in to temptation to adjust before that 4 weeks was up, it didn't work as I wanted it to. The scale went up, cut calories! The scale keeps going up, cut more calories! But when I convinced myself to go back to where I started at the beginning of that 4 weeks and start the clock over, I've so far ended every 4 week period right where I wanted to be.
  • Sett2023
    Sett2023 Posts: 158 Member
    edited February 6
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    Mpenny1001 wrote: »
    I probably do it "wrong", but I don't and never have paid any attention at all to exercise calories during loss or maintenance. That said, I do have a very consistent activity routine ...1450 baseline. .

    I think that at the end we're doing the same thing: the difference is that I included/include exercises' calories because I left MFP on "non active" level, and this because I have no routine, sometimes exercise a lot, other zero, so I can't know before. In fact, at 54 years, my baseline was 1200 in losing, and less than 1300 in maintaing (I'm only 52 kg, and 1.62 metres, so...). With exercise, however, I eat 1800/1900 (weekly average), but I have to earn these...
    (And that's also the reason for which TDEE for me wasn't working)
  • JaysFan82
    JaysFan82 Posts: 851 Member
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    I set my MFP setting to lose 0.5 pounds per week since I'm sure I'm under-estimating calories and it's worked great for me
  • waltezell
    waltezell Posts: 5 Member
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    Hmm. MFP syncs with my Fitbit, which tells MFP the estimated calories burned during my workouts and adds those to my base. If I move less than my 8,000-step goal in Fitbit, MFP subtracts the appropriate number of calories from the baseline of 2550 calories I need to maintain my weight. I don’t have to tell MFP about my exercise or activity levels.
    Right now I am doing keto for my brain health. It appears that for now I may need to eat a little more than MFP estimates so as to avoid losing weight.