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Calorie Deficit - Less Early in Week/More Later in Week
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salmanmerch posted:
Hello all,

I'm sort of a new member around here, though I was a member quite a while back in early 2001/2002 when I lost about 25 lbs. with the help of this board. Bear with me as this post may be a little long (I apologize in advance).

Needless to say, my weight has gone up significantly over the last few years since my diet went south and I started working from home. I renewed my efforts about 2 months ago, and after about 15lbs lost, I've got a bit of a conundrum.

My question revolves around eating at a larger calorie deficit early in the week so that I have more calories to use later in the week (when I'm not watching my diet as much). At 5'5", 28 years old, 215 lbs and a fairly active exercise regimen, I calculated my maintenance caloric level at about 3,000 calories/day.

Using this as my guide, I basically aimed to lose a little more than a pound and a half a week. To that extent, my initial daily caloric intake was somewhere between 2,000 and 2,250 calories per day. This worked well for the first month or so, losing about 12 or so pounds. After some thinking on my part, the next month (May) I adjusted my daily caloric intake so that I ate fewer calories on Mon/Tue/Wed so that I could take in more calories later in the week while still coming in at the same weekly calorie intake to lose 1.5 pounds. The result was this:

Mon/Tue/Wed: 1,000 calories
Thur/Fri/Sat: 3,333 calories
Sun: 2,000 calories

My diet was really strong the first part of the week (veggie/chicken breast focused) but the latter part of my week consisted mostly of fast food and sugary sweets. I was still coming w/in my weekly calorie restrictions to lose weight, but I noticed I completely stopped losing any. About the same time I joined a gym and began hitting the weights pretty hard.

My question is this: Can such a yo-yo style weekly diet keep from losing weight (mostly fat) even though I'm running a calorie deficit? I know hitting the weights may have made me stronger, but I'm having a hard time believing I put on the equivalent of muscle mass over the that time period to offset any weight loss. I'm curios if the change in diet, as opposed to consistently eating well, triggers my body to retain fat and/or not burn it like I was the previous month. I've ruled out the fact that my calorie requirements were reduced as I now weighed less, since the weight loss meant I needed 2,900 calories/day instead of 3,000, a difference that still meant I should lose 1.5 lbs per week even on the yo-yo diet.

Thanks for your help, I really do appreciate it! Hopefully I can make the correct adjustments (both short-term and long-term) to continue my weight loss.

Regards,

Salman
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salmanmerch responded:
Oh and this was my average weekly exercise regimen just in case it helps:

Mon/Tue: Running (2.5 miles per day)
Wed/Thur/Fri: Chest, Back and Legs (4 different exercises per muscle group, 12-15 total sets per day)
Sat: Bootcamp
Sun: Off
 
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Tomato05 responded:
Hi Salman

Maybe you are underestimating your calories on your high-cal days. It is easier to count calories of simple natural foods like veg, fruit, lean meat etc. It is difficult to know exactly what and how many calories went into the preparation of processed fast food (e.g. how much oil was used for frying) and sugary stuff.

Your body knows how to deal with (digest, process and use) the healthy food, but the unhealty stuff will slow it down - it has to try and fight and adapt to the swings in blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and other attacks on a cellular level. It will therefore be more efficient on your first three days of the week.

You do your main cardio on your low-cal days, which is counterproductive. Weight lifting won't burn as much calories as cardio and doesn't mop up the glucose from carbohydrates like cardio, so those excess calories will turn into fat even more so.

You are also not getting the optimal results (gaining strength and muscle and changing your muscle:fat ratio) from your weight training if you don't eat clean on those days. Your body is stressed through the high fats/sugars/refined carbs and cannot focus so well on building muscle and losing fat.

It would be better if you ate healthy all week long. If you wanted to cycle the calories, you could still have higher cal days, just by eating more of the healthy stuff. You could eat more unrefined carbs, healthy fats (like nuts, olive oil) and lean protein as well as fruit, veg and beans on your high cal days to make up the 3000 plus calories.

By doing that you will also cultivate good eating habits for life.

If you prefer to stick to the pattern you have been following, though, you may have to add a cardio session on Thu and Fri too and see if it helps.

By the way, congratulations on your weight loss and following a good exercise program! It is great that you are curious and willing to experiment and make adjustments too.


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