If you want to lose weight, I’m sure more than a long life full of happiness, you’d wish for smooth weight loss. BAHAHAHAHA! No one ever, in the history of ever, lost weight without the need to adjust calorie intake at some point.
Question is, when? No need to google that. I’m about to tell you when and how to make adjustments to your calorie intake when dieting.
To maintain weight loss at a desired rate, your calorie intake will have to be adjusted at two points of the diet:
- After the first four weeks of dieting
- Sometimes at a mid-diet
After the first four weeks of dieting
There are a bunch of online calorie calculators and chances are, you’ll use one of them to determine your calorie target for weight loss. However, all these formulas are based on averages. Since there are heaps of individual variations, you’ll likely need to adjust your calorie intake to start losing weight at a desired rate.
You should wait at least four weeks before making any adjustments because you need to gather enough data on your rate of weight loss to make adjustments.
Let’s say you weigh 185 pounds (84 kg) and your target weight loss rate is 0.5-1% per week (0.9-1.8 lbs/week). Let’s also assume you weighed yourself daily and collected four weeks’ worth of data:
You’ll often experience a massive drop in weight in the first week. It’s an initial loss of water and glycogen (usually happens on a low-carbohydrate diet). If that happens, ignore the data from the first week. Look at the averages for the next three weeks and ask yourself these questions:
- Was my weekly average rate of weight loss within the 0.5-1% target?
- Was it above the 0.5-1% target?
- Was it below the 0.5-1% target?
If you were within the target range, don’t change anything and keep waiting patiently for death’s sweet kiss.
If you were above or below your target, then you should make adjustments to your calorie intake [insert duh sound here]. How do you do that? Again, don’t google that. I’m here for you.
We know that 1 lb (~0.5 kg) of fat contains ~3500 calories. This is why people set a 500-calorie deficit per day in the hope of losing 1 lb per week. And even though it basically never happens because not all weight lost is fat, it’s still a good way to estimate calorie adjustments.
So let’s say your average rate of weight loss was 0.3 lb per week (remember, your goal is 0.9-1.8 lbs/week). So you multiply 0.3 x 3500 and get 1050 calories. Meaning, you’re in a weekly deficit of 1050 calories or a daily deficit of 150. So you should further reduce your calorie intake by 350 kcal per day to get into the 0.5-1% target.
Keep protein as is. Reduce calorie intake by cutting some fat and/or carbs.
Sometimes at a mid-diet
After you’ve made an adjustment at the 4-week point, you’ll lose weight at the desired rate. Until you won’t. Because weight loss, I’m afraid, sucks. So deal with it.
You see, your body will adapt over time due to metabolic adaptations and weight loss itself (a smaller body burns fewer calories at rest, during exercise, and during non-exercise activity) and so weight loss will slow down or even plateau:
So to maintain weight loss at your desired rate, you’ll have to bring your calorie intake down again (and/or increase physical activity). You’ll do that every time your weight loss stops for 4 or more weeks.
I usually reduce calorie intake for my clients by 5-10%. That’s a 100-250 kcal reduction for most people.
Note #1: Before reducing calorie intake, make sure your dietary adherence is on point and there’s no mistracking of food intake. Binges and “cheat meals” can erase an entire week’s calorie deficit.
Note #2: Don’t reduce calories if the scale weight isn’t changing but circumference measurements continue to go down at the same rate as before. The scale isn’t changing probably due to random water retention or muscle growth.
Note #3: Don’t make any adjustments if you’ve been under a lot of stress or sleeping poorly. It’s probably water retention. Deal with that shit. If you can’t manage stress and/or sleep, take a diet break for a week or two. Then come back and see how you feel.
If you want to bypass all of the nonsensical weight loss information and avoid common beginner mistakes, apply for the 1:1 Coaching Program where my goal is to be at your side the entire way, helping you to avoid scams and pitfalls that most people fall into.
Originally published by me on Medium on February 26, 2023