As an adult with Asperger's Syndrome, I'm blessed with a diet experiment gift. I thought I had immense willpower but I don't. I just love a routine and a rule, if I make a rule, such as I'm going to the gym every day for a year (4 hours a session), then I do it. As such I've tried everything to the letter, low fat, low calorie, paleo, MT, fasting, the list goes on. I tried them all for a year or more to see the real effect and never once slipped. Most people do slip, so when it doesn't work they blame themselves, with comments such as "I missed a few gym sessions so that's why it didn't work". I did 4 hours a day for 395 days in total and lost 4lbs. The PT told me I'd just gained muscle and that it weighed more. This is very true muscle does weigh more, but I wobbled a lot so it wasn't muscle...it was fat. I'd got fatter going to the gym!!!!
People engage in diets but slip up at the weekend and have a treat (they have to, the body is starving so signals that it want's energy) so once again they blame themselves and feel guilt rather than blaming the poor diet. Out of all the diets Paleo was the one I stuck with the longest as it seemed to be the answer. Sadly it wasn't and I ended up pretty sick and just sick of the lifestyle (I got told it's not a diet, its a lifestyle. It's clearly a diet!)
Any diet will work to help lose weight, but the success depends upon the position you start from. If you're a young college athlete thats lean, mean and an eating machine, that has never done a diet, you need to lean up for something so you do a brief/intermittent diet of some sort. No doubt it will work, your body is expecting to be fed as per usual and it doesn't get it, hence you get leaner. If you've read a few "fitness" magazines and get hooked into carrying it on, then eventually your metabolism will decide you've packed your bags and moved to Ethiopia where there is a famine. It will then send constant messages to you telling you to eat whenever you can, naturally you use your willpower for a long as possible. However, unless you've cultivated yourself an eating disorder your body wins and you eat the food, any food, often bad food. Your body breaths a sigh of relief, its avoided the famine and you're still alive. Now guilt kicks in and your curse yourself for being a "fat pig" with weak willpower. So fairly soon you try again, and so begins the cycle of intermittent starvation and binge cycling which is the worlds biggest diet regime.
Intermittent fasting is big now, but everyone wants to skip the most important stage, teaching the body that food is plentiful. Everyone ignores the damage they've done over the years and jumps straight in with a fast very early on (usually day one). The problem with most dieters diets is that they double up, they do low fat but also fall into low calorie at the same time, they do atkins/paleo (yes I know they aren't the same) and combine it with low calorie (due to being unable to eat anymore). You name the diet, there is always a touch of calorie control, either intentionally or by default (i.e raw food is hard to consume enough).
So, why doesn't low calorie work? Logic comes into play again here I'm afraid. So I'm going to have to go a little Sherlock on you and state the obvious. Does it make sense that the human metabolism would speed up when food was plentiful or scarce? The answer in case you missed it, is that when food is plentiful the metabolism will speed up. You'll get hotter, you'll feel like being more active, your pulse will raise. All this depends upon this being a constant, i.e you're eating consistently. The other way round your metabolism will slow in response to a famine, temp will drop, pulse will drop to conserve energy and you will feel lethargic as your body conserves it's supplies.
Now I can here some of you crying out a question...."but I eat too much." No you don't, you binge and starve. At no point are you consistent in your eating, you're either eating "healthy" and accidentally low calorie, or eating false foods in which their they might be calorie dense but they remain low nutrient (i.e you're body becomes malnourished which means despite the apparent volume you're actually under-consuming). Consistency is all that matters, if your going to eat 1400 calories a day, be prepared to do it forever because the moment you stop, your body will make you eat till it feels safe whilst storing fat ready for the next famine. If your going to go for a mammoth 6000 calories a day be prepared to ride it out (if you've spent a lifetime damaging your metabolism) until your metabolism begins to trust you. When it does, set point will alter as your metabolism realises food is in abundance and their is no need to store.
So, if I don't recommend eating 6000, what do I recommend as a starting point to fix everything? Everyone in the industry should understand Basal Metabolic Rate. (BMR)
We use energy 24/7, even whilst asleep. If you want to add in activity such as scratching your nose then you need more energy. BMR accounts for breathing, temperature, essential bodily functions etc.
To achieve their BMR, a sedentary individual should consume 25 calories per kilo of bodyweight per day. Bob a sleeping man of 75 kilos would need to eat:
75 kilos x 25 calories = 1,875 calories a day
Potentially body fat percentage can affect these figures but I never use this bit as unless you're just sleeping then you'll need to carry that body-fat around with you which = more expenditure. However your welcome to use this bit as all that matters is that you stick with the same figure each day.
If we assume our 75kg man has 20% body fat, this means around 15kg of his body weight is fat.
75kg – 15kg body fat = 60kg
If his aim is to retain his lean percentage but while reaching a goal of 10% body fat, he needs to lose 9 kilos of fat.
So instead of weighing: 60kg + 15kg (15% fat) = 75 kg
He is aiming for: 60kg / 0.90 = 66.6kg (10% fat) = 66.6kg
Using the formula of 25 calories per kilo of bodyweight, he should be aiming for a daily intake of:
25 x 66.6 = 1,666 calories
So if your adding in the body-fat equation your at 1,666 calories and if your doing it my way your at a much more reasonable 1875 calories per day. Right before you all run of to eat that way we need to add in something else as I doubt many of you just sleep all day.
The Harris Benedict Equation is a formula that uses your BMR and then applies an activity factor to determine your total daily energy expenditure (calories). The only factor omitted by the Harris Benedict Equation is lean body mass. Remember, leaner bodies need more calories than less leaner ones. Therefore, this equation will be very accurate in all but the very muscular (will under-estimate calorie needs) and the very fat (will over-estimate calorie needs).
Harris Benedict Formula
To determine Sleeping Bob's total daily calorie needs if he were to get out of bed or scratch his ass, multiply the BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
- If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
If Bob was sedentary, multiply your BMR (1785) by 1.2 = 2250 through to his extra active amount of 3391 (BMR 1785 by 1.9 = 3391). This is the total number of calories your body needs. Forget any junk about this is what your body needs minus so many calories to lose a lb a week. End of story, this is what your body needs to function full stop, anything less is damaging to the metabolism, even 200 calories less is sending a signal that things need to slow down...which if you've clicked with the logic of this post you should realise is not good.
So why 6000 calories? Well, I like to be proved right and on the course we got given 3 formulas, one of which you have read above. All three provided a different total which confused my fellow students at Loughborough University. They differed by 50-100 calories per day which made no sense. Professor I Cantrememberhisname stated that they were just formulas and that it did not matter what the figure was as long as it was adhered to consistently. And their was my seminal moment in nutritional consultancy, the fact that made my name as the guy that makes you eat food, the reason gyms kicked me out due to making people slim via little exercise and lots of food. I picked 6000 out of thin air based upon the knowledge that as long as I stuck with it my set point would lower and I would get slimmer. 6000 is a horrible amount to eat and the end result was that I was too hot, too thin and didn't look too healthy (plus people kept telling me to eat due to how skinny I was). If your going to do it pick a figure that is more reasonable such as 4000 calories.
"It was noted by Keys that to fully rehabilitate the body 4000 kcals daily was necessary and that it would take this abundance of calories to restore normal function. Even supplementing with vitamins and minerals was of little use with out a great quantity of food." Ancel Key - Human Starvation
So for all my friends currently doing a particular diet that requires mineral supplementation to correct various factors (still the best diet I know), are you really just doing this diet or are you doing low calorie at the same time?