Question:

I am a 29-year-old male, I’m fairly active, and would like to lose 5% of my body fat. I decided to start tracking my daily calories and set a goal of creating a 500-1,000 calorie-per-day deficit. I know that my resting metabolic rate is 1,850 calories and I’ve been tracking all my steps, exercises, and time spent at the gym to sum into my total calories OUT. Typically, I burn ~2,000+ to 2,500+ calories depending on the day. The problem has been that a 1,500 to 2,000 calorie diet usually leaves me feeling very hungry, and sometimes low on energy. I cut out dairy, bread, and sugar but I still eat lean meats, rice, quinoa, and veggies. Is my 1,500 to 2,000 calorie intake too low, or do I just need to find different low-cal foods to fill me up?

– Bill Z.

Answer:

Bill, your question seems to already have answered itself in the description of your situation. You state you are usually hungry and low on energy, which would imply you’re eating less than normal, which you are trying to do. You’ve determined how many calories you’re expending but did not seem to track your previous energy intake to get your average baseline consumption. You’re working under the assumption that your personal body chemistry was following an equation* to begin with (rarely the case). Thus, your self-determined deficit appears to be from an expenditure calculation and not from analysis of your original diet intake.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s very likely that you were maintaining weight before on a much higher calorie intake, thus 2,500 Cals/day could be reduced enough from your true metabolic rate to assist with weight loss. By eating 2,000-2,500 calories/day for a while you will soon find out a) if satiety and energy improve, and b) whether weight loss is achievable at that level.

“To achieve weight loss while also maintaining RMR, calorie intake should be reduced by no more than 500 calories per day…” – Mark P. Kelly, PHD of the American Council on Exercise

* Whether your stated 1,850 RMR was calculated or extrapolated from a brief indirect calorimetry measurement, it may not reflect your actual physiological energy balance over 24 hours as it doesn’t take into account personal factors like digestion/absorption efficiency, level of stress, and sleep quality.

Resources:

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It—And Raise It, Too ACE Certified News, October 2012.
  2. Variability of Measured Resting Metabolic Rate. HA Haugen, et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 2003; 78 (6): 1141-1144.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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