How Calorie Restriction ‘Weight’ Loss Keeps You Fat

It’s still universally accepted that someone trying to get in shape is seeking ‘weight loss.’ Meanwhile, scale weight supplies no information with respect to muscle and fat.

An individual that weighs 140lbs could be 120lbs of lean mass (bone, tissue, and muscle) and only 20lbs of fat.  While another person could be the same weight (140lbs), but 90lbs of lean mass, and 50lbs of fat. As depicted in the picture below.

BGM Models

It’s clear that ‘fat loss’ is the prevalent goal, yet most are following strategies that produce drastic amounts of weight loss in a short period of time.

This is both damaging to the body, and ineffective as a fat loss solution solution.  Largely because it results in muscle loss:

Research suggests that 40% of weight lost on a generic calorie restriction strategy is muscle.

Less muscle means a slower energy burning rate, an increased fat storage rate, and a tougher time keeping weight off in the future.  Predominantly because of an adjustment to our Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR); which accounts for nearly 75% of our total energy expenditure.

Prolonged caloric reduction (3100kcal to 1950kcal) decreases metabolic rate by 20% per kg of bodyweight

When someone operates in a caloric deficit, they continue to decrease the rate at which they burn calories, and lose useful muscle that would otherwise have burn additional calories. Meaning they may be eating less, but they’re also burning less.

Sadly, once our metabolic rate drops because of an extended period of calorie restriction, it takes a significant amount of time to bring it back to it’s pre-diet level. During the restoration period our threshold to gain fat is significantly lower than when we started, and our absorption of muscle building foods is diminished. Implying that if a standard diet is reestablished, less food (intake) is required to gain, and the synthesis of essential foods is diminished.

By restricting to lose, we look worse, feel worse, lose less fat and make staying fit more difficult in the future than it has to be.

Perhaps worse, is that a chronic caloric deficit raises the hormones responsible for hunger and fat storage, and lowers or inhibits the hormones that suppress hunger and promote fat burning. And similar to our metabolic rate, this disruption in hormones lasts for a substantial time period after the restriction phase.

A 2011 study in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that after a 10-week period of restricting calories, not only did hunger and fat storage hormones elevate, but leptin (the hormone that prevents fat storage) remained low for a WHOLE YEAR after the restricted time period.

Other than promoting fat storage, these low leptin levels increase hunger (ghrelin) significantly.

A 20% decrease in leptin produces a 24% increase in hunger!

Meaning a chronic caloric deficit makes you burn less (low metabolism), store more (low leptin), and hungrier (high ghrelin).

diet cycle

The weight may come off in the short-term, but the muscle loss and hormonal consequences produce a lifelong battle with fat. The sooner you recognize this, and the quicker you understand that the lean, attractive physique you’re striving for is not achieved by cutting calories to lose ‘weight,’ the sooner you’ll achieve it.

Stay Lean!

Coach Mike