One common myth behind dieting is that the more calories we cut from our diets, the more weight we'll lose. This makes sense, in theory. Fat is composed of calories, and therefore the best way to remove it is to limit calorie intake. But does this actually work? This guide will discuss the science behind dieting and metabolism, and explain whether or not cutting more calories is better.
How Dieting Works
Before we examine the question of whether cutting more calories results in greater weight loss, it's important to understand the concepts behind dieting and metabolism. One pound of fat is composed of 3,500 calories. In order to lose one pound of fat per week, you must cut out 500 calories from your diet. Most people do this through a variety of means, including exercising and cutting calories. For most of us, we can assume that exercising at a moderate to high intensity for 60 minutes per day will result in a loss of 100 calories. Therefore we either need to cut out 400 calories from our diet, or participate in longer (or more intense) physical activity.
How Metabolism Works
Your metabolism describes the method by which food and drink is digested and excreted from your body. It also describes how food and drink is used as energy, or stored for future use. When we don't use the calories we consume, the body stores the extra calories as fat, muscle or some combination of the two. Recently, we have begun to hear more and more about the importance of keeping our metabolism "ramped" for optimal weight loss. Many diet gurus claim that by eating five or six small meals throughout the day, we are able to achieve a higher metabolic rate than by eating two or three large meals. The theory behind this is that eating regular, small meals throughout the day keeps your metabolism working. Eating larger meals will make the metabolism work during that time, but not after the food has been digested.
What It Means for Calorie Cutting
Your body needs a specific number of calories per day in order to function properly. Typically, this number ranges from between 1,500 and 3,500 - quite a wide range. While it is impossible to accurately guess what your total calorie burn is without a diagnostic test, one easy way to guess is to multiply your weight by 10. This will give you an estimate of your calorie needs. When your body gets significantly less calories than what it needs to function properly, it goes into "starvation mode." This means that instead of burning calories, your metabolism basically shuts off, and stores all food as fat. Your body isn't sure when it will be fed next, and therefore the metabolism stops working. You can actually gain weight through this phenomenon!
This theory is a myth. While it is important to cut calories in order to lose weight, cutting too many calories can actually result in weight gain. Cut only around 500 calories a day in order to achieve optimal weight loss.