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Cut Calories to Live Longer

Cut Calories to Live Longer

“What gets measured gets managed.” — Peter Drucker

People have been told for years that cutting calories is the key to fat loss. For a while, I disagreed. I was a big believer in intuitive eating. The practice of eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, taking certain supplements, and monitoring how I felt was easy. I haven’t counted calories in over four years. I monitored my insulin levels and how much protein I consumed daily. Admittedly, I also made sure that I looked good with my shirt off at any given time. Whenever I felt or look bloated, I reduced carbs. If I wasn’t seeing fat loss results fast enough, cheat meals didn’t exist and I worked harder in the gym. One study and monitoring how much I’m currently eating has changed my tune.

Cutting Calories = Living Longer

Calorie restriction (CR) is a dietary intervention with potential benefits for health span improvement and lifespan extension. A study measured calorie restriction in 53 non-obese adults. 34 were on a 15% calorie restriction, while the other 19 were the control group. This two-year study wanted to measure whether energy expenditure via caloric restriction would result in less oxidative and metabolic stress, thus decreasing the rate of aging (1).

What They Found

Researchers found that the 34 subjects who restricted their calories by 15% lost an average of 8.7kg (19.18 lbs) over the two-year span. The control group’s weight increased by an average of 1.8kg (3.96 lbs).  More importantly, metabolic adaption was sustained during the same time frame including a reduction in thyroid activity. The persistent metabolic adaptation and reduced oxidative stress support the rate of living and oxidative stress damage theories of mammalian aging (1).

What This Means for You

When we want to get leaner, we do two things:

  • Reduce calories
  • Increase exercise activity

At first, this is great. However, if you do too much too soon, your body will begin to have a mind of its own. Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll burn less calories while producing the same amount of energy you’ve been used to in the gym.
  • Your metabolic rate will slow down.
  • You’ll have elevations in hormones that promote hunger and catabolism. In addition, you’ll havedecreases in hormones that promote anabolism, satiety, and energy expenditure.

What the research has done is found a safe way for non-obese people to lose fat at a consistent rate without putting the body under too much stress. Remember, exercise and dietary restriction is a stress. Going a bit overboard can hurt you in the long run.

Here’s What You Should Do

For patient and persistent fat loss, that won’t harm the body, you should count calories. Find your caloric maintenance by doing the following:

Bodyweight x 15 = caloric maintenance

A 180-pound male’s equation is 180 x 15 = 2700 calories per day to maintain his current weight. For persistent fat loss without potential harm to his hormones and oxidative stress, he should do this: 2700 x 0.15 = 2295 calories per day to reduce weight at a healthy rate.

His calories won’t stay at 2295 forever. He should check the scale every week and adjust the calories. Initially, if he’s losing more than 0.8 pounds per week, he should increase the calories a bit. Why? The 405 calories subtracted from his daily intake equals 2835 which is 80% of one pound. As he continues to check the scale, this number will change too.

Protein

In addition, the protein count should be at least 1.25 g/lb. For our 180 lb. male, this equates to 225 g of protein each day. Just like the calories, he’ll have to watch the scale and adjust the protein intake. It may seem hard to get to that number for some, but if you’re counting it’s not.

Fats/Carbs

Most of your calorie reduction will come from carbs (70-80%). It can come from several things such as replacing a white potato with a sweet potato (47 less calories), replacing white rice with cauliflower rice (130 less calories), or cutting out bread (approximately 80 calories per slice depending on the source) The other 20-30% will come from fats. An example of lowering some fat would be cutting half a serving of almonds (85 calories).

Conclusion

Counting calories can be tedious but try it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. You may be missing out on the easiest way to know if your nutrition is helping you reach your goal to be leaner. I don’t think you should have to count calories forever. Once you’ve reached your goals, stop counting for a bit and don’t worry about it. If the weight creeps back up and love handles begin to develop, then you know what to do.

If you’re unsure, try it for at least 30 days before calling it quits.

References

1.Cell Metab. 2018 Apr 3;27(4):805-815.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2018.02.019. Epub 2018 Mar 22.

Metabolic Slowing and Reduced Oxidative Damage with Sustained Caloric Restriction Support the Rate of Living and Oxidative Damage Theories of Aging.

Redman LM, Smith SR, Burton JH, Martin CK, Il’yasova D, Ravussin E.

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