To understand the importance of making small deficits in your food intake each day we must first understand metabolism.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is all the chemical reactions that happen in your body to keep you alive and moving.
The total amount of energy that your body requires in a day to live and move is called total daily energy expenditure, and has four components:
Basal metabolic rate - basic life sustaining functions such as breathing and blood circulation
Physical activity - intentional exercise
Non exercise activity thermogenesis (also known as NEAT) - energy needed for all other movements outside of exercise, such as brushing your teeth, writing an email, cleaning the house, etc.
Thermic effect of foods (TEF) - the energy needed to digest, absorb, and metabolize food
Put simply, your body uses energy also known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the scientific word for energy, to do all the things that keep you alive and moving.
We need energy (ATP) to breathe, to circulate blood, to digest food, to walk down the street, to do a workout, to talk to your friend, and the list goes on. I need energy to write this blog post right now.
I like to think of energy (ATP) as money, and my body spends this money on the tasks that are required to live and move.
But how does your body get this money?
We get it from the food that we eat. We consume food and our body converts that food into usable currency (ATP).
I know this isn't riveting information, and most of us know this; we eat food, and that food turns into the money, or energy (ATP), we spend on living.
Our bodies are smart and are hard wired to keep us alive and healthy and so energy that’s consumed but isn’t used in a day is not going to go to waste, but will be stored for later. This is called adipose tissue, or fat.
You've likely heard, “calories in vs. calories out is the basis for weight loss”, and although there are many factors that affect weight loss, this is true.
At the end of the day, consuming less calories than your total daily energy expenditure will create a caloric deficit and you will lose fat as a result.
If we underfuel our bodies too much though, our total daily energy expenditure changes. Like I said, our bodies are smart and if there is less food available, your body will decrease the energy needed to sustain itself. Your body will go into more of a survival mode and slow down functions that aren’t absolutely necessary like digestion and menstruation. This is why you can find yourself in a weight loss plateau even though you’re eating less.
You’re taking in less energy, but your body is using less energy and so the caloric deficit you thought you were in no longer exists.
The main thing I want you to take away from this point is that the best method for sustainable fat loss is through small deficits, NOT from massively restricting your caloric intake (eating way less than you normally would).
Not to mention, that just sounds terrible and I wouldn’t ask anyone to feel hungry and unhappy on a weight loss journey.
So, what's a small deficit?
Decreasing your calories by 150-200 calories a day is a good place to start, and you don’t need to track what you eat to do this.
I recommend substituting little things out throughout the day to decrease your caloric intake by 200 calories. For example, if you normally put a tablespoon of peanut butter in your smoothie, try peanut butter powder instead, or skip the avocado in your salad or on your sandwich.
You can also increase your energy expenditure in your training to hit that caloric deficit in a day. For example, you could bike after your workout for 20-30 minutes or go for an after dinner walk.
Basically, there’s no need to perfectly track what you eat or count calories. You just need to find ways to create small deficits in your daily caloric intake. The key word here is SMALL.
I hope these tips help you toward your goals! Please don’t hesitate to comment on this post and let me know what's been working for you in your weight loss journey, I love hearing from you!