For some reason, there seems to be this misconception out there that reducing your caloric (food) intake is the end-all, be-all when it comes to weight loss. And while calories do play a role in weight loss, dropping your calories too quickly will cause you to fail and do some damage to your metabolism.
In order to lose weight, you need to put yourself in a caloric deficit. This means, your intake at the end of the day needs to be lower than your maintenance. For example, if you’re maintenance is 2,000 calories, ending your day at 1,750 could put you in a deficit.
You could accomplish this by cutting out some calories, doing some cardio, or hitting the weights. Better yet, do a combination of all three to maximize your results – while not needing to cut back on as many calories throughout the day since you will be burning more through engaging in more physical activity.
When it comes to weight loss, it’s a marathon – not a race. If you take an old beat-up Pinto and slam the gas pedal to the floor trying to go from 0-100 as fast as possible, I can guarantee nothing good is going to happen. The same goes for your weight loss. You need to ease into your weight loss journey and quit trying to rush things.
1. Cutting calories too quickly can destroy your metabolism
Have you ever gone a day where you were super busy and didn’t have a chance to eat a whole lot and skipped right over a meal or two? Do you remember how you felt? Probably ready to eat the rear end out of a skunk by the end of the day, right? And what happened when you finally had the opportunity to sit down and eat? You probably at everything in sight. Now, imagine that being your everyday life when you drastically cut calories all at once rather than slowly over time.
Moving onto the next point, where do you think your body is getting energy from in order to function daily if you’ve rushed your weight loss by cutting calories? I’ll tell you where… your muscles. One of the biggest contributors to your metabolism is going to be broken down and used as energy. That right there should have you pumping the brakes. You worked hard for that muscle. The last thing you should want to happen is all of your lean muscle gains to waste away. Not to mention, when you lose lean muscle tissue, you can kiss your metabolism goodbye.
Muscle demands energy all day long – even while at rest. The more muscle you have, the more the energy demand. The higher the energy demand, the higher your metabolism is.
Additionally, when you aren’t taking in enough calories, both your mental and physical energy is going to suffer which means your overall performance is going to suffer. This can spill over from the office into the gym and cause your workouts to be terrible. Be smart about cutting calories and start slow to preserve your energy, performance, lean muscle mass, and metabolism.
2. The more cardio you do, the more that will be needed later
Your body is one of the most advanced machines on this planet. It does things without you ever knowing and adapts quickly to any form of stimulus you provide it. For instance, if you were benching 135 today, next week you might find 135 is getting easy so you bump it up to 145 and you still hit the same number of reps that you did with 135. Or if you were running a mile in nine minutes today and in three weeks you notice your time dropped down to eight minutes. This is all because your body is adapting.
Being that in this section we are talking about cardio, let’s circle back to the running example. The fact that you were able to run the same distance in less time means physically, from a cardiovascular standpoint, your lung capacity has improved (VO2 max). Additionally, your muscles have adapted and are better able to work at a higher capacity without fatiguing.
Now, think about those examples and what that means for your weight loss. If you were running for 60 minutes from day one during your weight loss journey, once your body adapts, you’ll need to run for even longer to see any results. And when the body adapts to that, you’ll need to increase everything again. The cycle simply repeats itself over and over again and before you know it, you’re doing two hours or more of cardio simply to see the number on the scale go down. That’s insane!
If you would have slowed things down and eased your way into it, you could have lost weight with minimal cardio needed, and then slowly increase by 15-minute intervals when needed to keep your body from adapting. This process is a better long-term strategy and will prevent you from burning out and getting frustrated. Again, weight loss is a marathon, not a race.
3. Changing too many things too quickly will lead to failure
First things first… if your car isn’t running and you decide to replace the battery, the intake, the oil filter, the engine, the transmission, the whatever – how are you supposed to know what caused the car to run again and what was causing the car to not run? You don’t. All you do is wind up spending a ton of time and money when in actuality, doing one thing first and testing it out could have fixed the car sooner and with less time and money involved. Your weight loss is the same.
Let’s look at it this way. If you were to eliminate every “bad” food and beverage you consume daily and completely do a 180 with your nutrition, how long do you think you’d last? Now, I’m sure there are a few of you out there who could do this and would knock it out of the park. But for most, giving up sugar, desserts, ice cream, candy, regular soda, sweet tea, potato chips, pies, cakes, chocolate, and all those delicious treats would probably cause you to curl up in a ball in the corner and when you finally pulled it together you’d say “the heck with this” and go back to your old ways.
Weight loss is slow and steady. Start by eliminating soda. A few weeks later, eliminate snacks after 8pm. A few weeks later eliminate potato chips. So on and so forth. If you do it all at once you’re going to completely shock your mind and body and you’ll end up craving so many different things that it’ll drive you nuts.
Also, slowly implement exercise into your lifestyle if you haven’t done so already. Maybe you start with a slow 15-20 minute walk after dinner before you settle in for the evening? Maybe you start doing bodyweight exercises at home and once you’re committed to that, you start looking to add some home gym equipment or you consider joining a local gym.
The key is to skip the shock and awe. Make subtle changes that in both the short- and long-term will lead up to huge changes in weight loss.