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If there is one major misconception regarding nutrition that the world should stop believing it is that you need to starve yourself and severely restrict calories in order to lose weight. There tends to be a belief that in order to lose weight and see muscle definition, a diet of a few hundred calories a day is required. However, I can happily assure you that this could not be further from the truth. In order to keep a healthy metabolism, a caloric deficit (i.e. expending more calories in a day than you are taking in) should not be sustained for a long period of time. Your body needs the chance to recover from being deprived of the calories it takes in order to sustain your body weight. After a prolonged period of “dieting” and eating at a restricted caloric intake (we’re talking more than 12 weeks) many people actually find it harder and harder to lose weight as the time passes. We refer this as a stagnant metabolism. Your body starts to go into protection mode from being calorically deprived and therefore slows down body functions, including your metabolism. In order to maintain a healthy weight, it is of the utmost importance to keep one’s metabolism running at a healthy rate.
As opposed to so severely restricting calories so as to potentially cause metabolic damage in the long run, it makes much more sense to only restrict calories enough to where someone is safely, but consistently, losing a small amount of weight each week for no longer than 12 weeks at a time. For example, if a person’s base calories required to sustain his current body weight is 2000cal a day, it makes much more sense to only cut out a few hundred calories a day to ensure smart weight loss as opposed to cutting these calories in half. Why should this person suffer more than he has to? Now, instead of this person being miserable throughout the duration of his diet because he is trying to function on a tiny number of calories, he is happily eating enough to feel mostly satiated, keeping his metabolism safe and steadily losing weight to accomplish the goal of weightloss.
As a practical example, looking at many of our higher-level athletes at CFR who are leaner and more muscular, if they are not working out they can most likely be found eating! On the contrary, many of our athletes here who have complained they have a hard time losing weight are admittedly eating only a couple times a day and taking in only a few hundred calories, thus keeping themselves in a deprived state that does not allow for optimal metabolic function or workout performance. In the words of CrossFit HQ Intensity (work/time) = results. Therefore, any pestilence that will hamper our intensity must be shunned like a repeat of 16.5.
In conclusion, if you have been trying for quite some time to lose weight and your weightloss seems to be stagnating, it’s probably time to get a hard look at how many calories you are eating and where or not that is actually a sustainable number for you and your metabolism.
If you have any questions regarding nutrition or would like to learn more, please email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org!