For this week and next, I’m eating like I’m not trying to lose weight. It’s a refreshing change and a planned hiatus to enable me to make it through the Christmas season without collapse. I’m still eating properly, paying attention to getting enough protein and ensuring that a large proportion of my carbs come from vegetable sources, but I’m cutting myself a little more slack than usual. I’ve increased my caloric intake to maintenance levels and allowed myself the option of making choices that would usually be outside of my parameters. After six months of hard work, I was starting to feel run down, slightly achey and occasionally my sleep was suffering somewhat. Since increasing what I eat, I’m sleeping better, my body doesn’t hurt and I’m in better humour.
I’m enjoying two aspects of this little trial. Firstly I’m finding that I have more energy, recover faster from workouts and my body feels happier. Secondly, I’m very pleased that even when allowing myself to eat things I’d usually eschew while cutting calories, I don’t actually want them. More accurately, I don’t go overboard on them or eat things that I really don’t particularly want just because they’re there. A cookie has to be pretty darned good for me to bother these days and even then, one is sufficient.
The other consideration is that I’m gearing myself up to soon knock down my body-fat percentage to around 18%, which means losing about 15lbs more without sacrificing muscle. In order to tackle the next phase, I need to be sure that I have my wits about me and my resolve mustered. I need not to be tired of dieting. I need to be able to face my workouts with energy and focus. I need to know what it feels like to eat enough again, so that I’ll know better when I’m eating too little and be able to pre-emptively eat more to prevent collapse.
I was eating anywhere from 1600 to 2400 calories per day, depending on how much exercise I got in a day. Some days would be as low as 1400. I now believe that was too little, particularly on the low days (of which there were relatively few) and as the intensity and importance of the workouts increased. I found a nifty little calculator online that gives a more accurate daily caloric assessment than any other I’ve found outside of a text book. As long as you are fairly accurate and honest in what you feed it numerically, it spits back a pretty good estimate (or at least one that seems to jive with my own experience).
And here’s what happens when you feed how much I actually burn and the calories I ate daily into the corresponding weight-loss calculator on the same site:
The resulting 1.7-ish lbs per week is, in fact, what I have averaged during the past six months, for a total of 45lbs in 6 months, so I’m thinking the calculators work pretty well for me (as long as I’m honest about activity and accurate about food tracking). What this tells me, though, is that I could bump up what I’m eating and continue to lose weight, albeit at a slower rate. I am a big believer in the slow and steady method of weight loss. I am also a big believer in the concept of doing the least amount of work necessary to achieve an end. This is particularly true insofar as weight loss is concerned because recovering from a metabolic implosion just doesn’t appeal to me. As the workouts get more challenging, I’m going to slow the weight loss down and eat more, because not tanking in the gym is very important to me and getting the most out of the training I’m putting such effort into matters very much. I want to build muscle and that requires careful (and sufficient) nutrition.
This little experiment is proving very useful, both as a break and a learning tool. I’m also planning for the transition from cutting body fat to maintaining a proper athletic diet and all of the information I’m gathering during this interlude is giving me more confidence in my abilities to cope with that scenario. And I’m enjoying a break, mentally and physically, before the next phase, which will involve attempting the (borderline) heroic effort of losing weight over Christmas. Wish me luck!