You go on a diet, restricting your caloric intake drastically. What happens? At first, you lose a lot of weight; it seems like things are going in the right direction. Suddenly, though, you reach a plateau. You become discouraged, start eating again, and end up putting the weight back on plus a few extra pounds. Why? This phenomenon is all due to your metabolism. When you severely restrict your calories, it slows, resulting in fewer calories burned in a day.
Metabolism: Your Fat-Burning Friend
At its most basic, metabolism refers to the rate of speed at which your body breaks down food and uses it as energy. Each unit of energy is measured as a calorie. On average, it takes approximately 2,000 calories to fuel a human body. However, a more active person will require more calories and a less active person fewer calories.
Your metabolism determines how many calories are burned for each activity. While you may only burn a hundred calories performing an activity, someone else might burn twice that amount doing the same activity. It all comes down to your metabolism. As you can imagine, a faster metabolism is desired when it comes to losing and maintaining weight, but many people accidently stall their metabolism, resulting in fewer calories burned per activity or function.
How Not Eating Slows Your Metabolism
Your metabolism is designed to speed up in times of excess abundance and slow down during times when there’s little food. Throughout history when food was scarce, metabolism helped people survive famine. Although there’s little use for this gas and brake system in today’s world of abundance, metabolism still works the same. When you consume fewer calories than your body needs to perform basic biological functions – about 1200 calories for women – your metabolism will slow or stall.
How Many Calories Should You Consume?
“The Ideal Daily Caloric Deficit: 20% below maintenance level per day. What this means is, whatever your daily calorie maintenance level is, you should be about 20% below it each day. Here’s an example…
Let’s say some person (male or female) had a daily calorie maintenance level of 2500 calories. They’d first figure out that 20% of 2500 is 500 (2500 x 0.20 = 500). This means they should create a caloric deficit of 500 calories each day. In this example, that would mean eating 2000 calories per day.” – A Calorie Counter
The key to successful weight loss is to take in fewer calories than you burn without dropping below the level that will trigger your metabolism, resulting in a slow down. You want to figure out what the correct calorie deficit is for YOU. While this number is different for different people, most people need an average of 2,000 calories per day. However, many people consume as many as 3,000 or 4,000 calories per day which explains the weight crisis in this country.
One issue I see all the time, is when women don’t take the time to figure out how many calories they were consuming before they start reducing. For example, for some ladies, going from regularly eating 3000 calories per day down to 1200 all of a sudden can be too drastic and your metabolism could slow. I suggest that you do a food diary for a week to find out how much you’ve been eating on average. Then, decrease that number by 500 calories at a time to start. Later, decide how many more calories you need to reduce on a weekly or monthly basis and and don’t drop below 1200 calories in a day.
To lose or maintain your weight without stalling your metabolism, you need to figure out how many calories your body requires. There are numerous charts that will give you this number. Simply choose your weight, height, and activity level to find your caloric intake amount for weight maintenance and weight loss.
Remember, there’s a golden range for weight loss. If you drop too low, you will slow your metabolism and not lose weight – plateau. For successful weight loss and a speedy metabolism, consume slightly fewer calories than is recommended for your body and activity level. Exercise is also important. Not only does it burn calories, it helps speed up your metabolism.
While skipping a meal here or there isn’t going to break your metabolism completely, it’s a good idea to eat small, frequent meals. Not only does this help your metabolism, it keeps you from feeling hungry which will help you fight off cravings and binges.