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Know the Facts Before You Cut Calories

June 30th, 2009

The ridiculous 1200-1600 calorie a day diets that I spoke about in my last post don't often take exercise into account, even though most of the diets can be found in the pages of fitness magazines. When exercise is added it can create a big problem for dieters. As an example, if you shave calories down to 1600 a day and cut 500 more through exercise, it actually brings you lower than the approximately 1200 a day needed just to keep your brain and body functioning properly. Try and build metabolism boosting muscle with that kind of lifestyle. Am I the only one thinking this sounds like a good way to slow down and not speed up your metabolism?

And that’s not a number I pulled out of my head. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, 1200 calories, or more accurately 10 calories for every pound of body weight on a woman and 11 for a man, is the number that your body requires just to keep internal organs functioning while you’re at rest. It is known as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). As soon as you get out of bed your caloric requirements increase.

I view those approximately 1200 calories as the end result, not the target. Say I eat 2100 calories a day. 400-500 go to my workouts, be they cardiovascular or strength. Several hundred more go to activity I engage in throughout the day, like when I walk to my kitchen, car or desk, tidy, water my plants, etc. And of course when I eat more I burn more calories through digestion. The point is at the end of the day I’ve used these calories up so I don’t store them as fat. What should remain is the 1200 calories that go to my body’s basic functions - although since I’ve been building muscle for over a year that base number has probably increased, because muscle requires more calories for maintenance than fat does. We should be trying to meet the goal of using up the calories we take in, not trying to create a deficit.

I should point out that I obviously don't know all the answers, I'm just tired of all the focus on cutting calories as the solution to every person's weight problems. I'd much rather see a "diet" that doesn't mention a calorie goal at all, but that encourages people to eat quality foods and eat small meals more often, which gives the body a steady supply of fuel so it doesn’t have to store unused energy as fat. What are your thoughts on weight maintenance?

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