Following a lot of weight loss blogs, doing online coaching and just being part of the fitness community, this is a topic that seems to come up a lot and I think it’s an important one to be addressed.
We all know that weight loss or success in achieving any body composition goal is just as much about nutrition as it is about training. As the saying goes, “you can’t out-train a bad diet’. In other words, if you’re eating too much you aint going to lose weight no matter how hard you train. Of course, eating too little is just as bad.
Now with that being said, I see way too many people stressing out way too much about their dietary intake. Yes, it’s important to get it right, but how much difference will one bad day really make? Well, I decided to do some maths to find out once and for all!
So here is our hypothetical case study. Imagine I have a client who needs to lose a significant amount of weight to go from an Obese BMI to a normal healthy weight. I run the maths, interpret the results as required, and come up with the following numbers.
- Base Metabolic Rate: 1760
- Recommended Minimum Daily Calorie Intake: 1800
- Recommended Maximum Daily Intake, to maintain goal weight: 1900
- Estimated Maintenance Calories: 2400
So, what happens when my client does a great job of sticking to those guidelines all week, but there’s a pizza night on the weekend and the nutrition plan goes out the window? Take a look at the chart and see.
As you can see there, we have columns showing the intake for each day of the week, and the horizontal lines showing our Maintenance, Maximum, Minimum and BMR guidelines as described above, plus a line labelled “Urban Myth” at 1200 calories representing the starvation level diets most people go on. So this chart represents being right on target all week… and then above maintenance on the Saturday.
Check out that final column though, representing average intake for the week. It’s only 26 calories above our recommended maximum. Barely worth mentioning.
Now, let’s compare to a chart where we’ve stuck to the plan and not exceeded 1900 calories.
Obviously that looks a lot better, with our average intake for the week being right smack in the middle of that ideal range. How many calories less is our weekly average though? Not even 100 calories.
Let’s look at it another way. Our maintenance level for the week would be 16800 calories (7 x 2400). If my addition is correct total calories in Chart One is 13480, a deficit of 3320, and total calories in Chart 2 is 12880 with a deficit of 3920.
So, either of these examples are still well below maintenance, which means well into weight loss territory. For one day of bad eating to negate being on track the rest of the week, you’d need to be talking about consuming around 6000 calories! The graph for that was too ridiculous to even post.
Now, let’s put it into perspective. It’s exactly as I have been talking about recently. To lose a significant amount of weight, you don’t need to starve yourself, and you don’t need to be 100% perfect 100% of the time. What you need is to be reasonably close, more often than not, on average to your “no less than this amount, no more than that amount” guidelines to maintain your goal weight.
Will you get better, faster results if you don’t have these occasional blow outs? Almost certainly. But will they bring your progress undone altogether? Absolutely not. Is the difference even enough to worry about at all? Not in my opinion.
I believe that the more you try to force yourself to stick to a strict target with 100% consistency, the more likely you are to end up overeating. When you have more laid back approach, you are infinitely more likely to stay on track with no stress and no guilt.
This is the recipe for long term success.
Shout outs to Kelsey for help with the graphics for this post! Cheers!