Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ending the unhealthy obsession with calorie deficit.

Always take a selfie.
I'll try to make this as clear as I can. Calories In / Calories Out is definitely a thing, but people need to STOP worshiping this idea about "calorific deficit", because it's stupid.

Now, don't get me wrong... and in fact I'll address this pre-emptively before the inevitable strawman attacks start: you cannot lose fat in a calorific surplus. If you take in more calories than you can put to use, that energy gets stored as body fat. Calories from any source as well, mind you.

However... the EMPHASIS on being in calorific deficit is all wrong. Note how I used to capital letters to emphasise the word emphasis just now. I'm not saying "take people out of deficit". I feel like I can't just say what I'm saying any more, I have to specify what I'm not saying as well, every paragraph or so. I'm going to go ahead and predict that a few people will still miss that and make stupid comments all the same once I share this to facebook.

Why not focus on being in deficit though?

As a profession coach and trainer and a specialist in Flexible Dieting with an interest in eating disorder awareness, recovery and avoidance, I've had active and athletic people come to me on... one particular example that I have in mind is a female athlete who came to me a few years back on 1300 calories a day and quite unhappy. She is now well aware that she REQUIRES a 3000 calorie a day minimum in order to see best results and performance at training, and to remain injury free.

That's something of an extreme example with very high fueling requirements, but it is quite common for me to reverse diet a female athlete from as low as 1100 or even 900 calories per day all the way up to 23, 2400, maybe 2600 calories per day subject to the amount they actually require to facilitate good results at their level of prowess at training.

Predicting an amount that is in deficit is easy. Literally, it's any amount that's less than would support current mass (including fat mass) and activity levels. All of these programs and diets where you just have an arbitrary amount like 1200 calories to restrict to, that's just about being in deficit and it's stupid. Some "macro plan" that doesn't end on a round number? Also stupid. Those "these are the only foods you're allowed to eat" type plans? They're not even smart enough to understand that how you'd lose weight on that plan is because you would be in deficit.

Now, on a personal level, "I just eat these foods and avoid those foods" is fine if people are happy with the food choices they're making and the results  they're seeing. I don't mean to insult people for not having a working knowledge of nutrition... other than the ones who are trying to enforce those choices onto others, and especially if they're charging money for it.

I have digressed. Where was I?

Picking an amount that is in deficit is easy, but it's not what is good.

As a coach who is giving sports nutrition advice, you need to be focused on how much people require, AKA how much they can utilise. That is, how much they can put to good use to fuel performance, to recover, and to adapt to training with the creation of lean mass. FKN IDIOTS WHO ARE BOUND TO SHOW UP TO TRY ARGUE WITH ME PLEASE NOTE: "how much they can put to use" does not translate to "a calorific surplus that would preclude fat loss", no matter what way you try to twist it.

Going back to those examples of mine from eariler: As a coach, you're never going to find out that your athlete requires 2400 or 2800 or 3000+ calories per day while you're thinking "results come from being in deficit, if you were in deficit you'd be seeing results". You won't have the BRAINS OR THE BALLS to raise their targets that high, so long as you're still married to and they're still enslaved by this brain dead notion of being focused on "calorific deficit". Rather, you're likely to slash intake targets even lower, clutch at straws about "not eating clean", or accuse the client of lying about their intake. These are the sort of things I keep getting told about, anyway.

Understand this: Not seeing fat loss does not necessarily automatically infer that you are "not in deficit" or that eating more would mean "going into surplus". While in deficit, tapping into fat stores is only one of many adaptations the human body might make and not necessarily it's preferred option. The further you go into deficit of an adequate amount, the less energy and resources the body will make available for other functions in order to preserve those fat stores.

Bottom line? If you're an athlete (and by this I mean anyone training with an interest in improving performance and body composition) you need to be fueled in a manner to facilitate performance and maintain condition. You can't build or maintain lean mass without making those resources available.
If you're a coach... if you're a trainer, train people and fuel them for results. We're supposed to be qualified professionals, stop trying to starve people thin with the same sort of logic I'd be dismayed to read on some kind of pro-ana blog.

You're not doing IIFYM if all you're doing is calculating a deficit, much less if you're just slashing further and further below some arbitrary amount.