Low Calorie Diets. How Low Calorie Can You Go, Without Losing Muscle?

November 20, 2007

Low calorie diets are a great way to lose weight quickly. You can create a much larger calorie deficit through dieting than you can though exercise.

The challenge is that most of the time we want to lose body fat instead of muscle. If your calorie intake is too low, you can eventually lose muscle as well as body fat.
low calorie diet
[Mr T’s Son, James T., Displays a Great Slim and Toned Look]

Why Low Calorie Diets Are Effective

The most effective way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit. You do this by burning more calories throughout the day than what you eat…simple enough. There are two ways to create this deficit, eat less or exercise more. I believe that it is much easier to create this deficit through dieting than it is through exercise.

Here is an article I wrote about this exact subject: Is Diet OR Exercise More Important for Fat Loss and Getting Lean?

Won’t Going Too Low Calorie, Slow The Metabolism?

Drastically reducing your calories does slow down your metabolism, but it doesn’t happen as quickly and easily as you have been led to believe. People who push the idea of eating every couple of hours would like you to believe that skipping a meal will immediately cause the body to hold onto fat for the next meal.

This idea of going into “starvation mode” has been greatly exaggerated. I have written another article that explains more about starvation mode: Skipping Meals Will NOT Slow Your Metabolism and Cause Weight Gain! This article talks mainly on the subject of meal frequency, but it also explains how the body goes into starvation mode over a period of time.

So How Many Calories Per Day is Enough?

Here is where things get REALLY complicated. There are tons of variables that dictate how many calories per day is the optimum amount to lose body fat, without sacrificing a bunch of muscle. Someone who has a lot of body fat to lose, can get away with eating less than someone who is closer to their target weight.

A person who is extremely active has to eat more than someone who is not that active. A person with a slow metabolism should eat fewer calories than someone with a higher metabolism.

I can’t give a perfect formula to tell you exactly how many calories is ideal for you, but I can give you a way to figure it out for yourself.

A Simple Method to Figure Out If you Are Getting Enough Calories

I believe in simple solutions to complex problems, and this is as easy as it gets in my opinion. This simple method does require that you are performing some type of resistance exercise.

If you lift weights in a gym, then this will be easy for you. Okay…when you begin a low calorie diet for fast fat loss, I want you to begin a strength training routine as well. Don’t worry, you won’t get bulky off of a strength training routine while experiencing a daily calorie deficit.

While you are dieting hard, if you either maintain or gain strength on a consistent basis…you are eating enough calories per day…end of story!

Shouldn’t We Lift High Reps For Muscle Tone?

If you are consuming a low calorie diet, you won’t have the energy for a high rep workout routine. This is one of the many reasons I’m against the traditional “high reps for tone” approach.

If you gain strength while dropping weight, your body is becoming more efficient and will quickly display greater muscle tone. Think along the lines of an Olympic gymnast.

They aren’t even trying to look toned…their muscle tone is the result of being light, yet amazingly strong for their size.

What Does This Strength Routine Look Like?

There is a ton of flexibility here. My favorite strength routine on a really low calorie diet is to choose 2 exercises per body part and perform 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps.

So for chest, I might start with “45 degree angle dumbbell incline presses”. I would warm up with 50 pound dumbbells for 5 reps…then maybe 60 for 5 reps…then grab 80’s and do three work sets of between 3-5 reps. My next chest exercise might be a “low incline bench press on a smith machine”…I would do one warm up set, since my chest was already warmed up from the previous lift…at that point I would hit 3 work sets with a weight I could get up 3-5 times.

I would do the same for every major muscle group.

How Would I Split up The Muscle Groups?

I recommend splitting the muscle groups into two workouts. My favorite is to work Back and Chest on day one and Shoulders, Biceps, and Triceps on day two. Ideally you would workout 4 times per week, so the body would get worked two total times each week.

Note: I like the way intense cardio shapes the legs and butt, so I don’t really recommend direct leg work unless your legs are very skinny (this is the most controversial piece of advice I give on my website on a regular basis). I simply think that excessive direct leg work ruins the physique.

How many male and female Supermodels do you think hit the squat racks? I rest my case.

So…How to Tell If You Aren’t Getting Enough Calories

As long as you are either getting stronger each workout, or maintaining your strength each workout…you are getting sufficient calories each day.

If you begin to lose strength or have a tough time finishing your workout, you need to bump up the calories a bit. It is important to have the same “test conditions” each workout…so if you begin your chest workout with “incline dumbbell presses”, you need to do that every chest workout.

I only monitor the strength progress of the first exercise per muscle group. Feel free to vary the exercise choice for the second lift to get variety in your workout.

What is a Good Low Calorie Baseline?

Take your target bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 10. So if you weighed 200 pounds and wanted to get to 150 pounds, then you would eat 1,500 calories per day.

If you have 30 or more pounds to lose, begin with this daily calorie amount (your target weight multiplied by 10). If you have 10-30 pounds to lose, this may be too low. If you have less than 10 pounds to lose, you will need to be careful and really monitor the way you feel and your strength levels.

Note: You may need to eat more than this. Also, this is a low calorie diet and isn’t meant to be a year-round deal. Be sensible about this…I like you guys and don’t want to create any eating disorders!

The main thing is to find out “how low you can go” while still gaining strength.

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark McCullagh November 21, 2007 at 9:59 pm


Good stuff, man! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

And I really like the simple approach you’ve taken in this topic. I am a firm believer in the KISS principle.

The workout protocol is exactly what I would recommend for maintaining (and gaining) muscle mass while dieting. Not only that, its pretty much what I have done for years,

And I’ll tell you this – it works! Simple.

Short (45 mins – 1 hour max!) intense workouts focusing on basic, compound movements with heavy weights (4-8 reps) in good form is the ticket. Enough said.

Thanks Bro’. Keep steering people in the right direction and you’ll get to where you want to go.



admin November 21, 2007 at 10:49 pm

Yep…it is best to keep it simple. If things get too complex, very few people can follow along.

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Mark!


Graham November 22, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Great article. I am just starting a similar routine. I’m not majorly overweight (6’1″, about 190 lb, but not as muscular as I’d like), but I just want to be more toned and lose that last bit of fat. The workout is about half an hour of weights, then half an hour of cardio (sometimes HIIT, sometimes steady-state).

I’m keeping a pretty low calorie diet and have been feeling great, but now I know of a good way to know if I’m not eating enough!

I love your fitness principles. This site is basically where I got my workout from. Thanks!

admin November 22, 2007 at 8:56 pm


You will quickly reach your goals if you are doing the workout you described on a low calorie diet. Your height is perfect…most male models are 6’1″ and around the 165-175 range when their body fat is low for photo shoots.

Make sure that you don’t ovetrain…as long as you either maintain or gain strength…you will do fine.



ted November 24, 2007 at 11:41 pm


Great article I like how u do keep things simple. I was wondering what will happen to your body if go more the 21 days with a low calorie diet?

admin November 25, 2007 at 1:48 am


Your body can go into “starvation mode” on a very low calorie diet over a period of time…then it will tend to store more body fat from the foods you eat. It is best to alternate periods of low calories with periods of time at a more maintanence level.

Hope that makes sense,


Jason November 25, 2007 at 2:05 am

Thats intresting what u said about maitenece how do u itself deal without putting body fat on

admin November 26, 2007 at 2:00 am


Eat around 12-15 calories per pound for a week or two, then back down to 8-10 for up to 3 weeks again.


Ty November 28, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Hi Rusty,

You didnt mention what kind of cardio you do on this workout. Just curious what you suggest?
Great website by the way…


admin November 28, 2007 at 10:16 pm


Thanks for the compliment buddy. Here is an outline of my favorite cardio workout. It works wonders!

An Aerobic Workout Routine That Forces Your Body to Burn Body Fat


Annalisa December 11, 2007 at 9:01 pm

Hi Rusty. I’m new to your website and i’ve been looking around a bit.

Annalisa December 11, 2007 at 9:09 pm

Okay, that submitted on it’s own…I swear. Anyways, haha as I was saying – i’ve been looking around and i’m confused as to what route I should take because there’s so much information! In the past four months i’ve lost about 20 pounds. Now it hasn’t been consistant because there were times when I was more dedicated than others but through diet and exercise I lost the weight. I’m becoming more serious now and i’m going to try and lose that last stubborn 15-20 pounds. I do a combination of weight training (machines and free weights) and cardio (running or eliptical for about 30 minutes) and I try to switch it up by doing some taibo or cycling. But after reading all this information i’m not sure if it will be enough. I’ve heard the 6 small meals a day kind of thing but after reading your information I think I’m gonna just boot that idea. But I know that I cannot just eat one meal a day because I get really bad headaches if I don’t eat!

Also, I have to say that I have tried to drastically cut calories and it resulted in an eating disorder. I would only eat about 300 calories a day and I had no energy to do anything. And when that didn’t work I tried throwing everything up. Looking at your site it seems like diet and exercise have to be perfect to lose weight. Is there anything out there for us simpletons? I just want to get toned and lean. I’m a vegetarian so that helps and I don’t eat a lot of dairy – (I can’t look at protein diets because they all involve meat). I guess I really just don’t know if what i’m doing is right. I’m generally pretty healthy but I may be approaching the whole thing wrong

admin December 11, 2007 at 10:00 pm


You can get amazing results off of 3 meals per day. I talk about the one meal per day approach a bunch on my blog, because it is kind of revolutionary. Up until recently I did 3 meals per day with great results. The reason I don’t recommend 6 is that it is sooo easy to eat too many calories when you eat six meals.

Don’t become anorexic or bulimic…that isn’t a healthy approach at all. Here is a simple approach.

1) Take your target weight
2) Multiply it by 10
3) Divide it by 3
4) That is how many calories you will eat each meal, for three meals per day.
5) Do moderate to intense cardio 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes.
6) Don’t eat anything 4-5 hours before hitting cardio

Annalisa…I know that this will work for you. Hit the weights 3 times a week before cardio as well. You will get results, especially if you workout in a fasted state (that is the big tip). Drink some green tea before your workout for energy.

You will get there!


Annalisa December 11, 2007 at 11:10 pm

Thanks a lot for the help! I’m going to stick to this plan and i’m sure i’ll see some great results. Thanks again

Bill Shankly January 1, 2008 at 9:59 am


In what proportions should we consume calories? some ppl suggested 40% protein, 40% fat and 20% carbs.


admin January 1, 2008 at 2:47 pm


I like to eat less fat than that and more carbs. To be honest, I watch the overall calorie consumption more than I watch macro nutrient proportions. I also don’t worry about getting a lot of protein as much as I used to.

I feel best when I eat a lot of fruit, salad, vegetables and a little bit of meat. I also like to include yams or steamed rice on workout days. I’m slowly switching to eating MUCH more vegetables than I used to. I guess this would come close to the 40-40-20 way of eating without trying.


Bill Shankly January 2, 2008 at 5:41 am

Thanks Rusty,

Your insights are much appreciated. I”ve been on the one meal diet for a week now but feel very weak after working out. I eat an apple before working out and protein shake afterwards. I eat a big meal at night.
I exercise everyday with

1) HIIT -15mins -200calories burnt or 2 miles run in 15mins
2) Stairmaster – 10mins -200 calories
3) Ellipitical Machine – 15 mins 150 calories

Then every other day with weights

5 exercises consisting of 3 x5 sets

I”ve been tracking my calorie consumption and its around 1500 cals/day. Is this enough? or do I need to eat more or cut back on my exericse. I was 176 Lbs last week and I am now 169lbs. I want to get to 160lbs so that my body fat is around 10%. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.



Bill Shankly January 2, 2008 at 5:43 am

P.S. For my exercise regimen, the every other day with weights also includes the cardio workout, so Mon – cardio only, Tues – cardio + weights, Weds- Cardio only.

admin January 2, 2008 at 2:19 pm


I felt kind of weak for the first 3-4 weeks on this diet and now I feel wonderful.

Looking at your workout…I think you need to back off a bit on your cardio. I adjust my cardio depending upon how my body looks day to day. Most of the time I do a standard cardio routine that is shorter than what you described. I typically do 20 minutes of HIIT followed by 10 minutes of steady state cardio.

The cardio workout that you have been doing would be perfect to do on days where you maybe ate too much the day before…or if your body feels “carb loaded” and you want to burn some of this excess food energy out of your system…so that your body will switch to burning fat for fuel again. I am going to do a similar routine to this tonight, because my body and muscles are bloated with carbs and I want to get my body in “fat burning mode” again.

One last thing…once you get to your target weight, increase those calories a bit. You sound like you are getting quick results, but don’t make this too miserable 🙂

Have a great one!


Annalisa January 7, 2008 at 12:28 am

Just wanted to say thanks for your help. I’ve already lost ten pounds! Ten more to go and i’ll be good. Thanks again!

admin January 7, 2008 at 10:28 am


Great job…if you already lost 10, then you know you can do it again.

Good for you!


Annalisa January 8, 2008 at 6:50 pm

I have a question concerning carbs. I do my diet based on calories but I know that a lot of people do theirs based on carbs. I have to admit that I have absolutely NO idea of how many carbs to consume. I’m afraid that maybe i’m eating too many. Because i’m vegan i’m limited to fruits, vegetables, and grains (some people eliminate all bread from their diet but I can’t do that). Can eating too many carbs cause you to gain weight?

admin January 9, 2008 at 2:16 am


Yeah…too many refined carbs like things made with white flower can cause a serious blood sugar spike, which does block your body’s ability to burn fat for fuel.

Two things that can help a bunch if you still want to eat white bread, pastries, etc.

1) Workout on an empty stomach and then only allow yourself to eat these foods after your workout. Your body actually benefits from a blood sugar spike after a hard workout, because it wants to replenish the glycogen in your muscles. You are WAY less likely to put on body fat from your after workout meal. Don’t go too crazy, if your weight loss stalls it means you need to back off a bit on the after workout calories.

2) Never eat carbs by themselves…ever! If you include a bit of fat or a bit of protein with your carbs it will lessen the impact the carbs have on your blood sugar levels. For instance, rice cakes cause on unreal blood sugar spike as do Bagels…if you are really craving these, add a bit of butter, cream cheese, or peanut butter…believe it or not it is better to consume these extra bit of fat calories than it is to get the huge blood sugar spike that eating thee carbs alone causes.

Note: The only exception to the rule of never eating carbs by themselves…feel free to eat raw vegetables and fruit on an empty stomach without protein or added fats.

Hope that helps!


Annalisa January 9, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Wow, thanks a lot. I never eat white flour, only sprouted bread. But I do eat brown rice cakes. That might be causing some of the problem. I’ll try them with some peanut butter instead of eating them alone. Thanks!

Annalisa January 13, 2008 at 2:43 pm

Sorry for the abundance of questions Rusty but what about something like Kashi Go Lean Crunch which is high in carbs but also has 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Does that technically count as eating protein with carbs?

admin January 14, 2008 at 2:40 am


I’ve had those Kashi Go Lean Crunch Bars before. In theory their nutrient profile looks alright, but they give me stomach pains. If you can digest them, I don’t see anything wrong with them. If possible try to save the higher carb stuff for after your workouts, it will be more beneficial because you will burn more body fat if your body is low in carbs while working out.


Cory January 14, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Just stumbled apon your site, and its absolutely wonderful to find out this information. I have more or less done this in some form for years, based on my time to eat because of work and such, and how and when I do feel hungry. Now over the years I have not eaten healthy and have been told all the opposite things, and with eating unhealthy, quitting smoking, and being partially dissabled from my physical job this last year I have put on alot of excess weight. I have a large frame and even in highschool Football when I was lean with low bodyfat I was 6’1″ 210lbs. now at age 31 im am larger framed overall had maintained 225lbs-240lbs throughout my 20s. But have since ballooned to almost 290 at around Thanksgiving of ’07 I started cutting back some and at about 280 a week ago I started the fasting diet somewhat like you describe, on my own accord, only knowing that everyone told me I should be doing the opposite, but that seemed wrong to me, and I just could not force myself to eat more to lose weight.
Right now I am spending around an hour on an excercise bike per day, and around a half hour strength training per day. some days more some days less. I am currently down to 270lbs. 10lbs in less than a week, mostly exccess food and watter weight im sure.
Still adjusting some to the diet.
My question is what should my caloric intake be for my meal? The formula you give seems to give me way to many calories. for instance to lose my target weight is 210, that means I need to get 2100 calories per day, that seems to be too many too lose weight. and to maintain right now i need over 3000 to not go into starvation mode after a few weeks? Right now I am actually only eating around 750 calories a day!! 1 meal at night with maybe an apple or carrots for lunch and a light snack late at night.
Great site. Look forward to learning more from you.

admin January 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm


It is okay to have days where you eat really low calories, but you will find that you will just naturally eat more on certain days. Once you go really low cal for a couple of days in a row, you will just naturally eat more at some point. If you have a lot of weight to lose you can get away with a larger calorie deficit. At some point, I really believe you will need to get closer to 2,000 calories a day…but if you want to half of that for a while, you should be fine.


Cory January 15, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Yeah Thanks Rusty, I figured I would, have to eventually have to get back up there. Just didnt know how long I could or should keep it this low. Right now I am actually managing ok keeping myself below around or below 1000 calories.( I acutally think the warrior diet is somewhat easy to keep the cals low as long as you eat healthy foods. ) I can feel it but, I am managing it. I seem to be burning the weight fairly well and that is my point. I just dont want to cause some sort of Metabo starving and end up worse off. I have been able to stick to my goals in the past and I plan on making this one no different.
Again Thanks, for the great site. Ive learned alot here.

admin January 16, 2008 at 3:27 am


You sound like you are doing well on this diet. This isn’t a yo-yo type diet. Those are typically caused by people who cut out an entire macro-nutrient like all carbs out of their diet. As long as you eat balanced meals and increase the calories a bit as you get closer to your goal, you will be fine.


Anferney January 17, 2008 at 2:56 am

Wow i would have to say you really give some good advice.
But every 1 here seems to b 6 feet and over am 5’10 am 19years of age about 220 i am kind of natural built, i seem to be pretty big and aight so friends would say but i want to be about 200 and i want to be lean and tonned but till want to mantain the muslces i have am not sure if i should still work out with weights or not some people tell me not to that i should just do push ups and pull ups and run. i need your help so i knoe what kind of workouts and reps i should be doing to get to that weight and size thanks.

admin January 17, 2008 at 12:26 pm


You are naturally a bigger guy, which is cool. I bet you would be more athletic and agile at 200. I would recommend dropping 20 pounds without losing strength. You need to do double the amount of cardio you are doing right now and 1/2 the amount of weight lifting at least for a while.

Here are a few articles about losing fat that will help you out:

(I just typed lose fat into the search box in the upper right hand corner of my site…cool feature)

Here are a few articles about lifting for muscle definition vs lifting for mass.

Muscle Tone Articles

This will be a great starting point for you!


Anferney January 17, 2008 at 4:43 pm

Thanks Rusty
That helps One more thing am i suposse to increase the amount of weight lifting or decreass to 1/2 the amount of weights that i do right now. and also would the Increass in cardio help reduce my leg muscle because i notice i have huge legs from doing lots of squats. my goal is also to basically loose dat.

admin January 17, 2008 at 9:13 pm


You could get away with doing a lot more cardio and a lot less lifting. Think of how a Light Heavyweight boxer trains to make weight. They do tons of “Road Work” (running)…and by the time they are in fighting shape, they look amazing. You probably don’t need to go anywhere near squats for a while.


Cory January 19, 2008 at 8:22 pm

Ok, so I feel like I’m “beating a dead horse” here Rusty. But I gotta get this figured out. Right now I am finding, the Warrior lifestyle plan rather easy to maintain. In the past year I have quit smoking and also caffeine and find that hunger cravings are a piece of cake compaired to the other two. So with that comes my problem, I really am not sure if I am starving myself. All I read Is horror stories about not going on extreme low calorie diets for very long periods of time, because of all the side effects and complete metabolic shutdown. My problem is this I have really been trying to eat all healthy foods and somewhat avoid carbs in the process. For instance yesterday, I at a banana in morning, apple in afternoon, (120cal total) then my nightly meal was a bag of frozen stir fry veggies with and stir fry sauce, (200cal tot), I added a cut up grilled chicken breast (aprx 150 cal) then 1.5 serv. of low fat cot cheese. (130 cal). and a serving of apple sauce (100 cal)thats a grand total for the day of 700 calories. And that is pretty much my meal every day in some shape or form right now. About that much and that many calories. Now I was full after my meal as well, I mean I could have eaten more if I forced myself to but I am trying to lose weight so why force it. I do get hungry sometimes a couple of hours after my meal but again I have no problem dealing with some minor hunger. Hunger cravings are truly a cake walk compaired to nicotine cravings!!
I did the BMR calc and its around 2400cal, and recomendations are to get between 2500 – 3000 cals per day to lose-maintain weight.
Sorry for the long post here but wanted to get this right. So far everything is going great, i just started all of this getting in shape eating well and working out, lifting weights, and cardio, in some form 5-6 days a week.
Does it matter that much what I eat. I mean I want to lose the weight and fast, I started this on Jan. 9 at 280, Jan. 13 was 270, and today Jan19. am 266. So it is going remarkable. I want it to keep going that way. But I dont want everything to fall apart either. Should I not worry about eating all the healthy foods and eliminating as much of the carbs to increase my caloric intake to closer to at least 1500-2000? Will this slow my weight loss progress? Should I cycle between a week or so of these extremely low calorie weeks and a few days or a week of higher calorie ones? I have just read how horrible it can be to be on this low of calories for that long of a period. As far as I can see I can fast all day long and really just about eat anything for my evening meal and stay below 2000 calories, whether it is healthy is another story, but to get up close to some where reasonably close to enough calories it cant be all low carb vegetables and protiens that is for sure? I have avoided certain foods, like pastas and potatoes and pizza, and all the real easy and junky food, some of it is not necessarily bad for you but not necessarily good either and definitly not low calorie. I mean surely I can get to 2000 cals but would i lose weight on all this?
I guess It didnt take very long for me to get lazy and put all this weight on, not I want to take it all of in just as short of time, but make sure it comes off, fast as safely possible.

admin January 20, 2008 at 11:21 am


You are going to like my next post that is for sure. It will address some of this. I would recommend eating the lower calorie all healthy food 2-3 days in a row alternated with one higher carb day with a meal that contains pasta and potatoes. This will be the best of both worlds…lose weight quickly and make sure your metabolism doesn’t slow down.

Give it a shot!


Cory January 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Thanks Rusty, I think I will give that a shot. That sounds actually fairly easy to me! Really appreciate all your advice! Look forward to your next post.
Hmm. Pasta for dinner tonight sounds kinda good, and actually that really makes this even easier! If this works as well as I think it should, I am on the road to being lean and fit the rest of my life and it will be fairly easy in my book. And I will give you alot of the credit Rusty. Thanks.

admin January 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm


That is the idea for sure. You can’t follow a diet that is all about deprivation and succeed over the long term.

Enjoy the pasta tonight!


Tesa January 28, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Okay Rusty i’m running into a bit of a problem. I’ve tried the method of just eating dinner but the thing is after a really hard workout i’m just not hungry and I get nauscious if I try and eat anything. So i’ve been eating a small breakfast and a snack instead of lunch, waiting four hours (so I can be in a fasted state) and then I workout with the intention of eating a little bit of a bigger dinner but I just don’t want to eat anything. So my calories are adding up to a little less than 800 a day. Now, this really doesn’t bother me because I don’t eat that much but i’m afraid that over time my body might freak out and go into starvation mode – maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Is that many calories enough?

Also, I know you’re not a big fan of “cheat days” or anything like that because they really just take away from reaching your goal but I feel like after a long week of working out and eating really well that maybe a nice meal of pasta or something at the Olive Garden and maybe a dessert would be okay. It might help me feel less deprived but I don’t want to feel guilty about eating it haha. You seem so perfect! But do you ever cheat?

admin January 29, 2008 at 12:10 am


I cheat on a regular basis for sure! I eat “Skittles” and “Red Vines” when I see a movie in the theater. I drink beer and eat bad bar food once every other week, etc.

I don’t like to necessarily schedule cheat days, I just cheat on days where it makes sense. The idea behind my blog is to get in great shape and improve your health, but it a way where you can enjoy life. I get irritated that other fitness sites don’t really address things like holidays and celebrations, etc. I couldn’t imagine going through life without eating your favorite dishes every now and then.

The key is to string together as many days as possible before you cheat. You might do 4 days of strict and one day of loose, followed by 10 days of strict diet and then 2 days of flexible eating. Try to have as many strict days as possible. Once you get to a fat loss sticking point, see if you can do 21 days in a row of eating strictly. You will lose those last few pounds for sure.


PS: Try to get those calories up a little. Maybe wait a little longer before eating your dinner so it digest better -or- make your morning meal a touch bigger.

Lynn January 30, 2008 at 1:38 am

I am 45 and have had 9 children. I used to be able to lose quite easily. but in the past two years it has been impossible. Well finally for the past 7 months I started this routine where I water fast 2 days a week and then eat mostly salads and protein the other days. Still I am stuck at losing a maximum of 2 lbs. per week. I have finally lost about 45 pounds. I took a test to see if my thyroid was a problem and it is normal. I walk 7 days a week 30 minutes a day. I still have 20 more pounds and feel it will never come off. Any advice? I would estimate that I eat 3500 to 4000 calories per week.

admin January 30, 2008 at 1:52 am


Losing 2 pounds per week is exceptional. I mean…that is outstanding! You will probably be at a sticking point for a while. It does happen. The only thing I would suggest it to pick 2-3 days per week where you increase the intensity of your walking. You absolutely can’t reduce your calories…you don’t want to shut your metabolism down.

The only direction you can go is to increase the intensity a bit on your daily exercise. It may take 1-2 years to lose those last 20 pounds, but it will happen…it could happen much sooner. Just keep doing the right things.

You are doing great!


beverley March 13, 2008 at 10:55 am

hi rusty
i just found your site by accident i was looking for very low diet,could i ask you how many calories a day do i need to lose 3lb a week,i have a very inactive job were i st mainly through out the day.i weigh 13stone 5lb i want to get to 10 stone for ist of augest 2008 im getting married
could i lose 3lb a week on a 800 caloroe a day diet, i want to do this but everyone keeps saying you go in starvation mode and not lose any weight,but i thought no matter how low you go in calories you lose weight,am i right
please help im desparate
ps ive baught my wedding dress few sizes to small to give me the goal,i can stick o 800 a day thats not the problem its knowing will i lose all the weight on a 800 cal day diet

admin March 14, 2008 at 3:23 am


At the top of my site under the banner, you will see a link to “The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook”. It is an instant downloadable e-book that costs $34.95. It sounds like a lot of money, but it is one of the best diet plans I have ever seen for someone who needs to drop a lot of weight quickly. It would work very well for you.

If you can’t afford that, here is my advice…you can go very low calorie for two weeks straight, then take one week breaks where you eat a more normal amount of calories. This is a way for you to lose weight without having your metabolism slow down too much. So basically two weeks on and one week off. Sounds basic, but works pretty well.


Dj September 6, 2008 at 10:50 am

Hi Rusty, im 17 years old and 6 foot tall, weighing in at 165 lbs. Here is my story. Last year i weight 180 lbs but i was in the weight room every day i gained serious mass in my arms and pecks but gained some dreaded flab on my sides and stomach, but i was okay with that. Well at the beginning of this summer i fell off a roof (working at my job) and injured my shoulder. The docs orders were not to lift for a few months and i followed the orders (even though it hurt inside that i couldn’t lift). Now the dreaded no lifting ban is well lifted, but there is a problem. While i wasn’t lifting i was getting smaller in my arms and pecks so now i have tiny arms again with a fat stomach. My question is is it possible to gain some serious mass in my arms and pecks while simultaneously getting that skinny muscular stomach i dream of with the low calorie diet? If so then how? Any help is GREATLY Appreciated.

Megan January 28, 2009 at 2:23 am

Hey Rusty,
I love your site you have a huge amount of knowledge!I wanted your help on my diet and excercise plan, up until a year ago I was 119lbs at 5 feet 7 inches, but since then I quit smoking (a pack per day) and put on 26lbs which has been a nightmare to get rid of because I replace the ciggies with food,Im wanting to start a serious plan to get rid of the extra weight,and was wondering if 800cals per day for 6 weeks would be safe?and how long does it take to loose weight when your on a x10 per pound plan. I walk up hill 5x per week for 60min-90mins which keeps my heart rate up,is this a good level to keep up?
I really would love your advice on how I can get rid of the weight quick and easy,thanks rusty

Jackie September 4, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Hello Rusty, I am on a low-calorie diet now where I eat about 800 calories or less a day. I’ve been o this diet for almost two weeks now and I have lost excess weight around the sides and stomach. I work out almost every day and sometimes twice. I’m not overweight but I think I do need to eat more calories. If eating that low of calories for a nineteen year old who is average weight and works out is bad, will I re-gain the weight I lost if I increase my calorie intake? Or does it depends on if you increase the calorie intake slowly or quickly?

kevin December 16, 2009 at 3:03 am

im 14 and currently weigh 113 , not overweight but i want to get a 6 pack so i want to weigh around 109, im on a 1200 calorie diet, is this healthy and will this stop or slow my growth since 14 is one of the ages you grow a lot?
i am not very active do not have any sports at the moment, jus skool and back home. so will i stop growing because of lacking calories?

kelly January 25, 2010 at 12:22 am

I am currently 130 pounds and 5 feet 2 inches. I have signed up with a doctor and am on an 800 calorie diet and only 20 carbs with no excersise. I lost weight quickly with this plan and it is suppose to be for 21 days but I can’t seem to stick to it for more than 7-10 days. I become almost obsessed with eating carbs and sugar. I have a cruise in April and really must loose this weight fast for my husband. He hates the weight I have gained and it has strained our marriage. I really want our cruise to be a turning point. So I guess I am asking you…..Should I be doing exercise during this 21 days? Should I add carbs such as more fruit and veggies and just calorie count? Also I work nights 7p-7a. Is it beneficial for me to work out after work in the morning before I go to bed or is that defeating the purpose??

Okime June 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Hi Rusty!

Love your posts! What do you think about upping protein when going low calorie? Do you agree with lyle mcdonal that it would spare lean muscle mass?

What about during maintenance? Does Brad Pilon haver it right that for maintenance you could shift some calories from protein to fat or carbs? Because it seems that Martin Beckhan doesn’t agree with him on that…

Also I’ve heard that body temperature could be a good indicator of when you’ve been going low cal for too long.. like need to go to maintenance for a week or so… Just asking cause I’m trying to cut down and tend to eat one big meal at night with mostly meat and veggies.
What are you’re thoughts on that ? I’m referring to the research done by matt stone over at 180 degreehealth…

Thanks for your great blogg. It helps to have someone how can explain stuff in such an easy manner!

Brett June 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm

I think you have just replaced Lebron James as my idol. Please tell me you have a website or some way of keeping up to date with your tips. After i found your post i literally read every single comment to soak up that much more of your advice.

Just one quick question. What and when do you normally eat earlier on in the day?

Lee November 5, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Hey I was 387 pounds, I started a low calorie high protein diet, I do cardio for 1 hour in the morning before I eat and 1 hour of cardio in the evening after I eat a high protein supper… I lost 35 pounds in 3 weeks, and that’s on a 800 to 1100 calorie diet… Should I be eating more on my calorie intake a day, because I’m so big. I’m thinking at this rate I should loose 150 in three months. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dave November 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm

So is this the number of net calories we eat? Or is it that many in general? What I’m asking is should we eat the calories we burn from exercise?

Doug November 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Good article. I have your book and I am a decent bit over weight so would I start off with phase 3?

Rayca November 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm

@Doug. I asked the same ? on another article but didn’t get a response. That’s what I’m doing, Phase 3. They are short, intense workouts and I have found it really allows me to cut way back on calories, more than I would ever do otherwise, and still maintain my strength. I sometimes gain strength. I did this morning. The focus on this kind of workout is the cardio. I follow each lifting session with 1/2 hour cardio, 6 days a week. I’m never hungry, even with a huge deficit. Good luck.

John May 12, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Hello Rusty,

I a 18 years old male, 5′ 8”, and around 138 lbs. I have a small upper body and naturally have bigger legs and carry more fat on my legs. My main goal is to tone down my legs and and gain some muscle in my upper body. Like four months ago, I used to weight around 136 lbs but I know I had more muscle and a lot less fat on my body. So, I’m afraid that I lost too much muscle mass in the past couple of months. To s tart burning this extra fat off but not lose even more muscle at the same time, I was plannning on going on a 1000-calorie diet for 2 weeks, and then 1500 calories for one week, and keep cycling like that. I was also going to lift in my upper body and do the elliptical for at least an hour a day. What do you think?

katie August 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

You give some wonderful advice on this blog, but I disagree with the advice about not doing direct leg work. I always did direct leg/glute work on my weightloss regime and gained some size +beautiful definition in the quads/butt. But of course, I do not find the ‘lean’ and muscular look on women attractive in the slightest. I like the lower body to have some muscle size covered with a nice layer of fat. I guess everyone needs to remember to train for their goal.

Matt May 14, 2013 at 4:57 am


Hoping you still respond to this post after so long…

I have recently taken up pro wrestling which requires me to work on a wide range of fitness areas including strength, physical appearance (more muscle, less fat!!), agility, speed, stamina, jump height etc etc. The work out is going great, but I am concerned that I will be burning too many calories through excersise as my current daily calorie intake never really exceeds 1400.

I want to lose the gut, but at the same time, I want to build muscle and fitness – I am worried that my calorie defisit is too high (I am now burning an additional 5000 calories per week through a mixture of cardio, yoga, claistenics and weights) so I will end up losing muscle as well as fat, and lose weight too fast (which from experience I know I will end up struggling too keep off and be healthy).

Any advise?


Hunt June 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

It is even more complicated than mentioned to find the right calorie count as not all calories are nutritionally equal. You will be able to eat less nutrient dense foods and maintain/build strength (eg vs eating donuts 3x a day).

I found that Juicing once a day helped me maintain/build with less hunger issues.

Nan December 7, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Finally! I have been scouring the web trying to find support for my very low calorie diet, and it is hard to find. I got rid of the sugars and bad carbs, and stick to protein, leafy greens in the main, and have carefully tracked my eating for the last three years. At the normal recommended macros, for me around 1400 cals & 30 carbs perday, I could lose nothing of the extra 30# I carry, despite doing Hiit and walking several miles a week. All I saw was fearmongering about what will happen, but finally decided to see where I would begin to lose, so
dropped a hundred calories at a time over several weeks, finally when I dropped to <900 I began to lose weight.
I have plenty of energy, keeping pushing to greater gains in lifting, and feel great.
The fact that there is a metabolics spectrum gets lost in what is "normal/average"; some people can't gain, I knew several on my paternal side; others, like me need very little to sustain our body mass.
Thank you for pointing put the truth, that you can measure whether your needs require more or fewer calories. I'm just aggravated it took me so long to get past the conventional BS.
So glad to finally see this put in plan language.

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