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.
[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.