Whenever you hear people (including myself) talking about how to lose weight.
We talk about where you are right now if you’re at the start of your diet.
You follow instructions about how to figure out how many calories you need to lose weight.
If you estimate that you need 2000 calories to lose weight, well you just keep eating 2000 calories until your weight loss comes to a halt.
There’s a problem that occurs when you’re deep into dieting that not a lot of people talk about.
This problem is that your metabolism slows down.
We know that it happens, but we don’t actually think about it much and it’s why I want to bring it up today.
Your body does not want you to lose fat. Your body wants you to store fat for “times in need” because your body is still programmed for thousands of years ago and it still thinks that you’ve got to hold on to every piece of fat in case you can’t get food.
Everything you do outside of the gym is known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) and that goes down when you diet.
Since you’re making a conscious decision to not eat your body is going to try other things to slow down your metabolism. This includes unconsciously moving less during the day. You may not realise it but you won’t take as many steps during the day.
You will park closer to the shops instead of further away, take elevators instead of the stairs and you may no longer take those weekend walks that you once did.
This is because your body is fighting to find every way it can to burn fewer calories.
Taking It To The Extreme
In extreme cases such as bodybuilders who diet down to extremely low levels of body fat, is where it’s noticed the most. Their body will try and save as many calories as it can. Their blinking slows down, they use less facial expressions, they will walk slower. It’s actually quite mind-boggling to see because they can’t do anything about it but they try and manage it where they can.
WHAT TO DO
Now that you know that your body is going to be fighting you to burn fewer calories by decreasing your activity, you can fight back. The first thing is just becoming conscious of it because now that you know you can make the effort. You should buy yourself a step tracker to keep tracking how many steps you’re doing.
If you start your diet and you’re only taking 6000 steps to begin with your goal should be to stay consistently hitting 6000 steps a day or even trying to increase your activity up to 10,000+ steps a day. If you make a conscious effort to increase your activity during the diet period you won’t have to drop as many calories when you lose weight.
I suggest you buy yourself a fit bit, jawbone, Oura ring, anything that will help track your activity levels and see how many steps you take.
YOU GET BETTER AT CARDIO
If you’re like most people you probably do cardio when you’re trying to diet to. You pick your one thing (jogging, cycling, elliptical) and you do it over and over again.
I am very guilty of this. I love using the stationary bike or the assault bike as my “cardio” and they’re the only two machines I use.
The problem with this is that you become fitter over time and your body becomes more efficient at the exercise.
If you run for weeks on end your body is going to adapt and become better at running.
Your stride length will change, your posture will change and you will have better running mechanics.
Pair that with you actually losing weight, your 700 calorie run may only be 400 or 500 calories now.
This is just a natural thing the body does and it’s good because it means you can push yourself harder and reduce your chances of injury. It’s just bad from a calorie burning point of view because now it means you’re burning less during your exercise. Don’t worry you can fix that by making a few changes that I’ll share with you next.
WHAT TO DO
There are a few ways that you can make sure you’re still burning a lot of calories while doing cardio. The first option is to increase the resistance. If you’re on a stationary bike you can increase your resistance by one or two numbers. On a treadmill, you can either increase the incline or increase the speed. If you’re an outside runner or an outside cyclist that means you will have to try and go at a faster pace.
If you can’t increase your resistance or speed then you will have to spend more time doing cardio. That 60 minutes may turn into 70 minutes then 80 minutes. This is going to be hard for you if you’re already pushed for time as it is. However, if you’re someone who has the extra time and wants to go longer you can.
Finally, you can just change the type of cardio you’re doing. If you’re great at running but you suck at the rower then give the rower a go. You’re going to be so inefficient at the exercise which means you’re going to burn way more calories. You will probably be toast in half the time of what you would usually do.
Once you get good at a type of cardio, move onto the next one or you can go week by week on different pieces to keep changing it up.
Awareness Is Key
Now that you know your NEAT is going to decrease and you’re going to burn fewer calories exercising, you can make the conscious decisions to avoid them by buying yourself a step tracker. Once you’ve got a step tracker you keep an eye on your activity level and don’t let it drop. Secondly, when it comes to cardio aim to make it harder by changing the type of cardio you do or training longer are your options.
These little things are going to help offset the big drop in calories that you burn during the day. This also means you won’t have to cut as many calories further into the diet which means you won’t drive yourself into the ground with hardly any calories and exercising your brains out.