Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Restrict Calories?

In response to a comment, I typed this up, but then figured it was worth sharing with everyone directly, especially since I'd love to hear about the experiences of others.

While I don't necessarily believe in the calorie balance theory where excess calories are always stored as fat, I do know that unless you are leaving a caloric deficit, your body has no reason to metabolise fat stores. So no matter what lifestyle you lead, you need to be giving your body a reason to burn fat. For carnivore part I, and the first week of carnivore part II I was eating meat ad libitum, and counting calories afterwards - seems my body (or at least my eyeballs) likes me to eat 2000-2200kcal per day. I wasn't losing any weight (except water), and I wasn't in ketosis for long periods - I'd tend to notice the taste in my mouth only when waking, or before dinner (I skip lunch most days). When I cut calories this time around, the weight started dropping immediately, beyond just the weight difference of food intake. Since I was already keto-adapted, it was a smooth transition into longer periods of fat burning, and I barely noticed until the scale made me think about it!

And speaking of ketosis - I ate dinner just under 5 hours ago, and my breath could cut down trees right now, but am I hungry in the slightest? Nope! Burning fat without starving? Awesome!

The bonus of caloric restriction in a low-carb way of eating is that due to the satiating effects of fat and protein, you are less likely to feel hungry as blood glucose is stabilised at a low level, and cravings are removed. Other than that, there is no fat-loss magic involved, as far as my research shows.

We do tend to eat less when we first switch to LC/VLC/ZC because the satiety of fat/protein-heavy foods helps prevent overeating, so we control calories 'spontaneously'. But personally, I can and have downed 150g of macadamia nuts when I'm not worried about fat loss - the bonus here is that I didn't put on any fat despite some skyrocketing intake figures! So caloric restriction = fat loss, but excess consumption does not necessarily mean fat gain, which is why I doubt the old calories in calories out argument, based on the science and my own anecdotal evidence.

I rarely feel hungry, unless I'm working particularly long days and routinely run more than 8 hours between meals. Even then, while I do feel hunger at that point, I do not notice any real dip in energy levels; thanks to keto-adaptation, my body is burning fat whenever it can, so it relies on that to keep me going. I reached ketosis when I was limiting my carbs to 20g per day, so ZC isn't necessary in that respect, but if I'm eating enough food to fuel my body without it needing to burn fat stores, my body then switches out of ketosis and it can be a struggle to get back to that point.

I suspect that I could go back to eating 20g carb worth of veg, at the same calorie limit, and continue to lose fat, but I feel so much better on the all-meat diet that I have no real reason to switch just for the sake of it. I do feel great on generic 'Primal', but amazing on all-meat. No digestive issues, no water retention, etc.

There are loads of excellent blog posts from experts regarding this issue, and it has been a particular interest of mine, yet I hadn't really put it into practice to prove it to myself until now. I am wary of metabolic slow-down, so I might cycle in a day or two of 2000kcal once a week if I see the fat loss slowing, but for now I feel incredibly comfortable (although I probably should start munching on mint leaves so people I talk to are also comfortable!).

Anyone care to share their experience?


Yummy said...

GREAT post! I agree with you.

Too bad about the nasty breath, huh? But at least it is an obvious sign that you are in ketosis, you don't really have to wonder.

I find I sometimes feel a bit "brain fuzzy" when I fast for 16-20 hrs. Does this ever happen to you?

Joyful Abode said...

So awesome! I'm dying to try all-meat for a while, but I'm pretty sure my husband wouldn't be on board... so we're doing meat/vegs for now.

I do know that the more fruit/vegs I eat, the more I crave them... and it'd just be easier to not eat them at all in order to keep the caloric deficit and burn fat.
As it is, I'm pretty much eating however much I want of primal foods and not putting ON any weight, so I'm happy with that for now.

I would like to lose 10ish pounds of fat though, so all-meat + CR looks like a great way to go.

Matthew said...

A great post! In my experience I have always told people that I never have to worry about feeling hungry as my body can feed itself with stored fat anytime. Several times during the week I will fast for 20+ hours. Not really as a planned fast, but just because I have been busy throughout the day and haven't thought about eating.

I guess a lot of people don't understand this feeling as they never had a insulin levels low enough to "gain" the ability to feed on their own storage system.

Although it is easy to be satisfied with low-carb, high-fat meals. I personally have always been a big eater and can eat a 500g to 1kg steak with blissful ease :) At least I can remain confident that even if I overeat too much fat/protein there is limited mechanisms within the body to store this as fat without carbohydrates.

Anyway, before I get too caught up preaching to the choir I will just say keep up the good work and congrats on the weight loss !

Jezwyn said...

(Thanks for all the comments, not just because I love hearing from others, but also because it made me notice that I wrote "6 hours" in the post instead of "8 hours"! Hungry after just 6 hours with the kind of breakfast I eat?! As if!)

Hi Yummy! Haven't noticed any fuzz on my brain during a fast, though I haven't done one in a while. I can feel a bit crappy by dinnertime if I've skipped lunch but didn't get in a hefty breakfast, but it's more physical inertia than anything mental. In the last five days at least, I have been restricting my overall caloric intake, so there has been no need to fast, so I have felt comfortable at all times.

Hey JA - my beau isn't eating all-meat either: he eats the grain-free granola that I make for him, then whatever he wants for lunch, and then my evening meats plus veg if he can be bothered preparing them (usually, no). It's easy enough to just serve yourself the meat portion of the meal. He'd probably join you anyway since it may put pressure on his manhood if you're the one chowing down on meat while he eats his shredded romaine... ;) Let me know how you go if you give it a shot!

Hiya Matthew! I'm absolutely the same, I only fast these days when I haven't had time to eat breakfast and didn't prepare a packed lunch! I now wake up hungry though, so I don't find it as easy to hit snooze and get a few more minutes of shut-eye in lieu of breakfast :)

I've actually been enjoying myself when people at work claim 'starvation' at the end of the day - I raise an eyebrow and say "Really? I didn't have time for lunch, but I'm not hungry. I guess I ate a decent breakfast." "What did you eat?" "Meat (& eggs). Sure beats those ignorant days when I lived on cereal and toast, rode the blood glucose spike, and was "hungry" again by recess!" Mwahahaha!

And I hear you on the giant steaks - one of the reasons I have stuck with tracking my food for so long is so I can look at the data when I feel as though I could keep eating, and be comforted that I have eaten enough food, and that's why I don't feel hungry, even though I might not yet feel stuffed full. Nutritional data is my "stop eating when you're 80% full" helper :)

Joyful Abode said...

Good point on the nutrition tracking... I've been not tracking for the last month and a half or so, but I need to get back on it because I know I eat WAY more than I need to, just because the food is so darned good.

It's nice that eating this way, I don't have to worry about GAINING weight, but the fact is I'm still trying to lose about 10 pounds of body fat, and this isn't helping. haha. Need tracking + zero carb for a while.

Deanna said...

Saying that tracking your food is your "stop eating when you're 80% full" helper is brilliant. I hadn't thought of it that way, but that's exactly how I use it, too. I used it over the summer to keep my calories lower before vacation, and now I've bumped it up to a sustainable level (and managed to maintain the same weight... hmmm...) But if I could, I would eat the whole chicken or the whole cow. And p.s., I've been reading your blog for a while now, kinda curious about the whole carnivore thing, and thinking, man, I like my veg, though, but the other day I found myself craving meat and fat like a starving person. Fruits and veggies weren't going to cut it. So, while I'm not going carnivore, I am definitely going to try eating less veg and more meat. It'll be interesting!