On a daily basis, your energy intake & energy expenditure result in what's known as your "Energy Balance." If you take in more than you expend, you are in energy surplus. If you expend more than you intake, you are in energy deficit. It's possible to lose weight in a surplus & gain weight in a deficit, but a surplus or a deficit is highly correlated with your ability to gain & lose weight, respectively. I will note that for beginners & newbie lifters, you are much more prone to gaining muscle while losing fat (a.k.a. the Holy Grail), even in a deficit like we've set up here. You're welcome.
The intake side of the equation is pretty straight forward: food. You would also definitely include liquid calories in that side of the equation as well, but those don't have any place in this program (outside of a protein shake on training days).
The expenditure side is more complex. Not only does your body require a certain amount of energy just to operate properly (known as your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR), a number of factors dictate how much energy you will expend on any given day, including:
- Exercise (obviously)
- Non-Excercise Activity Thermogenesis (a.k.a. NEAT. This encompasses your daily activity outside of the gym, as well as things like fidgeting. These things can really add up over time.)
- Thermic Effect of Food (a.k.a. TEF. Your body burns energy to process & utilize the food you eat).
All of these factors are directly tied with your body composition. When you improve your body composition by losing fat & gaining lean mass, you burn more energy during exercise, you burn more energy by just existing in the first place, & you burn more energy processing your food.
In short, the leaner you are & the more muscle mass you carry, the higher your metabolism will be. Bodybuilders expend nearly 15% more energy sitting around doing nothing when compared with an equally lean group of non-lifters. As I've written about before in this post, having more muscle mass is basically "free cardio."
The more energy you burn/the higher your metabolism, the higher your energy intake needs to be simply to maintain your current body composition. Being lean & gaining muscle allows you to eat more while at the same time making it easier to stay lean in the first place. It's really a win-win.
This is why I've divided each gender into two categories: a lower body fat category, & a higher body fat category. This allows people that start at a lower body fat percentage to eat more calories from the get go. The higher your percentage, the more mass you can afford to lose, which calls for a slightly more aggressive energy deficit.
When you apply a deficit, your body has to improvise to make up the gap between your level of intake & the level of energy you need to remain weight stable. To do this, your body breaks down its own tissue to aid the cause. If you structure your diet & training in a fashion that encourages you to maintain/gain lean mass, like we are, your body will preferentially break down your own stored energy (I.E. body fat) to help close that gap. As a result, you will preferentially lose body fat, & it is highly likely that a good deal of the energy that was created from your body fat being broken down will help in the process of building new lean mass. Think robbing Peter to pay Paul, except Peter is a jackass & totally deserves it.
However, if you simply crash diet on 500 calories a day for months on end and do hours of cardio to "increase your calorie burn," your body spares no expense. Muscle, fat & even organ tissue are all up for grabs, which is why prolonged crash-dieting is a whole new world of unhealthy. You may lose weight on the scale, but as soon as you stop restricting calories this aggressively & stop the cardio, you're left with a BIG problem: your metabolism is in the drain because you lost so much lean mass. When you go back to eating "like normal," you're prone to regain all of the weight you lost & then some, because you are actually less lean, relatively speaking, than when you started your crash diet.
I illustrated this extreme example to prove a point: when you want to improve body composition, there is a "sweet spot" for your energy balance. Too little of an intake will put your lean mass at risk; too much of an intake won't result in any change. Accordingly, I've prescribed the energy deficit that has been shown by the research to provide this "sweet spot" for either category of body fat you may fall in; low or high.
One last thing I wanted to mention is something called "Adaptive Thermogenesis." This term suggests that your metabolic rate adapts to your level of intake over time. This is shown in the research: the less you eat, the less you burn, and vice versa. Some people think that when this adaptation occurs, it cannot be reversed, leading to a "damaged metabolism." This research review by my mentor Menno Henselmans blows that entire theory out of the water; there is no such thing as metabolic damage.
It is true that your expenditure is influenced by your intake, but there is no reason to believe that dieting once will have any long-lasting negative effects if you return to the same energy intake. As long as you diet successfully & maintain/gain lean mass (and not do anything like the 500 calorie + cardio crash-diet example I listed above), you can absolutely increase your intake again and expect your metabolism to increase right along with it. If you did it right, you will actually find that it takes you more calories just to stay weight stable. Getting leaner simply helps you stay lean.
I am living proof of this: In my sixth week of preparation for a bodybuilding contest, I ate nearly 450 more calories per day than the week I started, and my scale weight decreased by 7 pounds between those two time points. This is not myth; this is fact.
You can do the same. It starts here.
The techniques, strategies, and suggestions expressed in this website are intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. The author is not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor is this website intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.