Q: Hi Tom, I'm 4' 11" and weigh 46 kg with 22% Bodyfat.
I'm doing 4 weight training and 6 cardio sessions/wk. The cardio usually fasted, on a treadmill doing 4-5 degree incline walking at 6.8km/h for 40 min and 5-10 min cool down. It says I burn 362 cals. I'm not sure what i burn with weight training, it takes about 40 min to complete. I've created my food plan for the week and I'm thinking of doing a 30% deficit which brings me to approx 1280 calories daily. I wanted to change something (reduce calories) because I haven't had any results for 2 weeks now and I don't think I can fit in anymore cardio sessions. I'm also planning to use your carb cycling approach, using the 3 low/ 1 high day rotation. My question: Do I need to eat at or above my maintenance calories to make the refeed/high day effective or is ok if I'm about 150 cals short? I find it hard to eat all the food. The fat is coming off really slow. Reading about other people's body fat loss in your Inner Circle success stories
(I'm a member), is inspiring, but also a little discouraging as mine is so slow.
A: You may have heard (or, heh, realized), that it's more
difficult for women to lose fat than men. Immediately
most people think it must be estogen or hormonal issues.
But perhaps the biggest factor is NOT hormonal issues,
but the simple fact that women are usually smaller and
lighter than men.
When you have a smaller body, you have lower calorie needs.
When you have lower calorie needs, your relative deficit
(20%, 30% etc) gives you a smaller absolute deficit and
therefore you lose fat more slowly than someone who is
larger and can create a larger deficit more easily.
For example, if my TDEE is 3300 calories a day (Im 5' 8"
and moderately to very active), then a 20% deficit is 660
calories, which brings me to 2640 calories a day. On paper,
that will give me about 1.3 lbs of wt loss per week, rather
If I bumped my calorie burn up or decreased my intake by
another 340 a day, that's enough to give me a 2 lbs per
week wt loss.
That's hardly a starvation diet (Ahhh the joys of being a man).
For smaller women, the math equation is very different.
If your maintenance level is 1970 calories, even at a VERY
active exercise level, then a 20% deficit for you is 394
calories which would put you at 1576 calories a day for
(on paper) only 8/10th of a lb of fat loss/wk.
If you pursued your plan to take a more aggressive calorie
deficit of 30%, that puts you at a 591 calorie deficit which
would now drop you down to only 1382 calories/day.
That's starting to get fairly low in calories. However, you
would still have a fairly small calorie deficit. In fact, I
I would get to eat almost twice as many calories as you and
I'd still get almost twice the weekly rate of fat loss!
What this all means is that women who are petite or have a
small body size are going to lose fat more slowly than larger
women and much more slowly than men, so you cannot compare
yourself to them.
It's great to be inspired by our success stories, but if you're
looking for someone to model yourself after, choose one of
our success stories of someone your body size and wt, rather
than the folks who started 100 lbs overweight and were
therefore easily dropping 3 lbs a week.
ONE POUND a week of fat loss is much more in line with a
realistic goal for someone your body size. Overweight people
can lose it faster. You are already 22% body fat at only 46 kg.
(so look on the bright side - you are NOT overweight - you are
simply working on getting even leaner than you already are).
The numbers of your plan look to be in the ballpark and your
strategy makes sense. You simply need to be extremely consistent
with your nutrition.
Suggestion #1: Weigh and measure all your food any time you feel you
are stuck at a plateau, just to be sure. When your calorie expenditure
is on the low side, you don't have much margin for error.
Suggestion #2: Take your body comp measurements with a grain of
salt, esp if you are using Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA)
scales (they are a bit wonky) and remember that body comp testing
is seldom perfect. Pay attention to your circumference measurements,
how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror and in photos
Suggestion #3: You might actually want to take fewer refeeds -
once a week instead of every 4th day, or even just once every
10-14 days, so you can get a larger weekly deficit. To answer
your question, yes it is ok if youre 150 cals short if you are
full (be happy that you are full - many people have to deal
with constant hunger when the calories get that low)
Suggestion #4: You may want to take 2 or 3 of your long cardios
on the treadmill and switch them to intense intervals or ANY
other type of activity that has potential to burn more than 362
calories for an hour's investment of time, or perhaps that
equivalent calorie burn in less time. No need to add more days
of cardio or more time - get the most out of the time you are
Suggestion #5: If you do intervals, don't make the workout too
brief (ignore the advertisements for those "4 minute miracle"
workouts, etc etc), or you may burn fewer calories than you were
before! In fact, you might even try the method where you do HIIT
for 15-20 min, then continue for another 30-40 at slow to medium
intensity. Increasing total calories burned should be your focus.
Dropping only ONE pound per week (or less) may seem excruciatingly
slow, but it's actually the same type of thing I do. As a bodybuilder,
I go from lean to extremely lean when I diet and I don't expect
more than a pound a week during contest cuts.
You are in a similar situation, even if not competing. Even if
you get a half a pound a week fat loss, if you get that progress
every week, thats what youre looking for - steady progress - even
It's entirely possible that you HAVE been making progress,
only very slowly. With the way water weight and glycogen levels
can fluctuate (and lean mass may increase), a half a pound
of pound fat loss in a week could have been easily masked...
and therefore, missed. That's one of the drawbacks of going
by the scale alone.
Understand the calorie math I explained above and be patient,
watching for slow and steady progress, paying special attention
to the trend over time on your progress chart.
Keep after it - the persistence will pay, I promise!
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, independent nutrition researcher, freelance writer and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle and the #1 Amazon best-seller, The Body Fat Solution (Avery/Penguin books). Tom has written hundreds of articles and has been featured in IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Exercise for Men and Menís Exercise as well as on hundreds of websites worldwide. Tom is also the founder and CEO of the Internet's premier fat loss support community, the: Burn The Fat Inner Circle. To get notified of updates to TomVenuto.Com, subscribe to the free newsletter at: www.TomVenuto.com/free_newsletter.
Join Tom's Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/gid=8863719906