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cutting calories but gaining fat! need advice please


oseya
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hey there,

 

i'm hoping someone will have a little advice to get me back on track. here are my stats:

 

i'm currently 5'9", female, 174 pounds, and 20 years old.

 

at the beginning of july, i weighed 186 pounds, and by only reducing my calorie intake to 1500, i was able to get down to 169 pounds. I plateaued at the end of the month, so I decided to encorporate weight lifting, and cardio 6 times a week. By mid august I was up to 174, but had lost about an inch and a half all over my body. I also increased my calorie intake to about 2000-2200 calories a day, because I was burning about 3000.

 

Since then, I've been losing muscle definition slowly but surely, and gaining the inches back as well. Since my new job (as of last week) only allows me to work out twice a week now, I'm eating about 1500 calories daily, except for weekends where I eat 1800 to make up for the exercise. I'm still at 174, but now, I've GAINED two inches everywhere and my muscle definition is almost completely gone.

 

I typically stick to oatmeal, carrots, celery, salads, seitan, tofu, soy milk, bananas and apples as my main food sources, and will allow myself a 'treat' daily as long as it's under 100 calories. Can someone please tell me what I'm doing wrong? I'm not too concerned about my weight, but I would really like to see this fat be gone! I know I have muscle in me...somewhere...

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I have the feeling that you may have cut calories too far for too long, and now your body is in "starvation mode", using muscle as a primary fuel source rather than fat. It can happen after prolonged calorie restriction, which is why the old theories people had of "If I eat a lot less than I burn every day, I'll keep losing fat" just doesn't work. Your body, if kept with restricted calories for too long, will start to resort to cannibalizing muscle first, so it's not a good thing to do in the long run.

 

Also, to ask, have you been accounting for any fluctuations in water weight? If it's been consistent for a few weeks, it likely isn't just water, but always something to consider when using a measuring tape vs. calipers or hydrostatic weighing for bodyfat tracking.

 

All I can recommend at this point is the same thing I had to do - keep the activity level up for weight training, maybe reduce cardio work a bit for a few weeks, and get the calories up for a while to try and normalize your body again. I wouldn't do a HUGE leap in calories, but perhaps add 400-600 more per day for a week while continuing to lift weights and do light cardio and see if things get better. Some people can rebound quickly in just a few weeks, some take a few months, but definitely listen to your body and don't short your calories too much for the time being. Keep them reasonable, enough to try and maintain based on normal calculations, and hopefully it won't take long for your body to get back to doing things the way it should be!

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I have the feeling that you may have cut calories too far for too long, and now your body is in "starvation mode", using muscle as a primary fuel source rather than fat. It can happen after prolonged calorie restriction, which is why the old theories people had of "If I eat a lot less than I burn every day, I'll keep losing fat" just doesn't work. Your body, if kept with restricted calories for too long, will start to resort to cannibalizing muscle first, so it's not a good thing to do in the long run.

 

Also, to ask, have you been accounting for any fluctuations in water weight? If it's been consistent for a few weeks, it likely isn't just water, but always something to consider when using a measuring tape vs. calipers or hydrostatic weighing for bodyfat tracking.

 

All I can recommend at this point is the same thing I had to do - keep the activity level up for weight training, maybe reduce cardio work a bit for a few weeks, and get the calories up for a while to try and normalize your body again. I wouldn't do a HUGE leap in calories, but perhaps add 400-600 more per day for a week while continuing to lift weights and do light cardio and see if things get better. Some people can rebound quickly in just a few weeks, some take a few months, but definitely listen to your body and don't short your calories too much for the time being. Keep them reasonable, enough to try and maintain based on normal calculations, and hopefully it won't take long for your body to get back to doing things the way it should be!

 

I think I cut calories too drastically as well, what worries me though is that I'm consistently gaining for weeks now even though I've been eating right and everything.

My work schedule [teaching], unfortunately doesn't leave me enough time to commute to the gym, but I do have about 30 minutes a day to jog, walk, or do at home exercises with my own body weight or resistance bands.

Since I'm not really that active currently, I'm really scared to go over 1500 calories a day and gain (more) weight. Does jogging or speed walking count as light cardio?

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Hey I think i've seen you around town(your avavtar looks familar) and your always looked healthy to me. I think most of the advice offered here is good. But one other thing is the more intense an exercise is the more it promotes fat loss and muscle gain. sprinting vs walking. heavy over light weights. so wind sprints, jump squats, push ups(or modified push ups) are all good.

hope all is well.

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I'm with Vegan Essentials here. I find athletes doing this alot, especially women. Sorry ladies, but this is a problem many of you have. The more workouts are better or the I'll cut calories to nothing and lose all my fat myth. Men have the half rep myths and a few others.

 

What happens when your body "thinks" it is starving it will hold as much fat as possible and even sacrifice that hard earned muscle. So go back to what you were eating that was working. If you have a week or two of plateau don't worry. I do it, all my athletes do it, it happens. You have to make small adjustments, and anything below 1500 calories has me a little concerned that you are too restricted.

 

Get your calories back up and see what happens. Remember six meals or more a day evenly spaced with about 250-300 kcal each.

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Are you tired or anything?

 

Unexplained weight gain puts up a red flag to get your thyroid checked.

 

I'm definitely tired all the time, but the only thing my blood test showed a couple months ago was that I was anemic, so I don't think that's it...

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Hey I think i've seen you around town(your avavtar looks familar) and your always looked healthy to me. I think most of the advice offered here is good. But one other thing is the more intense an exercise is the more it promotes fat loss and muscle gain. sprinting vs walking. heavy over light weights. so wind sprints, jump squats, push ups(or modified push ups) are all good.

hope all is well.

 

Thanks for the advice everyone! And thanks for the compliment wobbylifter.

So for my age, weight, gender and activity level (30 mins, 2-3x a week, teaching (on my feet for half the day)) how much do you guys think I should be eating in calories?

 

My breakfast is usually 1/4 cup steel cut oats with a tsp of raisins, a banana, 2 wasa crackers. My morning snack is either 3 carrots or 3 stalks of celery, and my lunch is a spinach salad with onions tomatoes, cauliflower, or 1.3 cup chickpeas. Afternoon snack is an apple, dinner is usually a veggie stir 'fry' (i use water instead of oil), and evening snack is usually a piece of fruit or a few crackers with low cal jam.

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Are you tired or anything?

 

Unexplained weight gain puts up a red flag to get your thyroid checked.

 

I'm definitely tired all the time, but the only thing my blood test showed a couple months ago was that I was anemic, so I don't think that's it...

 

You should eat more then. Especially since your active.

 

I would increase the caloric intake by about 500 and see how you do on that. If you're still muscle wasting and fatigued all the time, increase it again.

 

It's hard to tell how many calories each person needs because everyone burns them at a different rate.

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Thanks for the ideas guys, I'll try some of them out and see what happens. I really wish I had time to do some lifting though!

 

If you can't lift weights, rather then just walk or jog, do sprints.Bodyweight exercises at home can be good too. squats are still good without weight just go low and do lots. vertical jumps are awesome for building strength and power. do 5 sets of 5 reps jumping as high as you can in the air. Pushups are good and if you can find a place to do chin ups they are great too(find a friend to push on your feet if they are too hard.) This is to convince your body it needs muscle and to keep the muscle you do have and maybe build more. Otherwise in a calorie deficit your body might burn muscle instead of fat, becuase muscle is much more costly to maintain.

 

Here's a sample strength workout

5 sets of 5 reps - Vertical Jumps(as high as you can

5 sets of as many reps as you can - Bodyweight Squats

5 sets of as many reps as you can - Pushups or modified pushups

5 sets of as many reps as you can - Chin ups, with help if you need it

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