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For a long time I was consuming 4000 calories a day. This was between soda and various "junk foods". I was surprised to find my protein, carb and fat levels were pretty close to what they should have been however.

As per of eating healthier and trying to reduce some fat, I have completely changed my diet, eating a lot more veggies, no more soda etc.

According to various online calculators based on my height (6ft) and weight (180lbs) my body burns around 2000 calories just to function.

According to other calculators my weight on my previous diet should have been around 210lbs. However, this is obviously not the case, which makes me think my body consumed far more than 2000 calories just to function.

Given my rather sedentary lifestyle and the fact I didn't really gain weight (the weight I am trying to lose is from a few years ago where I spent a year eating a lot of deep fried foods), I wonder if my body didn't burn a lot more than 2000 calories just to function.

With my new diet I aim to eat 1500 calories a day, with the goal of burning 500 calories a day. I've managed to stay pretty close to this, at least never going above 2000/day.

Can such a drastic drop in daily calorie intake affect the speed of my metabolism (which I don't want to change) or have some other negative consequence?

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2 Answers 2

Can such a drastic drop in daily calorie intake affect the speed of my metabolism (which I don't want to change) or have some other negative consequence?

After you calculate your BMR you need to multiply it by an activity multiplier to get your actual calorie burn.

So lets say your BMR is around 2000 and you are somewhat activate. You can multiply it by 1.35 (There are some multipliers here).

So 2000 x 1.35 = 2700 calories burned/day

If you want to achieve a 500 calorie deficit you would want to eat around 2200 calories a day. If you eat 1500 calories that's closer to a 1200 calorie deficit. I'd recommend aiming for ~750-800 calories so you'd eat around 2k.

Starvation mode?

It doesn't exist. Your body does take protective measures anytime you cut calories, such as slowing down your metabolism, and those measures just increase as you increase the deficit. It's not like a switch that happens at a certain amount of calories.

Still, if you ate 500 calories a day you will lose a lot of weight. A lot of it will be muscle and you will feel awful and it's a terrible idea but you won't magically retain fat.

So just aim for a reasonable deficit, eat whole, balanced and satiating meals, increase your activity and you should be able to lose fat without issue.

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Short answer: Yes, a drastic calorie reduction can be very harmful, but in your case I don't think you're cutting as many calories as you might think you are.

Long answer: Those calculators are referring to your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Your real metabolic rate can be very different from that. Consuming under your Resting Metabolic Rate is dangerous because you will trigger starvation measures from your body. I doubt you were actually consuming 4000 calories a day if your macronutrients (protein, carb, fat) were where they 'should be'. We ONLY get real calories from these three macronutrients. Anything else are trace nutrients that we might need for various processes but don't provide any real calories. This is reinforced by the information that consuming deep-fried foods DID cause you to gain weight. Deep fried foods are poison, but they do have a lot of real macronutrients in them. Even when a substance (like soda) doesn't have a lot of real calories, though, they can still poison your metabolism.

This poisoning can turn into a failure to absorb major nutrients, which will mean a failure to gain weight even when eating more than we 'should'. This is the crux of being a 'hard gainer'. This will cause a lot of excess junk in your blood stream and possibly bad elimination (urination and defecation) habits, and it will eventually lead to chronic disease (hypertension, cholesterol problems, diabetes).

I mainly say this to let you know that you're not a freak, this stuff is absolutely known, explained, and normal, it's just that you didn't go stereotypically obese so the stereotypical online calculator isn't going to take your situation into account.

Keep doing what you're doing with getting rid of the non-foods, and eat more clean protein and fats from chicken, greek yogurt, and whole milk. These will be very satisfying, especially if you are on a resistance regimen, and you will not be driven to eat as many carbs, which generally don't satisfy as well, gram per gram. Fewer eaten grams means fewer calories taken in, which means more weight that comes off!

Also, as always: If you can afford to find a personal trainer or nutritionist (or both) to meet even just once a month on your progress, that is one of the best investments you can make. They will help you understand what's going on so you can make this change permanent.

In response to the comment below, here are a few links:

Trans fat formation in fried foods

Precedent for using the word "poison"

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Wait, people are gaining weight because of fried food poisoning? Do you know what the word poison actually means? I might alert you to a poison you've been drinking everyday called H2O. Please provide some sources on how fried foods poisons a person's metabolism. –  mike May 5 '12 at 0:50
@mike: Oils that are raised to the level of frying spoil and form trans fats. Trans fats are WELL DOCUMENTED to spoil the process of absorbing micronutrients, and are popularly called a poison for the multitude harmful effects they have. Inadequate micronutrient absorption leads to 'famine' behavior in our bodies - this induces a predisposition toward fat storage. I will update my answer with links to your question. Next time, though, please do a few minutes of googling before accusing someone of not knowing what they're talking about; that's all the more it would've taken! –  YYY May 6 '12 at 0:30
"They estimated that, for each 100 grams fried potatoes consumed, the TFA intake was less than 0.1 grams." So they fried potatoes 10 times and ended up with less than 0.1 gram per 100. So basically, you would need to eat 2000 grams of potatoes (Fried 10x each time) to get to the maximum recommended value. The other post you link is hyperbolic and isn't an objective source. Please provide actual evidence on how trans-fats block the absorption of calories - because sounds like TFA are great for dieting! –  mike May 6 '12 at 3:01
Thank you for your answer. Just a follow up question about the amount of calories I was consuming per day. For a long time I would drink 2 liters of dr pepper a day (800 calories), eat a box of chicken strips (2400 calories) and generally a pizza or some other snack (500 calories), so from what I understand I was easily consuming 4000 calories a day. Those foods were not high in fat and had enough protein and carbs to make me meet my daily levels... –  Matt Bronson May 6 '12 at 11:14
@Mike I linked you a few sourced articles with multiple sources that took no time at all to find with neutral, common search terms. If that isn't going to convince you to be less hostile, do some research, and review what information is out there then nothing is going to! I am happy to give whatever information I can, but it's your responsibility to be intellectually honest and not pick at things like word choice in an article as grounds to dismiss it. If you aren't able to do that then I can't help you! –  YYY May 6 '12 at 14:13

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