Hi I'm a 28 year old female, 153cm (5'), 54kg (120lb).

I'm am trying to lose some weight and tone up.

I am currently eating around 1300 calories a day, working out on a rowing machine and cycling machine, and burning approximately 350 calories.

Should I be eating more even though I'm trying to lose weight? I have been told: I'm only eating enough, my caloric intake is too little and consuming 1300 calories is dangerous.

Should I be eating 1300 calories and burning 1300?

How many calories should I be eating to lose weight while on a work out program? What should I do?

  • 3
    Can you tell us your height and weight now? That will help with answering your question (for instance, if you are starting from an 'overweight' or 'obese' category/BMI that could elicit different advice than if you are already in a 'normal' range and just want to shed a few pounds and tone up).
    – user3495
    Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 13:13
  • I am 153 cm and I weigh 54 kilo's . Yes I am short!!. I just want to lose my and tone up my thighs and belly / pouch.
    – Confused
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


Unfortunately it is as simple as eating less calories than you burn on paper, but greatly more complicated when you delve into the energy balance equation. Anyone that claims any metabolic or energy system in the body is simple is grossly misinformed.

The element of complexity lays in several factors - a few of which are explored here, but mostly it is in your BMR (basic metabolic rate). The calories your body burns to simply function as a couch potato are nearly ALWAYS the VAST majority of the energy you burn throughout the day. As an example, I'm eating 3000 calories a day, and 2100 of those calories are the minimum required to simply keep my organs functioning and to stop my 175 lb body @ 9% body fat from eating itself. So the goal is to force your body to burn more calories without doing hours of pointless, joint straining, and body wasting cardio.

Another common misconceptions are created from the over-use of weird 'nothing' words and phrases like 'tone up' and even 'lose weight'. When people want to 'lose weight', what they really want to do is build muscle (tone) and lose fat. Most people don't realise that on a starvation-style catabolic diet (which I consider to be anything under your minimum required calories), you will actually usually lose more muscle than you will fat. Over 50% of that 'weight' lost is actually valuable, attractive, and BMR-boosting functional muscle tissue. These people end up with the infamous skinny/fat physique. They are often visibly thin but still have fairly high body fat % (because of the muscle loss) and still may be in the danger of obesity-related diseases. Your body is clever - if you aren't feeding it enough food, your body will drop your BMR (along with your energy levels) and burn muscle ahead of your fat. Our bodies are adaptive machines. BUILD the body you desire with weight/interval training and your body will ADAPT and become a lean, muscular machine. Eat and Train to force your body to DEMAND more energy. Starving your body of the nutrients it needs is not only unhealthy, but your body ADAPTS to require less and less calories. Your energy levels (a good indicator of your BMR) drop, and your body is ironically tuned to HORDE fat the moment it has the chance (when your diet finishes). This journal article shows how intermittent fasting tells your body to store fat at the next opportunity.

The type of exercise is also important. Research has shown that high intensity anaerobic training (weights, sprints) are more effective than aerobic (treadmills, jogging) for burning fat. Anerobic training uses primarily glycogen (sugar) stores in your muscles. While you technically burn more calories doing your hour long jog than during your weight training session, anaerobic exercise burns more calories in the long run. This is due to the 'after-burn' as it is called which is your body replenishing its glycogen stores for up to several hours after your workout.

I would highly recommend reading this article, as it explains how staving yourself is NOT the most efficient way to loose weight (contrary to popular belief).

Here is what I would recommend:

  • Get your body fat percentage estimated (easiest way is with a pinch test)
  • Calculate the minimum required calories your body needs (based on the above result)
  • Eat the food - don't skip meals.
  • Try a combination of interval sprinting and/or intense weight training
  • Get regular, at least every 2 weeks body composition checks (pinch tests) that will tell you how much ACTUAL fat you are loosing. Don't use scales!
  • I think you might have linked the wrong site for your third link ("Recent research"). I could be wrong, given that I don't even sort of understand what "Intermittent fasting up-regulates Fsp27/Cidec gene expression in white adipose tissue" means...
    – Paperjam
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 5:55
  • am 153 cm and I weigh 54 kilo's .
    – Confused
    Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 9:12
  • How can I answer your question better?
    – Mike S
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 6:27
  • 1
    @Paperjam - Basically the paper is saying that intermittent fasting may promote a greater insulin response and increased fat deposits in certain types of fat tissue.
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 16:55

Without more detailed information (specifically height and weight), it is impossible to give you a personalized recommendation. If you update your question with these details I can come back and give you a more in-depth and relevant answer.

There are three very important guidelines to keep in mind regarding weight loss.

  1. To achieve weight loss, you need to consume fewer calories than you use.
  2. If you consume too few calories, bad things happen.
  3. Weight loss and strength gain are mutually exclusive programs.

Let's expand upon these points so you can see exactly what I mean.

Point #1 shows us that weight loss happens when consumption is less than usage. There are three possible ways we can make that statement true: we can lower consumption (dieting), we can increase usage (exercising), or we can do both. Doing both is usually the recommended path because it is a lot easier to maintain. You are currently doing both and that is a good thing.

Point #2 raises a red flag and says that you need to be careful about how much you eat. Your body burns calories constantly; even when you are sleeping/stationary! The amount of calories your body needs every day just to stay running is known as your BMR (basal metabolic rate). If you consume too few calories and get too close to your BMR, then your body goes into a sort-of "crisis mode." When in crisis mode you body starts burning muscle for fuel and keeps your fat as reserves... this is the exact opposite of what you want! Too avoid this scenario, you need to make sure your final caloric intake is enough to support your body and not send it into crisis mode.

Point #3 is actually somewhat misleading, because they aren't technically exclusive, but instead they are competing against opposite goals and as a result they detract from one another. Muscle gain requires a caloric excess to fuel growth, so your options become 1) over supply the body with calories for optimal gain but some fat gain, 2) guesstimate the target calories and maintain BF but not gain optimal muscle, 3) dont change anything, little muscle gain but some fat loss. The same applies in reverse, as when you do cardio under anything but the most perfect conditions you will be losing at least some muscle in addition to the body fat. TL;DR: you can do both at the same time, but will see sub-optimal results as opposed to just pursuing one.

You'll want to remember that if you are working towards the two goals of losing weight and gaining muscle, that you'll not want to use body weight as your metric for tracking progress. Instead, you want to calculate your BF% (body fat %) because your muscle gains will directly increase your weight and make you feel like you aren't achieving your goals when you really may be!

Should I be eating more even though I'm trying to lose weight? I have been told:i'm only eating enough, my caloric intake is too little and consuming 1300 calories is dangerous.

Again, I cannot answer this question without knowing your height/weight, however I can tell you that this is dangerously low for the majority of people (especially those who are trying to lose weight). When you take into account that you are also burning 350 calories from exercise, your actual daily caloric intake is less than 1000, which unless you are a 100 pound model is not a healthy intake.

  • Weight loss and strength gain do NOT have to be mutually exclusive programs. They have only become that way because personal trainers have no clue what they are doing.
    – Mike S
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 6:30
  • 1
    @MikeS Perhaps I chose the wrong words. I did not mean to imply that you cannot do one without the other, I just meant they are competing against each other so you will see sub-optimal results pursuing both as opposed to one at a time. Granted this depends on your approach and balance, but it is extremely difficult without careful planning and heavy supplementation to burn fat without losing at least some muscle. I have edited my answer to reflect this.
    – Moses
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 15:04

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