Calorie / Macronutrient Counting
I must have been sat on the sofa one night thinking: I don’t believe there are any weight loss secrets. I know that bodyweight is simply a function of diet and exercise.
I planned an experiment: I wanted to see how few calories I actually needed before I started to lose weight. I was convinced that I had quite a slow metabolism. So I took my diet and started paring it down. I used the myfitnesspal app to calculate macronutrient to make sure that I was getting enough protein in my diet.
To clarify: When I talk here about macros, that’s short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are the three main sources of energy for the body: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. In terms of calories, carbohydrates and proteins give 4 calories per gram, whereas fat gives 9 calories per gram.
At the beginning, I calculated I was eating about 2000 calories a day, and I wasn’t that interested in macro ratios i.e. the proportion of carbohydrates, fats and protein in those 2000 calories. I tried to eat as much protein as I could for recovery from exercise, and ate more carbohydrates on days I got out for cycle rides, but otherwise I wasn’t that fussed about it.
Below is a screenshot from my diet at the beginning of the experiment:
I started by just reducing portion size. Just weighing out how much rice and pasta I ate. That was easy to get down to 1800 calories a day. I stuck with 1800 calories for two weeks and saw no change. So I carried on, cutting 200 calories every two weeks.
After paring down 200 calories each time, I got down to 1200 calories a day before I started losing weight. This shocked me and it continues to shock everyone I tell. I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to say that this is probably not healthy long term. I am not encouraging anyone to go on any crash diets to lose weight. I am not a doctor or a dietitian, and you should probably consult one or both if you wanted to do something like this.
One of the things you find when you can only eat 1200 calories a day but you want to eat 70g of protein in your diet, is that there is only room for nutritionally dense food. Rice, pulses, legumes, lean meats. Very little sugar. Not many biscuits or much cake.
I allowed myself an extra 200 calories if I cycled to work. Below is a screenshot from a 1400 calorie day, with no breakfast other than green tea.
I was weighing myself everyday. I wasn’t obsessing about the numbers, this was just to keep a record of the weight.
This was my weight loss for the period I was tracking it, from the end of May to mid way through September. I carried on tracking my bodyweight using the Health app on iOS, but I don’t have that data any more. At the end of the year I weighed 77Kg.
The spikes you can see are where I wasn’t being super strict on the weekends, and my bodyweight would reflect this. But the general trend was definitely downwards.
So this was my diet. Next, was exercise.