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Tracking the Caloric Deficit

See graph below—five days in, the calorie deficit is on track (red is the caloric deficit, green is body weight).

But the training load is high and I’m definitely feeling it—had to take a shorter ride and eat a little more yesterday. Still, today was pretty strong, with a 2:45 ride burning 2000 calories.

Graphs like this are a sort of positive feedback loop (or a negative one!). Meaning that a downtrend in weight offers a pyschological boost that encourages will power, and an uptrend in body weight means “sit up and pay attention!”.

In this case, the caloric deficit is strongly negative (good), and body weight is already hinting at a downtrend. Well, it ought to: I’m short 3180 calories in five days (-636 deficit X 5 days). Which should translate to nearly a pound of fat.

Such graphs provide compelling and irrefutable evidence as to the efficacy of one’s weight loss efforts once 7-10 days of data is in place. But the body did not evolve to die of hunger, so the body weight trend line will go asymptotic at some point (flat or slightly undulating).

Click for larger graph.

Belated effort to reduce body fat for 2013 Everest Challenge by caloric deficit via increased training


The main trick I have to offer is this: a 500 calorie deficit per day is much easier to achieve if the total caloric needs are 3500 or so (2100 base + 1400 burn).—this is a deficit of about 14% (500/3500).

Attempting to cheat the body of 500 calories (eating 1600 on a normal diet of 2100) is not something I would want to attempt—that’s a deficit of 24% and the body pretty much does not want to die, and so all sorts of efficiencies kick in, hunger kicks in, muscle is lost, etc. Self defeating and a very bad plan even in the medium run.

By making the caloric deficit a smaller percentage, the body is much more friendly to the goal. Tactics:

  • Include one big ride per week which results in a 1500-2000 calorie deficit for the day (this means a 4-6 hour ride). I can’t eat all this back in one day, nor do I feel a hunger demand to do so.
  • Make sure that on a three day basis that 500 cal/day deficit is maintained (preferably more following the big ride).
  • At certain times, the body will say “enough!”. Eat some extra on that day. Countervailing forces kick in by attempting to deny a hunger reality: after all, the body does need calories to repair and grow also.
  • Think in cyclical terms: steady deficit - big deficit - overeat for 1 day, repeat. Just watch the average: so long as the average is a deficit, the fat will get burned off.

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