DietFilter: How do I balance food and heavy exercise while still losing weight?
July 29, 2010 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me diet while remaining extra-active? I lost lots of weight with mild exercise but now that I've stepped things up, I'm stuck...

I did great all last year doing portion control, food logging and (here's the important bit), moderate exercise. But now that I'm fitter, it's time to have fun and really get moving. I've been biking and walking primarily along with other activities, but I'm doing a lot more than I used to. I don't want to give up exercise but simple 1200 calories, portion control isn't working for me, nor is adding a simple 300 calories to my daily intake.

I'm typically biking about 20 miles per day in the early morning or walking about 6 miles. On weekends, if I get the chance that goes up to about 40 miles or 12-to-15 miles. I find that I am absolutely starving trying to keep on standard portion controlled meals but obviously, I am not reducing calories enough for a net loss (and, yes, I have taken muscle gain into account.) I can't find any suggestions (google, mefi, library) for how to be middle aged, lose weight and be more than moderately active.

I've been stuck at my current weight now for several months. I get that I'm eating too much but I'm not sure how to regulate or what to aim for. I tried the McKenna approach and it didn't work. My internal regulatory system doesn't seem to work well enough. So help point me on the straight and narrow. Got any equations, books, or techniques that can help me be both fit and extra active?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you saying you bike 20 miles a day and eat 1200 calories? You're not losing weight because you're starving!
posted by tetralix at 1:15 PM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

I don't know what you weigh, but I'm 190 right now, and I'm figuring 50 cal/mi on the bike (but I'm also doing 18 MPH). In other words, you're probably burning nearly your entire intake for the day on the bike.

The idea of dieting is to eat less than you use, but only somewhat, so your body doesn't go into starvation mode. F'rinstance, I lost 30 pounds a couple years ago. The last ten were in a month; I rode, ran, and swam every day, (2400 cal worth of exercise!) but was eating around 4000-4500 calories a day. The extra metabolic burn when I stopped each exercise was enough to lose the weight.

1200 calories is not enough to sustain a lethargic 100-year-old.
posted by notsnot at 1:22 PM on July 29, 2010

Anonymous exercise questions are less than ideal. The OP needs to specify his/her height, weight, age, and gender if he/she wants useful answers.
posted by useyourmachinegunarm at 1:36 PM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

In addition it would be good to know although you are not losing weight, has your size or body composition changed?
posted by pointystick at 1:50 PM on July 29, 2010

You're not losing weight because you're starving!

Which is why you see all those obese people in sub-Saharan Africa...

"Starvation mode" is a terrible myth that needs to be stopped before it rolls my eyes again. "starvation mode" slows your metabolism down but not enough to offset the calorie deficit required to start it. To put it another way: if OP were starving they'd lose weight. If they gained weight while starving, they will have discovered a loophole in laws thermodynamics.

OP - Start here: and maybe with this article specifically to get started.
posted by anti social order at 1:53 PM on July 29, 2010 [7 favorites]

What you want to look for are high-protein workout recovery foods. It's good to have something on hand after a workout that you can eat that's good for you and helps you to recover. A good standby recommended by lots of workout fanatics is chocolate milk. Protein, sugar boost, full feeling. Pair that with a PB&J sandwich and you're good for hours.

Can't imagine why this is anonymous -- are you embarrassed to be fit and losing weight? ;)

Without more info here's some other advice: relax. Eat good foods -- each as much of the good, healthy foods as you want. There's no limit to leafy greens and good protein sources like quinoa and legumes (beans) for you. Then get involved in a group sport and have fun. It's good to have other kinds of goals than "lose weight." If you're already running and biking, consider doing a triathlon! Or a relay tri with friends. Get with a cycling group. Train for a century ride. Getting fit is only one goal, getting fit to have fun is an even better goal.
posted by amanda at 2:20 PM on July 29, 2010

Perhaps you are underestimating your daily caloric intake and overestimating your expenditure? Most people tend to do that. 1200 calories a day shouldn't really be considered a restricted diet for a small, slender female.
posted by halogen at 5:09 PM on July 29, 2010

1200 calories a day shouldn't really be considered a restricted diet for a small, slender female.

What. A very, very tiny woman (4' 11", 90 pounds) would burn about 1200 calories lying in bed 24 hours a day.
posted by peep at 5:23 PM on July 29, 2010

You mention net calories, but what about the composition of said calories? What are the macro ratios? Cut out alcohol and severely limit carbs for a couple weeks and see how you look and feel. You might be surprised.

And yeah, if you're hitting a plateau, the best way out in my experience is to mix up your exercise routine, and also not work yourself too consistently flat, like, relentless cardio. Instead, do some weight training or high impact interval stuff to confuse your body--jumprope, running up and down stairs or hills as fast as possible for as long as you can, push ups, etc.

And I will sound like a total quack for mentioning this, but out of weird curiosity I tried the Shangri La diet a while ago, which only involves ingesting 200 or so flavorless calories a day in a 2 hour no-flavor time window (I usually do it right before going to sleep). I was sure I'd gain weight, right? Especially since I food journal and made sure to eat the same amount as before to see what was what...and I actually lost weight, esp. in areas no amount of carb control and calorie limited diet and exercise would get rid of (I'm an legs look fabulous, but my belly not so much). Within a couple weeks of trying this weird thing my belly started to FINALLY get tighter. I don't understand it, but you can try it in conjunction with what you're doing and see if it helps any.
posted by ifjuly at 6:00 PM on July 29, 2010

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