Eat More to Lose More: The Science Behind How Your Metabolism Really Works
Updated: Feb 13
Today I want to explain to you a concept that I've been using with my people over the last decade to help them get results and it's a little bit contrary to your belief, but you actually have to eat more in order to lose more.
First off, HEY. I'm Coach Chris, the owner here at Impact Performance & Fitness, and I've been a strength and conditioning coach and nutrition coach for the last 11 years of my life. I help regular people get in shape and transform their bodies.
I think right now the internet is really good at confusing people and maybe telling them that they have to do a lot of these things in order for them to get the results.
Hopefully after today's post you'll understand and be able to implement three things directly this week that are actually going to start making some changes in your physical and mental health. Most importantly, you're going to feel a lot more clarity around the whole topic of your success and your results.
Eating more to lose more. What does that mean, Chris? If I eat more, I'm going to gain more. I understand. But I want to explain to you that sometimes when people say that they have not explained what they truly mean.
There is more to that equation. If you eat more processed foods, for instance, then typically you're going to gain more weight because processed foods have a ton of calories. If you're eating more minimally processed foods like whole foods, foods that you have to actually cook, such as things that don't have labels, they’re not going to have as many calories in there.
One of the biggest things that we need to make sure that is known is that the food quality matters. When we're eating minimally processed foods like vegetables and proteins, our body is able to extract nutrients from the food.
There's a ton of nutrients in vegetables and fruit, including vitamins, minerals, and proteins. When we're eating foods that are minimally processed, we're going to have a better ability to extract the nutrients. By extracting the appropriate nutrients, it tells our body that we're full and satisfied.
A lot of times when we're eating processed foods, they lack nutrients, right? What happens is that the quality of food is maybe not that high but the calories that are in that food are.
So that's tip number one: You have got to really focus on your food quality when you're thinking about eating more to lose more.
Now I want to talk about something called “caloric load”.
What does “caloric load” mean?
Well, it's kind of like saying there's 400 calories of cake. Then, we have 400 calories of healthy food. I'll let you imagine. That can be fruits and vegetables and protein. Right now, when we go to eat the 400 calories of healthy food, our body has to break all that down, and it's pretty hard for our body to do that.
Now, we actually go to a process of burning calories when we're eating that food, and that's called the thermic effect of food. In order to break down these healthier foods, our body has to burn calories in the process. Therefore, we are not actually absorbing all those calories.
If it's 400 calories sitting on that plate, we may only take in 325 calories or 350 calories. But on the other hand, our cake can be the same 400 calories.
Because it's processed and contain tons of sugar and negligible fiber, our body will actually take in all 400 calories. When we eat healthy food, our body doesn't take in all of the calories. You may eat a 700 calorie meal and only take in 600, for instance.
However, on one end, if we eat 600 calories of a Philly cheesesteak or Wawa meatballs (that was my favorite while I made my sandwich), well, we're going to absorb all of those calories. So, one of the easiest things that we can do to actually start losing weight is just switch the quality of food.
You don't even have to necessarily take anything away. If you are a lasagna person or you're a turkey chili or whatever it is, you can still eat that. But there's a difference by just making it a home cooked meal with your ingredients you're putting in versus using a meal from a takeout restaurant.
Just making that small switch automatically is going to make a big change. Now, what types of food should you focus on eating more of?
When I sit down with somebody on our initial nutrition consultation and we talk about what are we eating, on average we'll find that the typical person's eating anywhere from 60 to 80 grams of protein per day. That's just not nearly enough to be able to support their body. Most importantly, this is causing them to have cravings and to have uncontrollable hunger. This also will cause them to be more tired and lethargic.
The reason why is because when we eat protein, and specifically throughout the day, what ends up happening is we're stabilizing our blood sugar. That is a really, really important thing because our body can't lose fat until our body has registered that we are stable with our blood sugar and our energy levels.
By eating throughout the day, we're giving our body stabilized energy, and we're also giving it the essential building blocks that it needs to survive. Our body needs a certain amount of protein per day and there's lots of different theories out there in regard to how much protein you should have in your body.
Typically, I tell people one gram of protein per pound, however, sometimes that gets a little confusing if you have a lot of weight to lose.
If you have 30 pounds of weight to lose, then a lot of times I will tell people to go with one gram of protein per pound of your goal body weight. Now, I want to make sure that the average person reading this, if I told them that they should be getting 120 grams of protein per day, but they're eating 60 grams per protein per day, we are not going to just jump overnight to 120 grams.
It may just look like adding a little more protein and get you somewhere between 70 and 80 grams. Then we build on that until we get to our goal protein. So, before I tell you any arbitrary numbers, you should always speak to someone to individualize this for you.
However, a good rule of thumb that we've been able to use for people is one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Now, not everyone has a body scale that they can just jump on and get a report saying “okay, I have x amount of lean body mass”.
For the average person who doesn't have that resource, I might say, hey, one gram of protein per pound of body weight, and that is if you're very close to the body weight that you want to be.
For a person at the beginning of their journey with 20, 30, 45, 50, 60 pounds to lose, that's going to be ridiculous. If you're 225 pounds, you say wait “Chris, you're saying eat 225 grams of protein?!”.
Nope. If your goal is to be 175, for instance, then you might want to set your protein closer to 175 and then also look at where you're at.
If your goal is to reach 175, but you're at 275, we need to progressively get there over a period of weeks… steady. Your body can adapt and what you'll realize that you don't even have to actually be eating the 175 to get results that just the climbing itself of from 75 to 85 will start yielding results.
Those are how I get my clients those quick wins, just by increasing their protein by 10 grams per day or maybe 15 grams per day. News flash, most of my clients never hit their protein goal, but they're still going to get results because they're just eating more than they used to.
We're now spacing out and doing meal timing throughout the day. “Hey, Chris, can I do intermittent fasting?”
And I say, well, why? Do you want to do intermittent fasting?
An amazing thing is our body adapts to whatever we do. Most people don't realize that their body has adapted to not eating right. When people come in and tell me that they want to have more energy and to feel better and strong but they’re so tired, it is because they’re not eating right.
If we are doing intermittent fasting and not really following the other principles that we need to follow with nutrition, a lot of times what happens is our body becomes what's called “metabolically adapted”.
Metabolically adapted means our metabolism will slow down to meet the number of calories that we're eating. If we're not eating a lot throughout the day, say we're only eating 1100, 1400, 5000 calories a day, our body will register and say we don't need that many calories, so let's readjust our metabolism and slow everything down.
This may seem to work early on because if you're eating 3000 or 4000 calories a day and then you only eat in a specific window, you’re just cutting out a significant number of calories that you would have eaten, putting yourself in a deficit.
People don't realize they're only losing weight because they basically cut out a whole bunch of calories because they're not eating as frequently.
A 300 to 500 calorie deficit is going to be where you want to be to lose weight and to be able to do it sustainably over a long period of time. Any time we start increasing that to 700 calories or 800 calories, your body will respond with metabolic adaptation. This is why people like to do a quick 21- or 28-day fix.
However, this is a temporary solution, once your body reaches a point where your metabolism is compensating, frustration kicks in and you reach a hard plateau.
Once you start to eat more food after your metabolism has adjusted, say 1400 calories, and you’re only burning 1200 calories, then you’re overeating every day. This can add up to weight gain, only to cause more frustration and a decrease in calories eaten, thus creating a cycle. That is one of the reasons why you must look at sustainability with any plan that you're doing.
If you’re not eating protein and your body is not getting what it needs, it's good at taking what it needs. This is when our body will start breaking down muscle to turn it into what we call amino acids, and then from there be able to get what it needed. Your body is making cells throughout the entire day, and we need to be giving it the raw materials (protein, vitamins, minerals) to make those cells.
This is why it will stabilize your energy to make you feel full, because you actually have food in your belly throughout the day. Also, if you're waiting till you're hungry to eat, you're always going to eat more calories than you actually need, right?
You are always going to overeat because you waited too long to eat.
When we are thinking about protein throughout the day, we have your basics: chicken, turkey, beef, and lean pork. You have tofu, beans, lentils and Greek yogurt. We have milk and cheese, although they tend to be a little higher in fat, so you have to be careful how much of the dairy you do.
I'm not against it, though. There's plenty of others like impossible burger and different vegetarian choices. There's eggs and jerky. There's whey protein, there's protein bars. Just eating more of these foods throughout the day is really going to make a big difference as far as how you feel, how satisfied you feel, and how many calories your body is consuming.
The last one is move more. Everyone has heard this before, but a lot of times people think that they need to go smash themselves during workouts and go hard. But the reality is, two to three days of just moderate resistance training is good enough to see the results that you want to see. Especially with resistance training, because we're building muscle.
I actually prioritize lifting weights more than doing cardio. Most people tend to do cardio, but we burn more calories in a strength training workout.
Typically, if you're working hard in that workout, you're also building muscle and boosting your metabolism so that you lose more weight in the long run. I’d rather have my client workout two times a week doing challenging strength training and making them sweat during that workout.Then, their body is going to be much more set up for success in the future.
The problem that I see is that typically when people start working out, they don't realize that when we start to move more, our body will register that, especially our metabolism, and it's going to register more hunger.
Therefore, as you start to exercise more, your body is actually going to want more food.
This is where I see most of my people struggle in the beginning. They're not accountable for their food or they're not actually watching what they're eating and having a structured plan. They do not have a basic structure such as “eat three meals a day” or “eat four meals a day” or have a protein at every meal or a protein and a vegetable.
I really like to have some kind of structure. Typically, this is where I'll see that they'll gain weight in those first few weeks because their body started to move more and their brain registered that they needed more calories and they started eating more. However, they tend to snack more and not eat full meals. When we are eating "quick snacks", they're highly processed.
So be cautious and understand when going into an exercise routine to give yourself just some small parameters. This may be eating three meals a day, eating a protein at every meal or cleaning up your cupboard.
If you want to eat more, that's great. Your body is probably talking to you and saying, hey, I need more calories. What it's really saying is I need more nutrients. It is wanting you to eat more calories in a sense of nutrient dense calories coming from minimally processed foods and lean protein.
I hope this post helped. I know a lot of people reading this are surprised to hear some of it, but I promise this can get you results.
Don’t get caught up in anything overwhelming, stressful or dangerous. Your body will thank you for providing it nutrients and satisfaction. Catch you next time. PEACE.