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The Definitive Guide to Why You’re Not Losing Weight

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The Definitive Guide to Why You’re Not Losing Weight

Not losing weight? Read this article now and you’ll never wonder why or what to do about it again.

 

It’s 6 AM and you trudge toward the bathroom like it’s the gallows.

The cold winds of despair howl. Shadowy fingers clamp around your throat.

Today you face judgement. Today is weigh-in day.

You shuffle onto the scale and wait, like a deer gawking at the hunter’s rifle.

The number flashes onto the screen. Not a number but the number. That same…damn…scowling…mocking…number.

Why? Why the hell are you not losing weight?

You’re doing everything right, you scream. You’re following all the rules! Your diet is “cleaner” than an operating room. Your “carbohydrate curfew” begins at 7 PM sharp. You’re cycling this and restricting that…for what?

Well, I have good news for you:

  • You’re not genetically cursed.
  • Your metabolism is fine.
  • Your hormones aren’t conspiring to keep you fat.
  • You’re not eating too little of the “right” foods.
  • It’s not the carbohydrates, dairy, or artificial sweeteners, either.

The real reason you’re not losing weight is very simple. The solution is likely simple too.

So say goodbye to weight loss “secrets,” “tricks,” “hacks, ” and other quackery. You’re about to meet the real science and physiology of weight loss and trust me–you’re going to fall in love.

I know, I know. You don’t believe me yet but give me ten minutes and I’ll give you the keys to the weight loss castle.

Let’s begin.

Are You Losing Fat But Not Weight?

The most common reason people lose fat and not weight is fluid retention.

This is particularly true for women, who are hormonally inclined to retain fluids and who also have to deal with large fluctuations due to menstrual cycles.

What happens is very simple: you lose a pound of fat in a week but you “pick up” an additional pound of water along the way. Obviously it’s not always 1:1 so, when it comes time to weigh in, it can look like you only lost a negligible amount of fat that week or even gained some.

If you want to see how much water retention can affect your weight, double your sodium intake for a few days and watch the scale. You can easily gain 1 to 2 pounds per day for several days.

Fortunately, water retention issues are fairly easy to fix. It usually requires little more than balancing sodium and potassium intake, drinking enough water every day, and keeping your cortisol levels under control.

Once these things are in–when your electrolytes are balanced, you’re properly hydrated, and your cortisol levels are normal…and you’re not about to get your period…you can rest assured that you fluid retention levels are stable.

Another common reason why people lose fat but not weight is they’re new to weightlifting.

This matters because when you’re new, you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, and building muscle means adding weight, of course.

Furthermore, when you first start training your muscles intensively, they soak up and hold quite a bit of additional glycogen and water. This too adds weight.

These “newbie gains” are so predictable that I often tell people new to weightlifting and proper dieting to expect not to lose weight for their first 3 to 6 weeks.

Sure, keep track of your weight, but your waist measurement is a more reliable indicator of fat loss progress during this period. If your waist is shrinking, you’re losing fat regardless of what the scale says.

Now, if you have any real amount of fat to lose, you eventually need to see your weight go down. Unfortunately the joyride does come to an end and your body simply can’t continue building muscle as quickly as it can lose fat (and eventually you can only do one or the other).

That said, I have seen people properly train and diet for 2 to 3 months and come out only ~5 to 6 pounds lighter but with dramatically improved physiques. Depending on your genetics and compliance to your exercise and diet programs, you can build quite a bit of muscle and lose quite a bit of fat in the beginning.

Alright, now that we have the “low-hanging fruit” out of the way, let’s get into the more likely reason you’re not losing weight…

You’re Not Losing Weight Because…

I’m going to start this section like a good story–in media res.

The reason you’re not losing weight is you’re eating too much.

Seriously. That’s the climax. The big reveal. The way out of the haunted house.

Okay…flashback time. Now I get to explain how we got there.

The first stop on our journey is the most important, so listen up. It’s the scientific principle of energy balance, and it alone controls weight gain and loss.

Energy balance is the relationship between the energy you give your body (via food) and the energy it expends (via processes required for life and physical activity), often measured in kilocalories.

Think of energy balance as a checking account.

  • If you put more energy into the account than you “spend” (expend), you create a positive balance or “energy surplus.”

And what does your body do with the surplus of energy? It stores a portion of it as body fat.

  • If you put less energy into the account than you expend, you’ve overdrafted your account and created a negative balance or “energy deficit.”

How can the body fill this deficit and zero the account? It can tap into body fat stores. In fact, body fat’s primary purpose for existing is serving as a source of energy for surviving periods of energy deficit.

I know, I know–the TV hosts chasing ratings and the authors selling books and pills have very different stories to tell but don’t be so quick to buy into the hype.

No, Dr. Oz hasn’t found the last weight loss supplement you’ll ever need and Dr. Smith hasn’t made a discovery that invalidates thousands of research papers and the first law of thermodynamics.

Energy balance isn’t a theory or antiquated belief. It’s scientific fact based on the clinical findings of nearly a century worth of careful metabolic research.

Now, this brings us back to why you’re not losing weight.

I said it’s because you’re eating too much, but there’s a bit more to this story. It’s not actually as simple as “you’re not in an energy deficit.”

What’s missing from this familiar weight loss trope is the element of time. That is, meaningful weight loss requires a net energy deficit over a given period of time.

Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds of fat.

Each pound of fat contains somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 calories’ worth of energy (how much exactly is a matter of dispute, but we don’t need to get into that here).

Thus, you need to strip 30,000 to 35,000 calories’ worth of fat off your body and the only way to do that is to, over whatever period of time, burn that many more calories you’ve eaten.

Now, the average person eats maybe 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day, and you don’t want to dramatically cut your food intake and starve yourself, so as you can see, this is going to take some time.

Time…that’s the real devil in the details. Here’s what I mean:

  • Let’s say you feed your body about 500 fewer calories than it burns every day, every week, without fail.

That’s a weekly calorie deficit of about 3,500 calories and simple math tells us that losing those ten pounds will take somewhere around 8 to 10 weeks.

  • Let’s say you feed your body 500 fewer calories than it burns 5 days per week, and then feed it 500 more calories than it burns on both of your Saturday and Sunday “cheat days.”

You’ve now shrunk your total weekly calorie deficit to 1,500, which means those ten pounds will now take about 20 weeks to lose.

  • Let’s say you feed your body about 500 fewer calories than it burns every day, for three weeks, and then succumb to bingeing for a week, eating 10,000 more calories than you burned.

You’ve now reduced your total calorie deficit since starting your diet from 10,500 to 500 and thus have more or less “reset” the entire process.

Now, real world weight gain and loss isn’t as mathematically predictable as this–there are other factors to consider such as body composition, genetic and hormonal predispositions, and the thermic effect of food–but this is more or less how it works.

Weight loss is cumulative in nature. Every calorie that you burn beyond what you eat is a tiny step toward your goal and every calorie that you eat beyond what you burn is a tiny step backward.

Now that we have a good chunk of weight loss physiology under our belts, we can state a bit more accurately why you’re not losing weight.

You’re not losing weight because you’re not managing your energy balance properly.

The only reason you haven’t lost weight over the last week, month, quarter, year, whatever, is you haven’t created a large enough energy deficit over that period.

Let’s look at another example just to make this crystal clear.

Let’s say that you haven’t lost weight in a month despite regular exercise and “dieting.” Although we could never know the exact number, let’s “play God” and say we know that you burned 82,000 calories in that month.

Approximately how much weight would you have lost if you had eaten about 78,000 calories? Yup, about a pound. How about 73,000 calories? That would have yielded about 2.5 pounds of weight loss. 69,000 calories? 3.5 pounds. And so forth.

Now, why do you think you didn’t lose any weight? You got it–your intake was too close to the 82,000 calories you burned to cause any noticeable change in your total fat mass. And what would have happened if you would have eaten significantly more than 82,000 calories? Weight gain.

Again, the real world can’t be predicted so perfectly and calorie intake isn’t the only thing that matters when we’re talking about losing fat, not just weight, but you get the point. Quantities vary but underlying mechanisms don’t.

So, if the inability to lose weight is merely and inability to manage energy balance properly, what are the most common ways people mess this up?

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You Might Be Eating More Than You Think

If you’re struggling to lose weight, I have good news for you: you’re probably just eating too damn much.

Here’s how it usually plays out.

Eating on Feel Usually = Eating to Fail

Most people are really bad at estimating the actual amount of calories they eat.

They underestimate portion sizes, assume foods contain fewer calories than they do, measure inaccurately, and, in some cases, simply lie to themselves about how much they’re actually eating.

This is why so many people fail with diets that deal in rules and restrictions instead of numbers.

Yes, you can lose weight without counting calories but it’s a bit of a crapshoot. It also becomes less and less viable as you get leaner and leaner (eventually you have to start planning and/or tracking intake).

There Are Right and Wrong Ways to Count Calories

There are plenty of ways to screw up calorie counting too.

For example, the calorie counts we’re given for various restaurant and packaged foods are often inaccurate. In fact, food manufacturers can under-report calories by 20% and pass FDA inspection and you’d better believe many are unscrupulous enough to use this to their advantage.

This only affects people that eat a lot of pre-packaged foods, however. People that know better and stick to foods they prepare themselves often screw up by measuring foods improperly. Here’s an all-too-common example:

  • It’s meal time and you break out the oatmeal, peanut butter, blueberries, and yogurt, and the measuring cups and spoons.
  • You measure out one cup of oatmeal, one tablespoon of peanut butter, and a half of a cup of blueberries and yogurt.
  • You cook it all up, scarf it all down, and move on with your day. Without realizing that you’ve eaten a couple hundred more calories than you think.

How did this happen? Simple.

That (slightly heaping) cup of oatmeal that you scooped out contained 100 grams of dry oats, which contains 379 calories. The “cup” on the label, however, contains only 307 calories because it assumes 81 grams of dry oats per cup. You’ve eaten 72 more calories than you thought.

That tablespoon of peanut butter? You packed in 21 grams for a count of 123 calories but recorded only 94, which is your app’s “tablespoon,” which assumes 16 grams of peanut butter.

Meal after meal you make these errors and when you hang up your utensils for the day thinking you stuck to the plan, you’re completely unaware that you actually ate several hundred more calories than you intended.

Play this out day after day and there’s your reason why you’re not losing weight.

The lesson here is simple:

The more accurate you are with measuring your calorie intake, the more likely you are to succeed in losing weight.

Here’s how to do it right:

  • Weigh and calculate all foods raw/dry whenever possible.

Cooked weights can vary too much depending on various factors.

I like to use Calorie King for this. Make sure you don’t accidentally use numbers for cooked food if it’s raw and vice versa or your numbers will be all wrong.

  • Weigh and count all foods eaten.

Yes, everything counts as far as calories go: vegetables, fruits, condiments, dabs of oil and butter, and every other bit of food that goes into your mouth every day.

  • Weigh and calculate all non-liquid foods in grams and all liquids in ounces or milliliters.

This ensures maximal accuracy and ensures you don’t under-estimate actual intake.

Your “Cheating” is Keeping You Fat

“Cheating” on your diet has nothing to do with eating “bad” foods–it’s erasing your calorie deficit by overeating, whether with cauliflower or candy (although the latter is much easier to overeat, of course).

The most common cheating mistakes I see are…

Cheating too frequently.

Look back to the big picture of calories and weight loss.

If you moderately overeat and thus zero out your calorie deficit a few days per month, your overall results are barely going to be affected.

If, however, you do it a few times per week, you’re going to slow down your weight loss considerably.

Indulging in cheat DAYS, not meals.

If you throw all dietary restrictions out the window for one meal, you can only do so much damage. Your stomach is probably going to be begging for mercy by the 2,000-calorie mark.

Eat everything your hungry little heart desires for an entire day, however, and you can easily put down many thousands of calories and erase the weight loss progress of several days, if not an entire week.

Eating too many calories or too much dietary fat in cheat meals.

I know I just said you can only do so much damage in one meal but if really go for the jugular, it can be enough to noticeably impact your weight loss.

Specifically, the worst type of cheat meal is one that is very high in dietary fat and total calories (which tend to go hand-in-hand given the energy density of dietary fat).

The reason why is dietary fat is chemically similar to body fat and thus requires very little energy for conversion (between 0 and 2%). This is why research shows that a high-fat meal causes more immediate fat storage than a high-carbohydrate meal.

This point is particularly relevant when you’re lean and wanting to get really lean. You simply can’t afford many days in a large calorie surplus and especially not when the surplus is primarily from dietary fat.

Drinking alcohol while cheating.

While alcohol itself basically can’t be stored as body fat, it blocks fat oxidation, which in turn accelerates the rate at which your body stores dietary fat as body fat.

In short, it’s not the calories from alcohol that can make you fat, but all the crap that you eat with it, which is hard to resist when you’re hammered.

The bottom line is high-fat, alcohol-inclusive cheat meals that put you in a calorie surplus are the ultimate recipe for gaining fat.

You Might Not Be Burning As Much Energy As You Think

Accurately measuring calorie intake is pretty simple. It just requires precision and attention to detail. Approximating calorie expenditure is trickier, however. Much trickier.

Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is determined by several things:

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

This is the amount of energy your body burns at rest.

When determining proper calorie and macronutrient intake for weight loss, determining your BMR is the first step. Most people use the Harris-Benedict equation to do this.

What many people don’t know, however, is that no formula is 100% accurate for everyone. Research shows basal metabolic rates are quite variable, with some significantly higher and others lower than formulas would suggest.

The problem here is obvious: if you think you’re burning, let’s say, 100+ calories more per day than you actually are, that could impair fat loss by up to a pound per month.

Many people also don’t know that losing weight reduces your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). The longer you keep your body in a calorie deficit, the more it adapts to reduce energy expenditure.

If you don’t know how to adjust energy intake and/or output to deal with this “metabolic adaptation,” it alone can seriously cut into your calorie deficit and bring weight loss to a grinding halt.

The thermic effect of food (TEF).

This is the energy cost of processing the food we eat for use and storage.

For example, research shows that whole foods cost more energy to process than processed foods and high-protein meals result in more energy expenditure than high-fat ones.

Thus, 300 calories of whole foods results in more “calories out” than 300 calories of processed foods, and high-protein meals more than low-protein meals. Repeat this several times per day and the numbers can add up to something significant.

Even water has a mild thermic effect because your body has to expend energy to warm it. This is one of the reasons increased water intake is associated with weight loss.

The energy we expend through all physical movement.

This includes deliberate activities like exercise as well as spontaneous activities like walking around while on the phone or hopping to the bathroom or drumming our fingers when we read or bobbing our leg when we think.

The energy burned by these activities is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, and it plays a much larger role in total daily energy expenditure than most people realize. Research shows that NEAT can vary by up to 2,000 calories per day among many individuals.

The same research indicates that people could burn an additional 350 calories per day by taking simple actions to increase movement every day like taking the stairs when possible, walking relatively short distances instead of driving, doing some chores instead of watching TV, etc.

And to put that in perspective, burning an additional 350 calories per day for 7 days would add up to about 2/3 of a pound of fat lost. Not bad for just moving your body a bit more than usual.

Another aspect of energy expenditure that most people don’t know is some people’s bodies burn more energy while active than others’.

Just because you’re engaged in the same types and amounts of activity as someone else doesn’t mean you’re burning the same amount of energy. The amount of muscle you have influences this considerably because it increases the energy cost of exercise.

The Bottom Line on Calculating Energy Expenditure

As you can see, determining TDEE with a high amount of accuracy can be tough. It’s a moving target. Fortunately, you don’t have to know exactly how many calories you’re burning every day to lose weight effectively.

Instead, you can use a formula like the one I give in my article on meal planning to calculate a reasonable estimate of TDEE and starting point for calorie intake.

You then follow those numbers every day and see how your body responds over the course of each week.

If necessary, you then adjust energy intake and/or output up or down to reach the “sweet spot” of 0.5 to 2 pounds lost per week (the leaner you get the less you will be able to lose each week).

Bringing It All Together
How to Lose Weight Steadily and Predictably

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article so I thought it would be helpful to close with an “action list.”

If you’re not losing weight, here’s your game plan:

Are you losing fat but not weight?

As you know, weightlifting newbies often experience this. Lean people wanting to get really lean often do as well due to water retention.

You can keep water retention under control by keeping your sodium and potassium intake steady and balanced and your cortisol levels under control by taking time to regularly de-stress.

It’s also smart to add two measurements to your routine in addition to weight: waist size (at navel) and body fat percentage (as explained here).

This can be extremely helpful because if your waist and caliper skinfolds are shrinking, you’re losing fat regardless of what’s happening on the scale.

Are you just eating too much?

This is probably why you’re not losing weight so don’t overlook it.

Are you making any of the calorie intake mistakes given earlier? Not tracking/planning your foods? Measuring sloppily? “Cheating” away all your progress?

Use my article on meal planning to calculate your calorie and macronutrient targets and compare them against your current daily intake.

If you’re eating quite a bit more every day, you need to address that. Use the same article to create a meal plan and follow it strictly for 10 days (no “cheating”) and see how your body responds.

If you’re having 1 to 2 “cheat days” per week, there’s your problem.

Cut that down to one cheat MEAL per week and if you want brownie points, try to keep the dietary fat under control (high-protein and carbohydrate cheat meals are best). That alone could get the scale moving down.

Are you burning less energy than you think?

The most common reason people make this mistake is the activity multipliers given in formulas for calculating TDEE are usually too high.

For instance, according to the Katch McArdle formula, you can estimate your average daily TDEE by multiplying your BMR by 1.55 if you do 3 to 5 moderate 1-hour workouts per week. 6 to 7 intense workouts per week calls for a multiplier of 1.725.

Well, I’ve worked with thousands of people and have learned that those numbers just come out way too high for most of us. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and the solution is very simple: tone down the activity multipliers (reduce calorie intake) and voila, weight loss.

You can find my own “revised” formula for calculating TDEE here.

Is it time to move more or eat less?

No matter how perfect your diet and training routines are, as you lose weight, natural adaptations will occur in your body that reduce total daily energy expenditure.

The only way to combat this is to move more and/or eat less.

There are guidelines you need to follow though to prevent muscle loss and other unwanted side effects. Read more here.

Is it time to reverse diet?

Remain in a calorie deficit for long enough and your metabolism can slow down to the point where a further reduction of intake and/or increase in activity just isn’t feasible.

Fortunately there’s a simple solution: the “reverse diet,” which consists of a steady, systematic increase in caloric intake. When done properly, reverse dieting allows you to eat more and speed your metabolism back up to “full capacity” while gaining little-to-no fat.

Read more about this here.

The Bottom Line on Why You’re Not Losing Weight

The information and strategies given in this article are all you need to lose weight.

Trust me.

Your metabolism isn’t a unique snowflake. Your body runs on the same type of machinery as mine and everyone else’s. You just have to learn how yours is tuned. This article shows you how.

What’s your take on why people fail to lose weight? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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  • Pingback: The Definitive Guide to Why You’re Not Losing Weight | georgeherman205()

  • Nick Bijl

    Good read Mike, and #GUILTY!

    I felt so bloody stupid a couple of days ago when I found out I was eating more than I thought on my recent cut..

    Thought I was tracking everything correctly, which was true except for 1 dish I had twice a day (some type of buckwheat mush with whey protein).

    Seems I swapped the “prepared” numbers with the raw ingredient numbers. And since I only created the meal once in MFP and used those same numbers every time – I consumed about 650kcal more than I accounted for.

    For, well, weeks..

    Instead of a 20-25% deficit I was close to maintenance. No wonder I stalled, LOL. (I find it both funny & frustrating ;p)

    I’m glad I knew something had to be off and double checked, so I won’t make the same error when finishing the job soon by shedding the last few pounds, hehe.

    • Haha at least you know what’s what now. Let me know how it goes from here…

      • T

        Hi Mike,
        Great article, as always. So informative and well written.
        Now I have a rather dumb question to ask: your customized meal plans, are they all based on raw ingredient weight then?
        I received my meal plan and I guess what got me confused is that under the carbs the couscous and quinoa portions had “cooked” specified, but I didn’t see any raw notation anywhere else so I just assumed all cooked. Yikes, my bad!
        Thanks you for all the great resources you provide.
        Loved TLS and loving the new and improved TLS 2.0 by the way!

        • Thanks!

          Oh no no I just talked with my guys and they do cooked for MPs because they found people actually prefer it more, haha.

          • T

            Thanks for getting back to me. That’s great news, yay! Yep, I’m one of those people. 🙂 Honestly, I was scratching my head trying to figure out how I was going to meal plan measuring raw–doable of course, but a tad bit more difficult–since I try to cook several days meals all at ounce.

          • YW!

            Yeah that’s a good point! Cooked is better for that.

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

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    You can sign up here:

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    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Livo

    I have bought your books: Thinner stronger leaner and 1 year program (>.<). They are on their way!!!

  • The Swiss Miss

    Great article Mike! It also came at exactly the right time! Been dieting for 4 weeks now and had only lost half inch off my waist. The calipers stubbornly staying at 25% though. I train 3 times a week at the moment and been eating 1600 cals a day. Down from 2200 over the winter, training 5 times per week, during which I made some great gains! However, I HAD been eating between 2000 – 2200 over the weekend and yes, it was high in fat with wine. *blush*. I now see I haven’t been dieting hardly at all! Lol What a muppet. Back to the drawing board! Lol

  • Darren

    Fantastic article and fantastic e-books – Max-Muscle & Fit is the new skinny. Mike is offering awesome information in these e-books for free. My strong advice is download them as they contain all the basics you need to know.

    And Mike I am pleased my success story is good marketing for you and it does make me proud I keep popping up.

    Now starting my cut so all going well I will have a new 18 month progress photo taken on my 50th Birthday.

    • Thanks Darren! I really appreciate it. Yeah your B&A kicks ass. I use it regularly. 🙂

      Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Nick

    Hey Mike,

    I’m wondering if I should change things if I’m losing weight but not BF %? I’m following my diet well and it doesn’t seem like I’m losing muscle. According to calipers I’ve been stuck around 12% for about a month but I. Losing 1-1.5 lbs a week.

    Thanks Mike.

    • Hmm you’re losing fat. My guess it just user error on the calipers. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

      • Nick

        Hmm that’s weird. I’m using the caliper you recommend and following the video. Do I squeeze quickly until it clicks or squeeze slowly? I hold most my fat in my love handles, could it be loose skin?

        • Nick

          Hmm that’s weird. I’m using the caliper you recommend and following the video. Do I squeeze quickly until it clicks or squeeze slowly? I hold most my fat in my love handles, could it be loose skin?

          • Hmm I would guess around 16%.

          • Nick

            The caliper shows 10mm which is 12.7 every time. Any tips?

            I’m 6ft 170 lbs and just changed macros today. I dropped from 1875 cals to 1790 cals and just changed my diet to 40 40 20 split instead of what BLS outlines for cutting. Good idea?

            I’m just concerned cuz if I can’t get my BF accurate it messes up my numbers.

            Sorry to keep bugging you but you’re the expert!

          • Hmm probably just user error on calipering to be honest. If your weight is going down and you’re retaining your strength in the gym, you’re doing it right…

          • In addition to the calipers, I’d consider measuring your waist at or above the naval as well.

  • Ww this is interesting but the idea to lose weight is not something too easy. takes time and worth it too. For example i seen a quick idea on http://howtolooseweighteasyway.blogspot.com/ and seems different but this is better.

  • Nice article Mike.

    It’s amazing how many people blame their ‘slow metabolism’, genetics, baby weight, and a plethora of other reasons they aren’t getting the results they want. Of course, there are some folks who have genuinely damaged their metabolism through chronic dieting and over-exercising (I actually have a client at the moment who I believe this has happened to, we’re going to try a refeed day per week to start, and then consider reverse dieting her back up to a decent intake level), but for most people, they simply aren’t paying enough attention to the fundamentals, taking their eye off the ball, or not even getting things dialled in to start with.

    I guess the whole media and government spiel of ‘eat less, move more’, media focus on good foods and bad foods, the ‘clean eating’ movement, this has all added to people’s inability to decipher what is actually valid, but still, I learned to do this stuff, as you did, through research, self experimentation etc.

    I got a lot wrong, I ate in ways that fuelled binges, but ultimately, I found a method of eating that works perfectly for me, and I’m shedding 1-1.5 lbs a week with little hunger, and still getting that ice cream in a few times a week 🙂

    Problem is Mike, your advice is just too simple. It lacks the ‘next best thing’, the secret juice of weight loss 🙂 People have know this stuff works, but it just ain’t trendy. LOL

    That said, it’s great to have more and more people in the fitness industry using the voice of reason, science, and experience to help others. We’re not going to help everyone, people are just too focused on finding the holy grail where they can eat what they want, be totally sedentary, and still have the body of a Greek god or goddess. I guess we just have to let them get on with it?

    Anyway, great advice as usual, nice one!

    Steve

    • Thanks Steve!

      Yeah some people love scapegoats I guess.

      Exactly. There’s SO much information it’s hard to know what to listen to and what to ignore. The good news is once you experience results from finally doing it right you’re permanently inoculated against most bullshit.

      Haha yup I’m not trying to be trendy. Just helpful…

  • Roberto Eduardo Rojas

    Hi Mike,
    One question. I have been putting together a daily meal plan based on the macro ratios. And although I hit my caloric intake numbers with ease (within +/-50 cals), I am struggling with hitting my protein numbers. I am missing by 20gr to 30gr per day. Is this Ok, or should I adjust?
    thank you for the advise.

    • How much do you weigh?

      • Roberto Eduardo Rojas

        205 pounds 22% body fat. I am on week 3 of your program plus dieting. I’m basically still in the same weight I started but have decresed around 2% (started between 24.5 to 25.5 body fat and 206 pounds) body fat in these two weeks.

        • Okay so you’re eating around 200 g protein per day? That’s totally fine.

          Great job on the progress!

  • Thanks 🙂

  • Pingback: How to Know Exactly How Many Carbs You Should Eat | Muscle For Life()

  • I just have to say Mike, I love your message. I listen to the podcast and I’ve read your books. Even though you’ve said it 100 times, it’s always great to hear the base message… Get into a caloric deficit to lose weight.

    You’re the best, man.

  • Emma

    I’m happy with my weight on the scales but am still carrying more abdominal fat than I would like. Do I keep at a calorie deficit in order to lose the fat or eat to maintain my weight and keep training?

  • Debbye S. Sparks

    Mike I love your articles but I don’t understand the “hate” for “low-ish” carb diets… I found that my body feels great with as little as 100-120g of carbs a day! I eat between 1,800-2,000 cal a day. Lift 1 hr every day really early in the morning (6:30h), I’m a PT and a server… So I’m on my feet ALL-DAY-LONG I found that with a “higher” fat diet I have more energy, less cravings and I’m less hungry in general… I’m not saying you’re wrong, but this has worked for me, why you think is that? May be is a man/women thing? Hormones? If what you say it’s true though I wouldn’t like to continue like this… My fat intake is between 70-90g a day (I’m 145lb, 24% BF, 5’6″), protein is 145-160g, and I do want to lower my body fat! I’ve just found I eat less calories if I eat more fat because I get less hungry! What you think?

    • Thanks Debbye! Haha that isn’t a low-ish carb diet, really. For your body weight anything under 50 to 60 grams per day would be low. I do suspect you wouldn’t enjoy that… 🙂

  • Carmel Mihos

    Hi Mike,
    I love your articles they are so informative!
    I would like a second opinion on this subject.
    Last October (2014) i started weight training and counting macros.
    im 151cm tall, and at the time i weighed 50kg.
    i was put onto a 1500 cal diet with 50gm fat, 130gm carbs and 130gm protein.
    i dropped a few kilos which was great. In January i stopped heavy weight training and counting calories and ate ‘Clean’ without counting. I put the weight that i lost back on.
    ive gone back to the intensity i was training at the beginning also adding in an extra resistance day and my weight wont budge. Ive also started counting calories again. im not sure if i should decrease my calories or increase the intensity im training. ive been back to my routine for a couple of months now.

    I was already quite toned, however i have found that ive put on much more muscle (or fat) when i stopped counting calories and lifting heavy.

    Thank you for your advice 🙂

  • Carmel Mihos

    Hi Mike,
    I love your articles they are so informative!
    I would like a second opinion on this subject.
    Last October (2014) i started weight training and counting macros.
    im 151cm tall, and at the time i weighed 50kg.
    i was put onto a 1500 cal diet with 50gm fat, 130gm carbs and 130gm protein.
    i dropped a few kilos which was great. In January i stopped heavy weight training and counting calories and ate ‘Clean’ without counting. I put the weight that i lost back on.
    ive gone back to the intensity i was training at the beginning also adding in an extra resistance day and my weight wont budge. Ive also started counting calories again. im not sure if i should decrease my calories or increase the intensity im training. ive been back to my routine for a couple of months now.

    I was already quite toned, however i have found that ive put on much more muscle (or fat) when i stopped counting calories and lifting heavy.

    Thank you for your advice 🙂

  • Great article Mike, as always. Super appreciate your willingness to answer all these questions as well. Makes me want to be loyal to your brands big time.

    I’m cutting, and on the high end getting up to 20g of Maca powder, 30g of BCAAs, and 20g of glutamine per day. Probably not what you’d recommend, I know; however, my question is about calories for those items.

    These things generally don’t get counted as calories, but they must be adding some calories, right? I mean, the Maca is carbs basically. The BCAAs are protein. The glutamine is a protein that the body also sometimes uses to replenish glycogen. So theoretically, these are up to 4 calories per gram and taken in total up to 300 extra calories per day.

    Some of those gotta be accounted for, no?

    • Thanks Sean! 🙂

      Cool on what you’re doing. Nothing wrong with the supps. BCAAs probably not doing much but that’s alright. 🙂

      Yeah some calories but that much, no. Have you looked around online for numbers?

      • Yes, and they are all over the map, from 0 – 4.

        Okay, I’ll just estimate 2cals per gram to take an average since they have to account for something. And I guess in the end it doesn’t matter as long as I stay consistent, monitor results, and adjust accordingly….

  • P Mort

    I’m 98% certain my issue is I’m eating too much. I stuck with the meal plan you guys gave me last year up to December, then winter happened, and kept happening. When it’s 40-50 below zero for weeks on end, you’re going to eat. I gained back 10 lbs (still 25 less than where I was this time last year) and feel like I’m stuck there.

    So yeah, I’m eating too much, I know that, but the other thing is…I still feel really tired, sore, exhausted, etc. and I don’t feel any better after workouts (as many places say you would after feeling the affects of fatigue). I don’t know if I should be dialing down my lifting numbers or what, even just trying to maintain where I’m at is rough when I try sticking with my suggested calorie level. But if I eat more, well, I’m still going to be stuck with where I’m at, or going the other direction.

    • Ah yeah that’s pretty common actually. Your body is going to burn a bit more energy naturally during the winter as well.

      Do you take any time off the heavy weights? Rest or deload weeks?

      • P Mort

        To be fair my go-to food was comfort food (brownies brownies brownies) but yeah, this winter in particular was brutal.

        I don’t do rest/deload weeks as often as I should, I definitely push my heavy lifting for weeks on end, M-Fs w/ Sat Sun rests, and after some research I’m pretty sure I am going through a bout of overtraining right now. I have a vacation coming up in two weeks that I was hoping to use as a rest week but unsure if I should do it sooner rather than later? I will miss training that week for sure, so I don’t know if I should stick it out for another few weeks.

        • Well uh yeah, then there’s that, lol.

          Oh yeah you need to man. I’ve made that mistake many times too. Rest is hugely important.

          You may want to do 3 x per week until vaca?

          • P Mort

            The co op downstairs sells these delicious brownies and man…I dunno, just saying, those things got me through some hard times this winter…

            Anyway, sounds good on the regimen. My romanian deadlifts on Friday went great (3×5 at 315 lbs) but when i was done, man I was done. I’m really bad about doing deloads but I definitely am going to be more cognizant of that now.

          • Hahah. Good brownies are godlike.

            Great weight and yeah don’t skimp on recovery when you’re doing a lot of heavy lifting.

  • estycki

    This video was hilarious, this lady estimates her calories https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KA9AdlhB18o

  • Jay Woith

    Michael, my wife & I have read all of your books & love your writing style & simple approach. We calculated her cutting calories based on the formula in Thinner, Leaner, Stronger & hit 1166 calories/day. She is 5′ tall and 110lbs. She wanted to lean out more before starting to gain muscle mass (her goal is a women’s physique competition). Is 1166 calories a day to low? When I calculated her TDEE, I got 1985. Should she just bring her calories to 1585 & adjust as needed from there? I’m just curious as to why your formula put her so low.

    I recently did a physique competition on an awful diet. Your book & methods have really helped me do a lean bulk now without the need of a coach. Thanks for everything!

  • robin

    Superreal

    Looking at my doary i am feeling hungry all the time…what am i doing wrong..although my job is working from home..i get up at 5 am to work out and am always going and doing. Then i go back to work aotting at night from home. So i put that i have lighter activities and it really pulled my calories down. Wth…im hungry…i have a my firness pal and i started fitness blenders 8 week body while i am reading your book. I hate counting calories and just feel like im starving myself. If you get a chance to look at my diary my name is superreal.this is why i feel like im stuck in an eating disorder I appreciate looking and reading all of our comments and responding..

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  • Brenna

    Michael,
    I had always been told that in order to lose weight that I need to eat more veggies and more protein with every meal. But when I tried this I didn’t have any energy to workout…. how do I fix this?

  • Sean Haber

    Hey mike , i just discoveres your podcast collection , i travel a lot and i am learning so much love the ones where you interveiw other people (mark from starting strenth).
    To my question , do you have any advice for someone no matter how hard they try cant count his macros without starving himself (am in military and constantly changing location) . i have a meal plan and keep on trying to change it around according to my location but i am not having success. I know their is no magic solution ,but was wondering if you had any advice.
    Thanks,
    Sean

  • Barry and Tracy Burchill

    This article was written for how I am feeling right now. I am in week 2 of your workout book and I track all my food, am at a 25% deficit for calories and the scale is not budging! I am trudging forward but am also frustrated that I am not seeing any loss on the scale. I just started trying fasted workouts and feel like my sessions are still strong. Should I change up my macro’s to see if my body needs more fat vs carbs? I am at a loss. Any help would be great but I wanted to let you know your articles are always very interesting and I thank you.

    • Hmm. Are you sticking to your meal plan strictly and counting all cals? Sauces, oil or butter for cooking, weighing everything, etc?

      If so, and you’re not losing weight in a 25% deficit, you should reverse diet to speed up your metabolism and then continue cutting. Check it out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

  • Patty

    A factor that seems to be regularly overlooked in weight control is the function of the thyroid. While I was never severely overweight I was unaware for years that I actually had an autoimmune condition of the thyroid and subsequently had my thyroid removed for cancer. In the year following surgery I gained about 10 pounds steadily while being better about diet and exercise than I ever had in my entire life. Thyroid problems are very common and they especially plague the female population. While I would agree that with the general population energy expenditure is a great starting point, it does not address underlying issues and the level of function of organs that affect metabolism as I’m sure the thyroid is not the only one. I have gotten to the point where I am roughly 10 to 20 pounds overweight but have had to choose to stop weighing myself and I have started a serious powerlifting program and I’m feeling better than ever. I am hypoglycemic and by virtue of that I am at risk for insulin resistance, so have started to restrict my carb intake and up my protein. By the way that I feel I know I’m on the right track, but the scale just can’t be the measurement for my success anymore. It was holding me psychologically captive and likely contributing to my stress level which is never good for weight loss. None the less I do enjoy your articles. Just thought I’d add my two cents.

    • Patty

      And my program happens to be 5/3/1. 🙂

    • Honestly what most people think is a thyroid issue is just…overeating.

      And I’ve looked at quite a bit of hypothyroidism studies and if I remember correctly the largest downregulation in BMR I saw was about 14%. That’s definitely enough to matter if you don’t reduce calorie intake accordingly but it’s not catastrophic by any means.

      In your case you may just need to play with your intake levels to find your body’s “sweet spots,” so to speak.

      • Patty

        It isn’t that simple. Lots of people whose bloodwork looks fine but their symptoms are terrible still. I’m fortunate that I’m doing as well as I am without a thyroid, but get frustrated at how much work it takes to maintain as compared to the next person. I would agree with you that a good number of people might have sluggish thyroid as a result of poor choices and so it is a vicious cycle. But I am speeking for those of us who might have a generic predisposition or have found ourselves in the struggle WHILE taking care of ourselves well. I guess my point was that I agree with your general information with the caveat that sometimes there are circumstances beyond one’s control.
        I do enjoy your articles. They are full of VERY useful tips!
        PS: I am feeling very good with a combo of challenging lifting (5/3/1) and reducing my carbs to keep blood sugar stable. Not going crazy with cardio as that can be particularly rough for low thyroid function and greatly limiting gluten n dairy, for anyone reading this who might be in a similar situation as me. 🙂

        • Not blood work but indirect caliometry, which produces accurate measurements of actual calorie expenditure.

          This may help you:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

          And yes everyone has to adjust here and there based on their bodies. Including people with no disease or dysfunction. The key is understanding the principles so you know why you’re adjusting and what you’re going for.

          Awesome on what you’re doing. I like it.

  • Johan

    Hi Mike, greetings from Sweden!
    I was wondering about something. In this article you wrote about losing fat but not weight. Well, my problem is the opposite i started working out a year and a half ago and dieting a year ago and i lost 18kg but i did not lose the amount of fat that i wanted so i wondered if i had to lose more weight to make it happen or if there is something else bugging me?

    • Hey hey!

      Hmm.

      Were you doing heavy, compound lifts?

      Were you getting enough protein in? You can check using this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      LMK.

      • Johan

        Well…
        When it comes to the food i did not eat a lot and i focused mainly on eating rice, sallad, chicken and meat and the proetin amount was doubled to the amount of rice but everything was at very small volumes like all my food covered about a quarter of the plate and i ate 4 times a day and 4 hours between each meal.
        As for the workouts i go to the gym 5 days a week and i switch between doing a few reps for strength and more reps for volume

        • You probably weren’t eating enough. Your best bet to make sure you’re getting enough cals and of each macro is by setting up a meal plan. Did you check out the link I sent you?

          For the weight lifting, that’s good you were going heavy! Check these out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

          What do you think?

          • Johan

            Thank you for the help.
            I will change some things in my plan and start soon when school starts because it is a little easier to get a routine going then. It’s a shame that i can’t watch any of your Q&A’s because of the time difference but thank’s for the help!

          • My pleasure.

            Sounds good on the plan.

            Sorry about the Q&As! I post them on the podcast after so you can check them out if you want. 🙂

      • Anthony LaSala

        Hi Mike,
        Great article . Quick question.
        What mid thigh beach shorts do you wear? Can’t find any
        Thanks

  • Antony Reegan

    Hi, Great Article Mr. Mike, It is very helpful.
    I have found my problem, It is a cheat meal twice in a week and hunger and cravings. How can I avoid it?

  • Breann Silverman

    Hi Mike,
    After listening to one of your recent podcasts, you mention sodium/potassium balance. After looking at my MFP it seems that I’m really under on my daily potassium. The RDA is like 4700 and I’m finishing the day around 2100. I’m eating appropriately, but scared to supplement inappropriately with potassium pills. Any guidance?
    Thanks as always,
    Breann

  • Panda

    Hello Mike,
    My husband and I are one week into TLS/BLS and are rigorously following the program. It’s very exciting and we both love learning to lift weights. However I’m a little puzzled as to why we both need to eat about the same. Me: 1m76, 78kg, est 26% BF and Him: 1m79, 78kg, est 14% BF. Using your ratios (which are identical for men and women of 78kg) we are both eating 207g/172g/34g. He feels hungry all day and virtually on the limit of minimum intake, which is not surprising considering he would normally eat around 2500 kcal). I feel like I am having to force myself to eat it all and am not hungry in the slightest, yet my previous intake was around 2000 kcal. It’s difficult to measure if I am losing fat as my weight fluctuates by up to 2.5kg from day to day. (Yes I have increased my water intake to 3 litres and have reduced sodium intake). I am only 38g carbs above my BMR so if I decide to cut 25g every 7-10 days of seeing no progress I will quickly grind my metabolism to a halt. What’s the logic behind us starting at the same macronutrient targets? Thanks for your help! Two Brits in Switzerland.

    • Awesome! I’m glad to hear it.

      Let’s compare the numbers against this:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      LMK your BMR, TDEE, and recommended macros.

      Check this out too:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-speed-up-metabolism/

      Talk soon!

      • Panda

        Thanks for your response. We’re now into Week 5 of meticulous food-weighing and weight-lifting, and my (ex-distance runner) husband is delighted to be down 3kg to 75kg, is looking much leaner and can see 10% BF on the horizon and the start of his first bulking cycle. Thank you! I, however, am down 0.5kg to 77.5kg and getting muscles. As an ex-heptathlete I expected to regain muscle mass quite quickly and this seems to be true, but my fat loss is disappointing. I have gained control of my water retention, thanks to your excellent advice on sodium and water intake, even if I do have to get up every night and pee at least once(!) The problem is that I went down from 26%BF to 22% quite quickly and then stalled as my muscles continue to grow, so now I’m just bulky. Starting at 78kg/26%BF I used your formula to define macros of 207p 172c 34f, then had to reduce to 142c to see my BF drop to 22%. Now my fat loss has stalled for 10 days (waist & caliper measurement & mirror) and I decided that I must be eating too much. Today I have recalculated with 77.5kg and 22% BF to get BMR of 1675 and TDEE of 2262 and am dropping another 25c to switch to 205p 121c 34f. Am I on the right track to get to 17-19% BF?

        • This is great news. I like it.

          Hmm how are you measuring your BF%? This is why I ask:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

          You may not be stalled is the point. That said, there’s this too:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

          Give them a read and let me know!

          • Panda

            Hi Mike,
            Thanks for your response. Love reading the articles, thanks – I even listen to your podcasts when I’m doing my HIT 🙂 I think it may be possible that I’m not stalled,but that I’m just building muscle as fast as I’m losing fat. In order to guesstimate BF% I’m using Accumeasure (single site) and trying to assess it’s likelihood of being right by checking waist tape measure, photos and 10-day average weight. Here are the Accumeasure stats: Start of TLS I was 14-15mm (~26%) and yesterday (after 1 month) I was 8mm (~20%, but I think 22% is more realistic). I’d love to hear your estimate for us both – I don’t really want the pictures online, but here they are, so what would you estimate our BF was at the start and what is it now? Also, just to help us understand how realistic our dreams are, what BF% would you estimate for the two pictures on the right? Thanks for your help.

          • My pleasure!

            Yeah that is very common among people new to proper weightlifting and dieting.

            You’re doing great. VERY clearly losing fat. The picture is a bit far away so it’s hard to guess but I would think around 22 to 24%, yeah.

            This is why taking regular caliper and waist measurements really helps (in addition to weight). No matter what your weight is doing if your caliper and waist measurements are shrinking, you’re losing fat, period.

            Girl is around 17% and guy 8%.

  • Eli

    Hey mike, so I’ve been in a pretty big deficit for as long as I can remember but can’t get passed the 18% bf mark. Your probably thinking I’m over estimating but I plan my meals carefully and stick to it religiously. After a while I figured this “deficit” May be my maintenance so while keeping my calories exactly the same I decided I would walk back and forth from college instead of driving ( 8 miles total per day) 5 days a week. Even if I was eating maintenance till now all that walking should have resulted in fat loss. Well, even with 2.5 hours if brisk walking per day for a month now still no fat loss. Apologies for this super long post but I wonder if u would now wtf is going on.

    • Hey hey!

      How carefully are you counting/tracking your intake?

      • Eli

        Like I said I track everything carefully, and cycle the same few meals each week. I did not change anything in my diet wen I started walking eight miles a day so if I maintained my weight before I definitely should have started losing. I definetly do not pick at food that I don’t count. I plan my food before the day eat and nothing more. Can I DM you on Insta?

        • Okay cool just wanted to make sure. 🙂

          It may be time to reverse diet and then jump back into a deficit. Thoughts?

          • Eli

            sounds good. but during this cutting time I made substantial strength gains (incline press 60lb Dumbbells to 100lb Dumbbells) with little if

          • Cool.

            Damn! Great job on the strength gains. You’re strong!

            Let’s speed up the metabolism and get you back to cutting.

            LMK how it goes.

          • Eli

            dunno y the last comment got cut off but it was meant to say “with little if any size gain”. Sounds great, will definitely give that a try. The picture is how I’ve been looking the last five or six months.

          • I’d say you’re closer to 15%, not 18%.

  • Andrea

    Dont’ know where to put this question in. But usually I work out late, after dinner. And I’m at the end of my “calorie limit” So do I HAVE to have a post workout meal?? Obvious I’ don’t feel hungry or weak and I have no more calories left?? Is that bad to do when that happens?

  • Leiha

    Hey Mike!

    You mentioned Calorie King in your article… any reason you prefer it over myfitnesspal? I am comparing them now, and it seems that myfitnesspal has a more robust database for food items like sashimi quality blue fin tuna, etc…

    just curious to know your thoughts on it. 🙂 thanks!

    Also, I’m headed to New Orleans tomorrow for a 6 day vacay and want to make sure I’m logging my cals as accurately as possible. I don’t drink alcohol so, not real worried about cals there and I’ve confirmed the gym at the hotel has a bench and free-weights and will be continuing my lifting schedule. I’m right in the first week of my cut but I didn’t want to delay starting till after I get back. I travel a lot, so I’d better get used to getting real good at accurately tracking my cals. Any advice on doing so while traveling would be much appreciated! I won’t have cooking capabilities.

    Oh, and my Legion supplements just arrived and it was SUPER fast shipping!! Thanks!!! Got Forge, Pulse and Phoenix. Did day 3 of TLS fasted training (first one w/ Legion supps) and really loving it!

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  • Jeff

    Hi mike,
    I own a fitness consulting company (the type the builds and outfits health clubs, not the kind that advises on fitness programs). Over the past few years I have really struggled with weight gain and I imagine due to increased amount of time sitting at a desk (sometimes 10-14 hours straight multiple times per week), as well as high amounts of mental stress -which I would believe is increasing my cortisol levels. I wanted to say, you really wrote a great article, and reminded me to just get back to basics and ‘burn more than I consume’. My attempted macro diets have all failed on me. Following 40/40/20 for 10 weeks and only found that I gained a couple pounds instead of losing. I readjusted at week 7 by decreasing calories from 2250 to 2120 and just maintained the same weight.

    What would you recommend for a good amount of calorie intake per day for me as well as any supplement to help with my increased cortisol? I’m 6’2″, 246lbs about 25% body fat and I work out 3-4 times per week with 2-3 of those days include 25min HIIT cardio with my strength (to failure). I am sure there could be instances where I am a victim of “over eating” as well, so I am going to keep a closer eye on that.

  • Antony Clinton

    ¡Qué gran artículo! Por una vez, alguien está hablando de sentido común acerca de la pérdida de peso. Desgraciadamente yo solía ser parte del problema “sobrepeso”. Me las arreglé para perder peso utilizando un gran programa que se puede encontrar en:

    http://diet-985.blogspot.com/

  • Diana

    Hello Mike.
    I´ve been reading almost every article you have. Nice Blog. I used to have an eating disorder so I started reading and trying every thing about diet and nutrition. From the most absurd diets, to the most “healthy” plans. Not sure any thing make a difference. There is too much information around and for every study saying something, there is another with the opposite conclusion. At the end, every thing you eat seems to be bad. I really like your way to look at things. I´m 36 yo, yoga teacher in a small frame. 161 cm, 48 kg and could have like 21,5 BFat. I´m planning to be stronger because I need more muscle to avoid injuries and and have less BFat. I´m OK with the idea of lifting (I did it before but not on an organized way) The problem is about caloric intake. Been on a deficit would be 1197 Cals. I don´t know how many calories I ate on a day, I don’t have a big appetite, I´m really careful on what I eat and no junk food. I prepare all my food, but 1197 seems too little. ¿What can I do? HIIT? I´m getting your book, but I will appreciate some ideas for some one like me.

    • Thanks! Hope you’re enjoying them. 🙂

      First, let’s calculate what your intake should be:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      If you plan or want to do HIIT, that’s great! Just make sure you include it in your activity when calculating your intake.

      LMK how it goes, and we’ll go from there.

      • Diana

        Thank you. Thats what i did, I used your calculator with 6+ hours exercise and the calories on deficit ( i guess thats what i need to lose fat) where 1197. Is that oK? am I doing something wrong?
        But I will start with TLS today, so probably I could find more information.
        Again, thank you. You´re very kind.

        • YW! 1197 is about where your BMR is. Your cals for cutting should be 1370.

          Cool you’re starting TLS. Happy to help. 🙂

          Talk soon!

  • MrMulligan84

    Hello Mike,

    How long on average do ‘Newbie Gains’ normally last? I have been doing 3-4 day a week cycles for 8 weeks now (starting weight 370lbs, 44% BF) I have been eating about 2300 calories a week on a 40/30/30 macro ratio. I lost 12lbs in my first month but have gained weight over the past few weeks averaging at around 360. I am regularly measuring myself seeing a bit of progress but only about an inch at the waist, hips, and chest.

    This is the first time I have incorporated weight training into my exercise routine. My goals are simply a decrease in mass, when I hit a point where I can pay myself on the back then it is time to take this ball of clay and start sculpting. It seems that I am putting on almost as much muscle mass as I am losing in fat mass but I presently don’t have a way to accurately test BF% losses. My home scale does it but I find that it is inaccurate, bouncing within 2-3% depending on things like how much water I had the night prior to weighing in.

    Any insights just to help be better understand, this article was great and I have read it a few times, I have identified I let my eating get a bit out of hand on weekends and need to reel it in and be more disciplined which has started.

    • Good question. I’ve seen them last as long as 6 to 8 months. But never longer than a year.

      It definitely sounds like you’re gaining muscle and losing fat so that’s good.

      If your waist is shrinking, you ARE Losing fat. Period.

      Fucked weekends can fuck everything. This may help you:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/cheat-meal/

  • alexander

    Hey Mike

    i cannot for the life of me figure out my cals for a cut. have been trying MFP for a few months without results, some weeks the weight will drop but i know i am very hungry and i drink a lot of water to counter that. also keep eating foods that weigh more then i usually do to keep me full. i am 100% certain these foods contain high sodium also. i have no idea why my scale is just not responding better. honestly i’d go so far as to claim it is broken..

    anyway here are my stats, 96kg 212lbs, 35y/o, 180cm 5’11. i want to be on a decent to high cal deficit and i think i can handle that but when i plug my numbers into MFP or try other sources of calculators online, comparing to my own data that i have gathered of the years i end up lowering the calories to much that i either starv or only have enough energy to complete half my workouts. i get so frustrated because i’ll follow those methods for several weeks with little to nothing to show for it, or i’ll feel so bad that i just cannot take it and have to overeat a lot to counter it.
    i just cannot figure this out. am i supposed to add some percentage to my bmr since extra intake of food costs a percentage extra or can i use a simpler formula? when i try to figure out my bmr on on the 3 popular methods out there i get 2050 – 1915, somewhere in there i am supposed to be. but for a deficit should i just reduce that number by a fixed percentage, like 20%? or should i add all the food to the number first also taking into consideration consumption of food costs (food + 10% extra).

    i am a person who does a lot of training. the weight room i hit 2 times per week and i am lifting for total 120 minutes of it. other then that i do martial arts 3 sessions per week (5 hours total), this consumes energy like nothing else. i also do cycling in the forests on trails MTB, or just plain running intervalls. all in all i think (i cannot know this) that i burn somewhere around 6500 – 7000 on avg peer week of training. i have lost weight several times over the years but i have since 2 years started doing powerlifting training with some oly lifting. since then i gained some 3-4kg on my avg weight and i honestly do not feel good with it. it makes me feel slow when fighting an opponent, though i am very much stronger.. i want to get down to 87kg or if possible even lower. i do not really know what weight is possible or even feasible to reach though. i will say that i have not read much of your articles but i have watches hours of your youtube material and also from several others.
    my goal with the weight loss is to get down to a decent weight so that i can finally get stronger in the gym. or maybe it is just not possible to combine it all.

    anyway, i could write a book here. can you please advice on a kcal cutting number for my activity level?

    • Hey!

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      I think it will answer your questions.

      If you’re exercising 7 hours per week, I would probably go with a 1.45 or 1.5 multiplier.

      • alexander

        thank you.

        i will look into that article. the only issue i really have with all the recomendations on the web (im not saying that it is you doing this) .. is that they assume people do gym/cardio only. which is very far away from what i personally do.

        • Yeah I understand. The worst-case scenario is you get to eat more…

          • alex

            i have been doing sports for over 20 years and yes.. worst case i’ll be in some bulk mode, gaining muscle somewhat..

            though i must thank you really. that number was totally spot on. just some days and the scale is dropping (on a day of no exercise mind you) mirror really is showing it much better. i’ll keep this up and i’ll see how far i can take this.

          • Exactly.

            Really glad to hear it man. Keep it up.

  • G Depetta

    Mike, I work out about 5 hrs/week, currently at 192 lbs and 25% bf, clothes def fit better and seeing changes in the mirror but not enough weight loss on the scale! I’m trying to stick with about 1900kcals/day. I try to measure as best as I can using Fitness pal app, I’m obviously overeating, in spite of eating clean 90% of the week, I have to eat out about 3 days out of the week for travel which makes it even tougher to accurately track food, any suggestions? Thinking about lowering the TDEE multiplier to 1-3 days/wk exercise to compensate.

  • G Depetta

    Also since I’m about 25% BF at 192 lbs, would u recommend lowering my protein intake to 1 gram/LBM until I lose more fat?

  • G Depetta

    Thanks Mike, BTW loving your Whey protein, just got my first batch in, and the Pulse, wow, seriously good stuff, so much more energy and def helping with lifts.

  • Carissa

    The past year or so I’ve found it almost impossible to lose any weight/body fat. I am 40lbs heavier than my fit, healthy weight a few years ago. I’ve lowered calories by 500 a day AND have added a HIIT workout almost daily which should burn an additional 500-600 Cals that I don’t count into my calorie intake. Essentially my intake is 1000 calories lower than my energy output. I only weigh myself once a week because I’m not seeing changes and I’ve added in a stomach measurement and hip measurement in case I’m losing fat and gaining muscle which the scale wouldn’t show. No change on inches either. I’m ordering FORGE and PHEONIX today but sadly my wedding is only 30 days away and I’m nowhere near my goal. If I could even lose half of what I need and fit into my dress (and not my backup one), I would feel so much better about myself. I’m going to try strictly fasting pre workout, but normally I workout after having a cup of tea so there’s not much in my system. Any other suggestions of where I may be missing something? Any tips for the last few days pre wedding to slim as much as possible and lose water weight, even if only temporary, like you may do for a shoot? Grateful

    • Hey Carissa,

      Two questions for you:

      1. Are you sure you’re not making any of the mistakes outlined in this article?

      2. Are you on any medications that might be causing issues like anti-psychotics or birth control?

      • Carissa

        No medications. I am guilty of many of the mistakes in your article and I haven’t been that great with limiting calories and alcohol intake (I own a couple restaurants) until the past few weeks, but it seems that the past few weeks of being really diligent with working out and limiting calories isn’t paying off yet… actually my dress fits worse! Just wondering if I’m missing something or if I need to just keep at it and be patient

  • Adrea

    Hey Mike!

    I’m sitting at 19% BF right now as a 5’3 110 lb female. I want to get a little leaner, maybe down to 17% BF. I rock climb 2x a week and do HIIT 3 -4x a week for 30 mins or so. I have a pretty active, standing on my feet job 5 days a week.(bartending) I’m just so confused as to to the amount of calories I should be eating to lose that bodyfat. I’ve definitely gained muscle week over week for the past 8 months but my stomach in particular refuses to lean out. Should I try exercising more or eating less and and what caloric goal should I try to hit? 3 months stalemate on on the ab goals. Thank you!

  • Matt

    Rather than all the fancy equations, and gray areas they are in nutrition, for me it’s this simple: eat as close to real whole unprocessed foods as much as possible in a balance of fat, carbs, protein, and have a lifelong habit of interval strength training that I can perform safely relative to my body.

    The results equal naturally satiating foods that I don’t worry about or count, lean body fat, excellent markers of health and a metabolism that doesn’t die, and I could care less about drinking alcohol or having a little bit of junk food every day because my fast metabolism from hard training takes care of it if I do(obviously not a good rule to live by, but hey I’m human and will drink a couple beer at the end of the day, and have a piece of cake if someone gives it to me)

    Steady state cardio is not an answer (better than nothing though I guess) neither are all these diet foods the world tries to sell you. Real food and real life functional movement (squatting, pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, etc) that challenges your whole body in 3 dimensions is a proven solution. Funny our government and society is so far behind, it took them till 2015 for crying out loud to alter their guidelines and tell people to cut back on Sugar, and that healthy fats and saturated fats in moderation is “probably okay”.

  • KileyScene

    Hey mike! What if your cheat day was Saturday and the rest of the days u were good … That can’t harm much can it?

    • I don’t recommend cheating a whole day, but having a cheat meal once a week is totally fine. One whole day of cheating could mess up a whole week of dieting…

  • Tuan

    Which food scale do you recommend? I’m currently using one (Ozeri) from Walmart and it’s wayyy off. I measured 200ml of milk in a measuring cup but when I put it on the scale it only weights 137ml. Thanks😄

  • Steve

    Hey mike
    I know this is random but
    I’ve gained muscle and lost fat but when I go for short runs and stuff like that I’m out of breath
    What do I do to improve that?

  • Kevinicus

    I know for a fact that I’m at a calorie deficit, and not a small one, but still have been stuck for the last couple of weeks. Weight loss is not something new to me, I’ve done it before (dropping nearly 170 lbs a few years ago – yes I gained some back after getting married), so it’s not like I don’t know how to do this. I started just before the new year and dropped about 11 lbs in the first month, and another 2 the first week of February. Then I had a bad day on Superbowl Sunday. A very bad day. That said, after the rest of the week had passed, I had remained steady. Now in the 2 weeks since, the scale has not budged at all (outside of daily variances), and I am doing things exactly as I was before. I keep track of all my food intake and exercise, and if anything I should be at a greater deficit than before as I’ve had more exercise. And I am not anywhere close to the calories I’d need for maintenance, so it’s not like a few minor calorie bumps that I might miss would put me close to the edge.

    Perhaps I just need to give it more time. During my previous weight loss, I made it a point to only weigh in once a month so that I didn’t get worried about the scale.

  • Christine Laing

    “You’re not genetically cursed.

    Your metabolism is fine.

    Your hormones aren’t conspiring to keep you fat.”

    “Research shows basal metabolic rates are quite variable, with some significantly higher and others lower than formulas would suggest.”

    “Many people also don’t know that losing weight reduces your BMR. The longer you keep your body in a calorie deficit, the more it adapts to reduce energy expenditure.”

    “If you don’t know how to adjust energy intake and/or output to deal with this “metabolic adaptation,” it alone can seriously cut into your calorie deficit and bring weight loss to a grinding halt.”

    Aren’t these contradictions?

    Don’t get me wrong–I think this is an excellent article with very good advice. I’m just tired of hearing the first part of this from a certain population (mostly young, mostly male, mostly of a certain body type, mostly healthier than I’ve ever been in my life). The vast majority of diet advice seems to be aimed at people who eat all those food like substances in colors not found in nature and complain that they don’t have the body they want. Honestly, those people don’t need diet advice, they need to admit that they can’t have everything and decide what they want the most.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      Great point and I actually amended that passage because a more accurate statement is it reduces your TDEE and not so much BMR.

      “Honestly, those people don’t need diet advice, they need to admit that they can’t have everything and decide what they want the most.”

      Perfectly said.

  • abrianna

    Im just about finished with p90x3 program. I haven’t lost a lb or an inch. I actually gained 4 lbs.
    I am 5ft 2 inches and now 124 lbs. I started out at my macros p30/40c/30f for 2 months straight nothing changed I was carefully measuring all my foods and ate between 1500-1700 calories every day. The 3rd month in I had to change something so I’ve started calorie cycling, with 1200 calories 4 days and 1800 calories 3 days of the week but mixed together. with macros of 50p/25c/25f . that’s not working either. im all my feet all day my fitbit has me burning between 2200-2400 calories a day. On top of the p90x3 program I also run 30 min every other day.
    I really need help because im getting sick of nothing changing.

    • Sorry to hear that. 🙁

      To help get and keep the weight moving, take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/link

      Fitbits are cool for tracking different stats, but I wouldn’t count on them to determine your intake. They can be painfully off. Instead, just calculate your cals/macros here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Let’s start with that. LMK how it goes.

    • Daniela Goes-Udoff

      Did you find your answer? I am with the same problem and I’m getting really tired and disappointed on my own self….

    • Island Girl

      I am in the same boat. My legs have increased in size. My stats are about the same. Yes I have more muscle but am not losing by any means. I am doing the HITT and plan as described. I have worked out regularly for most of my adult life. But I thought lifting heavier would allow me to not have to run 4-5 miles 4 / 5 days a week with weights. I reduced my running to doing HITT 4 days a week with the 5 days of lifting heavier than I have ever. Diet has always been strict. So, am I not going to be able to cut? Just get bulkier? Thicker muscle thighs? I have been doing your plan for 90 days.

      • Hi, follow the procedure I outlined above. Sounds like your cals are too high. How’s your BF% looking? Measurements? If those have been improving, then cut back the training volume for your legs and/or stop progressing in weight on leg exercises.

    • Hi, let’s start from the basics:

      Calculate your TDEE:
      https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/
      http://www.muscleforlife.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      -20% deficit. If you’re under 30% body fat, set your protein to 1.2g/lb body weight, fat to 20%, and dump the rest into carbs. Those are your macros. If weight is not moving, increase your activity and/or drop 100kcal.

      I also strongly recommend that you do weight training. You’ll have better results.

  • Tyler

    Hey Mike,
    I just started my first cut 2 weeks ago after bulking. I have calculated what my calories need to be using your calculator and have lost a few pounds. My question is how long will it take for my metabolism to regulate down to my 20% deficit? And when I reverse diet when I’m finished with the cut how fast will regulate then?
    Thanks
    P.s. I’ve been using the Legion supplements Forge and Phoenix and love them!

    • Hey Tyler! Cool you’re cutting and cool you’ve already lost some weight!

      How long it will take varies person to person. Just stick to that intake until you stop losing 1-2 lbs a week. Then you can adjust intake accordingly.

      It generally takes 4-6 week to RD properly and after being at TDEE for a week or two, your weight should maintain at that intake.

      Welcome! Glad you’ve been enjoying the supps. 🙂

  • TunaFish

    How can you guys so accurately measure your BMR, calorie intake and outtake? BMR is a moving target as you say and it also varies wildly from one person to another. So there’s no way to key in some values to a formula and find out the exact figure for myself.

    Also how to know which food has how many calories? I never eat processed packaged food. Everything is cooked and prepared at home from raw ingredients. So I do not have labels that I can refer to. Calorie intake a complete guess work for me at the moment. Any ideas brother?

    • Good question! We can’t really. All we can do is use the formula which does a pretty good job estimating those numbers. However, from there, the intake will have to be adjusted based off results.

      To track the cals and macros of the foods, I recommend using calorieking.com and caloriecount.com.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon.

  • Kendall S

    Mike,

    You boil everything down to such a simple science. Thanks on behalf of countless people for your practical, easy to understand articles. Weight loss indeed is not a complicated concept!

    • I try! Thanks for the kind words and support. YW!

      Yep, it just comes down to a few simple principles and once you know them, it’s easy. 🙂

  • pamela

    My question is this, how does having Hypothyroidism play in this plan? I have been working out for 2 months now, using weight llifting and cardio, but so far, no weight loss, I have actually gained some. I am eating a high protein, low carb diet as well. What can I do to lose the excess weight?

    • It can reduce your caloric expenditure but not as much as many people think. If I remember correctly the largest reduction of BMR I’ve seen in a study is around 15%?

    • Trevor

      The solution is still eat less. I know this from experience, having been diagnosed with hypothyroidism myself. Although I consumed close to 1000 calories and felt brain foggy for several months, I forced my body fat down to well below “normal”. So it’s possible. Think about it: if you eat close to nothing (hypothetically), how can you not lose weight?

  • Hey Mike, thanks for this free online ‘library’ of fitness knowledge and you as an inspiration. I have struggled to lose weight lately even though I’ve cut out my pre-workout meal and started doing more cardio.

    I haven’t started counting calories again but if you eat one fewer meal and keep all the rest the same then you are clearly taking in fewer calories. I hate counting calories and want to avoid it as long as I can.

    The foods over here are in kilojoules and I just hate to count every damn thing I eat. It takes a lot of time. I know it is the best way and I lost more than 20 pounds doing it while I was in the US but first I will do more cardio and take in even fewer calories.

    I’m done writing exams now so it will be easier to focus on these things. Cutting is much harder than bulking and it helps if you have fewer things on your plate so you can focus your energies on it.

    I think when you are stressed your body tends to hang on to fat more as well. Right?

    • Hey! Glad you are enjoying all of the material. I know counting calories (or kJ) sucks. True, you could eat one less meal to cut your energy intake. But, you have to be sure that you’re still hitting your macro targets. If this works for you, great! But, it definitely makes a world of difference once you start tracking.

      Well, you’ll hold on to water more, that’s for sure. Being stressed also causes people to over-eat at meals and snack–easily putting them over their cutting or maintenance targets. In that sense, it’s “harder to lose weight”.

      • Thanks. In connection with that is it ok to drop your protein intake slightly below 1g/lbs to save some calories? I think Mike recommends you stay at 1g/lbs when cutting but if I weigh 180lbs and take 160g of protein per day when cutting is that gonna make me lose a lot more muscle? Thanks.

  • Another thing I think you said somewhere that it’s possible to talk to you on skype or something? If that’s possible I’d like to do that to discuss some of my fitness issues and goals.

    • E-mail is best:
      mike at muscleforlife . com

      Thanks! I’d be happy to help.

  • Lee HaJar

    today was my weight in ,i started my weightloss program 3 months ago , i lost about 8 kilos ,last week i lost 3 kilos in ten days , i eat healthy and i exercise 3 times a week ,i started the intermittent fasting 5,2 ,n on the other days i dnt go over 1300 ,but today i gained 1 kilo , i dunno hw possibly could i gain weight if i eat healthy and exercise , i dont have cheat meals n m so strict with my calories intake . i have a goal i set and i have to reach it and now m so depressed , HELP

    • Lee, don’t sweat a 1 day gain. This is a long-term process. It could be water weight. Let’s see how it plays out to next weekend.

    • I’ve done that: “gained” an unexplained pound or two during a cut. Like Mike said, it could be water weight. Could be you just ate heavier foods (not necessarily more calories) yesterday or ate later than usual, weighed yourself at a different time of day. Any number of factors. I chalk it up to just life if it’s one or even two days in a row. But weight loss is like the stock market: there will be upsets, but the trend is what counts most.

  • Melanie Stengewis

    you say things like “you are probably not losing weight because you are cheating” , well when you have eaten fully raw organic for quite some time how is that cheating? it’s not so don’t put us all in a box and make assumptions, Also you say to reverse diet if the metabolism has slowed down yes that’s why your body needs (I SAID NEEDS) Carbs because it keeps your metabolism going among other reasons. oh and be careful that your body doesn’t start eating muscle (however you worded it) – your body will always eat the fat stores first before it eats the muscle stores.; as for people needing less calories that would be fat calories it’s fine to have carb calories contrary to what some people are taught

    • As far as weight goes, the foods you eat matter far less than the calories and macros.

      You can learn more about that here:

      https://legionathletics.com/macronutrient-calculator/

      • Doll854

        True that!

    • Rochelle Anderson

      Going over your maintenance calories by overeating 500 calories in Brussels sprouts for 7 days will result in a 1lb weight gain theoretically, the same stands true if you were to do the same with a Snickers bar.

  • Melanie Stengewis

    Yes, everything counts as far as calories go: vegetables, fruits, , This is not correct, fruit and vegetables will NOT make you fat and neither will the carbs, you need to carb the f… up

    • Trevor

      Vegetables might not make you fat, but eating enough of anything can prevent people from losing fat. If this is what works for you, then by all means why not go do it. Write a book and we might buy it.

    • It’s harder to get fat while eating vegetables and fruits vs. candy and sodas, but it’s possible. Realistically speaking, you’ll probably be full trying to overeat tomatoes before you actually overeat tomatoes, but strictly speaking, you *can* get fat–or stay fat–eating clean. Trust me. i misled myself for a decade before I stumbled on to calorie counting and educated myself with books from Michael Matthews and Tom Venuto.

    • Hi Melanie,

      A calorie is a calorie, and when you have a calorie surplus, you will get fat. The principle of energy balance does not bend for any food or any person.

  • Zach Odendahl

    Creatine during a cut recommended or not? I’m using recharge.

  • I drastically lowered my calorie intake when I started cutting and didn’t lose any weight in two months. I ate a whole meal less than usual and started doing more cardio too. Finally, I started counting calories again and doing even more cardio.

    I’m pissed off that I’m not losing any weight despite eating much less food and it doesn’t seem to make sense but we will see how it goes now. The only time I lost any weight was when I didn’t lift weights at all. I wish I understood these things better sometimes.

    • Two additional important metrics to track is also BF% and waist measurement. Your weight can stay about the same, but body composition could be shifting the entire time.

      If you are at a deficit and training correctly, you WILL lose fat.

      • But I just read an article of Mike which says if you drastically lower your calories like I did your metabolism slows down and you can’t lose weight, which is what I think happened to me.

        And that is the problem I had to begin with because I was in a deficit for so long which is why I had to reverse diet. Now I’m back in the same situation it seems and I am not surprised I am not gaining much muscle despite being in my first year of heavy lifting and training my ass off.

        How can your body grow if you don’t eat enough? But I am now in a cutting phase and have been for 8 weeks and I am not building my metabolism back up again so I can cut properly. If I have to I will eat nothing at all.

        Sometimes I wish this stuff was a little less complicated. Mike says it’s all about energy balance but it is not. If your metabolism is slow you burn fewer calories and it’s almost impossible to lose weight unless you stop eating.

        I’m irritated as you can probably tell because I work my ass off for the last 8 months, count macros, sore as hell all the time and very little gains to show for it. I almost feel like quitting.

        • The lower your intake is and the longer you cut, the harder it is to to lose weight because you have to continuously lower your intake to continue getting results. That’s why I say once you’ve gotten down to BMR and aren’t getting results, instead of continuing to cut, it’s time to RD:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

          To answer your questions on building muscle while in a deficit, check this out:

          https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

          I understand not wanting to take the time to build up the metabolism, but it will make it MUCH easier to lose weight. You’ll be able to eat more and lose more weight.

          In the end, it still does come down to energy balance. If you’re eating less than you burn, you’ll lose weight. If you’re eating more than you burn, you’ll gain weight. It’s that simple.

          Are you absolutely certain you’re accurately tracking, weighing and counting all cals and macros? Are you making sure you’re counting the cals of sauces, drinks, butter/oil when cooking, etc. It’s really easy for unaccounted for cals to sneak in.

          LMK.

          • So are you saying my metabolism slowed down because I started cutting to fast then? You said in another comment I should cut fast. How do I know my metabolism has slowed down for sure? Maybe I am not active enough and I should set the calculator for 1-3 hours of activity?

          • Compare your current intake to a calculated approximation. (If you misjudge your activity multiplier, your results won’t be very good.)

          • Remember I did do the reverse dieting and then did a bulk. Then when I started cutting I quickly lowered my calories but didn’t see a drop in weight.

          • You lower them enough though? Tracked correctly? It’s impossible not to lose weight if you are running a deficit.

    • Trevor

      Try eating less. How many calories are you eating, are you counting?

  • Rodrigo

    Hi Mike!

    You said: “If necessary, you then adjust energy intake and/or output up or down to reach the “sweet spot” of 0.5 to 2 pounds lost per week (the leaner you get the less you will be able to lose each week).”

    Do you have some easily guide to change the target lost/week? Something like this:

    15-10%BF – try to lose 1-2lb/week
    10-7%BF – try to lose 0,5-1lb/week
    <7% – try to lose a maximum of 0,5lb/week

    With this guide, how would YOU (MIKE) do your cut to 6%BF, if you would have 15%BF?

    P.S:I read all your articles, but I continue with this doubt, because you always advise to lose 1-2lb/week (I think it because usually people have above 15%BF)

    Thank you!

    • Rodrigo

      Another question about the same issue: for women, how would be this guide?

    • Hey!

      Good question.

      25%+: 2 to 3 pounds per week.

      15%: 1 to 2 pounds per week.

      10%: 0.5 to 1 pound per week.

      Those numbers are for guys, of course.

      I’ve done that cut and honestly I just go straight for it. My metab is pretty resilient so I don’t need to take a break.

      • Rodrigo

        Cool! What do you mean by “go straight for it”? You mean that your target weight loss usually don’t change in the process?

        After I read almost all your articles (great articles), I saw that you try to mantain 8-10%BF, even when bulking. When you decide to cut to 6% or below with this BF (8-10%), your target weight loss would be 0.5 to 1lb/week, like you said?

        • Go straight down to single digits, uninterrupted.

          • Rodrigo

            Sorry, I didn’t understand.

            1- Mike says that usually he mantains 8-10%BF even after bulking. When he wants to cutting to 6%BF or below after sevaral weeks of bulking, what would be the target weight loss per week (with 8-10%BF): 0.5 to 1lb/week like he said in the anwser above, or 1 to 2lb/week, like he usually said in the articles?

            2 – You have to do a 20-25% deficit when your target weight loss is 1-2lb/week, but when you change your target weight loss to 0.5-1lb/week, what should be the deficit to TDEE? Would be a 10-15% deficit?

          • 0.5-1% when 8-10%. Keep the same 20-25% deficit to get there.

          • Rodrigo Malanquini

            Cool!! Perfect! Last doubt: If I keep the same deficit (20-25%) to TDEE when in single digits, because of the agressive déficit (above 500kcal), the weight loss won’t be above 0.5-1lb/week, and so would you lose muscle mass? Ex: TDEE in single digits = 2600; 25% déficit = 650kcal (you will lose 1-2 lb/week, won’t you??)

            Sorry for all questions!

          • Rodrigo

            I’m so boring, I know.. LOL
            But help me, please!

          • Nah not at all. Any muscle loss should be minimal if you’re keeping up the protein intake and heavy lifting.

          • Rodrigo

            Correct. I think that I do confusion because I think that TDEE changes in the cutting, and if TDEE would low considerably, the same deficit of 20-25% would give a weight lose above 0.5-1lb/week, and so losing muscle mass. (Yet keeping high proteínas and heavy weights in the gym)

          • That’s fine. I still recommend you continue cutting at that deficit. Once you’re at the 10% range, adjust intake based off results so that you lose in the 1/2-1 lb a week range.

          • Rodrigo Malanquini

            Perfect! Now is totally clear to me! Thank you again, Mike!

          • YW!

      • Kate

        What would those numbers be for women?

        • 35%+: 2 to 3 pounds per week.

          25%: 1 to 2 pounds per week.

          20%: 0.5 to 1 pound per week.

  • Sean

    Good day, Chief! I am 105kg guy. I’m a bit round and I am trying to lose fat and I am trying to be lean. I am currently working out and doing some swimming but I am not losing fat specially on my belly. Any suggestions regarding workouts, diets and supplements to take? Thank you!

  • Hammer Kan

    But what if you lose weight but not a lot of fat (BF% roughly 17-19%) and it stalls after couple of weeks even though kcal are reduced by 500-700 kcal?

    • I’d check your calorie and macro targets to make sure you’re eating above BMR and sufficient protein (1.2g/lbs body weight) while training with weights.

  • Carl

    Hey Mike,

    When cutting, if you lose bf and weight, do you have to recalculate daily macros for the lower weight?

    Thanks

  • Vik

    I like how you Neil Patel’d this article! Nice job!

    Gonna do it!

  • aditchelsea

    Hey Mike I am 15 years old and weigh 62 kg. Even though that may not sound like a lot I barely have enough muscle, therefore I am left being almost stick-like around my arms and legs and all my fat is stored at my abdomen and my love handles. I have been doing cardio for a couple of months and burnt around 4 kg, however I have seen a very limited amount of difference in terms of my overall look. Besides running I have also been playing basketball for a while up to twice a week 1.5 hours each time. I’d like to gain muscle across my entire body and I’d also like to lose a good amount of weight as soon as possible. I’d be doing this for around 2-3 months until basketball season starts and I have practice daily. I was wondering what you’d recommend me to do in terms of my dieting and workout routine.

  • Natalie

    Hey Mike!

    I am quite frustrated. I am truly so accurate with my calories and measuring. I very much in the belief that it is all about calories and that is why I love your articles, because when I start falling into other bullshit methods out there that demonize certain foods or practices, I come back here for the real real.

    I am 5’7″, 155 pounds. I’ve been up and down most of my life. In the last year I lost about 20 pounds through eating less and cardio. Then I got very fatigued and took a big break from training. I haven’t worked out in 2-3 months and my body has really healed and my sleep, which was bad before, has mostly restored. I also haven’t gained weight back and even eat about 200 calories more daily. I think cutting the exercise acted like a reverse diet.

    Anyways, after that rest period I started managing calories again and I’ve managed to lose pretty slowly in the last two months (5 pounds). But it’s been SNAIL like and I honestly don’t know if I’ve even think I lost because my clothes fit the same. (The scale doesn’t mean much to me).

    I’m not sure how to proceed. I currently eat 1600 a day and two, 2000 cal days. Should I reverse diet? Should I not have those higher calorie days? Should I start working out and keeping calories the same?

  • OMAR

    Hey Mike I’m consuming about 800 calories daily and I’m still having a difficult time losing bodyfat. I’m at 135.4 lbs and about 18% bodyfat, how accurate are the calorie calculators??

  • Seth Sushi

    Hi Mike! I stumbled upon this website and I highly appreciate how you reply to each person that leaves a comment here. So, I wanted to try and hopefully you could reach out to me as well 🙂

    I am 17 yrs old, F, 5″0ft and weighs around 120lbs. I used to be overweight when I was a kid and lost alot of weight by starvation (eating less than 800cals a day). I was doing this from 2011-2014 and finally weighed 103lbs. Now that I have been trying to eat healthy (1200calories a day) and working out HIIT and Body Weight Workouts for about a month, I still haven’t dropped a pound. I am so disappointed and I feel like giving up. Would you help me figure out what I should be doing wrong or what I should do so I could actually start losing weight?

  • Alejandra

    Hi Mike! Can you help me out here!
    I am 126lbs about 22% body fat, I do weight training 5 days a week with HIIT in-between my training. My TDEE is 1917 and I am on a calorie deficit of 20%.
    My total calories per day is 1534 with 153g Protein, 153g Carbs & 34g Fat. I am at a plateau which is hard to break because I am still hungry with this Calorie and Macro intake. Its been a month now and my scale won’t move neither the measuring tape. What am i doing wrong?

  • RedGooner

    Mike I’m 15 and 160 lbs. I’ve been playing sports all my life, but I’m still overweight. I’ve tried many weight loss programs, but they don’t work. I have tryouts soon, and i need to lose this stubborn body weight. What should i do. Also, my school doesn’t allow bringing lunch from home, as lunch is in our tuition. What is the best diet plan and workout plan withouhgt supplements that can effectively help me lose 1 to 2 pounds a week? Please help

    • RedGooner

      Also my body weight is about 25%

      • No problem if you can’t bring lunch from home. Best thing you can do is to pack in as much exercise as you can (sports + HIIT cardio) and start lifting weights:

        http://www.muscleforlife.com/muscle-building-workout/

        Depending on how you’re eating, you can consider a slight reduction of calories. That shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. At the end of the day, it’s all about energy balance, so be sure you’re using more calories than you are eating!

        • RedGooner

          Thank You! Also i was just wondering also, if I have to use a meal plan, as i am still 15, and my parents usually cook the meals

          • Well, you don’t have to. Just be aware of what and how much you’re eating. Even a slight reduction will help, provided that you’re exercising a lot as I suggested above.

  • M

    Hi, Can you help me figure all of this out?
    I’m 15, 5’6, F, and currently 160 lb. Body fat percentage~27%
    About a year ago, I started trying to lose weight. I weighed in at 170lb and started dieting. I was eating 1000 calories daily (most of which was junk food) and I ended up losing 30lb doing this, but then I stalled. When this happened, I read up more about weightloss and found out about starvation mode/response and that I shouldn’t be eating 1000 calories to lose weight, so I gradually bumped it up to 1600 (my BMR). When I did this though, I ended up gaining back weight and now I am at 160 lb. I still eat 1600 calories daily and since increasing my calories, I haven’t lost a pound. Now it’s a year later and I’m still at 160 lb and I’m not sure what to do because too little calories was unhealthy, but now I can’t seem to lose the weight. Am I eating the right amount? Did I completely wreck my metabolism? My TDEE is 1820 calories and my BMR is 1600. I play sports and I do floor body weight exercises (i.e pushups, planks, sit-ups) because I don’t have access to a gym. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I’m still definitely overweight. I don’t know anymore how much I should be eating and just really want to lose the fat in the most healthy way possible. My goal is to weigh about 115-130lb.

    • Hey M, I don’t recommend that you drastically cut your calories to lose weight. Instead, pack in as much physical activity as you can so that you eat enough and take advantage of this time in your development to grow as much as possible.

      Reverse dieting up to BMR was not enough. You should raise it to TDEE.

      • M

        Okay. Thanks so much. I’ll raise up to my TDEE for now and then follow your advice from there. Thank you so much for responding!

  • john

    Hi, i’m 5’9 Male and weighed 260lbs. I started the Tiny and Full diet. Vegan in the morning, add protein at lunch at dinner and a lot of fruit. Its basically 1200Cal a day but the meal sizes are big and I don’t feel hungry. I lost 10lbs in 2 weeks and also started T25 high intensity workout. The problem is, after starting the workout, I have not lost any weight, I have stuck to the diet and I weigh the same after 2 weeks. What i’m I doing wrong?

  • Kat

    Hey Mike, Im about to be 30 and just under 5’2 female. I recently just competed in my first bikini show, well in November, and was at 125 lbs and now Im back up to about 137 lbs. I originally lost 30lbs during my prep and felt amazing, now I know stage weight isnt sustainable but felt more comfortable around 130 in my own skin.
    I recently changed over my body building routine to crossfit 5-6 times a week and have a desk job. Im used to meal prep, weighing everything and drinking a gallon of water a day but I feel like I cant get my macros right. From what Ive calculated my BMR is 1396.75 and my TDEE is 2164.96. I generally eat 1480 Calories 135g carbs 44g fat 145g protein, am I not eating enough or too much to drop the extra 5-7 lbs??? Any help would be appreciated – thank you!

  • FanofMikeM

    Mike,
    I am at x calories now, I have lost 8 lbs so far but curious when do i need to adjust my calorie intake to keep the weight loss going? Every 5 lbs or so re-adjust the cals? Also do I take from each macro or just from carbs? Thanks in advance.

    • No need to adjust your macros unless you’ve hit a fat loss plateau. When that happens, increase your HIIT cardio and reduce carbs by 25g. Don’t drop below BMR, however.

  • Tiffany

    Hi there, I just finished your Thinner Leaner Stronger book and appreciate the honest approach to weight loss. I had a question that the book didn’t cover. I have a groin injury that I am trying to heal by staying off of completely because I just keep injuring it again. Should I adjust my calories (macros) down since I can’t do anything but light walking? Is this an instance where it’d be ok to consume below my BMR? I am a female, 5’5, 140lbs and typically do a mix of weights and HIIT about 5 times a week. Thank you.

    • Eek, sorry to hear about the injury, Tiff. I wouldn’t go below BMR. You can still stay in the cut, however. If your doc says the recovery is going to take awhile, I suggest that you reverse diet up to TDEE. That’ll give you more cals to heal up, and gives your metabolism a break.

  • Brandon Dedic

    Hi mike, trying to help a shorter female to lose weight. Currently the calorie goal is 1200 but sometimes (according to her calculations and logging which she says are accurate) she doesn’t even make this. The issue is she still is not losing weight. Any suggestions

  • jim smith

    man it’s just too complicated sometimes.

    Dead simple…2 meals a day midweek. 3 weekend. No crap ever…hardly any booze….try and move.

    Who has the time to count calories, measure food etc…?

    • Well, it’s easier and simpler than you think. Plus, if you have meal plans, you never need to count 🙂

    • Alfonso

      Can’t agree more , such a dilemma !

  • Grace

    Hey, thanks for all the great info! I’m 5’9 and dropped 40lbs in the past 3 years (230 down to 190). I go to the gym 5 days a week and track my calories religiously. While my macros rarely end up where they need to be, my calories are always on point. Currently, I’m eating 1698 cals a day. Aside from going to the gym and doing HIIT 4 days a week, I’m extremely sedentary. While I’m thrilled with my weight loss, and that I’ve been able to maintain it, I’m frustrated that my weight isn’t dropping anymore. (I haven’t lost any weight since August of last year – that’s 9 months that the scale hasn’t moved). I know some people who are 5’9 and weigh 190 are probably right where they need to be, but I have about 30lbs of flab that still needs to go away. What do you suggest?

    • Hey Grace, nice work on the cut so far! Eventually, everyone plateaus on a cut and what you need to do is increase your HIIT cardio and/or reduce your cals. You can max out your HIIT at 2.5hrs/week and your cals should not go below BMR. If you still don’t see progress at that point, then do a reverse diet and cut again.

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      Hope that helps, and keep up the awesome work!

  • Kristen

    Love your blogs! this is the first one I ran into, and found myself reading like 5 more. I have spent the past year switching up my life completely, no smoking, drinking, working out 3 times a week, no soda, no fast food/eating out and was doing really well at first. But the past two months I haven’t lost a single pound or gained much muscle, so frustrating! The way you break things down, is super helpful AND you cite your sources. Anyhow after going through most of your blogs, I am very excited to start focusing on the things you have suggested. Hopefully it will be enough to get me back on track. Thank you!

  • Nini

    I am at my wits end! Help!

    2 years ago I was eating right and working out hard with a personal trainer 3x a week for 3 months and gained weight! I was counting my macros and had him look over my diet – everything was all good. I would sweat buckets with him and also workout on my own 1-2x a week by myself. The first month I lost inches, after that ALL my inches got bigger and my weight on the scale kept going up. He was even confused because I should have at least lost inches and with how much cardio he was having me do, I should have also lost weight according to the scale.

    I’m basically in the exact same position as 2 years ago now. Literally the exact same weight as I was when I had to stop with my trainer (133lbs at 5’5″ now age 27 female). I workout 4x a week, total 3.5 hours exercise per week, doing Pilates (2x/wk) and cardio (2x/wk). I track my macros and used IIFYM to make sure I was getting correct numbers to work with (consuming 1,305 calories per day, measuring ALL my food). I have been doing this for 2 months without any measurement changes or movement on the scale. I’m getting beyond frustrated and discouraged. I never cheat; I make sure everything fits my macros; I plan ahead with every meal, even when going out to eat with family or friends; I don’t drink alcohol and the only sweets I consume are fresh fruits; I have ruled out and cut out all food sensitivities over the last 2 years (separate journey); I have even gone to my doctor to check my hormones, adrenal, and thyroid levels – all normal. I’m losing my mind. I leave for Bali July 5th and I got strict with my diet and workouts April 10th. I should be seeing some sort of improvement by now, I feel! I’m getting to the point where I just want to cheat because it’s not like what I’m doing is changing anything anyway… Very frustrating. Got any advice?

  • Megan

    Hi Mike

    I got my blood tested and it shows that I have low t3 syndrome and euthyroid sick syndrome which prevents me from losing weight. Is this something you are familiar with or had a client who had this and could this really be the reason for my weight loss prevention? Or is it really just because I am eating too much or too litttle calories like you said?

    Please advise me on this because I am really confused.

    • If you have hormonal problems, then you’re a different story. Get your medication figured out to regulate your hormones and then apply this guide. Best of luck with your weight loss.

  • Leighanne Galiza Elvena

    Hi! 4 years ago I did insanity and lost 12 pounds and being the newbie to fitness and nutrition back then I gained all the weight back going into college and now i’m trying everything and the scale fluctuates. It took me from Feb-April just to lose 10 pounds and now i’m stuck. Not doing insanity but i’ve just begun lifting weights mostly now and up to 4-6 times a week. I feel like everything in the article is me haha And Nutrition wise, back then I didn’t even follow the insanity nutrition guide and just ate with caution and the weight came off but now that I track or at least try to, I’m not sure what’s going on. Ahhhh.

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