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tranquilsea's avatar

Is limiting my caloric intake to 1300 a day with an extremely active lifestyle crazy?

Asked by tranquilsea (17238 points ) May 8th, 2012

I’ve been working out fairly heavily for months and months now. I had wanted to lose about 15 lbs but what I’ve been finding is that the more I exercise the more my weight stays the same even though I’m losing inches. I think I’m just replacing fat with muscle.

I had signed up for a calorie counter and set a goal weight for August and then very soon after forgot about it. I just started using it again and because August is not that far away it set my maximum caloric intake at 1300 calories.

So my question is this: is 1300 calories a day reasonable for an active lifestyle? The last thing I want is to burn out because I’m not taking in enough food.

I also realize that if I start feeling faint I can always eat a bit more.

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29 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Always check with you doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. You doctor would be able to check for any hidden or undiagnosed issues with blood testing. My doctor insists on testing my blood every six month to monitor liver and such.

mrlaconic's avatar

I read someplace once (I will try and find it) that if you are not loosing fat it’s because you are not eating enough fat so before you start your work out everyday take a table spoon of coconut butter or have ½ an avocado on your salad with lunch. This also applies to water – if you struggle with loosing water weight they say they solution is to drink more water.

tranquilsea's avatar

@YARNLADY Thanks. I have checked with him and he’s fine with what I’m doing. I haven’t spoken to him regarding the low calories though.

Part of me is a little interested to see if cutting my calories causes me to lose piles of weight or just get sick and tired.

@mrlaconic That’s interesting. I drink tons of water every day as the level exercise I do demands it. I am losing fat, actually I’ve lost a lot of it. I make sure I get a good amount of healthy fat in my diet.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think you have to see how you feel and trust your body.

I use 10 calories per pound that I weigh as a guideline when I’m trying to lose weight. I try to spread out my eating as much as I can throughout the day. I also try to never be hungry for more than 30 minutes.

So for example if I’m going to eat 5 meals, I’ll eat every 3–4 hours throughout the day but if I get hungry in between then I’ll just note the time and eat my next meal in 30 minutes regardless of how long it’s been. If I “run out” of meals, then I’ll know I need to eat more.

For me, I’m extra hungry after exercise for a few hours, and then less hungry at night, so I slide things around accordingly.

It works well for me, but I would use whatever “rule” you choose as a starting point and adapt it to find what works for you.

boxer3's avatar

what does your exercise consist of?

tranquilsea's avatar

I run 6k three times a week plus all my lower body weights post run which takes about ½ hour. On my off run days I workout my upper body plus some 800 sit ups (timed 5 times 3 minutes). I’ve roughly calculated how many calories I’m burning. On my run days I burn about 800 and on my non-run days I burn about 450.

josie's avatar

1300 is just over subsistence level. If you are truly active, you will burn fat, start producing muscle mass, but then start eating up muscle mass and other stuff too. What is it you are trying to accomplish with this strange exercise? I think you are a heart attack waiting to happen or hormone-less cold fish. Neither one sounds good to me.

boxer3's avatar

In order to lose weight, you need to keep your metabolism running. eat small portions of healthy foods throughout the day. Im not a RD but I am a personal trainer and often times, people’s bodies hold on to the calories they’re consuming because they’re in starvation mode- and not getting enough calories so their metabolism slows right down- and you plateau and begin to fatigue alot more easily. You need to fuel your body for workouts. Generally, I reccommend no less than 1500 calories as a baseline minimum.

Also it’s normal to lose inches and maintaine weight. The number will eventually drop, but right now things in your body are shifting aroun d. TIme takes time. I’d say yes, 1300 calories is far too low.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I’ll 2nd @boxer3 that 1500 calories is a lot safer to work with in order to make sure your body doesn’t feel deprived and retain rather than ease up and let go.

jerv's avatar

For an extremely active lifestyle, yes, it’s crazy. In fact, restricting your caloric intake too much may cause your body to try store fat in case you stop eating entirely which your body may think will happen. Once your body enters “starvation mode”, your body will cling to every calorie you consume whereas those with a more balanced, less restricted diet will have bodies that assume more calories wil be there when needed and thus not store jack.

Other possibilities include too much water (retention), and building too much muscle (are you training for strength, or for tone? I went for tone; less weight, more reps, less speed, more distance…).

FYI, my wife is less active (no gyms, but some long walks) and on a plan that calls for 1200–1550 calories per day. She has lost ~8 pounds this month. As for me, I used to be an avid mountain biker who lost weight whenever I went much under 4000 calories a day, but now that I no longer do that, I maintain weight on ~2500. Note that metabolism also plays a role, and I am somewhat hyper, so I burn more calories just existing than many people.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@tranquilsea The calories you burn with your workouts are in addition to the calories your body burns just to keep functioning on a normal level. Personally, I’d recommend finding out your basal metabolic rate (there are numerous calculators online for this). That will tell you the amount of calories your body burns just doing it’s normal functions. From there, you can calculate your caloric needs based on your activity level (there are also calculators online for this). This calculator combines your BMR and activity level to give you a total at once (instead of doing it separately).

Yes, we need to burn more than we take in to avoid gaining weight, but if you burn too many more than what you would need for weight loss, your body will enter starvation mode (as others have mentioned) and will actually work against your goals of getting healthier overall.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Seaofclouds Good answer.

My point is that changes in exercise and diet affect your liver, kidneys, heart, and not just your weight and size. If you doctor is OK with it, then I don’t see a problem, as long as you follow common sense, as above.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m not married to the 1300 calories. I just found it strange the programme adjusted my caloric intake to 1300. The programme does adjust for how much I work out in one day. So on my run days it’ll add 800 calories to the 1300 and give me 2100 as a goal for the day.

At this point I’m just trying find where my body weight should be given the amount and type of exercise I do.

I’m going to adjust the goal so it tracks to 1500 calories. That seems more reasonable to me as I’ve read all over the internet that you enter into starvation mode at 1200 calories a day. Given that 1300 is a little too close for comfort.

JLeslie's avatar

If your losing inches that sounds good to me.

My advice is, figure out how many calories you eat now, and reduce it by 200 calories a day. It’s mostly a math equation. Calories in – burn with daily activity and exercise = how much a person weighs. Height has nothing to do with it, in that if you and I eat the same calories and burn the same calories we will weigh the same, even if I am half a foot taller. I would just be much skinnier than you. If you cut calories to lose weight, but then a couple of months from now increase calories back, your body will adjust to the weight that amount of calories ends up as. That’s why people gain back weight as soon as they stop dieting.

Losing water weight can be for a couple reasons. The main reason is to keep your electrolytes in balance (salt, potassium, etc). When those get out of whack it is dangerous. When you cut calories, you cut salts coming into your body, so the body has to shed water. This is why the first few days of a diet we lose a lot of water, for the initial adjustment from 3.000 calories a day to 1600.

If you are a runner, you don’t want to skimp too much on calories, or carbs for that matter. You don’t want to easily hit “the wall.”

tranquilsea's avatar

@JLeslie I’ve re-worked my workouts so I don’t hit that wall while running. The only thing I can eat before a run is a bowl of oatmeal which eliminates side cramps for me. The oatmeal also keeps me full for hours.

I’ve been working green smoothies into my diet to get a super vitamin kick plus I eat a banana a day as my potassium levels do tend to dip.

Where my diet could get better is eating every 2 to 3 hours. Currently, I eat 2 or 3 times a day as I am pretty busy.

JLeslie's avatar

@tranquilsea 2–3 times a day and every 2 hours is a huge difference. Side cramps is probably not a signal of you hitting the wall, the wall would involve severe fatigue. The wall is a depletion of glycogen in the body (you probably know this) I think for the average person it equals about 1500 calories, or about a days worth of carbs. You probably don’t come close with a 5 mile run if you eat a normal diet. Runners actually can up their storage limits. But, if you are limiting calories, especially carbs you might deplete faster. Once you use up all your glycogen the body goes to burn fat and protein to get the energy you need. Since you are running it will be mostly fat, because you have demand on your muscles, at least your leg muscles, other muscles are up for grabs. This is true in any diet situation, Atkins is an example of forcing the body to go to fat and protein storage by depleting carbs. When glycogen storage is full to capacity the body stores the rest of the carbs we consume as fat. Everyone says carbs make us fat like it is a new idea, but really, the science has not changed much on this from what I can tell, overeating makes us fat, and the body can ony store so many carbs in the muscle and liver, before it has to go to our hips. :) Oatmeal is probably a good idea, anything with carbs before you run.

Dutchess_III's avatar

How tall are you? 1300 sounds fine to me. (Why would you need to eat every few hours? What’s wrong with 3 times a day?)

boxer3's avatar

@Dutchess_III, eating every couple of hours keeps your metabolism working more readily.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hm. Well, if you don’t eat meat and just eat fruits and veggies like a herbivore, such as a cow or a horse eats, I can see eating that often.

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III Actually, it’s about portion sizes too; it’s not like you eat full-sized meals every time. Like, if you consider a ¼-pound burger to be a meal, one of those McDonalds Value Menu burgers (only 1/8-pound patties) would be a mini-meal, or you eat half a cold cot grinder instead of the whole thing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would consider a quarter pound burger to be two meals, actually. That’s a lot of meat, a lot of calories, a lot of energy. It would get me through most of the day. What is a “cold cot grinder?

jerv's avatar

@Dutchess_III You must have a far lower calorie requirement than I do; between my activity level and metabolism, a quarter-pounder often leaves me hungry unless I pile on three strips of bacon and have some sort of side.

I used to eat far more back in my younger days; my base metabolism was calculated at ~3600 calories, and I managed to maintain a weight of 152 pounds (+/-5 pounds) for over 20 years despite eating about twice as much as a normal person.

As for the grinder, that was a typo. It should have been “cold cut”. Some call it a sub, some a hero… The ones from Subway are anemic, but Jersey Mike’s makes one big enough that I actually can get two meals out of their big one. When I go out for Mexican, I am good for half of one of these; only $9.95 at Gorditos.

Needless to say, I think that that illustrates how highly variable calorie requirements can be. I can maintain (or slowly lose) weight even eating the way I do, what with the six-pack of Pepsi and half a box of Cheez-its I consume throughout the workday in addition to normal-sized meals. I eat far healthier at home, but still in large portions.

JLeslie's avatar

A McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese is about 500–550 calories (can’t remember exactly) without the cheese less obviously. It isn’t crazy high in calories. If you add fries and a coke you start getting up there.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@JLeslie It’s about ⅓ of the daily requirement for the average woman. You’re right. If people were aware of what they were eating, and compensating for it at other meals, it isn’t crazy high. But most people don’t. They’ll pack on ¾ths of the day ‘s worth of calories at one meal at McDonalds (which is NOT McDonald’s fault)....and do it again at dinner, and again the next morning at breakfast.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III About. Mine is a little higher as I am 5’6” and do some exercise. I can eat around 2,000 a day and maintain a weight I like. I would agree most women are probably between 1600 and 1800 to maintain a good weight. I also agree most people eat more calories than just a quarter pounder, they do add the fries and a coke. People need to become more aware of the calories they consume.

More than just the calories, fat content, cholesterol, etc. I have a girlfriend who wants to watch her cholesterol intake. We were having a conversation, a few of us, at dinner one night ablout fast food, and this friend said she can’t eat it because of her cholesterol, and then she ordered a cheese plate as an appetizer and duck for her entree. Has to have about triple the cholesterol than a quarterpounder combo meal if I were to guess. Either she was clueless, or just prefers to cheat at the fancy restaurant and not at fast food (which I am fine with, we all can make choices when to “cheat” with foods we love now amd then). I lean towards she was clueless though, because she didn’t bother to say soething like, “If I am going to eat high cholesterol foods it is on a food I really like, and am willing to bend the rules.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a miserable dinner the other night….it was supposed to be cornbread and beans. I made the beans myself, the corn bread came from the jail. Long story short, I completely F’d up the beans! I ate, maybe, 100 calories of the mess and gave up. I tried to eat the other piece of cornbread I had…did I mention it was from the jail? BLEH! (I think they go out of their way to take perfectly good stuff and make it nasty.) That was my dinner, so I didn’t eat again that day. I told one of my coworkers about the mess, and her response was, “Well, that gives you a reason to have a really YUMMY desert tonight! You can spend the next three days making up for that!!” No.

jerv's avatar

Now I wonder how many calories are in a Gordito’s wet style Burrito Grande (the baby-sized one in the pic I linked above)...

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’ll count ‘em….
Sour cream: 300 calories
Cheese, just on the outside, 300 calories
Tortillia 200 calories
Broth..not sure. Depends on how much of it is grease. Lets call it 250
Baby 900 calories.
Lettuce 0 calories
So just the outside (not counting the baby) is about 1050 calories. I don’t know what’s inside, and that’s probably where MOST of the calories are. I’m betting 600. Grand probable total 1650 calories
Man, it sure looks good though!!

Now, to google….I can’t find it specifically. But here is a website labeling calories specifically found in Mexican food. Since I’ve never really seen one, I can’t really estimate the amount.

But it sure looks good!!!

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