21 Mar The Magic Of Maintenance Calories For Fat Loss.
Maintenance calories for fat loss is an option.
Yes you read that right.
You may think there’s only two options when it comes to setting up your nutrition:
- Go into a calorie deficit and lose fat
- Go into a calorie surplus and gain muscle
In this article I’m going to show you that there’s a third option: maintenance for fat loss (and muscle gain).
It works and in my opinion, it’s a great option at the START of your fitness journey.
The Magic Of Maintenance Calories For Fat Loss
You might get confused when I tell you to “just eat at maintenance.”
You’ll tell me “but I need a calorie deficit because I want to lose my belly fat.”
That is incorrect.
You might think you can only maintain your current body on maintenance calories.
The truth is, there’s so much progress to be made at maintenance especially if you fall into the following categories:
- Beginner to weight training
- Beginner to following a structured program
- Not yet reached your strength potential
- Skinny fat
If you’re overweight and find the whole dieting thing overwhelming there’s also no harm in starting at maintenance and simply adding 3-4 weight training sessions to your week.
You’ll still recomp, meaning you’ll lose some body fat whilst you build muscle. Once you find the working out part easy, you can focus on your nutrition and go into a deficit to lose weight.
You don’t have to nail everything at once, especially if you find it overwhelming. Start small and integrate the right habits one by one. You’ll find it much easier and be able to stick to the process for longer leading to better results.
How Can Fat Loss Happen At Maintenance?
This is effectively body recomposition and I’ve written about it before here.
Your body is dynamic. Even if you eat the same thing every single day you don’t always use the same amount of energy. Some days you might end up in a small deficit, some days you might be in a small surplus. At any given moment in time you might be in an energy deficit or an energy surplus.
Yes you do need to be in a calorie deficit for fat loss to happen physiologically. This doesn’t mean you need to be aiming to eat in a calorie deficit each day.
You can aim to eat at your maintenance calories and still end up in a deficit on some days to lose fat.
Make sure you’re taking your measurements and progress pictures. This is where fat loss will show up. The scale will likely stay the same. In some cases it might even go up (even though you’re losing body fat).
You might’ve heard that body recomposition isn’t good because it takes too long. It does take a long time. So does going through a proper bulk and cut cycle to change your body.
No matter what, real transformation takes time.
If you think your journey is going to be a 12 week to 6 month thing, you’re wrong. Depending on where you want to get to, it’s likely going to be a lot longer. Think years, not months.
If you can spend a decent amount of time at the easiest place with food- maintenance- why wouldn’t you start there?
The more patient you are, the better your results will be.
Change takes more time than anyone would like but that’s not a bad thing.
You have time! This is a whole other topic worthy of it’s own article but you don’t need to wait until you’re at your dream body to be happy. You can be happy and enjoy your life through the process.
You can’t rush sustainable fat loss. Don’t do what everyone else does and get impatient.
A calorie deficit may seem like it’s the fastest way. In some cases yes it makes sense. In so many cases it’s actually slowing you down.
The Benefits Of Starting At Maintenance Calories For Fat Loss
If you need more convincing, here’s a summary of why you should start at maintenance:
- You don’t have to worry about dealing with hunger
- More flexibility with your food choices
- You’ll build some decent muscle
- Don’t have to worry about gaining body fat
- You might end up using more energy and losing weight (yes this happens)
- It’s the easiest place to adjust from
- Your training will be more enjoyable
- The process will feel easier
- Your body will respond better to a deficit in the future especially if you’ve spent your entire life trying to eat as little food as possible
Maintenance: I Tried It And It Didn’t Work For Me
If your waist is NOT going down whilst eating at maintenance then check out this article here.
It usually comes down to a few reasons:
- You’re not training properly, even though you think you are. This is very common!
- You’re not actually eating at maintenance (you’ve estimated your calories wrong or you’re tracking wrong, or maybe you’re scared to eat that much because it feels like too much food)
- You’re actually underweight and need to focus on building muscle
How To Work Out Your Maintenance Calories For Fat Loss
There’s so many calorie calculators out there.
They’ll all give you a slightly different number for your maintenance calorie requirements.
You need to pick one and test it. The calorie calculators online give estimates only. You need to eat at the amount it gave you to really see if that’s your maintenance, then adjust according to your progress.
You can download the guide on my homepage for help with working out your maintenance calories. That’s got the calculator I prefer to use.
Overall, I’d recommend one that works out your BMR and then multiplies that by an activity factor. I wouldn’t use one of the formulas where you multiply your body weight by a number (body weight x12 for example).
Also note, it’s common to overestimate how active you are. If you’re unsure, start on the lower end of the activity multiplier. You can always increase from there if you find you’re losing weight.
If you’re already tracking your food and know that your body weight is staying stable, then that is your maintenance calorie intake! What I see often is you’ll be eating far less than what your maintenance calories should be based on a calorie calculator, but you won’t be making progress. In this case you need to fix your training and then slowly build calories up to what your perceived maintenance should be. If this is you I’d recommend getting some professional help to get you on track.
Yes Maintenance Calories For Fat Loss Works
Let me show you what can happen if you train properly and start at maintenance.
Meet my client Maddy.
Maddy spent her first year working with me eating at maintenance.
She never worried about her weight, in fact she didn’t worry about anything other than learning how to train properly and getting super strong. These were her results from a year of doing this.
The other important thing to note about Maddy’s journey is that she didn’t have a finish line in mind.
Yes she wanted to get results and she did. But she never put pressure on herself to achieve them by a certain date. She ate food to fuel her, trained hard and enjoyed her life. The results came naturally. And they can for you too.
I love body recomposition as a process. If you’re feeling stuck and have only ever tried to get the fastest results possible, give the slow and sustainable option a go. It will make your journey easier, and you’ll likely get somewhere you’re proud of.
If you’d like some help with your fat loss journey, feel free to reach out here.