A common rule that is ubiquitous in the diet and nutrition community is that if you cut your calories by 3500 Kcal below your energy needs over a certain period that you will lose 1 pound of fat. But is it actually true?
While it may be true that there is approximately 3500 Kcal in one 1 pound of fat it is not true that you will lose 1 lbs of weight or fat by decreasing your intake by that amount. This is especially true over a longer period of time.
Why is this the case?
First of all the rule doesn't take into account the energy you expend when digesting certain foods. Some foods like sugar require little processing or energy expenditure in the process of digestion while others like protein sometimes require a significant amount.
There is also the fact that as you lose weight your body makes adjustments as well. This typically means that you will have to decrease your caloric intake even further to see the same reduction in weight. This fact may partially explain the "plateau" phenomena that people typically experience. In addition, the energy needs of your body will decrease as your weight decreases which makes further caloric reductions necessary.
It is also the case that weight loss in most people is accompanied by muscle loss in addition to loss of fat. This means that the amount of fat lost is typically less than anticipated. Incorporating exercise/strength training may help avert this.
The Mayo Clinic Caloric Calculator is one example of a good tool to use if you are looking to see how your caloric needs will change based on your weight and activity levels.
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