Do This Experiment

Written by Christopher Kelly

June 29, 2015

I'm not a huge fan of counting calories, but at some level they are useful for quantifying the amount of food you eat. If you regularly create a large deficit of calories, your body will respond accordingly by reducing energy expenditure. 

In the worst cases, I've seen (particularly women) eating as few as 800 calories per day and still gaining fat. Not good.

On your blood chemistry

  • Normal or slightly low TSH - say 1 - 1.5 uU/mL
  • Lowish free T4 - say 0.8 - 1 ng/dL
  • Lowish free T3 - say 2.3 - 3 pg/ml

This pattern is called euthyroid sick syndrome, and not eating enough food is not the only thing that can cause it.

How do you know if this you?

Keep a food diary for three days. Life is too short to log food for any longer than this; three days is enough. My favourite app for counting calories, macro and micro nutrients is Cronometer. Enter in a rough estimate of your energy expenditure from movement. For me, this means the energy expenditure from the power meter on my bike in kilojoules. If calories out is hundreds of calories less than calories in, then you may have a problem that needs investigating.

How can this happen?

I'm not completely sure. Our sense of hunger should match energy demands. I will speculate and suggest some reasons why I think this might happen:

  • Willpower, especially willpower in athletes, can overcome hunger. In attempt to lose fat for an upcoming event, calories are willfully restricted.
  • Limiting choice. People tend to eat naturally less food if you limit choice, e.g. an elimination diet like the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol (AIP).
  • High-fat diets are extremely satiating, and people tend to feel a lot less hungry when they eat one. 
  • Supplements, especially ketogenic agents. MCT oil shuts down appetite (and cravings) like nothing else I know. Use with caution.

Now over to you. How many calories per day are you eating? Are you still headed towards a fat-loss goal?

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