In the space of a fortnight, I have had two male clients, Maurice and Will, frustrated at not being able to shift fat. The similarities were uncanny. Both were in their fifties with stressful jobs and both were exercising pretty hard regularly with a mix of weights and HIIT and eating a “clean” diet of freshly-made low-carb meals.
While we all respond very differently to food and exercise plans, a regime like that works well for many Bodyscan clients, so I was initially curious why they were still carrying relatively high fat.
The reason soon became clear.
As the two men’s circumstances were so similar, let’s just look at Maurice’s numbers.
His fat mass index (fat mass divided by height-squared) of 8.9 and body fat percentage of 30.1% put him in the 85th percentile in the fat stakes. Not a good place to be. Not only that but his fat ratios were all very high, above the 90th percentile (likely caused by his stressful, cortisol-increasing, belly-fattening job), leading to an “increased risk” level of visceral fat.
It wasn’t until we put his numbers into the Bodsycan calculator that the problem was immediately obvious - Maurice (and Will) was drastically under-eating.
With a ‘moderately active’ profile, Maurice’s maintenance energy requirement is estimated at 2461 calories. A ‘standard’ 20% deficit for gradual, sustainable fat loss would be 1970 calories. Maurice was eating only 1200 calories. That is only three-quarters of his RESTING calorie requirement!
With such little fuel coming in, Maurice’s body will do everything it can to store energy (ie, hold on to fat) and rid itself of anything that burns energy (calorie-intensive muscle).
The saddest thing about Maurice’s dilemma was his doctor’s take on the situation: “If you keep on reducing your calories you must eventually lose fat.” When you hear statements like that it’s no surprise that most GPs are still using BMI and weight to assess health.
To lose fat, both men need to close the gap between their maintenance calories and what they’re actually eating so their bodies switch out of famine mode and relinquish fat stores. It’ll also help them maintain and increase muscle mass, which is almost certainly not happening now.
So if you’re having the same problem as Maurice and Will, take a longer look at what (and how much) you’re eating and check that your calories deficit is not too big. Drastically slashing calories is counter-productive.