Nutrition Guru's I need your help. Struggling w/ weight yet net negative daily

I started wearing my Garmin 945 watch 24/7 this month and started tracking my food intake in MyFitnessPal mid month as I’ve been struggling with weight for the last year. Quick facts: I’m 35yr male, 225.3#, ridden 5500mi this year (Usually average 4500/yr), run 2x/week 8-10mi (used to be 3-4x 20+mi, damn plantar fasciitis), and haven’t been able to swim since the second week of March (COVID closed our pool), FTP of 330, resting HR of mid 40’s, max HR of 170 (CX racing). I eat clean; not much processed, very little sweets/sugar, lean meats, organic and grass-fed whenever possible, gluten free due to an intolerance, but admittedly I haven’t had a salad all month but I do eat fruit and veggies daily but anyone who’s not vegan could probably eat more fruit/veg daily.

So far this month since Oct 12th I’m NET -19,000 calories per my tracking and garmin’s calories burned figures yet in that same time my weight is unchanged. Overall this month I’m +3.7#. Below is my spreadsheet showing this months daily calories, macros, and weight. Thoughts? I’d like to get back down to 200 if not lower. Thanks for the input.

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How long have you been restricting calories for? Since the 12th of October? Have you been trying to lose weight for longer but just started calorie counting?

I’m in the same boat and trying to iron down where the issue is. I’m assuming, like me, you don’t violate the laws of thermodynamics, and to lose weight calories in must be less than calories out. So to me that means 1) calorie in total is wrong, 2) calorie out calculation or total is wrong, or 3) both are wrong.

For 1: Calorie information on packaged goods is allowed to be off up to 20% and its not like foods are being randomly sampled by the FDA to verify they are within that range. It might also be worthwhile reviewing labels and make sure that the macros and overall calories match up as they might not always. It might be worth weighing a serving to make sure it is close to the listed serving size. I basically don’t trust any information from restaurants, there is no way the chef is measuring what goes into every meal so that is a challenge to get accurate. Are you weighing everything as the meal is being made? Eyeballing volumes results in underestimations. As much as I enjoy it, I will probably stop getting fresh bread from the bakery as it is much harder to figure out actual calorie content. Do you meal prep? I find that makes it easier as I just need to weigh and calculate calories once. Are you weighing and logging every snack? That is one of my current issues… Are you logging cooking oils, butter, etc. and non-stick cooking sprays?

For 2: My fitbit hugely overestimates my daily calorie burn. I cannot speak to garmin, but I stopped using calorie burn estimates from my fitbit. Every time use the fitbit for calories out (+ burn from cycling / power meter) I gain weight. When I’m trying to bulk down I use a TDEE calculator with a sedentary activity level + calories burned from riding as my initial maintenance and then start reducing from there. The sedentary TDEE + cycling burn number is much lower than my fitbit estimate. I’ve also started to use zwift calorie burn estimate instead of TRs as the zwift number is maybe 8% lower.

For 3: I think that is my current problem. There are a couple of foods that I don’t have good calorie estimates for and I am likely underreporting intake (in addition to some off the record snacking) and suspect my burn is inflated, which is not a good combination.

Compare your kJ value from your power meter to the calories from Garmin.

Generally Garmin and every service that uses heart rate to calculate calories will way overestimate your caloric burn.

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I say eat less. Unless u have a major underlying issues its calories in calories out. Trust the scale more than nutrition labels or what your garmin says. If u aren’t losing weight u need more of a deficit. I would drop 500 calories a week until u find a spot your losing healthy. Then just use that as a baseline for the deficit u need based on your garmin. It might say your in a 1500 calorie deficit but if your losing a pound a week ur really only in 700 calorie. Trust the scale and adjust from there

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Contrary to what most people think it’s not always as simple as calories in calories out. The body is a complex system and if your body is feeling stressed or your hormones are out of whack it can absolutely cause issues with weight loss.

I’m not sure how long you’ve been tracking intake but I’ve seen this happen (and been there) with those who chronically underfeed or underfuel their work.

I would try focusing your caloric intake around exercise. Ensure you’re feeling the work and eating enough to recover the calories burned. Your deficit can come through the rest of the day. Emphasize protein and take in just the carbohydrate needed to do the work.

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It is as simple as calories in vs calories out. If you know better, a Nobel prize is awaiting you. The problem can be estimating both of these numbers, as earlier posters have mentioned.

One other thing to keep in mind. If you are doing 100W of work, the rule of thumb is your body is actually doing 4 times that amount of work. Depending on your efficiency it could be higher or lower than that. I find that efforts near FTP or above seem to be less efficient for me. i.e. burn more energy.

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If you know it is as simple as calories in vs calories out you also deserve a Nobel prize.

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Are you starving all the time? If you truly had -1000 to -2000 calorie days, you’d be starving.

My thoughts:

If you aren’t really hungry for the next meal then you aren’t restricting enough.

For an athlete, it seems like your grams of protein intake is kind of light. I believe that for athletes you could be eating up to 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight. That would be closer to 200 grams of protein per day. I just read a study about losing weight and maintaining muscle - they upped protein to around 3 grams per kg while running a large calorie deficit and the subjects maintained muscle mass and lost body fat.

Your Garmin’s calories burned is probably way off.

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By your screen name, are you a physician, if so what type. As a retired general surgeon, I finally know how much chronic stress there was during my active career. If your day job is high stress, you may be overproducing cortisol which for sure is going to make weight loss harder.

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I’d probably use yor current calorie intake as a baseline and try to build your metabolism up by upping daily calories by 100-200 kcal/week.

You are going to have really bad time at the end if you have to start from 1500 kcal to lose weight.

Also, I’d use a food scale, up the protein and probably ignore Garmin’s calorie coubt most of the time.

I hear this sort of thing a lot and I think people are talking about two different areas.

The “not as simple as CICO” are thinking of

  • body composition
  • energy levels
  • long term health

The CICO is only thinking of

  • weight change (excluding dehydration)

That’s where the third law of thermodynamics comes in and the comment about if you can disprove it, then you deserve a Nobel prize.

So if you’re thinking of body fat %, energy levels, and long term health it’s not as simple as CICO.

But if you’re are talking about simple weight change, then it’s CICO and has been proven.

The other part that grinds my gears is that one person mentions weight loss and the other starts taking about fat loss.

They aren’t the same thing. And losing mostly fat and minimal muscle can be finessed with diet changes past CICO…but the CICO crowd is only talking about weight change…

/end rant

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Looking at that spreadsheet, I think your overall weight change figure is a bit misleading, because you seem to have an unusually low datapoint at the start of the month, and an unusually high datapoint at the end of the month. You’d probably get a better idea if the overall trend if you plotted those points and looked at the trendline (or just replace the sum of changes by the regression gradient in that overall cell). Eyeballing it, I think your net change is more like +1#, or a bit less. Still not where you want to be, off course!

Also looking at the weight data, the biggest drops in weight seem to follow days with exceptionally high calorie deficits, which makes me suspect the is actually water loss associated with glycogen loss from exercise. Or it could just be low weight of food eaten. In any case, it doesn’t look like its consistant change, it comes back over the next days.

My suspicion is that your ‘calories in’ figure is wrong, probably due to the reasons others named above. Some days say they are around 1500, and tbh you’d feel that, especially if also working out.

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Garmin is over reading calories burned for sure.

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Yep 100% agree. I broke my #1 rule on the internet, “don’t post on weight loss threads”

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You missed the point. The body is a complex system and during stress or when your hormonal system is disregulated things don’t happen as you’d expect.

Hypothyroidism is a fantastic example of this. These people will gain weight almost no matter what they do.

The body will upregulate and downregulate different systems. If it’s stressed chronically from something like underfeeding from chronic exercise then you will absolutely see difficulty losing weight even with a “deficit”.

Have you ever heard of downregulation of metabolism from crash dieting? Where a person’s metobolic rate is hundreds of calories below where you’d expect? Most of time it will not bounce back without deliberate work to ensure it does so without rebounding in weight. And no this is not accounted for by weight loss. Fat is relatively metabolically inexpensive anyway.

So while yes in the terms of physics it is calories in calories out. BUT calories in isn’t as simple as counting calories and calories out cannot be properly estimated if the body is not functioning properly. Quality and type of food matter here too. Not all calories are created equal unlike what the media would commonly like you to believe.

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Nate you are correct. I was looking at this from a fat loss perspective. Totally agreed that not all weight lost is equal and preserving lean mass should be a priority for anyone.

My point. Is that calories out cannot always be counted on to where you’d expect in the presence of some sort of chronic stress like undereating and endurance exercise.

I only go down this rabbit hole because I’ve been there. And yes I religiously tracked calories, weighed everything, tracked exercise, steps etc. The deficit didn’t matter I couldn’t get below a certain level. I’ve seen friends experience similar issues.

There is plenty of evidence out there of others experiencing this. Matt Dixon of purple patch even mentions in his book seeing exactly this in athletes he coaches.

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I don’t think you should be worried about a 2# difference. That could be water retention from Eating something salty. Also I have a Garmin watch and although the calories are sometimes close to what I eat. I don’t take it to be what I should be eating. You should try to learn to listen to your body and not rely on your watch dictating how many calories you should eat a day. Also if you’re gaining weight you’re eating to much plain and simple. With all this technology out here some people rely on it too much. I many times eat 1000 more calories than what my watch says. My weight has been pretty consistent too.

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In the UK food labelling regarding calories and nutrition can legally have a margin of error of 20%. Seriously

Forget algorithms that “measures” your calorie expenditure. They are not accurate. To be certain of the power/calories you are expending you need a power meter. Everything is just noise.

Listen to your body and bring in some basic behaviours, the majority of your plate should be vegetables (50%) with a certain percentage of protein and carbs. Eat slowly and until your full and fine tune your portion size accordingly.

Above everything, treat your experience to date as a learning curve and keep your focus on where you want to be as it’s easy to write the whole thing off and undo the hard work to date.

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Off and on all summer with really no change. It started getting cold here at the end of Sept and I decided it was time to really focus on this.