William Grazione

B.S. Exercise Science CEO The Educated Dieter Inc. I am the CEO of The Educated Dieter, Inc., where I work with my team of coaches to provide the highest level of 1 on 1 nutrition coaching available. We also strive to create products and content across all social platforms to further our client’s education which we know will provide them lifelong value.

The 3,500 calorie rule, revisited!

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Hey you! 

Have you ever dieted for fat loss?

If you have I’m sure you have heard of the 3,500 calorie rule. Many personal trainers, nutritionists, and other fitness professionals still use this religiously today.

I can understand why as there are times in fat loss phases that this rule may hold true, but due to the hormonal adaptions that happen during intentional caloric deficit fat loss periods we adapt and plateau. To think about this simply, envision a scale tipping to one side. Your body is no longer in balance and eventually it will level back out! Academia and many academic programs will teach exercise science students about the 3,500 calorie rule and its perceived role in fat loss. The general rule as described in class rooms is simply to create a 3,500 calorie deficit over the course of seven days to burn one pound of fat. Simple! Right?

–> If only it was always that easy…

Using the above, the easiest system for weight loss is created and use by many fit pros. All that is needed is the ability to create a 500 calorie deficit/drop per day from starting energy balance. Energy balance as its defined is simply the relationship “in calories” in from the food you eat and “calories out” from the calories your individual metabolism burns and uses as energy. In “energy balance” you preserve your body weight, no loss, no gain, but preservation over time.

Example: Client 1 is eating 2,000 calories per day, doing 5,000-7,000 steps per day, and working out in a gym four days per week for 1 hour. When you drop your calories by 500 from your balance this will take your “calories in” from 2,000 down to 1,500, this creates an imbalance. Follow that for 7 days and this will create a 3,500 calorie deficit per week and will create a 1 pound drop in fat loss through the energy gap created by the drop in calories. Wouldn’t that be easy if that was the end of the discussion.

–> Early on in my fitness journey, CIRCA 2009 I foolishly thought this was true. 

I’m here to tell you based on the science and our experience it doesn’t work that way, rarely does this weight loss result continue over the course of time yielding miraculous results in body composition with minimal negative side effects. To be blunt, it’s few and far between and if you continue to lower your calories and raise cardio it will create more long term problems that your likely not ready to solve. Let’s dive into exactly why this is. The concept we will discuss is “adaptive thermogenesis” which is your bodies ability to adapt based on survival by adjusting its own temperature gauge and how much you can burn. 

Once you lower “calories in” or raise “calories out” to create the “calorie deficit” your body will continue to operate for a period of time at the higher metabolic level. This is where the 3,500 calorie rule in many cases holds true! However, In time it will adapt and eventually stop or slow down fat loss due to the adaptations from eating less or doing more or both. The primary hormones that make this adaptation occur start with leptin and lead into thyroid down regulation, and increases in stress on the body. 

The 3,500 calorie rule should be taken with a grain of salt as while this can apply in some cases early on within very healthy populations. Trust that the adaptation is coming…

–> When you “eat more calories you burn more calories and when you eat less calories you burn less calories”

The reason for this has all to do with your bodies interpretation of stress starting at your brain. The brain sends signals out to down regulate the hormones that allow you to burn a lot of energy, such as your thyroid, and sex hormones. You’re body, when you diet, has the ability to always be one step ahead of you. It is constantly sending signals throughout your body to elevate or suppress internal functions based on what is being done to it. The ability to THRIVE or SURVIVE is based on how you treat your body. The more extreme the diet, training, and cardio the more consequences. 

Unfortunately metabolic adaptation is a negative consequence that happens to most dieting attempts. Knowing that metabolic adaptation will happen in any fat loss attempt is the first step in learning how to try and stay as healthy as you can while losing body fat!  knowing what influences it will help you better understand how to control it during your next diet.

If you have been dieting for a long time with very few diet changes consider you may be adapted. Low calories, high cardio, and training everyday will not solve your fat loss problem.

–> Top 10 signs your metabolically adapted! 

  1. Weight loss plateaus, despite doing all the right things
  2. Massive reductions in energy availability/ always tired
  3. Reductions in exercise performance, loss of strength, and endurance 
  4. Reductions muscle mass and bone mineral density
  5. Reduced sex drive (fewer erections, and vaginal dryness) 
  6. Reductions in thermic ability, less sweating (feel cold all the time) 
  7. No hunger, even on low calories 
  8. Poor recovery from exercise (wake up very fatigued and sore)
  9. Poor sleep quality (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep/ tossing and turning) 
  10. Poor gut function (GI issues/ bloating/ constipation) 

If your experiencing any of the below, make sure to watch this video on Instagram about carb cycling how it can help.

link to instagram video: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CB29GBUDOBU/

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