I am a 21 year old woman. 5'7 and around 145 pounds. I exercise for at least an hour, 5 days a week, usually with half an hour of cardio followed by half an hour of some form of strength training.
I don't actually care about how much I weigh, but do care about how I look. I especially would like to have a flatter stomach.
I just assumed to do that I needed to eat fewer calories than I burned and the fat would drop off on its own, but now I am reading on this forum about BMR (which I don't completely understand?) and how eating less can also reduce your metabolism, and am realizing that maybe just eating less isn't what I want.
For the last 4 days (my first days on calorie counter) I have consumed between 1200-1400 calories each day, and am having net calories between -700 calories to -1100.
Considering I just want less fat and don't actually care about my actual weight...am I going about this the right way? Can somebody explain BMR to me?
Your BMR is 1,502. That by definition is the average amount of calories a person of your stats would burn in a day to lie in bed whole day. So to start with you do not eat below that. You burn another 20% of that to go about your day to day activity so BMR into 1.2 gives you 1,802.
Your target is to lose a bit of fat around the stomach. Your weight is fine at the present level so you should have only a very low deficit, around 250 or less. You achieve this by eating 1,802. Doing exercise to achieve the 250 burn n if your exercise causes you to burn more you eat more. For exercise you should decrease your cardio n concentrate on weight training as your target is not weight loss. Weight training will help you retain muscles all the while reducing the little fat you have. As a girl you will not really bulk up. Specialy not on a deficit and the natural layer of fat under your skin will prevent any muscle "cuts" showing as it does on a man.
"I just assumed to do that I needed to eat fewer calories than I burned and the fat would drop off on its own, but now I am reading on this forum about BMR (which I don't completely understand?) and how eating less can also reduce your metabolism, and am realizing that maybe just eating less isn't what I want."
You're body needs a certain amount of energy to maintain minimally functioning (breathing, heartbeat, maintain current muscle, etc.), basically what you would burn if you laid in bed all day. This is your BMR. If you don't get this, your body can either get it from other energy sources inside of the body (muscle or fat) or slow down your body functions (i.e. fatigue, slow pulse, low blood pressure, etc.). When people go on extremely low calorie diets, their body can't get enough energy (it can only metabolize fat and muscle at a certain rate so it can't make up the entire deficit) so their metabolism slows down. Also, they may not be getting enough protein and lose muscle, further decreasing metabolism. This is why slow weight loss (~500 calorie deficit or less) is good weight loss. That being said, you don't need to lose weight and you should increase your calories whether or not you want to lose 'vanity pounds'.
Distinguishing fat loss and weight loss is a lot trickier. Since most studies focus on weight and not body fat percentage, I haven't actually seen a lot of research into the area. At best, its the common wisdom of fitness professionals and then you get into high protein low carb (just enough carbs to get you through workouts) diets and strength training>cardio stuff.
Thanks for clearing that up for me, both responses were very helpful!
Its very interesting learning about the BMR and stuff. I always had heard that eating way too little could decrease metabolism but I guess I just assumed I personally couldn't be eating that little, since I really wasn't that hungry even on a 1200 calorie day. Its nice to know the "science" behind it.
I do have one more question though. Both of you mention doing less cardio and more weight training. Is cardio inherently bad for losing body fat, or is it simply not contributing to getting a flatter stomach?
The reason I ask is because I am an athlete, and it is extremely important to me to stay in shape by doing cardio. I am currently in the off season, which is why I am even try to shed some pounds (During the season I am working out 12-14 hours a week not including the monthly tournaments where I play for up to 8 hours a day, and it simply isn't feasible to eat less than I need, because my performance drops). During the off season, I do much less cardio, but I also don't want to lose my fitness entirely since it will make getting back into shape that much harder.
Do you have any suggestions on how I can balance accomplishing my goals and doing weight training while still staying in shape cardio wise? Maybe do cardio and weight training on different days?
As an athlete do you really want to be on a calorie deficit when you are not overweight.
Cardio is actually the faster way to lose weight when you are genuinly overweight. There the trick is to burn as much energy as you can making your body use body fat. But the body also taps into muscle when cardio gets intensive. Which is why there is a lower heart rate for fat burn on treadmills with heart beat tracking. But the end result is more fat burned from cardio. You would still do some weight training to maintain muscle mass.
When you reach levels of low body fat % your body trys to retain some fat. At that point it becomes more important to do weights to maintain n increase muscles to increase body metabolism. One maintains a lower deficit n works away the fat slowly.
As an athlete you would need to continue your cardio but add on weight training too to maintain muscle. I wouldn't keep a deficit to lose a bit of fat n risk effecting performance. But if you do make it minimal.
Well, getting a flatter stomach is all about body fat percentage. If you look at people who try to get that number the lowest (figure competitors), they focus on strength training and diet. However, like you pointed out, they are not training for performance, so you don't necessarily want to follow their program. Also, there are also ways to incorporate cardio and strength training. Stuff like HIIT, sprints, hills, etc. would be a hybrid of cardio and strength.
Also, not being hungry doesn't mean much. When someone starves themselves, they don't feel hungry after awhile. The body is weird like that.