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Guest rosebette

Newcomer -- How low should I go?

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Guest rosebette

I have been reading about the CR diet for a while. I am 55 years old, female, and have been calorie and macronutrient tracking with MyFitnessPlan. I am 5'1.5", weight 120, and am eating 1200 right now, and I "eat back" exercise calories. I'm fairly active, teaching at a large campus, where I do a lot of walking, as well as working out 3-5 times a week, with at least 2 one hour sessions of strength training. At this point, I am not losing any weight at all and am beginning to wonder if 1200 or even lower is my maintenance. I'm also concerned about becoming obese when I reach the point where I can't exercise as much as I do now, and CR looks like a good way to keep calorie intake low but track nutrients. I've been using the online cronometer for a few days and so far, nutritionally, I'm in pretty good shape.

 

My question is that my BMR is pretty low -- some sources say around 1500 figuring in an activity level of a non-sedentary, lightly active person Others have me as low as 1100. If I have to eat 30% less than my BMR, that would put me under 1000 calories a day. Would this be safe? Also, my other question is of course whether I can maintain my current level of activity on that low a limit. Right now, at 1200, I usually need to eat back some of the calories I burn exercising; 1200 is the net, but I might be eating closer to 1500.

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Hi Rosebette,

 

The amount of calorie restriction is very individual to each person. It can vary a lot, so you shouldn't expect anyone to give you an answer that means a whole lot. You really need to experiment with your calorie consumption rates over time and find what works for you. As little as 10% restriction over a diet that would keep you at a lean weight would often result in some beneficial CR results. Nobody really does much more than 30 - 35% over the long term since that is very difficult on a daily basis. My wife is a little shorter than you, about the same age and about 90 lbs +/- 3 lbs. When she feels she is heavier than normal, she will cut back her calories to about 850 for a couple of days only. Her usual maintenance calories are around 1000 - 1100. However as I mentioned earlier your experience could be wildly different from this. Once you drop below 1200 or so calories, it becomes progressively more difficult to meet all your nutrient targets with food alone and one must supplement in order to maintain good health. Over the years my wife has found that when she drops below 85 lbs of body weight, her motivation and energy drops considerably even when she has good nutrition. Also she will feel like she should cut back some when she hits about 95 lbs. You'll likely have to experiment and find out what high and low limits work for you. We're lucky that we don't have any issues with eating disorders or anything like that, but if one did have such issues, you should be extra vigilant. We typically look at BMI targets as a warning sign and prefer to stay at the bottom end of the BMI normal range (18.5 - 25). My wife is small boned, so can get away with a BMI of 18. I'm more medium frame, so my BMI is around 20.

 

Both my wife and myself are in great shape according to our medical tests, so we must be doing something right.

 

Oh, also regarding compensating calories for exercise - the science in animals shows that groups with (CR) and (CR+Exercise) live just about the same and that it was only the amount of CR that determined max lifespan. There was no compensating for exercise calories burned. So with that in mind, most people just don't compensate or perhaps very little extra calories. For example I burn 720 calories when I run for 50 minutes. I do not eat an extra 720 calories, instead maybe 50 - 100 calories more and often not even that. I find that exercise often makes me less hungry in the short term. So my net calories for the day are 1750 - 720 = 1030 which is pretty small for a 6'2" guy who just ran 6 miles.

 

Good luck with your CR, Rosebette and keep that high nutrition going strong!!

Edited by keithsct

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Guest rosebette

Thanks for your reply. I am finding that I like the cronometer because it really tells me how many nutrients I am getting and it helps me plan my meals and snacks later in the day to get it all the micronutrients. I have set my calorie limit to around 1040, but I have not been able to manage without "eating back" exercise calories. I am often famished to the point of dizziness after working out since I have dropped to a net of below 1200 a day. I need to eat a small snack after a workout, typically a 1/2 cup of yogurt and some fruit. The cronometer actually subtracts exercise calories from the calories for the day, so it does in effect allow for "eating back." There's no way I could survive on 850 calories a day, and I don't think going below a BMI of 18 is going to be a problem with me, since I'm not losing any weight at this point, or if I am, losing very slowly, maybe less than .5 a week. Below 18 BMI would be less than 104 lbs., a weight I haven't seen since college days, and not a weight I would want to see. I have larger bones (I wear a size 8 shoe, for example, pretty big for such a little gal), and some muscle mass; when I was at 104, I was sickly and weak. If the purpose is to live long and be healthy, I think going to that weight for me might be more on the anorexic side.

 

I have a correspondent on another nutrition website counseling me against sacropenia, which is the muscle wasting that occurs during the aging process. Apparently, if I reduce calories too low so that I am not eating sufficient protein or do not have the necessary energy to do resistance training, I would be at risk of this aging disease. Since my father ended up in a nursing home as a result of this condition, I definitely need to be cautious.

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Guest kiku

I'm brand new here - stumbled across you guys while surfing for low cal recipes in the NYT archives, and found their excellent long article - and am so delighted to have found it! I'm 63 and have been watching my weight all of my life, so I know my body very well. I'm 5'4, small-boned,  and feel best at @115 - 117 pounds; very nutrition conscious. Cronometer is just a part of everyday life for me. I almost never make the DMR (I know a lot about what's in everything and eat whole foods, lots of vegetables, fruit, a little fish and poultry, sardines!, and nominal grains, dairy, nuts, etc.) but I try to spread deficiencies around and I take supplements. (I'm currently knocking off 7 pounds; that's about as bad as it ever gets). Seems to be working out fine; I've spent a lifetime figuring out what works and what doesn't.

Thing is, when I've picked up a few pounds, which I do now and then, it's a simple fact that I won't lose any weight at all if I go over 900-1000 calories a day unless I exercise feverishly, which I don't. I lose about a pound a week at that rate (sometimes lower - I actually feel fine at 850, though I get the munchies a bit) , and if I go over 1100 or 1200 pounds for long I slowly but very surely gain. My maintainance requirement is @1100. I'm quite comfortable with that and never feel starved or weak in any of those ranges. I gain when I've gotten into the fun of higher calorie food, and catch it before it gets out of hand. I'm quite healthy. Never been bulemic or anorectic in the slightest - I just feel uncomfortable and sluggish if I weigh too much.

What's wonderful about these studies is the validation. Doctors have told me that I must consume at least 1200 a day or I'll be malnourished, my adult children think that calorie counting is passe and speculate that I have an eating disorder, friends are horrified at how little I eat and I actually keep my little regimin a secret rather than argue. Most of them do virtually anything rather than count calories when they want to knock off weight, and they actually don't succeed much. I've chalked my own somewhat austere requirements up to terrible metabolism but really, I've learned over the years that if I try to "speed it up" by consuming more calories and working out a lot, I just gain weight. I love my food and am used to shopping and cooking this way; not really a hardship.

 

The only time Imy weight ever stabilized at 1200 or even more was when I was running miles and miles a day. My age (and a bum knee, and at this point, firm preference) eliminate that option. I'm retired, chillin', exercising moderately and not running marathons of any sort, emotional or physical. Glad to know that I don't need to break my neck in order to live long.

 

I hadn't known about the ageing studies, or that there are others who feel like we really don't need all of those calories, and I'm just very pleased with myself! for sticking to my guns. I'm sure that there's lots more to learn, adjustments to be made, and I'll haunt the website from now on - I really do need to know more about how to counter risks.

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Hi Guest_kiku,

 

By "DMR," do you mean "Dietary Reference Intake" (DRI — ≈RDA)? You really ought to shoot for getting all of your essential nutrients from food, using nutrition software and tweaking your diet: if there's one rule of thumb we've learned from the last couple of decades of supplement trials, it's that supplements can't replace the full spectrum of nutrients present in the whole foods for which they are markers in terms of disease risk. And CR animals' longevity advantage seems to be enhanced in the context of a more "natural" vs. a "defined" (totally chemically isolated) diet. I do understand that you are not just eating junk and adding supplements to make up deficiencies, but your diet will likely be improved overall the more you work to make it diverse and complete.

 

Also (and this is for rosebette, too): please do me and you and everyone on the Forum a favor: register on the Forums and log in each time before you post! It's fine if you want to use a pseudonym, but registering and logging in will ensure that you can't be impersonated and will make it easier to keep track of your questions, input, and progress.

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I completely relate to Kiku's food consumption parameters. I am also 5"4 and feel best at 114, BMI of 19. I can consume 1000 calories a day and lose but only 1200 to maintain. Period. I exercise every day and I never adjust calorie intake based on exercise. It is already factored in for me. I just joined CR Society today because I want to have the support of other individuals with the same health focused goal where food consumption is concerned. My Dad died of Cancer and my Mother's side from Heart disease. I am wellness focused. I want to proactively decrease my risk factors by eating a nutritionally sound diet, 360 days of the year. (yes, 5 days of holiday or birthday cheating) I am a Whole Foods and Farmer's Market buyer to ensure organically fresh food products. 

 

I invite any member of this CR Society who wants to support and be supported with this personal healthy eating goal to reach out so we can do this together. It is NOT easy to make good food choices every meal of every day. We need to stick together. I am glad I found this organization. 

We can do this!

 

Linda

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