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weight lifting and maintenance calories

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I have been maintaining my weight with 5 to 6 days of cardio and around 1700 calories on those days, probably a little more since I don't weigh my food.  I do close to an hour of cardio that includes a cool down, so when I set myself to sedentary and add in the cardio it used to come to around 1700 burned in a day, before they changed the calculator.  Now it is less, but the 1700 seems to be working.  On days or the one day of the week that I don't do cardio I eat a little under 1500.

I now want to start doing some weight lifting.  I plan on starting out with 3 days a week, at 20 minutes to gradually get myself into it, using 5 lb weights and exercises from exercise TV.  

So, here's my question.  I want to continue to maintain my weight, but on days that I do strength, I will only be doing 35 minutes of cardio.  Do I need to lower my calories in order to maintain my weight since I will no longer be burning as much with 25 less minutes of cardio until I actually build up some muscle?

Thank you  

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It is funny because more often than not, people actually need to eat more instead of less. When you are extremely active, and you limit your caloric intake, your body turns to using muscle for energy. That is exactly what you don't want. Building lean muscle is the best way to lose bodyfat and transform your body overall. For a long time, I was only getting 2000 calories a day, and my doctor actually told me that I should be getting at least 3000 with the amount of exercise I was doing every week. So while you may be maintaining your weight from all the cardio you are doing, you may be doing so by losing muscle. Especially if you aren't eating enough to go with all the exercise you are doing.  As long as you lift weights consistently, and eat the right types of foods, you can use more calories through out the day to build lean muscle and transform the way your body works. From what I have discovered, it is more about what you are eating, then how many calories.

I would recommend lifting 3-4 times a week, and cutting back on the cardio. By doing so much cardio, you actually risk losing muscle, which is what you don't want to happen. Cardio is a component of fitness, but it is one that people often spend too much time on. I used to do cardio 5-6 days a week as well for at least 45 minutes or more per session. I was able to maintain my weight, but my bodyfat never dropped and I lost muscle in the process. If you have a good nutrition program, lift weights consistently, and do the right type of cardio with reduced frequency, you will get much better results then spending 5-6 hours a week on cardio.

I would say to do two days a week of steady state cardio for 20-30 minutes after lifting and then two days a week of HIIT cardio (High Intensity Interval Training) on non lifting days. A great routine is doing a three minute warm up, sprinting for 15-20 seconds, walking briskly for 40-60 seconds, and then continuing to switch back and forth between sprinting and walking for 15-20 minutes. Then you do a five minute cool down. You get a far superior cardiovascular workout with HIIT, and it is geared more towards sparing muscle, and attacking bodyfat. Plus, since you are always changing speeds/intensity, you don't get bored and your body doesn't adapt.

I second what vyperman has said

For many years, unbeknown to me, I have been living with a daily calorie deficit of anything from 200 - 500 calories.

Now I am stuggling to bring my weight back up and build some muscle.  My body went into starvation mode and now it seems I am paying the price.

My doctor has told me to eat more to compensate for how active I am, not just because of my daily workouts but because I also have a very active life in general.  My family have also been very worried about my weight.

I am finding it very difficult but I can see the sense of it.

Thank you so much for your replies.

My maintenance intake is 1700 calories because I'm so small, at only 4'11 and 95 pounds.  I hope that 1700 calories is not putting me in starvation mode.  I am actually eating more than the CC calculator recommends for maintenance, and I assume I'm underestimating a bit, since I don't weigh my food. 

So, you've definitely convinced me that I don't need to decrease my intake, but do I need to increase it?  I know that eventually once I build muscle that I will burn more calories, but initially when I'm starting out and doing 25 minutes 3 days a week and less cardio, should I continue eating 1700?  I assumed I wouldn't be burning as much in a day since I don't actually have that extra muscle yet.  I am in graduate school so unfortunately besides the hour that I put aside for exercise I am not active. 

Basically I just want to tone up and ensure that I'm not losing any muscle, while maintaining my weight/clothing size.  I know that strength training will cause an increase in the scale that is not fat. 

Let me know if you have any more advice...thank you


No worries on the advice. For the longest time, I worked out so much and never really got great results from it. Now that I am FINALLY getting results, I enjoy sharing the techniques I used to let others get results as well.

Here would be my overall advice :

1) I would say start eating 2100-2200 calories per day of the right types of foods spread out over 5-6 small meals (one every 2 1/2 to 4 hours). Get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (100 grams in your case). An easy way to do this is with a good Whey Protein powder. One serving usually has anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein. It makes for the perfect post workout drink. So you could have a protein shake after your weight workout and get the rest from chicken, tuna, turkey, eggs, etc.. Also get 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight (150 in your case) from whole grains and vegetables (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, wheat bread, real non instant oatmeal, etc). Also make sure to get 30-40 grams of healthy fats from sources like peanut butter, almonds, etc. Drink at least 1 gallon of water per day too. Since you are eating the right types of foods, and remaining active, you won't have to worry about getting fat from eating 2000 plus calories a day. Take one day of the week, and use that to have 1 or 2 moderately sized cheat meals. This helps to offset your metabolism, and help you deal with any cravings you may get from eating strict the other 6 days of the week. This is the day you would have a can of soda, a burger, etc.. Just make sure it is in moderation..LOL

2) Get your bodyfat % taken and other measurements like waist, etc.. Instead of thinking "maintain or lose weight" think "lose bodyfat". Get your bodyfat % measured every two months or so to monitor progress, and keep track of how your clothes are fitting. Don't even worry about what the scale says. For example, I only used to eat 2000 calories, and for the last 10 weeks I have been eating 3000-3400 calories a day depending on the amount of exercise I did that day. Just out of curiousity, I weighed myself, and my weight is up almost 15 pounds. However, my waist is smaller, and my bodyfat is down 7% and still getting lower. If I only went by the scale, I would be freaking out. However, based on how my clothes are fitting, I look in the mirror, and what my bodyfat % is, I couldn't be happier. That is why I hate the BMI chart that generalizes what people should weigh for their height. People more times than not will let their scale weight determine how much they eat, instead of getting the calories they need to match their level of physical activity.

3) Lift weights three times per week @ 45-60 minutes a session. Work two body parts per workout doing three exercises per body part with 3 sets each of 6-8 reps. You want to make sure that you use weights that are heavier because this builds lean muscle much better than doing reps in the 12-15 range and higher.

4) Scale back on the cardio. The main goal of cardio is to maintain cardiovascular health. To properly maintain cardiovascular health, you only need to do 90-120 minutes a week depending on what you are doing. When you exceed this, you risk losing muscle which is the last thing you want to happen. So I would recommend doing 20-30 minutes of steady state cardio twice a week after lifting sessions, and then two days a week of HIIT cardio on non lifting days. I have an HIIT routine listed above, but you can do it on any piece of cardio equipment. An HIIT session including warm up and cool down only lasts 23-28 minutes.

If you lift consistently, get enough calories of the right types of foods, and start doing HIIT cardio, you will get some good results, and you won't have to spend 5-6 hours a week on cardio anymore.

Excellent advice there again, vyperman.

On the subject of the BMI, I couldn't agree more.  Personally I am not a fan of that way of measuring things.  Put it this way - the rugby player Johnny Wilkinson is, according to his BMI, classed as obese!  That is because he is relatively small in stature but of course very muscular so weights alot.  I would imagine that all rugby players are obese according to their BMI.  I wish doctors here in the UK wouldn't put so much emphasis on the BMI because I think it is far too unreliable.

You are far better off going by how your clothes feel and also, as you correctly state, getting your body fat % measured properly.


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