Couch to 5K
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Can someone please tell me if I'm eating enough or too much?

Hello! So I'm pretty far into the program, running for 20 minutes straight now at a pace of 5 mph (I'm a treadmill runner), and sometimes I'll throw in an extra 10-15 minutes of running at the end if I'm feeling up for it.

For the past two months, I've been running between 3 and 6 times per week. I've been using MyFitnessPal to track my calories. And I have a food scale so I've been extremely accurate. I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle outside of my workouts (desk job, artist), so on rest days I eat 1500 calories. And on days I work out I used MFP to track the calories burned, and I eat back those calories so I can stay at a 500 calorie deficit everyday.

Oh! And I also alternate between doing squats/lunges/crunches and bicep curls/tricep curls/crunches every other day.

Here are my stats: Female, approx. 180 pounds, 23 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall.

My concern is that over the past two months, I haven't lost any weight at all! In fact, I was around 179 for a long time, and now my scale is saying it's around 181-182. Which can't be possible because I've been working out harder than ever. So am I eating too many calories or not enough? Any insight on this would be so appreciated, I'm so confused.

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I'm definitely not good with specifics, but remember that you will be gaining muscle weight which weighs more than fat. I would focus on the way you feel, and the way your clothes fit you. I'm sure with time the scales will say a lower number, but for now focus on photos/inches lost. I bet with you working so hard that your body would have changed at least a bit!

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As an after thought - if all you do is cardiovascular exercise, it may be worth throwing in some resistance workouts?

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Yeah, I thought maybe I was gaining muscle but wasn't sure if it was enough to show a lack of weight loss or even weight gain! But I definitely do feel a lot better than I did at the start! Two months ago I struggled through 5 minutes and now I can do 20 minutes easily! And I will take your advice and look into some resistance exercises! Thank you for your reply!

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Hi... what week are you on in the C25K programme now...the runs are three per week and a rest day ( other exercise on those days..). this is not a specific weight loss programme, but you may find you do lose weight..

Maybe pop across to the Weight Loss Forum.. quite a few of our runners are on there too and find it very, very helpful.:) They would probably be able to give you more accurate advice:)

healthunlocked.com/nhsweigh...

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Hello! I'm on W6D3 currently. I guess I haven't really been following the program exactly, haha. I will kind of change it up a little here and there and add extra time at the end if I'm not ready to stop. But I will check out the weight loss forum! Thank you!

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I think you will find it really helpful.... the forum here follows the slow and steady approach of C25K...so replies may reflect that... :)

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Okay, well you are doing all the right things and have teh right attitude and a good understanding of what is involved, which is always the key starting point.

First of all, I'm afriad you have to discount the 'gaining muscle' idea. You are not gaining muscle with any of your activities. To gain muscle you have to a.) be in caloric surplus and b.) be doing a considerable amount of resistance exercise with progressive overload.

Caloriewise, I presume you have worked out your 1500 from MFP or a similar app? It sounds a reasonable figure. I am the same weight as you, although male, 49 and 6'. My calorie intake when cutting weight is 2000/day, so allowing for the differences, that probably comes out about even. I hit that calorie target every day though, be it training or rest day: I do not eat back calories expended in exercise if i am cutting. I would say that the calories burned estimates of most apps are generally way too high as well. The crunches and alunges and curls are excellent work and to be highly commended and will be doing your body great good, but they will be burning minimum calories, and running, unless you are doing sprint intervals or significantly in excess of an hour a day is not going to be torching huge amounts either. I would strongly suggest sticking with the 1500/day across the board in the first instance and seeng what effect that has. (keep running etc though)

The other key question is your macro split. What is you carb/protein/fat ratio? This is the point where I differentiate between work and rest days: I eat very low carbs on rest days because the body has no need of them, and on training days eat carbs but only within 20 to 40 minute window from workout/run, when the metabolism can use them. On rest days by carb intake is only from veg (you can eat a lot of green veg and stll keep it at a low percentage of your overall intake caloriewise). On work days, it is oats, some fruit, sweet potato etc. I am sure there will be someone along to decry low carb, but I would suggest it is another tweak you can try to break the plateau you are on. If it works, brill. If it doesn't... nothing ventured nothing gained.

Do bear in mind that we all have periods of significant gainz (or losses) and we all hit plateaux. It doesn't mean you have stopped. It doesn't mean you are doing something wrong. It is just a plateau. You rootle around until you find the lever that will start the ball rolling again and then you move forward once more.

Another tip, on the exercise front, that is excellent both for toning muscle and scorching calories, is to invest in a kettlebell, and do kettlebell swings every morning. 10 minutes of 300 seconds on, 30 off (build up to this, obvs) will burns as many calories as 30 minutes of running and the EPOC effect (caloric afterburn through the day) is huge as well. It will also give you buns of steel into the bargain.

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Thank you so much for the lengthy and very informative reply! I think this will help me a lot going forward!

To get my calorie intake, I calculated my TDEE for someone who is most of the time sedentary, which I am. I used several online calculators and got an average of 2000 calories expended. So I just took 500 off of that. And then I figured, if I'm exercising, I should eat those calories back, because I didn't want to exceed a 500 deficit per day. However, it's very possible that MFP is overestimating how much calories I'm burning during my workouts.

I will take your advice and stick to 1500 calories, even on exercise days! It will be pretty difficult I think, because it's been a struggle to keep to only 1500 on rest days. But if it will help me lose fat, I'll give it a go. I was pretty skeptical of the muscle gaining theory.

As far as my diet, I always try to keep it pretty balanced with the goals MFP gives me as far as carbs, fats, and proteins go. I do struggle to meet my protein goal a lot, however.

I will also look into getting a kettle ball! Thank you, again!

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In that case split the difference. Try 1700 cals a day for a while. What is sustainable is what works long term. Marathon not sprint, remember.

MFP probably has you on 40% carbs at least. Try tweaking that. Also look at what your carbs are. Reduce the starchy carbs in favour of complex carbs like broccoli etc and cut them right down on rest days. Your body does not need big carbs on rest days. I am sure you will smash this.

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Thank you so much! You have been a humongous help! I'm going to try to eat 1600-1700 across the board and see if that makes a different, and I'm going to lower my carbs as well! Thanks again!

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Must try kettle bells myself. Great detailed advice. I lost over a stone in weight after I graduated. The longer runs and watching what I ate really helped. I have 12 pounds to lose to get to my goal.

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It sounds a wee bit chaotic to me if you are a beginner runner.

Given your increased risk of injury compared with someone following the NHS C25K programme, it may be prudent to reconsider a habit of 'eating exercise calories'.

I found MFP too optimistic about calories burned, so I no longer use that aspect of it and don't eat exercise calories... there are enough times in a normal well rounded life and with the normal variation in *actual* calorie content of food cf what's in the database that I reckon it evens out. That said the data from Runkeeper and my Fitbit Charge HR seems to tally better with actual results.

The sad reality for me is that even the 1400 I generally keep in mind (and is suggested on the NHS weight loss plan) is too high for the necessary deficit on many days (I'm now a healthy BMI, just working on a healthier waist to hip ratio)

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Thank you for your response! I only started the program about 2 and a half months ago, but I've been jogging for about 2 years, albeit for only short bursts of time between lengthy periods of "power walking."

I actually weighed about 220 pounds a couple years ago, so through that exercise lost around 40 pounds. The crazy thing about it is that during that time I wasn't watching my calories as carefully as I do now (but probably still clocked in around 1800), exercised MAYBE 6 times per month, and I definitely had long periods of time where I gave up and just stopped exercising and ate whatever, for months. And I still managed to lose that much. So it's just crazy to me that now I've been watching my calories like a hawk and exercising almost every day, and my weight loss has come to a screeching halt.

It's pretty daunting to me to only eat 1500 and exercise, but as long as I know I'm not hurting myself by doing so, I'm all in.

Good luck to you, as well! And thanks again for the advice!

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I haven't read all the answers for now, but IMO you're not eating enough. 500kcal deficit every day may be too much. And remember 1 very important thing muscles are much more dense thus heavier than fat. Have you measured yourself in cm/in (weist, bust, hips, arms, thights)? Those may be your biggest accomplishements and most accurate way to track your progress. Moreover, it is about getting healthier (due to what you eat, not only how much) and look leaner (so less fat, not necessarily lower weight). Do you eat enough protein and healthy fats?

Check oit

TDEEcalculator.net for some guidance, although they also recommend 500kcal deficit. I personally think slower and more permanent change is better than quick but temporary.

Good luck you're doing some amazing job! Just keep it up! Remember that the closer to the normal BMI the slower the weight loss.

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Google also "same weight different size" ;)

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I checked on TDEEcalculator and you should be eating at least 1,900 (almost 2,000) kcal per day and it is with 500 kcal deficit. I put moderate exercise (3-5x per week), although I was thinking to put even more due to your exercise routine description.

Hope that will help.

Cheers

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Some great advice here already and I know little about the technical stuff!

However, whatever you do needs to be sustainable; everyone will lose weight but many will find it difficult to maintain without long term changes to lifestyle; and it seems you have cracked that bit.

I would recommend Michael Moseley's eating plans; low carb moderate fat, but really good food with great recipes. This enables you to feel satiated even on exercise days and never feeling "on a diet". He has a website and lots of good advice. The eating plans help with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight in the long term. I am sure you grit and determination will see you through 😊

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I use myfitnesspal as well and I find extremely helpful to track my calories. I tend to weigh as much of my food as I can to be as accurate as possible. What have you set your goals at and do you tend to eat your exercise calories ?.

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