1.5 years on a calorie deficit and no change

1 to 20 of 36 messages
09/02/2012 at 00:22
I'd like to ask the advice of runners who have tried(and succeeded) at lowering their fat percentage.
I am female, 19 years old, 5'3, 126lbs and 19% body fat. I have been running for three years now, starting from pretty much 0 fitness, to now having a half pb of 1.29. I do well in my running, however I don't feel happy about my physical state. I know that I am within a healthy range BMI wise, but physically I do not feel as though I am the leanest that I could be. I know people say that if you're running well don't worry about the rest, but I believe that I could be much faster by lowering my fat percentage. I'd like to be around the 12-13% fat percentage mark. I worked out that I currently eat an average of 1500-1800 calories a day, however sometimes under 1500(I use livestrong myplate). I run about 50 miles a week, so I do not understand why it is that I have been unable to lose the extra fat that I would like to lose. I have been eating this sort of intake for about 1.5 years now. I can't keep upping my mileage in an attempt to lose fat as my coach has put an upper limit on the amount of mileage I should be doing at the moment to prevent injury etc.. I don't eat sweets, chocolates or crisps at all, or anything battered or deep-fried. I just want to make it clear that I don't by any means wish to be overly thin or anorexic looking, I simply want be lean and strong( Steph Twell type). Sorry for the long explanation- I'd just like some advice on what others have done to lower their fat percentage, or get closer to their ideal racing weight. Any tips welcome(I'd especially like to hear from any females who struggled with this issue)
Thanks for taking the time to read
09/02/2012 at 07:39
What drove me in to running was one day getting up and finding that I could hardly get my trousers on. I'd always been around 126lb's so 145lb's was too much of a shock. My diet was simple. I eradicated every bit of refined sugar and fat that I could. Much of this stuff is hidden, energy bars and drinks are packed with sugar. They are just sweets in different clothes. Even now I can state the fat% and possible sugar content of all sorts of food. Fat=Fat and refined sugar=fat too.
Within 6 months I'd dropped to 120lb's.
seren nos    pirate
09/02/2012 at 07:59
maybe your body is at its natural optimum weight for you........
i thought 19% was pretty low for a female as we have so much more natural fat than men.....

otherwise i would look at the type of food you eat.......listening to radio 4 i have heard a lot of discussions recently about calories is a very old way of calculating food values which isn't really suitable for food.......

the best calories are those from natural products.......if you have a lot of processed foods then the body does not know how to break them down efficiently and therefore you are left with more crap in your body and less nutrients...

if you change your diet to totally homemade food form natural ingredients it might help make those small changes that you want...
09/02/2012 at 08:34
From what I have read 12-13% body fat for a woman is bordering on dangerously low. Women do need more body fat than men and if it drops too low you will find yourself developing other problems.

To be honest I think that 19% for a woman of your age is low enough..... I would add have you tried circuit training in addition to running ? I'm a similar height and weight to you and currently have a body fat percentage of about 22-23% I have a few areas that I would like to improve on but just accept that we have no control over where our bodies decide to store fat or burn it from !
09/02/2012 at 08:43

Not being rude but you're still growing probably and I wouldn't want teenagers to restrict their nutrition unless they actually had a weight problem. Your BMI is 22.3 which is quite well within the acceptable range, nowhere near overweight. A lot of people would dream of that. Many calculators of body fat and BMI are aimed at older adults so don't be misled by advice based on that.

You have a good half time. I don't think you need to take supplements to train for or run a half, personally, so you may want to watch any refined sugars you are taking for training. If you are doing long runs of more than this time then you could consider it. On general diet, as a rule of thumb avoiding anything that is already made will help, i.e., just buy veg, fruit, nuts, grains, etc. and cook from those.Things like baked beans and wholemeal bread you don't have to make yourself

kittenkat    pirate
09/02/2012 at 10:05
Read 'Racing Weight' by Matt Fitzgerald
Lee the Pea    pirate
09/02/2012 at 10:22

if you're only eating 1500 calories a day or less you're not eating enough!  if you don't eat enough, your body holds on to as much as it can because it thinks it is in starvation mode.  Cardio is also not the way too lose weight; your body adapts to cardio very quickly and reachs a kind of plateau.  If you introduce some conditioning and weights to your exercise regime, you'll lose weight.  However, you need to take on board sufficient nutrition to allow you do undertake the exercise you're doing.  BMI isn't a good measure of health, ratio of hips to waist is better (google it)

I've spent my whole life very overweight, and it is only in the past month of totally changing the way I eat (i.e. more protein, more fat, less carbs, cutting out refined sugar and flour, eating regularly and drinking lots of water) and doing more weight bearing exercise than cardio, that i've started to lose weight, balance out my blood sugars and feel good all the time. There is a lot of info on line about why we need more fat etc in our diet (scientific evidence based info) that is worth looking for.  It totally contradicts the government messages about eating low fat and high carbs, but I think you should have a read.  Don't starve yourself to lose weight, it won't work, and will just leave you unhealthy and frustrated. 

Edited: 09/02/2012 at 10:23
09/02/2012 at 10:27
Lee the Pea wrote (see)

I've spent my whole life very overweight, and it is only in the past month of totally changing the way I eat (i.e. more protein, more fat, less carbs, cutting out refined sugar and flour, eating regularly and drinking lots of water) and doing more weight bearing exercise than cardio, that i've started to lose weight, balance out my blood sugars and feel good all the time.

What Lee said.  The look you want is rarely achieved through cardio alone, especially not steady state cardio like long slow runs...  The "fat burning zone" is a myth!!

Google "The Final Nail in the Cardio Coffin" by Rachel Cosgrove, start lifting some weights, do interval-based cardio (like fartlek runs or spin classes), up your protein and reduce your processed fast carbs.

Edited: 09/02/2012 at 10:28
Lee the Pea    pirate
09/02/2012 at 10:29
 yeah you pointed me to that article Nam, it is really good.  Lots more articles like that about now too. 
09/02/2012 at 10:40
Without wanting to sound too blunt, you're already at a sub-optimal fat percentage for a woman, and especially so for a woman of your age. Aiming for 12-13% is quite frankly dangerous. You're lining yourself up for all sorts of health problems, in the short and long-term. Your body needs fat - it can't function properly without it.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if your running progress wasn't being hindered because of the stress you're putting on your body. You need appropriate nutrition to enable the training and physical adaptations you're looking for - fat loss doesn't come about purely by virtue of being in an energy deficit. Weight loss does, but that weight may come from either fat or muscle.

You need to re-focus your attention away from a fixation on body fat percentage and instead to ensuring that you have adequate nutrition to suit your training and nutrient requirements. I'd be amazed if you ran faster with a body fat percentage of 12-13% - you'd run faster if you nourished your body to allow the training to have a positive effect.

09/02/2012 at 10:52

I think when a lot of women say they want to reduce their BF%, what they ACTUALLY mean is that they want a leaner and more toned look.  That doesn't necessarily mean a huge drop in BF, but some development of lean mass instead.

That's where the term "skinny fat" came into, i.e. you can have an optimal BF% yet still look flabby because you've got no muscle mass to create any tone.

09/02/2012 at 11:14

All of what Nam said.

I don't know enough about the difference between male and female physiology to know how much of this is applicable, but I've been able to compare two very different regimes I've put into practise and their effects on my body.  Pre-injury I was running 60-70mpw and doing little else besides.  Am now doing max 50mpw plus cycling and lots of gym work - a couple of proper core work-outs per week plus some strength/cardio.  I am back to my equal lowest weight but much more toned.  I've never had my bf% accurately measured* but the jeans test and the mirror test strongly suggest that I'm much leaner than I was previously.  (Ominous signs of a six-pack beginning to show!  )

The added benefit of introducing strength and core related training is that it can only complement (IMO) your efforts to avoid injury.

*I've used the hand-held bioimpedence fat measurement thingummies before but I really don't believe they're at all accurate.

cougie    pirate
09/02/2012 at 11:26
Why the seemingly random 12-13 % body fat dream ?

You're looking to lose a full 1/3 of your fat there - 8lbs or so. That seems a hell of a lot ?

Your half time is very good though - focus on that rather than the weight issue ?
09/02/2012 at 11:43
I think you also need to think that Steph Twell is an elite athlete, and whilst your 1/2m time is one many people would envy, you are not an elite athlete. She can devote her whole life to running, other exercise to support her running training, and has support with diet etc. Comparing yourself with her body shape does not seem sensible.

Your current fat levels, BMI and happiness with your running performance suggest you are great as you are.
kittenkat    pirate
09/02/2012 at 11:56

To the OP, my half time is similar to yours (1:28:10).. Well it was, I'm a lot older than you

I have a good friend who also happened to coach one of the winners of one of the big American marathons. He is a wise old sage and told me not to lose any weight but to get into the gym instead. So really that echoes what people like Nam and Lee are saying above.

I also worry that you are overly concerned with your body weight at a very young age. But you might not be I could be reading it wrongly.

Good luck with your running, you do know that a sub 1.30 half can get you a place on the Championship start at the London marathon if you belong to a club.

09/02/2012 at 12:03
Yes, there's a lot of good advice above. If you want to stick to your BF% then you should know you are bang in the middle of the ideal range for your age and sex - take a look at
kittenkat    pirate
09/02/2012 at 12:20

You know, I have a theory that every body strives to be a particular weight, and always will. So if someone wants to get below that weight the body will survive on less calories in order to keep that weight.

(not a scientist)

Kind of just eat well, be healthy, run well and don't fight nature. 

Lee the Pea    pirate
09/02/2012 at 12:24

The whole 'calorie in vs calorie out' argument is far from straightforward either.

It is easy to assume that if you put a certain amount of calories in, and burn off more by exercise, you'll lose weight. If the calories you're eating aren't giving you sufficient nutrition for all the exercise you're doing, then if you lose weight, you'll lose muscle mass, because your body will hang on to your fat stores.  The more muscle mass you lose, then the harder it is to 'burn fat' as your muscles help in that respect, but their mass is being depleted.  Then you get into a vicious circle.  I think that is right anyway, Booky can probably correct it if not.

I always thought it was a case of 'eat less, move more' but it isn't that simple.  Sadly, lol.

09/02/2012 at 12:43
I can see why the OP wants to lose some body fat - she wants to go faster and at 19% there is some scope to get faster by losing body fat irrespective of what else she does. No she isn't an elite athlete but you don't have to be elite to take your sport seriously. Saying you are already in the middle of the healthy range etc etc is all a bit patronising isn't it ?

I don't buy that 19% is sub-optimal body fat percentage for anyone and I don't think we have a natural body weight either - if you want to be leaner then you need to do something about it - not just assume that's how you are built. I wouldn't give much credence to charts based on average figures from the USA or UK either - we are in the middle of an obesity epidemic - our average is overweight.

I do agree though that there are potential health risks involved in wanting to get very lean - 13% fat for a woman - seek the advice of a nutritionist experienced with working with athletes.
kittenkat    pirate
09/02/2012 at 12:51
popsider wrote (see)
 I don't think we have a natural body weight either - if you want to be leaner then you need to do something about it - not just assume that's how you are built.

I watched a documentary the other week where naturally slim people ate twice the daily food recommendations, with no exercise, every day for a month.

The weight gains were interesting as they varied so much, it was found that in some of the adults who put on the least weight, had a higher core temperature, their bodies were actually getting rid of the excess as heat.

I do think that bodies adapt differently to calorie deficit and excess within a range.

1 to 20 of 36 messages
Previously bookmarked threads are now visible in "Followed Threads". You can also manage notifications on these threads from the "Forum Settings" section of your profile settings page to prevent being sent an email when a reply is made.
Forum Jump