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  1. #1
    Registered User yasento's Avatar
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    BMR variations with genetics - why can't I lose fat?

    I've struggled to lose weight for years now, and I've always felt that something is wrong with the BMR and TDEE calculations that apply to me. Because I can never lose much weight by following a deficit based on generic BMR/TDEE calculators. My question is this: Since there is genetic variation with basically everything about the body, there must surely be genetic variation with basal metabolic rates too, all other things like height and weight being equal of course. It only makes sense that some people would have significantly lower BMRs than others, even if they are the same height and weight. I've seen people post about how difficult they find it to lose weight, even though they are following 500 kcal deficits which are calculated by these online calculators. Invariably the answer they get is: your TDEE is X, therefore you are not tracking your calories right. What if they ARE tracking their calories correctly? Couldn't there be another explanation? ie that some people just have a very low BMR due to genetics? And that generic calculators could produce numbers which are way off?

    Almost everyone in my family and extended family is overweight. Is that really just because we are all lazy and eat too much? Or could it be that there is a gene which is passed on which produces very low BMR rates? It would make sense from an evolutionary standpoint, because if you have a very low BRM you are basically a fat-storing machine. Any time you eat even a moderate amount of food, you are storing plenty of fat to get you through the hard times. I'm not an evolutionary biologist but it makes sense to me that there would be an advantage to being very good at storing fat. In times of hunger, you would be able to survive longer on less food because your body requires less energy to maintain itself.

    Onto my own situation. I am 5'11 and 192 lbs, around 25% body fat, and am moderately active (lifting weights 3-4 days per week, cycling around 60 miles per week). The TDEE calculators usually estimate my TDEE at somewhere between 2400-2700. Here's the problem - I log my food extremely carefully and even when I average a daily kcal amount of 1900 kcals, I don't lose weight. Please, before you tell me I'm not logging the food right, save your time. I've been logging food for years and I know exactly how to do it. I have to eat 1500-1600 kcal per day before I start to lose weight. But I can never sustain it very long because it's just so little food. Inevitably I become overly tired, hungry, irritable, depressed and just generally feel bad. I end up having to eat more just to regain some level of enjoyment in life. And so the cycle continues. I cannot find a sustainable way to lose weight.

    Is it so crazy to think that I might just have a really low BMR due to genetics? I'm not trying to make excuses here or search for ways to just give up - I'm just trying to find out if it's possible so that I can devise some way around it. Because after years of failing to get rid of the excess fat, I'm starting to despair.
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    Registered User spradish's Avatar
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    Of course there is variability in BMR and TDEE. Every time we tell people to use a TDEE calculator to get a starting point, we also say to track for a few weeks or a month and then adjust up/down based on results. You are not unique in not losing weight based on a calculator number.

    As for being tired, hungry, and irritable when eating in a moderate deficit...try a small deficit or look at what exactly it is you are eating and experiment a bit to see if you do better eating more protein or more fat. Calories are king when it comes to losing weight but macro preferences can make a difference in satiety, energy, etc.
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    Registered User XinXom's Avatar
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    You could but why use an online TDEE calculator when you can simply track your weight change and get your real TDEE. BMR from things I have read and charts I have seen can be anywhere from 1000 to almost 3000 that is a lot of variation. Now typically Bigger men are the ones closer to the 3000 number and tiny women are closer to the 1000 number but there is a lot of variation even there. Just find your real TDEE with a months worth of data and adjust from there online calculators know nothing about you. If you already know you need to eat 1500-1600 to drop that is just what you have to do, either that or add in 5-6 hours of hard cardio a week. As spradish said perhaps your need to look into a diet of all non calorie dense foods sate the hunger with pickles and lettuce and other nearly 0 calorie foods getting where you want to be for you may require changing it up. Keep your same activity level and cut on 1500 and cut out some of your fun time for extra sleep to keep up your energy. I saw a post by tommy recently that said to reach a goal generally you need to add a zero to the weight to find what gets you to the finish line while being active. This seems to fit you to a T 1900 cals at 190 while active is maintenance if you want to get to 160 drop it too 1600 if 170 1700 etc.
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    Registered User ncsuLuke's Avatar
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    Yes there is going to be SOME variation on BMR but not that much. Your family members all eat too much and that is why they are overweight. Also, there is no way that you have to eat 1500-1600 calories/day to lose weight if you are 5'11 192lbs. You are either not tracking your food correctly (I know you said you are but I don't believe you) and you are eating more than you think you are or you are not eating consistently enough to notice weight loss at a higher calorie intake.

    Two excellent articles on the subject:

    https://bodyrecomposition.com/fat-lo...overview.html/

    https://bodyrecomposition.com/fat-lo...ifferent.html/
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    Registered User yasento's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by ncsuLuke View Post
    Yes there is going to be SOME variation on BMR but not that much. Your family members all eat too much and that is why they are overweight. Also, there is no way that you have to eat 1500-1600 calories/day to lose weight if you are 5'11 192lbs. You are either not tracking your food correctly (I know you said you are but I don't believe you) and you are eating more than you think you are or you are not eating consistently enough to notice weight loss at a higher calorie intake.

    Two excellent articles on the subject:

    https://bodyrecomposition.com/fat-lo...overview.html/

    https://bodyrecomposition.com/fat-lo...ifferent.html/
    I think maybe you misunderstood my question. I'm not claiming that my physiology is somehow defying the 'rules' of energy balance. I understand that an energy surplus (above TDEE) results in fat gain and an energy deficit (below TDEE) results in fat loss. But I do suspect that variability in BMR could be much more of an issue than is acknowledged. It's easy to say "just eat 500 kcal below maintenance", but imagine if that meant eating 1600 kcal per day. That's a lot different to eating 2200 kcal a day, for example, especially when you factor in 4 days of lifting weights in the gym. Having a low BMR would create a sustainability problem, because as I mentioned I can eat 1600-1700 kcal per day for a while, but I can never sustain it.

    But it's academic. If that's the point at which I lose weight then that's what I need to do.
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    Registered User ncsuLuke's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by yasento View Post
    I think maybe you misunderstood my question. I'm not claiming that my physiology is somehow defying the 'rules' of energy balance. I understand that an energy surplus (above TDEE) results in fat gain and an energy deficit (below TDEE) results in fat loss. But I do suspect that variability in BMR could be much more of an issue than is acknowledged. It's easy to say "just eat 500 kcal below maintenance", but imagine if that meant eating 1600 kcal per day. That's a lot different to eating 2200 kcal a day, for example, especially when you factor in 4 days of lifting weights in the gym. Having a low BMR would create a sustainability problem, because as I mentioned I can eat 1600-1700 kcal per day for a while, but I can never sustain it.

    But it's academic. If that's the point at which I lose weight then that's what I need to do.
    No, I understood your question. The articles I linked show that there isn't that much of a variation in BMR. Yes yours might be lower than others but not to the point where you need 1500-1600 calories to lose weight at 5'11 192. You are probably just eating more than you think you are or you are not tracking/weighing every single thing you eat. You would not be anywhere close to the first person to post here saying they track their food properly and then later mention that they don't track certain foods or will sometimes have a snack and not track it.
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  7. #7
    Never accept defeat! backinthegymbro's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by yasento View Post
    because as I mentioned I can eat 1600-1700 kcal per day for a while, but I can never sustain it.
    I eat 1600 a day and i don't have issues with it. You just have to figure out food that's low in calories that you can eat a lot of.
    And space your meals during the day so you don't go without food for long. I eat every 2-3 hours multiple times a day.

    Greek yogurt is low in calories, high in protein.
    If you eat bread, just eat 1 slice without the crust (40 calories) maybe 2 slices of turkey deli meat (20 calories) and for 60 calories you have a snack.
    A cup of rice is only 200 calories. Chicken breast is lean too.
    Really just experiment and don't eat junk food since those are a ton of calories and then you can't eat anything anymore for the rest of the day.

    Doing more cardio and burning more calories means you'll lose weight faster or you can eat a bit extra for that day.
    Also stay away from empty calories like soda or fruit juices etc, drink diet if you want soda otherwise drink water.
    Don't eat candy or chips or chocolate etc.

    If you're 5ft11, just try eating 1800 calories a day and exercise with it. You'll lose weight if you count calories accurately and stick to your diet.
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    Registered User spradish's Avatar
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    It's very unlikely that your BMR is so far from average. It's much more likely that your TDEE is low due to low activity. Regardless, as already stated, the only thing to do is adjust your calories based on results.
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by backinthegymbro View Post
    I eat 1600 a day and i don't have issues with it. You just have to figure out food that's low in calories that you can eat a lot of.
    And space your meals during the day so you don't go without food for long. I eat every 2-3 hours multiple times a day.

    Greek yogurt is low in calories, high in protein.
    If you eat bread, just eat 1 slice without the crust (40 calories) maybe 2 slices of turkey deli meat (20 calories) and for 60 calories you have a snack.
    A cup of rice is only 200 calories. Chicken breast is lean too.
    Really just experiment and don't eat junk food since those are a ton of calories and then you can't eat anything anymore for the rest of the day.

    Doing more cardio and burning more calories means you'll lose weight faster or you can eat a bit extra for that day.
    Also stay away from empty calories like soda or fruit juices etc, drink diet if you want soda otherwise drink water.
    Don't eat candy or chips or chocolate etc.

    If you're 5ft11, just try eating 1800 calories a day and exercise with it. You'll lose weight if you count calories accurately and stick to your diet.
    You don't have issues with 1600 kcal per day? Can I ask what height and weight you are? You don't find that it affects your ability to work out?
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    Registered User yasento's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by spradish View Post
    It's very unlikely that your BMR is so far from average. It's much more likely that your TDEE is low due to low activity. Regardless, as already stated, the only thing to do is adjust your calories based on results.
    I agree with you. I'm not talking about myself specifically here, but even though it is unlikely that someone has a very low BRM, surely these people do exist. Maybe the people who struggle the most to lose fat are the people who have BMRs which are on the very low end of the spectrum. If that were the case, the restrictive amount of food they would have to eat to lose fat would create serious sustainability issues. Just a theory.
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    Originally Posted by yasento View Post
    You don't have issues with 1600 kcal per day? Can I ask what height and weight you are? You don't find that it affects your ability to work out?
    He's 125 lbs. In no way can you relate his experience to yours.
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    Registered User yasento's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by spradish View Post
    He's 125 lbs. In no way can you relate his experience to yours.
    Ok that's a big difference for sure.
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    Originally Posted by yasento View Post

    Onto my own situation. I am 5'11 and 192 lbs, around 25% body fat, and am moderately active (lifting weights 3-4 days per week, cycling around 60 miles per week). The TDEE calculators usually estimate my TDEE at somewhere between 2400-2700. Here's the problem - I log my food extremely carefully and even when I average a daily kcal amount of 1900 kcals, I don't lose weight. Please, before you tell me I'm not logging the food right, save your time. I've been logging food for years and I know exactly how to do it. I have to eat 1500-1600 kcal per day before I start to lose weight. But I can never sustain it very long because it's just so little food. Inevitably I become overly tired, hungry, irritable, depressed and just generally feel bad. I end up having to eat more just to regain some level of enjoyment in life. And so the cycle continues. I cannot find a sustainable way to lose weight.
    Personally, when I started I was around the same specs as you. I'm 5'11-6', was 197, and around 22-24% BF. Currently I am floating around 185, and I continue to see results weekly. I have been eating 1300-1500 calories daily and have felt pretty full and content throughout the day. I've had a hard time staying strict and consistent with my previous diets, so I tried IF. IF only helped me control the calories I brought in by limiting the time I had to eat. I don't eat strictly through the 12-8pm window, but I keep a majority of my calories within it. In the morning around 10 I might have 160g of blueberries and that satisfies my hunger until lunch. I would try eating denser foods and more vegetables to keep you full throughout the day. I usually have 10oz of brocolli, 6 oz of sweet potato, and 6-7oz of chicken for a majority of my lunches, while changing my vegetables up to asparagus or cauliflower at night.

    If you know you lose weight at 1500-1600 calories, then you should be trying to stay in that range until you stop seeing results. I know it took some time to adjust the first week but it worked for me and I'm sure it could work for you too.
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    Originally Posted by Masssmonkey View Post
    Personally, when I started I was around the same specs as you. I'm 5'11-6', was 197, and around 22-24% BF. Currently I am floating around 185, and I continue to see results weekly. I have been eating 1300-1500 calories daily and have felt pretty full and content throughout the day. I've had a hard time staying strict and consistent with my previous diets, so I tried IF. IF only helped me control the calories I brought in by limiting the time I had to eat. I don't eat strictly through the 12-8pm window, but I keep a majority of my calories within it. In the morning around 10 I might have 160g of blueberries and that satisfies my hunger until lunch. I would try eating denser foods and more vegetables to keep you full throughout the day. I usually have 10oz of brocolli, 6 oz of sweet potato, and 6-7oz of chicken for a majority of my lunches, while changing my vegetables up to asparagus or cauliflower at night.

    If you know you lose weight at 1500-1600 calories, then you should be trying to stay in that range until you stop seeing results. I know it took some time to adjust the first week but it worked for me and I'm sure it could work for you too.
    Thanks for the advice. My only issue with IF is that my time for workouts is always the morning. I just can't do fasted workouts as I end up feeling dizzy and faint. So I need breakfast (at least on workout days). Whenever I skip breakfast, I eat less calories without the hunger issues. So it's definitely a better approach, but right now I am having to eat breakfast 4 days a week and then maybe skip it 3 days a week. Prob not ideal.
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    Originally Posted by yasento View Post
    Thanks for the advice. My only issue with IF is that my time for workouts is always the morning. I just can't do fasted workouts as I end up feeling dizzy and faint. So I need breakfast (at least on workout days). Whenever I skip breakfast, I eat less calories without the hunger issues. So it's definitely a better approach, but right now I am having to eat breakfast 4 days a week and then maybe skip it 3 days a week. Prob not ideal.
    I understand, everybody is different. I personally train at night but do better on a somewhat empty stomach. I noticed when I was strict IF earlier in the summer I adapted pretty early to being fasted in the morning. Totally understandable if you don't wish to do that though. What I said regarding staying in that 1500-1600 calorie range though, just suck it up and lose that fat in a stronger deficit.
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