Calorie hacking is one of the few weight loss strategies that works with the law of homeostasis rather than against it. Instead of adopting long-term habits like classic diet and exercise programs, it uses short-term “calorie hacks” that last a few hours or days.
Why is homeostasis the key to fat loss?
Homeostasis is the governing law of the universe. It controls everything from your body temperature to the spiral of our galaxy. Basically, it refers to the balance between two variables, and how they relate to each other. In the case of weight loss, it’s the balance between your energy intake and energy expenditure. When your intake is greater than your expenditure you gain weight and the opposite happens when your expenditure is greater than your intake.
Imbalances are the driving force of change. They are the reason for everything from a change in your weight to how well you shoot a basketball. Mother Nature doesn’t like imbalances so changes take place between the two variables to regain a state of balanced homeostasis. What this means for you is whenever you attempt to lose weight you either a) increase your energy expenditure or b) decrease your energy intake. Usually it’s some combination of the two.
Losing weight may seem ideal for fitting into your bathing suit, but it’s a serious threat to your health. Long term energy deprivation can lead to a decrease in your health and well being, and eventually death. Mother Nature recognizes this and sets up a series of physical, mental and even emotional adaptations to pull you back into a caloric balance. At that point Mother Nature is thinking “yes! I did it! I just saved this person’s life!” Meanwhile you’re thinking “Oh crap my diet and weight loss plan stopped working!”
Regaining a state of homeostatic balance is pretty much inevitable. It takes some pretty extreme circumstances to endure constant energy deprivation. Understanding this simple principle is why any approach to weight loss will have only so much influence on your weight and then it will “stop working.”
This is why all diets or weight loss methods are ultimately an approach for weight maintenance rather than weight loss. Adopting that latest diet plan might help you lose weight for a few weeks or a month, but it’s eventually going to train you how not to lose weight under that weight loss program.
This is why Calorie Hacking can work so well. It’s not a long term approach that triggers a lot of adaptation to regain a homeostatic balance. It’s only a few hours or days when you either greatly increase your calorie expenditure (through a lot of physical activity) or decrease your energy intake (think fasting or eating a lot less.)
How to apply Calorie Hacking
First and foremost, here at the Red Delta Project, we approach weight loss as something that’s separate from diet and exercise. Healthy Eating is about using food to satisfy your appetites without deprivation and stress. Exercise is about training your body to perform and as a form of recreation. Simply burning or expending calories is a different endeavor entirely.
This is why I always recommend getting your diet and exercise habits established first and foremost. Eating a healthier diet and becoming more active may, or may not help you lose weight, but it will create a stable foundation you can work off of. Once you’ve stabilized your diet and exercise habits then you can look to calorie hacking and attempt to shed more body fat.
Calorie Hacking methods
A calorie hack doesn’t need to be extreme or long term. It’s a quick period where you either greatly increase your calorie expenditure or decrease calorie intake. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Fasting Intermittent fasting is quite popular these days. Simply stop eating for a short period of time to “hack” calories out of your diet. You can do this in 8, 12 or 24 hour chunks. It can also be as simple as skipping a meal or regular snack. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor before attempting any such fasting methods.
Adjust portion size You don’t have to abstain from food entirely. Simply eating a lot less than you normally do will do the trick. Usually, cutting back 50% will be enough.
Do something very active for at least 2-3 hours You can hack calories by burning them off. Unfortunately, the body doesn’t burn calories very quickly, so it takes a good chunk of time to burn a significant amount of calories.
Above all, keep in mind that a calorie hack is either burning or consuming a different level of energy than normal. That’s why it’s important to establish a stable diet and exercise routine first. That way you understand what’s normal and above normal.
Check out this week’s R.D.P Podcast for more information on Calorie Hacking or let me know if you have questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.