Adequate Calories for Fat Loss

Sorry fellas, this is another one for the ladies. That doesn’t mean this information can never apply to any of us gents, just that most women will find it more useful than most men.

If you have been listening to our podcast or sniffing around this site for any length of time, you have probably heard me talk about calories and fat loss, and you were probably initially surprised to here me say that most (actually, nearly all) women with fat loss goals are not eating enough to facilitate those goals. To briefly recap, consuming too few calories, especially when coupled with exercise, has the tendency to condition a body toward a slow metabolism and efficient fat storage.  In other words, starvation and cardio are the fast track to yo-yo dieting and metabolic damage.

If you have a history of not-so-healthy weight loss pursuits with caloric restriction and the kind of exercise that is intended to “burn calories,” the only way to produce any sustainable results is to heal your metabolism, and that requires eating enough to get your body out of the stress that has become its norm and the source of all your frustration. This usually won’t happen overnight, and it might even require gaining a little fat while your body learns some new norms, but I have never seen anyone fix a broken metabolism while her body struggled to adapt to semi-starvation.

Almost every fat loss consult I do involves me advising more total calories, to which I am usually told in a pleading voice that more calories will be nearly impossible. I get it. Many years of conditioning has caused a loss of appetite. This creates a need for energy dense foods that don’t fill your stomach up with a lot of fluff.

Here I offer a very basic sample day of adequate calories for someone with the need to re-feed a broken metabolism and get back to healthy so fat loss can begin.

3 scrambled eggs made with 1 tablespoon heavy cream
4 slices of bacon

Spinach salad with 6 ounces of chicken breast
3 tbs of balsamic vinaigrette
Half an avocado

8 oz ribeye steak without trimming the fat
1 cup broccoli with 2 tbs butter

The total calories for this sample day is just under 2000.  This will be plenty (for most women) to fuel an active life while rebuilding a damaged metabolism. I ran this sample menu past multiple women in my world, including my tiny partner in crime, Sarah Fragoso, and none balked at the quantity of food here.

The bottom line is that you may need to return to the basics of meat and vegetables, resist filling up on veggies before you can get enough dense calories down, and rely on fat to keep the caloric density high in each meal. Will it be easy for everyone? Of course not. But if you are moving around like a human should, you must properly fuel your life if you want a healthy body. If you aren’t moving around like a human should, then you have more than just diet work to do if you want a body that performs well and looks great. Less calories for a sedentary life will not result in the body you want. Such a scenario is only depriving the body of two things it need to be healthy – adequate food AND adequate movement.

Please note that it’s okay to baby step your way to a healthy quantity of food each day. If it’s more comfortable for you, you can start by trying to find ways to add just 100 calories to your day and staying there for a week or two. Then add another 100, continuing on until you are somewhere around 1800 calories or higher and it begins to feel natural. Holding there for at least a few months should get your metabolism back to place where you can start some experimentation to find out what’s best for you. It all might sound daunting, but you can do it!

For more help, support, and a solid fitness plan come on over and find us at

Go forth and be awesome.


    • Jason says

      That depends on who you ask and how dogmatic they are. Most will agree that butter and heavy cream are fine for most people without autoimmune issues.

  1. Evelyn says

    Thanks for this post jason. What is the longest you have seen any woman continue to gain weight following a diet similar to the one above after years of a starvation diet? I have been eating more food for about 7 months now. I am 20-25 lbs heavier than I was when I started and I have quite a bit of fat to lose. Is there ever a tome when 1800-ish calories would be too much?

  2. anna says

    This is HORSESHIT!!!
    2000 calories ans allmost NO CARBS????!!! is WAY TO LITTLE for a person trying to recover!!!!!!
    you preach all the time how important it is to not starve!
    i would be starving and loosing weight at this low intake!!i am a tall woman150 pounds and eat 2800 calories a day!!
    you just lost ALL my trust!
    im so angry at this post- i coud EXPLODE!

    • says

      Hi Anna,
      I’m so sorry this post made you so upset. I am not Jason and did not write this post but this is my blog so I wanted to also respond. This blog post is about fat loss, not a one size fits all approach for everyone. This is a very short and general guideline for women who have fat to lose and many women in this situation or have yo-yo dieted for years are eating far far far far too little; well below 2000 calories and this is just a simple outline for what a days worth of meals might look like for someone with fat loss goals who is not eating enough. Most women (people in general) do/should eat more than 2000 calories a day and eat more carbs depending on their needs/who they are and this post like I said before is not what EVERYONE should do, but just a jumping off point for women trying to get their calories high enough to sustain more activity and acheive fat loss. Jason and I have always said that for folks with fat loss goals, they might need to keep their carbs on the low-ish side at first and then start to add more in as they become more active and begin to lean out. It really depends on the person, how they feel and perform and what’s happening with their bodies. I hope that clears things up for you and please re-read the post and let me know if there was something I didn’t see that could have made you so angry. I would never allow a post that was saying anything specific for the entire population and Jason and I both preach that there is not a one size fits all approach and anyone who follows us or listens to our podcasts knows this fact, Jason simply wrote this post trying to be helpful to women specifically who need to up their caloric intake for fat loss which is typically the opposite advice that women are given. Warmest Regards, Sarah Fragoso

    • Jason says

      I’m not really sure which part you are angry about. This post is simply stating that most women are eating 1200-1400 calories per day and I’m trying to convince them to eat more by showing them what more looks like. There is certainly no part of this post that says that 2800 calories is not a good idea for anyone. In fact, if you are getting the results you want on 2800 calories, I couldn’t be happier. I honestly wish I could get every client I train to that point. I think I’m going to need you to clarify if I’m going to ease your mind here.

    • Sue-Ann says

      Hiya Anna and all,

      I have been following a paleo-keto diet (high fat, low carb) diet for the past 2 months. I actually struggle to eat more than 1,800 calories, and my target is 1800 – 2000 a day (because I lift heavy stuff). Thing is, with fat, you get alot of calories with satisfy you – so you actually won’t be starving. On conventional low-fat low-carb diets you feel light-headed, yes, I’ve done this, and totally ruined my metabolic rate at that (alot of yo-yo-ing on that!). The higher fat approach is perfect… and again, my lifts have continued to go up, I depend less on coffee (I have one cup with butter and MCT oil in the morning and thats it) to keep me awake and stimulated, and yes, still struggle to meet my caloric target. And yeah, at 1800 calories, I’m pretty full with still less than 30g carbs (and those carbs come from nuts or other stuff where it “sneaks” in :) ).

      Great post… I am like those girls you talk about – struggled to get my metabolic rate to where it is healthy and functioning… and yes, it has happened by upping my cals AND fat intake – which was a brain twister for me initially! Oh the power of knowledge :)

      Thanks again,

  3. Allison says

    Thanks for the post Jason. I am not one of those women who eats 1200-1400 calories per day and I think generally eat 2000+ of whole foods. However in the last 6 months as I’ve neared the dreaded age of 50 I have gained about 10 pounds which won’t go away despite various efforts. I’ve tried more calories, less calories, more carbs, fewer carbs (all within meats, veggies, healthy fats and a bit of fruits and nuts). Any suggestions for healing or changing metabolism in this scenario? Thanks!

    • Jason says

      How are you training? In my experience, metabolisms seem to hold fairly stable regardless of aging when all the components of a paleo lifestyle are in place.

      • Allison says

        I run 2x a week, do crossfit 2x a week and do yoga and pilates 1x each. My training really hasn’t changed nor had my eating (until I started gaining weight) so I have attributed it to aging since I hear similar stories from my friends although they are not paleo. The weight seems to mainly be around my middle.

        • Jason says

          It’s pretty tough to fix a metabolism if you’re running. And if all of those workouts fall on different days, you are working out 6 day per week, which is also not ideal for sustainable fat loss. That type of training (especially the cardio) is where we tend to see weight gain over time when nothing else changes. My clients your age lift heavy, walk often, huff and puff once in a while. They are not running and/or doing CrossFit.

          • Allison says

            Sorry for so many questions – so I understand the running part but do you also consider CrossFit to be cario? I think of it as the “lifting heaving things”. How many times a week do your clients my age lift? It is all on different days but I sort of consider the Pilates and Yoga as active rest. Thanks again for you advice.

          • Jason says

            That depends on how long your metcons are. If they are regularly 15 minutes or longer, then they aren’t great for healing a metabolism. There is no standard with CrossFit. My clients lift 3 days per week and they lift heavy using big lifts like deadlifts, squats, and presses.

  4. Jo says

    Hi to you both from the uk.
    Many thanks to you both for the information and advice you give.
    I have been following a paleo lifestyle for about two years now.
    Previously I was overweight and drunk far too much alcohol and my health and body was falling apart.
    I struggle with anxiety and as I work and live alone the only information I get is through the podcasts I listen to and the information I read on line.
    This post has been really helpful to me to judge my food intake.
    I love food but I have been drawn into the paleo treats far too often. I Love cooking and as I have far too much time in my hands i am always looking for new things to throw together in the kitchen.
    I am more positive on reading this post even though I have adjusted it slightly to my tastes.
    Again thank you to you both for keeping me on track and positive.

  5. Jessica says

    Well said as always, Jason. I’ve been there many times, unfortunately. At one point, I was eating 1200-1400 calories and running like a lunatic. It spiraled into an eating disorder and really supressed my metabolism for a while. I had to go through a period of fat gain last year which was tough, but it was only a little. Now I eat way more than 2000, and am leaner than I’ve ever been. This stuff really does work, but it takes patience and time. I think just knowing that you’re making the best possible decision for yourself goes a long way toward working through those difficult times. Also- knowing that the other side will be better once you push through.

    • Anna says

      Would you mind telling me how much you gained while you were repairing your metabolism? My metabolism is pretty shot right now, but honestly, I’m a little terrified of the weight gain I hear comes with repairing it.

  6. says

    Thanks Jason – this was really eye-opening for me, especially the amount of meat. I’ve listened to your podcasts but couldn’t visualise what 2,000 calories looked like. I’m in maintenance phase myself, but based on your advice, I’ll chuck another egg into my breakfast this morning!
    Love the podcast and I think I’m developing a school-girl crush on you! Lucky for you, I’m on the other side of the world ;).

  7. Jess Turton says

    Love the post, thanks Jason. Is it wrong that my first thought was, ‘this doesn’t look like enough food for me?!’

    I’m an A-typical former starvation, yo-yo, excessive exercise type of girl, transformed by yours and Sarah’s wise words and attitudes, as well as a whole heap of study, (still ongoing), into this whole food, nutrient dense way of eating. I now lift heavy a few times a week, walk a couple of hours a day, (my daughter will only nap in her buggy!), and I’m working my way to sprinting when I get a little more sleep back in my life, (yes, my daughter). My mantra is ‘just eat real food’, and you really struck a cord with me Jason when you said that if you go wrong, change it with your very next mouthful, or something to that extent.

    Due to my diet and lifestyle history, I think my satiation level is all out of whack and I often overeat, (meat and veg). I consume little sugar, maybe 1 green apple a day, and I consume enough fat, if anything this macronutrient percentage is quite high in my way of eating. So…………the suggested template in your post makes me think I’d be hungry, but, would it be a good idea to adhere to something along these lines for a while to try and re-set my satiation level? I’m so confused as to what is too much and too little, my perception is completely skewed! I hate weighing and measuring, and just want to eat real food, but I don’t like the excessive full feeling I often end up with, any thoughts??

    • Jason says

      If you haven’t been eating a solid paleo diet for long, I wouldn’t worry about eating too much. Too little is a problem when you are trying to heal your metabolism, but too much shouldn’t hurt. I recommend that you take the apples out for a month to see what happens, though. You might have a body that doesn’t like fructose. It’s always worth some experimentation.

      If you have been eating paleo for more than 3 or 4 months, you might try some of the late game suggestions in my book, but poor sleep can make for poor results. In reality, you are probably best just eating a solid paleo diet, however much it ends up being, until your sleep is normalized. It might have an effect on your appetite, too.

  8. Jess Turton says

    Thanks Jason, that all makes sense. I’ve been transitioning since January, I’d say I’ve been on a solid Paleo way of eating for the last 4 or 5 months, (since I started to get more educated!), but I’m fully aware of the importance of sleep, (it’s unfortunate my beautiful daughter is not). I know some days you must feel like you sound like a broken record, but trust me, every time you repeat yourself your making yet another impact on someone’s perception, understanding and therefore their life, sometimes it just helps to hear the obvious :)

    Thanks guys!

  9. says

    I love this Jason, thanks for posting. I’m realizing that anything less than 6 oz. of protein is way too little for me, and I find myself hungry and searching for snacks after a meal if I only eat 3-4 ounces as prescribed for women on most diet plans. Next time, I’ll dig into that steak/pork/chicken/salmon and be satiated and happy. Better to fill up on quality protein. :)

  10. Jane says

    Thank you so for this post Jason. I’ve been listening to your podcast with Sarah for the past 8 months and have continually heard you say that women aren’t eating enough calories. I kept thinking to myself, “ok, so what is enough?” . I’m so glad you wrote this post so I could see an example and it has helped tremendously. I’ve dropped 53 pounds of the past 8 months and have much more to go but your podcast has kept me going as I really feel part of a movement striving for health. My family has started asking about it too now which is really encouraging. Thank you so much, I love listening to you both, you guys rock!

  11. Amy Frazier says

    Great post as always. :). Just curious about how many grams of quality fat would make up those 2000 calories? And for maximum fat loss, would you keep your carbs under 75 grams?

    • Jason says

      I don’t recommend that you make decisions based on macronutrients. Just choose the right foods and don’t go crazy on starch or fruit for fat loss goals.

  12. Tamara says

    Thanks Jason for posting this. I NEEDED this post. An issue for me I’ve noticed is eating the bigger meals causes some issues because I have a hiatal hernia and a bigger meal creates some stomach pain. I eat what I can but find I’m hungry between meals. I’m 5’10 260lbs (not all of my weight is flab though). I have definite fat loss goals, I just don’t want to create a stress on my already messed metabolism (coming off 55lb weight loss from WW and intense cardio). I know one size doesn’t fit all so I’ll just make it work for me. I’d join eplifefit, but I’m also the one that emailed you on the erb’s palsy. I REALLY need some 1:1 help from someone. I hope I can find that person in my area. As I digress, thanks again for all you do. Your podcasts have me living paleo not just “doing” it!

  13. Peta says

    Could you add flavoring low carb vegetables to this and still achieve fat loss. Like mushrooms, capsicum, onions and zucchini in small amounts or replacements for the broccoli? Also 4 slices of bacon does that mean a full rasher or short cuts, weights would be good just to judge amounts to start. I’m just begining and this article really helps. Thanks

    • Jason says

      Those vegetable will all work, too. Broccoli is just an example. Here’s the bacon I used for this example:

      Please understand this is only an example and I left the weights out on purpose. I know that when you come from a normal dieting mentality weights and measurements are important, but paleo shouldn’t be that way. Just make good food choices and eat plenty if you are trying to repair a damaged metabolism.

  14. Ashley says

    Hi Jason!

    Great post!!! I have a few questions. What if you eat 1800-2000 calories a day already, but still need to lose fat anything you should do differently? should you cut back on starch and fruits? Also, I don’t see any starch or fruit in your example above. When would be the best time to eat them? I feel like carbs help with relaxing in the evening and sleeping better. Would sweet potatoes, berries, etc be okay ?

    Thanks !

    • Jason says

      Those are big questions, and very dependent on your personal situation regarding this whole lifestyle, including exercise, sleep, and stress management. You won’t diet your way around those other things and still get all the way to excellent health. Carb timing and reducing starch/fruit have their place, but it depend on where you are in your journey. I tried to lay out a general outline here: If you want my best possible advice, you’ll need my book.

  15. Nikki says

    Thanks Jason – really helpful!! I am new to this (and have your fat loss template article literally printed out as my guide for my first few months :) ). Is it bad that seeing heavy cream in this sample menu made me really happy? Does that mean I can have a tablespoon or two in my coffee in the morning (organic heavy cream of course…)? :) I hope so! It is awesome that you guys actually answer questions on your articles. Sarah and you are real life savers (literally) with all the information you share here and in your podcasts. I just got your book in and can’t wait to read it. If you can recommend any trainers in the northern NJ area (a long shot I know) it would be great!

  16. Lisa says

    I try not to count calories, I am one of those…long time ago…yo-yo starvation dieters. I have changed my ways and have been struggling with a lot of food allergies over the past 12 months. I just got back into heavy training with Kettlebells 3x+ per week. I have gained 10 pounds but not muscle (or so my Tanita says) but my fat ratio has stayed the same as when I was lighter. I started a Paleo diet 2.5 months ago but haven’t seen any changes yet…..I also avoid dairy so are there other suggestions you can make for me I think maybe it’s possible I am not consuming enough and I am always tired around 3pm…..Right now I feel exhausted.

  17. Mara says

    I am new to the paleo diet. I have always eaten very healthy and lost over 90 pounds back in high school and have kept it off since. I am going to start fading out grains, dairy, sugar etc… I am 30 years old and weigh 130 pounds and am 5’7″. I only want to lose a few pounds but mostly want to try the new way of eating for my overall health. I do have multiple sclerosis as well. So since I’m already pretty small, I was wondering how many calories I should be consumng to promote fat loss and still be eating enough. 2000 calories seems like an excessive amount for me. Would love to hear some feedback. Thanks!

  18. Nicole says

    Could anyone please tell me how to reconcile eating ‘well’ to feel ‘satiated’ while at the same time, trying to lose weight, which normally dictates you fall in some ‘low’ caloric intake (like 1200 – 1400 calories a day)?

    Before I upset anyone, no, I am not doing Paleo for the fad of it to lose weight. I am asking because I recently began a “Paleo” type of diet (the long-term kind, as in, a way of eating, not in the food obsession sense), primarily because I have been nursing my hypothyroidism back to health and wanted better sustenance for myself. Between childbirth and a dragging thyroid which was undetected for 3 years, I managed to gain 50 lbs which seem enormous on my small frame.

    My thyroid is responding to hormone therapy and my doctor told me it was imperative to lose weight (emphasis HIS). Obviously for my thyroid health, but also because I have sciatica and two slipped discs that make the excess weight unbearable. I was advised by my doctor to keep my daily caloric intake at about 1300 calories. I’m trying to understand if this is too restrictive (following this post) but I am having a hard time comprehending some of the food choices or combinations available on paleo, and face it, you want to eat well and not feel deprived.

    I come from Greece and everything swims in olive oil here and olives regularly go with just about everything, so I’m not too concerned with adding good fats to my diet, they’ve been there, and now I’m making an even better effort to nurture myself with the best kind. But some things I’d like to have, just for the variation, like Bacon, for example, has so much sodium in it that just one slice gives me inflammation (my ankles swell like tree trunks!) Here in Greece eating healthy is never a problem and I didn’t freak out when I cut sugars and grains and dairy, and vegetables and fish have always been a main staple of my eating habits. I just can’t figure out if I am eating enough now on Paleo (replete with good fats every day, moderate protein and LOTS of vegetables), because though I am trying to stay within the “1300” range for weight loss, I ultimately feel like I’m hungry all the time. Reading the sample menu on this post of a typical “day” of meals, I figure my meals have less butter and cream in them, more olive oil, but in normal amounts. Any thoughts? Typical meals are salads with salmon, steamed veggies with wild fish, olives, olive oil on salads, veggie-fish casseroles, etc), eggs (any which way – taking easy with the fried ones though), grass-fed beef (from an organic butcher, no less!), spinach, mountain leafy greens (in Greece they cook these a million ways, it never gets boring).

    I keep a brutally honest food journal and try to “calculate” my calories as best as I can. When in doubt, I round up, not down (meals or sauces for which there are no equivalents on english-speaking sites). I am consistently ‘average’ on my fats, low on my proteins and almost non-existent on my carbs and sugars, and I eat what I consider to be well balanced meals. I’m the poster child for balanced meals. And I’m starving, I think.

    Any help?

  19. Jennifer says

    I seriously feel like if I tried to eat that much food I would vomit! Time to start reconditioning the brain! I’m often to get even 1200 calories in, and yes, I’m walking/lifting (alternating days). Ugh. Talk about a reality check as to why I’ve gained 20 pounds in two years! Thanks!

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