As an experiment, I measured my calorie intake daily, and my weight three times a day, for two months while going through a “cutting phase” in my workout routine. The resulting chart is pretty interesting.
First: Notice that I stepped down my calorie intake about 200 calories every two weeks. My daily calorie intake is very regular, except on the days that I have my cheat meal, because I have a very boring and repetitive diet. This is my usual process during my cutting phase, although my weight dropped more rapidly than I expected. Towards the end, I’ve dealt with chronic hunger but for most of the process it actually wasn’t so bad because I did it in small, gradual steps.
Second: Yes, my “cheat meals” really are that many calories! (Look at the column heights on the cheat meal days!) Sometimes, it’s a pizza followed by a box of cookies. But if you are hesitant at all to pig out during your cheat meal, just check out how my weight reacted each time: there was a short-term spike for a couple of days, but it corrected itself again very quickly and continue on its downward slope afterwards. So as long as you really are strict about getting back to your regular diet after your cheat meal, do not hold back!
Third: Look how much variability there is from the beginning to the end of the day, and even how much “noise” there is from one day to the next. This is why I’m not an advocate of people weighing themselves every day. It does not give you a really good sense of your progress. If you want to weigh yourself three times a day and plot a regression line, like I’ve done here, then great. Otherwise, weighing yourself once a week should be perfectly fine.
Fourth: Based on the end-points of the regression line, I lost 15 pounds in two months, which is a very good pace for my goal of maintaining as much muscle as possible. Actually, it went faster than I thought it would… which leaves me in a tough position. If I get down below 170, I’ll be losing muscle and strength and I’ll start looking “gaunt”. So right around mid-May I’m going to have to decide what to do with myself. Do I start gaining again now? Do I try to pull off some kind of “maintaining” strategy over the summer? We’ll have to see what happens.
It’s a very pretty graph to look at, though. Let me know if you have any questions about it! Once I do start bulking up again, I’m going to try to do the same thing so I can produce a graph of my bulking / gaining phase as well.