Eating 1600 Calories A Day And NOT Losing Weight (Why)

When you’re trying to lose weight by eating 1600 a day and you’re still not seeing the progress that you want, it can be very frustrating. Let’s dive into why progress may be stalled and what you can do about it.

Why would you not lose weight when eating 1600 calories? You would not lose weight eating 1600 calories a day if 1600 calories is not a caloric deficit anymore (which can change over time), if your body composition is changing instead of your weight, or if you’re not tracking your calories accurately and eating more than 1600 calories without knowing.

It’s important to understand whether 1600 calories per day is a good goal for you in the first place, because you may be making weight loss harder than it needs to be by lowering your calories too much.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

  • If it’s common to not lose weight while eating 1600 calories
  • Why you might not be losing weight with 1600 calories a day
  • How to proceed if you’re not losing weight eating 1600 calories
  • What results that you could expect from eating 1600 calories a day

Is It Normal To Eat 1600 Calories And Not Lose Weight?

It is possible to eat 1600 calories per day consistently and still not lose weight.  In fact, many people on the internet have had the same issue:

I am [definitely] eating 1600 calories or less a day and exercising three times a week and I haven’t lost weight, why not?”

Quora User

“I cut my calories down to 1600 due to my inactivity in the gym…and no weight loss. I’m 26 years old, 6’0″, and have higher-than-average muscle mass, but this cut isn’t working.”

Reddit User

“Not losing weight at 1600kcal despite tracking everything???”

Reddit User

It’s important to know that most people should be losing weight by eating 1600 calories per day because it is a fairly low intake, particularly for men.

So, understading WHY eating 1600 calories isn’t resulting in weight loss will help you stop spinning your wheels and make progress.

Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1600 Calories Per Day

reasons why you're not losing weight eating 1600 calories per day

The reasons why you might not lose weight while eating 1600 calories are:

  • You’ve Gained Muscle Instead
  • You Aren’t Eating 1600 Calories
  • You’re Not Burning Enough Calories Throughout The Day
  • Your Metabolism Is Too Slow

1. You’ve Gained Muscle Instead

One of the reasons why you might not be losing weight while eating 1600 calories is because you’re gaining muscle at the same rate that you’re losing weight, so your body weight isn’t changing.

If you’re putting on 1lb of muscle at the same rate that you’re losing 1lb of fat, then you would look different but your weight on the scale wouldn’t change. It’s important to note that changes in your body composition are still a measure of progress.

I would prefer that my body composition was changing instead of my body weight because when you add muscle and your body composition changes, your metabolism speeds up so that you burn calories at a fast rate, you look better, and you generally feel better in your skin.

So it’s important to note that if your weight isn’t changing but your measurements are changing, then you’re still making progress by eating 1600 calories per day.

This is most likely to happen if you’re just starting to strength train because as a beginner you can gain muscle more easily, even if you’re in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs).

If you’re someone who is very experienced with strength training, then this is less likely to happen while eating 1600 calories because once you’re experienced it’s much harder to gain muscle and you would likely need more calories than 1600 for this to be possible.

2. You Aren’t Eating 1600 Calories

Another reason why you’re not losing weight while eating 1600 calories is that you’re not actually eating 1600 calories due to tracking inaccuracies.

If you’re making mistakes while tracking your intake, then you might be eating more calories than you think you’re eating. Perhaps 1600 calories would result in weight loss if you were eating 1600 calories.

Some common mistakes that are made with tracking are:

  • Not tracking liquid calories
  • Underestimating your serving sizes
  • Using a food tracking app with unverified foods
  • Using a net calorie tracking setting

Not Tracking Liquid Calories

One of the main mistakes that people make when tracking their calories or macros is forgetting to account for liquid calories. Liquid calories can add up quickly, especially if you’re someone who drinks lots of liquids besides plain water.

If you’re having pop, juice, milk, kombucha, or any liquids that aren’t zero calories then you could be racking up a lot of calories and not know it because you’re not tracking them.

If you’re adding 100 to 200 additional calories by consuming these liquids, then this could put your calories higher than 1600 and keep you from losing weight.

Underestimating Your Serving Sizes

Another common mistake when tracking is estimating your portion sizes incorrectly, which could be the reason why you’re consuming more calories than you think.

This is worse with fats than carbs or protein because they’re higher in calories, which means that any discrepancy in the serving that you’re logging can make a big difference.

If you’re estimating that your serving size of peanut butter was 1 tbsp but it was actually 2.5 tbsp then that’s almost a 200-calorie difference.

If you’re not losing weight eating what you think is 1600 calories, then I would encourage you to weigh and measure for 1 to 2 weeks to see if any changes occur. If so, then you were probably underestimating your portion sizes.

Using A Food Tracking App With Unverified Foods

It’s also important to ensure that you’re using a food tracking app that has been verified to be accurate because if you’re logging food that isn’t accurate, then you won’t get an accurate depiction of how much you’re consuming.

If the app you’re using says that a certain serving size of food has 100 calories, but it actually has 300 calories per serving, then you could be consuming more calories than you think.

If almost every food you log is inaccurate, then it’s easy to see how this could add up to put you way over 1600 calories.

I use MacroFactor when tracking my food because they have the largest food database that’s been verified by a Registered Dietitian, so I can trust that the food I’m logging is as accurate as possible.

If you’re not losing weight and you’re not using a verified food database, then it’s worth switching your food tracking app to one that has verified foods.

Using A Net Calorie Tracking Setting

A big mistake that many people aren’t aware of is having your food logging app account for net calories, which is a setting that takes any calories that you burned through exercise and adds them to your daily calorie target.

This is a mistake because you don’t want to add those calories that you burned back into your intake, you want to create a deficit so that you’re eating less than your body needs.

By adding those calories back onto your intake, you’re not creating a deficit and therefore you won’t lose weight.

It’s important to ensure that if your exercise is being logged into your food tracking app that it’s not changing your calorie target for the day.

3. You’re Not Burning Enough Calories Throughout The Day

You won’t lose weight eating 1600 calories per day if you’re not burning enough calories throughout the day.

If you’re not active enough throughout the day, then you may not be burning enough calories to put yourself in a calorie deficit while eating 1600 calories.

A calorie deficit means that your body has to use its resources (preferably fat) for fuel because the number of calories you’re eating isn’t enough to keep up with demands and maintain your weight.

Let’s say that 1600 calories is enough calories for you to maintain your weight with no exercise and only 6000 steps per day.

If you were to start exercising or increase your daily steps, you would create a calorie deficit because you’re increasing the number of calories that you’re burning per day.

So if 1600 calories aren’t resulting in weight loss it could be that you just need to increase your daily activity. That being said, if you’re already exercising a lot and getting over 10000 steps per day, then it may not be feasible to increase your activity further.

Instead, you might have to lower your caloric intake to continue to lose weight or start reverse dieting to build your metabolism back up and lose weight on higher calories in the future.

Related Article: Can You Undereat & Now Lose Weight?

4. Your Metabolism Is Too Slow

The number one reason that you wouldn’t lose weight eating 1600 calories is that your metabolism has slowed down so much that you aren’t burning calories as readily, and therefore 1600 calories is too much for you to lose weight.

This is an unfortunate situation because as I said earlier, most people should have no problem losing weight by eating 1600 calories; in fact, most people should be able to lose weight by eating more than 1600 calories.

So if you’re not losing weight, then your metabolism is much slower than it should be. This is probably because you tried to decrease your caloric intake too much and your metabolism slowed down in response to this to preserve energy for basic bodily functions (breathing, digestion, etc.) while your calorie intake was restricted.

To speed up your metabolism back up and make it possible to maintain weight at higher calories or to lose weight on higher calories in the future, you will need to reverse diet.

Looking for a 1600 calorie meal plan? Check out our other article that breaks it down step by step

What To Do If You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1600 Calories Per Day

What to do if you're not losing weight eating 1600 calories per day

If you’re not losing weight by eating 1600 calories per day then you can:

Decrease Calories Further

If you’re doing a bodybuilding competition or you’re a woman who isn’t very active and has very little muscle mass, then you could decrease your calories further by 100 to 300 calories to continue losing weight.

It’s essential to continue to self-monitor as you decrease your calories to ensure that you’re not experiencing any drastic symptoms as a result of calories being restricted.

If you lose your period, feel extremely fatigued, and are starting to become irritable then it’s better to reverse diet rather than continue to cut calories.

Start Reverse Dieting

If you’re not losing weight by eating 1600 calories even though you should be losing based on your body composition and activity level, then you need to start to reverse dieting.

Reverse dieting is a way for you to speed up your metabolism by increasing your caloric intake over time. One of the benefits of reverse dieting is that you can eat more food without gaining a ton of fat mass.

This is because the process is done at your own pace, which gives your metabolism a chance to speed up so you’re never severely overeating compared to how many calories your body is burning.

The reverse dieting process has 4 steps:

  • Step 1: Determine your baseline caloric intake and bodyweight
  • Step 2: Decide how much fat you’re comfortable gaining to select your approach
  • Step 3: Increase your calories based on the selected approach
  • Step 4: Evaluate your progress and adjust calories as necessary.

To dive into the reverse dieting process further, check out my other article: Reverse Dieting vs Calorie Deficit” 3 Differences.  In that article, I go into further detail about the four reverse dieting steps.

Realistic Results You Can Expect From Eating 1600 Calories Per Day

Most people who eat 1600 calories per day will lose weight because a 1600 caloric intake is on the lower end of recommended daily caloric intake.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who wants to lose weight should eat 1600 calories.

Most people could probably lose weight by eating more than 1600 calories, which would be better because it wouldn’t slow down your metabolism as much. Therefore, those who don’t need a 1600 calorie deficit to lose weight should not use one.

That being said, women who are less active and less muscular may require 1600 calories to lose weight even when their metabolism is at its optimal rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Gain Weight Eating 1600 Calories A Day?

Most individuals will not gain weight if they’re consistently eating 1600 calories a day because it is a relatively low caloric intake; however, if you’ve restricted your calories for an extended period, you may not be burning calories as readily which could result in you gaining weight while eating 1600 calories.

If I Eat 1600 Calories A Day Will I Lose Weight?

Most people will lose weight if they eat 1600 calories a day consistently; however, you should only eat 1600 calories a day if you aren’t able to lose weight at a higher caloric intake. For example, if you can lose weight by eating 1800 calories then there is no benefit in dropping your calories to 1600.

How Much Will I Lose If I Eat 1600 Calories A Day?

The amount of weight that you will lose eating 1600 calories depends on how many calories it takes for you to maintain your weight, your activity level, and the length of time you’re eating 1600 calories. An ideal rate of loss is 0.5lb to 2lbs of your body weight per week, anything greater than this is not recommended.

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About The Author

Amanda Parker
Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.