The equation is pretty simple – the more calories you burn and the fewer calories you take in, the more weight you lose.
3,500 calories equals a pound, so if you want to drop a pound a week, cut back by about 500 calories a day. If that sounds tough, cut calories by 250 (skip a candy bar or a sugary soda) and take a half-hour bike ride to the park, which even at a leisurely pace will burn about 250 calories, seemingly effortlessly.
BY THE NUMBERS
To get a better idea of how it works, consider the following.
To calculate how many calories you burn a day just by living, multiple your current weight by 14. That’s about 2,500 for a 180-pound guy, and if that’s you, that means you can eat 2,500 calories a day to maintain your weight. Eat more, and you’ll gain weight, eat less, and you’ll watch weight melt away.
Choosing to add exercise to the equation will help torch extra calories, but making the right calorie choices will make a big difference. Clearly, a diet made up of crackers won’t give you the strength to power through any effective workout, making it vitally important that you fuel yourself the right way.
A BIT MORE INTO THIS CALORIES THING
If we want to get all technical (and I will) a calorie is actually a heat measurement. It is defined by its ability to raise the temperature of water. Regardless, it is still a measurement of energy. Thus, calories provide us with fuel for necessary bodily functions like breathing, daily tasks such as walking around, and for physical exertion.
I’m pretty sure you have all seen or heard the following.
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
This is actually not true. Fat is technically equal to 9.44 calories, carbohydrates to 4.18, and protein to 5.65. These numbers are the true caloric value of these nutrients before our bodies get a hold of them. These numbers change through heat being released once food enters our system, the amount we can actually digest, and nitrogen that is lost in our urine (ewww gross!)
So now you might be asking why I made you throw up and what the heck do those numbers have to do with anything?
Basically I want to emphasis why calorie counting is an inexact science. Although the calories we see on food labels are fairly accurate they can vary greatly. The only way to get a true caloric value on food is through a bomb calorimeter. What you see on labels are simply approximations.
Many factors can influence the calorie count of a given food.
- Expiration dates: Foods that are expired or close to expiration lose energy and nutrients
- Animal nutrition: The calories and nutrients of milk, eggs, and meat vary on how the animal that housed them was feed and the conditions they lived in
- Starches: Certain starches and fibers are not easily processed by the body and thus we do not get the benefits of nutrients and calories
- Soil: Product that is grown from nutrient dense solid will continue higher levels of nutrients.
- Storage times: Food that you bought form the farmers market that came straight form the source that day will contain a different nutritional profile than that of food sitting on a shelf for a few weeks.
- Cooking: From raw to cooking, food profiles change.
It’s been shown that food labels can have a margin of error of up to +/-25%.
FILL ME UP
Are body uses energy (calories) primarily in five ways.
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR): This is the energy that is required to keep the body’s vital functions working properly while awake.
- Resting metabolic rate (RMR): The energy that is required to sustain the body while at rest.
- Exercise activity: The energy required while performing physical movement (outside of daily tasks, work, lifestyle)
- Thermogenic effect of food: The energy required to digest food and deliver nutrients
- Non-exercise related: Random activity that requires energy like tapping you feet, playing desk drums, etc…
We want to focus on our BMR, Exercise activity, and Thermogenic effect of food. These three elements contribute to nearly all of our energy expenditure throughout the day.
More specifically our BMR can contribute to anywhere from 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure with physical activity contributing from around 15-30%. Other factors such as those mentioned above make up about 10%. This information is vitally important to us as it shows just how important our nutritional habits are when compared to our exercise habits.
Both exercise and nutrition are needed in order to maintain a healthy bodyweight, lean body mass, physical performance, and healthy vitals. However, with 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure coming from non-movement related activity (pn) it is super important that we emphasize nutrition first. This is yet another reason while weight training with the goal of adding lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle we have the more calories we will burn on a daily basis when we are thinking about our BMR.
So if you want to burn more calories every day, eat real food that promotes energy and adequate calories for performance and combine with strength training 3-5 times a week to build muscle mass. This way those days when you are sitting on your fanny (reading educational material and eating meat and veggies of course) you will be burning more calories.
FOR YOU NUMBERS JUNKIES
For you analysts out there lets take a little deeper look into calories. How much do I need?
There are three basic ways to determine you calorie level. All of which are based calories needed to meet our RMR needs.
- Harris-Benedict (most popular)
- Owen Equation
- Mifflin (we will focus on this one as it has been proven to be the most accurate amongst men and women)
All of these methods are only approximations they can very greatly but for the most part give you a great starting point.
The calculations are based upon sex, age, height, and weight.
When I work with clients we first focus on the quality of food that they are eating as opposed to the quantity. For one it is less time-consuming but also it much easier for you to build the habit of eating healthier foods.
- Men: 10 x (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 x (height in centimeters) – 5 x (age in years) + 5
- Women: 10 x (weight in kilograms) + 6.25 x (height in centimeters) – 5 x (age in years) – 161
Note: metric conversions
Example: Justin – 10 x (68.94) + 6.25 x (177.8) – 5 x (31) + 5= 1,650 calories
This number represents our daily caloric requirements to sustain the body’s vital functions while at rest (pn). It is VERY important to not that this does not include our daily physical activity, exercise routine, or thermogenic effect of food.
Again, this is only an approximation. This can very greatly depending on many factors but I do believe it is a good starting point for the majority of the population that are interested in understanding daily calorie requirements.
Enough science….let’s get simple!
GOOD FOOD IN. THE NOT SO GOOD OUT
The protein in lean meats will help build muscle, enhance a workout, while fruits and veggies will provide not only essential nutrients, but also will help you stay hydrated and keep everything in working order. A proper mix of protein and carbs will also ensure that you maintain valuable muscle while you lose weight.
When thinking about applying this to your dinner plate take a look at this.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?
Experts recommend that men eat no less than 1,500 calories a day, and women no less than 1,200 calories a day to ensure essential nutrients.
Cutting calories drastically can lead to serious health problems, and can cause your body to go into starvation mode, slowing down your metabolism and bringing weight loss to a screeching halt. I would suggest starting at the hight end and focusing on the quality of foods as opposed to the quantity. Then go from there.
LABLES, LABELS, LABELS
It’s important to read the labels so you know what you’re eating.
- Check serving size. If you aren’t careful you’ll eat twice as many calories as you think you have, just by pouring a larger serving of cereal that the suggested serving size or eating more than one cookie.
- Watch out for fat-free. Many foods that are labeled fat-free have way too much sugar in order to make it taste good, and without fat, leave you feeling less satisfied. In many cases, going for the full-fat item will make you feel more satisfied, and you’ll ultimately eat less.
TRACKING YOUR EFFORT
A weekly weight-in can help you stay on track because it reminds you of your ultimate goal while putting any progress you’ve made clearly into focus.
Also, it can help alert you to any setbacks you might experience, making you better able to stop them in their tracks.
- Taking measurements can might be a more effective method as sometimes your weight might not change due to building muscle and losing body fat. However, you still should see some changes in your waist size and other body measurements. Here is an excellent guide at how to take your own measurements at home
- Lastly, take pictures! Sometimes it might be hard for you to see any changes due to the fact that you see yourself every day. Take pictures at least once a month and compare them.