Time for our third instalment of Metabolism & Diet, with a Pinch of Exercise. In our first two articles, we explored energy output, where I used myself as an example for some tangible numbers. Today’s article will address the opposite side of the equation; energy in. Let’s get right at it!
We previously determined that I expend around 3,291 calories every day. Now let’s explore how I can manage my weight by adjusting the amount of calories I consume.
From our current understanding of thermodynamics; if we consume more energy (calories) than we expend, the extra energy is stored in our bodies. Any additional energy stores will result in more body weight. If we take in less energy than we expend, our body needs to pull the deficit from stored energy, and the net loss results in weight loss. If I were to make sure I ate 3,291 calories every day, I would maintain my body weight. If I consistently ate over that amount, then I would gain weight. If I ate under that amount, I would lose weight over time.
A fairly typical weight-loss goal is losing one pound of fat every week. This is a healthy rate to lose fat, and with the right dedication and guidance, an achievable goal. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. This translates into a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. You could either achieve this through diet modification, exercise modification, or, ideally a combination of both.
Let’s Get Practical
Back to my example. If I wanted to lose one pound every week, I would have to eat 500 calories under my daily output; which would mean I would need to eat an average of 2,791 calories every day. There are many great online resources these days that will track how many calories you’ve eaten (calorieking, fitday). Tracking everything you eat every day gives a fairly reliable indication of how much you’ve eaten. If you’re determined to meet your weight-loss goals, you will find this to be a valuable process. For those of you not prepared to count calories, you can start working towards your goal by making modifications to your diet. I won’t go into specific strategies here, as I have touched on this topic in a couple other articles (Goal Setting, Portion Control Strategies). Once you’ve determined how you plan on managing your intake, you’re ready to get started on your weight-loss lifestyle!
Please re-read the following fine print as many times as it takes to fully appreciate it’s contents. Everything we have just talked about regarding energy in and out (thermodynamics) is true. However, the human body is very complex; and many things that we have not talked about play a part in how our bodies process and adapt to energy surpluses and deficits. Everything from hydration, to hormones, to fidgeting, to efficiency of food digestion will add clutter to our very clean energy balance equation. This is important to consider in case you’re finding that the weight loss is not happening as quickly (or more quickly) than you anticipated. To get a nicely written rundown on the factors that will affect your hard efforts , I will refer you to Lyle McDonald’s article, The Energy Balance Equation.
Homework of the Week
I challenge everyone in the next couple days to write down everything they eat for one typical meal. Then go to an online site and determine approximately how many calories were consumed. Try not to pick that dinner where all you had time for was a salad and glass of milk. After you’ve determined your calories for that meal, relate it back to your numbers from all the articles.
A little food for thought…. A typical fast food meal (loaded burger, large fries, drink) can easily put you over 1,000 calories; up to 2,000 calories. If you’re female, chances are your total caloric output was around 2,200-2,500 calories. One fast food meal and your day is almost done! And if you think homemade burgers on the grill is any better…. do a little research, and watch the calories climb as you start to add the chips, cheese, and beers to that extra-lean beef burger….
Hurray for BBQ season!