Entry 1: Energy in vs Energy out
Fat loss is a complex topic and as such will take several entries to cover adequately. The first and most important thing to consider with fat loss is diet and as such is the subject of my first entry. I know that diet is a four-letter word in today’s health environment so let’s rephrase this concept of balancing our energy intake/needs as “nutrition.” Bodyfat is like an energy savings bank. Any calories that we take in and don’t use are stored as fat. If you take in less energy in a day than what you need, existing fat stores are broken down to make up the difference. Thus, to lose body fat you should “eat less and move more.” It is important to determine what your energy needs are and by how much you can safely reduce your intake.
*Please note that what you will find below is a guide based of off well researched materials from NASM, ACSM and various other nutrition sources. I am NOT a registered dietitian and thus cannot build you a personalized diet plan. As always discuss major changes with your Dr.
This post is divided into
- Calculating a safe minimum caloric intake
- Setting your target intake based on your needs (calculation) and realistic goals
Scroll to the bottom for a quick hits/summary.
Step 1 – Determine your minimum energy (calorie) needs: How low can you go?
While it is important to decrease calorie intake to have weight-loss, there is a minimum amount of food that you NEED to be healthy. If you cut too much out of your diet there are serious health consequences (subject for another post).
How do I know how much I can cut out to both see results and still be healthy?
- Determine what your body needs to MAINTAIN your weight just as you are. This figure is called the Basal Metabolic Rate BMR.
Follow this link to determine what your individual needs are.
- It is generally considered safe to reduce your caloric intake by about 20% of your BMR
- BMR X .20 = (____)
- This is the number of calories you can safely cut from your BMR
- BMR – (bi) = (_________)
- This is the lower limit number of calories you can consume daily to lose body fat safely.
- BMR X .20 = (____)
- My BMR = 1400
- 1400 x .2 = 280
- 1400-280 = 1120
- So, I can safely eat around 1100 calories a day and still lose body fat.
- It is important to note that most people eat well above their BMR (which is why they are overweight/gaining weight). Eating below BMR would then represent a significant decrease from normal intake and thus fat loss is more rapid than the math above would imply.
- Example – If I normally eat 1800 calories a day, 1100 represents a difference of 700. This equals a loss of almost a pound and a half per week.
- ******The “minimum caloric intake” is a minimum. If you want to lose more than what you are from diet alone, you will need to add in exercise.*******
Step 2 – Plan based on realistic goals
- I think it is a good idea to set 1 long term goal and several short-term goals. You can then use these numbers in conjunction with your minimum caloric intake to figure out how to balance your food consumption with exercise to make progress towards your goal each week.
- 1-3 pounds a week is a reasonable and healthy goal. Remember that it will be easier to lose weight quickly if you have more weight to lose. For example, if you are 50lbs overweight you will have a much easier time losing 5 lbs a week (when you begin) than someone who is only 10 lbs overweight. The closer you get to your goal, the slower your progress will be.
- Remember that 1 pound of body fat equals 3500 calories (500 calories a day). To lose 1 lb a week you would need to be in a negative by 500 calories a day.
- Long Term goal: Lose 10 lbs in 10 weeks
- Short term goal: Lose 5 lbs in the next 4 weeks
- I must lose 1.25lbs per week = 4375 calories a week (625 per day) to meet my goal.
- My minimum caloric intake = 1120 and I normally eat 1500 calories per day which means I get a deficit of 380 per day from my diet.
- 625-380 = 245 calories must be burned via activity per day to reach my goal
Quick hits/summary (For the impatient)
- Don’t eat so much. (but don’t eat too little either.)
- Go here and get this number = BMR
- BMR x .2 = __________(A)
- BMR – A =_______(the amount of calories you should eat per day to safely lose weight.)
- If you try limiting your calories to the suggested numbers above and your progress is not fast enough, add in exercise.
- Everything is about balance and moderation. Energy out must exceed energy in if you want to lose body fat.
Stay tuned for entries on food selection, goal Setting, exercise selection/modulation, and health behaviors which contribute to fat loss.
As always, please feel free to comment and/or share.
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