Many people have started a diet with the best intentions, but with little planning or know how. They may think, “I just have to eat less and I should lose weight.” Sometimes people will get discouraged after a few days of “starving” themselves and throw in the towel before they start seeing results. What many don’t realize is that the key to losing weight can be simplified down to a numbers game. It really comes down to energy in versus energy out.
The first half of the equation to weight loss success is energy in. This basically comes down to the “energy” you put into your body, or what you eat. The four sources of energy for your body comes in the form of:
Each of the substances are measured in calories per gram. Proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram. Fats contain 9 calories per gram. Lastly alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Usually we don’t discuss alcohol much because we don’t derive a significant portion of our calories from it, but it’s an important factor when considering your overall calorie intake.
As you can see, fats are generally much more calorie dense when it comes to the amount of energy they contain compared to proteins and carbohydrates. A good rule of thumb is calories derived from fats should be less than 10% of your overall caloric intake. It is very easy to splurge on fats, a few extra bites can add a lot of calories.
Carbohydrates and proteins should be a pretty even split at about 45-50% of your diet should be derived from these two. There are many different views and diet types that will adjust this number anywhere from 70% carbs/25% protein swinging the opposite way over 60% proteins/ 25% carbs. There are also many factors that can be discussed including carbohydrate types (simple and complex) and protein types (red meat vs. white meat, fish, lentils, beans etc), and which is the best source for your diet. For the purposes of this article we are only looking at the numbers in versus the numbers out.
Energy out is the other half of the equation. Energy out can come in many forms but to break it down to the simplest format, it basically means:
- Basal metabolism + excess energy expenditure = energy out
Basal metabolism is how much energy your body needs on a daily basis to stay alive. Things like the energy it takes to breath, keep you brain functioning, digest food. All of those basic things that has to happen for you to stay alive and functioning. There are many online services that offer this calculation needing only your height, weight, age and sex (try http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html for free). After your basal metabolism is calculated your total energy needs are determined from your lifestyle. For instance, an Olympic swimmer will have much higher energy demands than someone who leads a much more sedentary lifestyle. With a few simple questions, an online calculator can determine how many calories you need per day.
Balancing Out The Equation, Energy In = Energy Out
After you know how many calories you need everyday, it comes down to balancing the equation, which is infinitely easier than it sounds. Let’s say that your overall calorie needs for a day is 2,500 calories (calories out) but you consume 3,000 calories (calories in). This means your body has 500 extra calories left over and unfortunately your body is a professional at storing those calories for another time, and it will store them in the form of fat. Now, what can you do? There are two ways to change the equation, either increase the energy out or decrease the energy in. Increasing the energy out has another name called exercising. Not anyone’s favorite word, but it basically means engaging in any activity that requires calories, thus shifting the favor of the equation to energy out. Keep in mind that many small acts throughout the day can add up, and many of them do not require going to the gym or strapping your running shoes on. Something as simple as taking the stairs at work, parking further away from the door at the grocery store, or throwing the tennis ball with the dog will all require more calories than your body normally consumes. Add all these little changes up and at the end of the day you might be burning 200 more calories than normal, enough to make the Energy Out part of the equation more than the Energy In part. And when that happens, your body begins to look for other places to fulfill its energy needs, like the fat that its stored away exactly for this purpose. The other way to change the equation in your favor is to decrease the Energy In. This shift is all about what and how much you eat. If you choose this method, the Nutritional Facts label on your food will either be your best friend or worst enemy. Nowadays there are also a myriad of smart phone apps to help with this. Weight Watchers is a very popular free app that basically does all the math for you, you simply need to enter in what you eat and how much and it will track how close you are to your Energy Out, or energy expenditure for the day, and warn you when you’re getting too close to the maximum. Cutting out even 200 calories a day can make a huge difference over the course of a month or more.
Results will come
The most important thing with any diet is to stick to your goals. It may be hard at first but the longer you reprogram your mind and body to need fewer calories or to expend more energy, the easier it will become. Be patient and stay determined, and you’ll see results!