There is no cheat. There is no overnight trick. There is no magic potion or food or diet that will get you there instantly. Losing weight is not easy. It takes time and effort and consistency. It is, however, simple.
The truth is you need to be in a CALORIE DEFICIT in order to lose fat. It is as simple as this. Reaching and maintaining a calorie deficit is not easy, but the science of it really is this simple. This means that when you go to bed at night, you need the sum of the amount of calories consumed and the amount of calories burnt to be a negative number (this is called your net calorie balance).
Net Calorie Balance = Calories Consumed - Calories Burnt
Now, DON’T PANIC. Everyone’s initial reaction to this is that they have to be burning 2000+ calories a day through workouts/physical activity. That is absolutely not the case. The body actually burns calories naturally throughout the day from regular body processes like breathing, digesting, circulation, cell production, etc. This measurement of calories burnt at rest is referred to as your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR is almost exactly the same as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), so you may see these words used interchangeably. So, yes, this means if you do absolutely nothing but sit in bed all day, you are still burning calories.
The average person can lose 1 pound of fat a week if they are able to maintain a 3500 calorie deficit throughout the course of 7 days. This breaks down to a 500 calorie deficit per all 7 days of the week, or you can do the math and split it up any other way as long as at the end of the week the total deficit is 3500 calories. For example, you could choose one day a week to end at a net calorie balance of 0 and strive for a 583 calorie deficit the other 6 days. (Since 3500 divided by 6 days is 583.)
Now, if you consider the original equation of calories in - calories out, it should hopefully seem more reasonable. The next step is determining what your RMR is. This rate is different for every single person and is affected by height, weight, age, gender, body composition, and more, but there are general equations and websites that can help you predict what your RMR is (these methods are pretty accurate). I recommend https://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/bmr.
Once you calculate your RMR, you have to consider how active you are. Simply put, if you are more active throughout the day you are going to be burning more calories even when you aren’t ‘working out’. This activity level impacts your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which is a measurement of how much energy you use a day. This includes the calories burnt from your RMR and any additional calories that may be burnt through your active day. If you have a physically demanding job that involves moving around for a good portion of the day, you are most likely already burning calories working. The chart below shows how to classify your activity level based on steps taken per day, which is a good indication of how active you are. Your TDEE is calculated by multiplying your estimated RMR rate by the factor associated with your activity level.
If you don’t know how many steps you take a day you can utilize a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or any other activity tracker to help determine this. Or, you can assess a regular day for yourself and match your activity level to the most closely related description on the chart.
The last component of the weight loss equation relies on how many calories you burn being physically active. The easiest way to track this is with a heart rate tracker. The two most common methods are wrist wearables and chest strap monitors. Some examples, as mentioned above, include Fitbits, Apple Watches, and MyZone belts. These devices have the capability to sense your heart rate and use that to determine how hard you are working/how many calories you are burning. In a future post I will go deeper into heart rate and what heart rate ranges are optimal to maintain throughout a workout. At the end of your workout, you can take the given value for calories burnt and plug it into your weight loss equation.
So, let’s put this into simpler terms. Because, again, losing weight is simple. Not easy, but simple. The amount of calories your body burns doing everyday natural processes (your RMR) plus the amount of calories you are burning being physically active NEEDS to outnumber the amount of calories you are intaking (from food) in order to lose weight. Check out this equation below to see that put into mathematical terms.
Calories Intaken < RMR + Calories Burnt During Workout
You can also use this equation to work backwards and determine how many calories you should be eating or how many calories you should be burning per workout. The different versions of the equation are listed below to help you calculate your own values for each. Just plug in the values that you know and solve from there. Keep in mind that a weight loss of 1 pound of fat a week requires a 500 calorie deficit all 7 days of the week, or 3500 calories total amongst all 7 days of the week. The equations below consider a goal of 1 pound of fat loss a week and utilize the goal of a 500 calorie deficit per day. You can tweak any of these equations to meet your weight loss and calorie deficit goals by changing the value of 500 to whatever your deficit goal is. The picture below will give you more reference for setting your calorie deficit goals.
Calories Burnt During Workout = Calories Intaken - RMR + 500
Calories Intaken = RMR + Calories Burnt During Workout - 500
It is important to note that the body requires a certain amount of nutrients a day to stay healthy and perform at your best ability. Each individual body also behaves differently and what works for one person may not work best for another. Before cutting calories or adapting a new workout regimen, a person should talk with their doctor or a trusted registered dietitian to ensure it will be safe for them. If you are looking for more nutritional information contact us via the bottom of this page, Instagram, or Facebook!