Understanding Calories – The Building Blocks of Weight Loss
If weight loss is a mystery to you then join the club. You’ll find that most people feel the same way. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though it seems like there is a new diet or exercise plan every week that promises it will get those pounds off, if you don’t understand the basic building block of weight loss it will be hard to ever make any progress.
Do you need a degree in nutrition to start losing weight? NO! Just a basic understanding of calories and how to burn them is really all you need. Take a few minutes and look at this brief explanation of the calories that make up our pounds and how they burn off every day!
What Are Calories? (kcal)
Scientific definition: the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water through 1 °C, equal to one thousand small calories and often used to measure the energy value of foods.
As I said, not exactly practical huh?
Calories are energy or fuel. We’ll be thinking of them as building blocks or bricks since energy is vague and does not summon a concrete image in our minds. Whether you gain weight, lose weight or maintain weight is entirely down to the calories you consume versus the calories you burn (the energy balance equation).
For this reason, calories are the most important factor in body recomposition. It’s impossible to gain weight in a calorie deficit (eating less that you burn), and it’s impossible to lose weight in a calorie surplus (vice versa).
To give calories some practical significance just keep in mind that 3,500 calories = 1lb of fat…
…The 4 Ways To Calculate Calories Burned
1. Thermic Effect of Activity aka Exercise (TEA)
Okay, so cardio does burn calories. But not many compared to what we eat. A 35min run at 6.7mph will help you burn roughly 400 calories, equivalent to a muffin.
So if we do the math, and a pound of fat is 3,500 calories, all you need to do is run for 45 minutes at 6.7mph, seven days per week, while maintaining the exact same daily intake of food and you’ll lose one pound! Yeah, what I thought… muffins aren’t that nice.
2. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your BMR is the total daily amount of calories you burn by quite literally being alive. Your BMR is what you would burn if you were in a coma. One of the main differences between dead people and people in a coma is that people in a coma still need to eat!
In the same way a car with the engine turned off doesn’t require fuel, a car with the ignition on does – even if it remains stationary. In a human body, everything needs calories. Your heart, your lungs, your skin, your eyes, your brain and every cell in between. Your BMR is where most of your calories go on a daily basis.
3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
NEAT accounts for all of the activity you do throughout the day that you wouldn’t really class as an exercise, i.e. fidgeting, being expressive, pottering around the house. You’d be surprised how many calories you’re capable of burning from this type of activity. For an energetic fidgeter, possibly hundreds each day.
4. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
Ah, now this is the one most people don’t understand. Remember our question about whether you’d gain the same amount of weight if you ate 1000 calories of ice-cream versus 1000 calories of tuna?
Well, I have to concede to the carbs-are-the-devil people here. Because you would indeed gain more weight if you ate the ice cream than if you ate the tuna, even though they contain the same amount of calories. But don’t rule out calories yet. They still count. Here’s how:
Food is made up of calories, but calories are made up of something themselves: macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (we’ll get into more depth in a moment).
Different macronutrients are processed and utilized differently by the body and require different amounts of energy (calories) to do so. This process is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).
Protein, for instance, has a TEF of about 20-30%. This means that 20-30% of the calories you consume from protein get used up just in the digestion process.
So out of 1000 calories of tuna, 200-300 calories would be burnt just by the mere processing of it. 1000 calories of tuna, when all is said and done is actually closer to 700 calories of tuna.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, have a low TEF of 6%. So of course tuna, when you subtract its thermic effect is not going to make you as fat as ice-cream! Calories in, calories out. There’s no way around it. – Comfort Pit
Two Easy Ways To Cut Calories and Lose Weight
Now we understand what calories are and that we have to reduce them and burn them to win the weight loss battle. ere are two simple everyday ways to reduce the calories you take in so when you burn calories you are making progress in your weight loss!
Here are two simple everyday ways to reduce the calories you take in so when you burn calories you are making progress in your weight loss! If you think these small changes can’t make a difference look at this math.
If you think these small changes can’t make a difference look at this math. If you lost 2 ounces a day for a year you would lose over 45 lbs! To lose 2 ounces a day you need to have a calorie deficit of 437.5 calories. That’s about a muffin! Or it could be the simple application of these two ideas.
Replace One Sugary Drink per Day with Water
We all know that soda isn’t the healthiest beverage choice, but a recent study suggests that exchanging one serving per day for a glass of water could help reduce overall calorie intake and subsequent risk of obesity, lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 to 25 percent. Take a look at your fruit juice intake, too. Even 100 percent fruit juices can contribute a lot of calories and sugars to your diet. Limit yourself to one 4-ounce glass per day.
Eat Your Veggies First
If you’re not eating enough vegetables (and most of us aren’t), it could be because you put them in a contest they can’t win.
“Research has shown that when vegetables are competing with other—possibly more appealing—items on your plate, you eat less of them,” explains Traci Mann, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of “Secrets From the Eating Lab” (HarperCollins, 2015). “But when you get the vegetables alone, you eat more of them.”
Mann has studied this strategy—serving veggies solo before the rest of the meal—with college students and preschoolers, but she reasons that it would work for anyone.
“Make a salad and sit down to eat it before you put any other food on the table,” she suggests. “You’ll not only eat more vegetables, you’ll also fill up a bit so that you eat less later in the meal.” – Consumer Reports
What small steps help you lose weight?