There are two main levers that help when balancing weight. Everyone knows the “energy in, energy out” formula. Eat more than is expended in energy and it’s stored in the body as fat. But how does one to calculate the right amount to eat?
What Is The Body’s Basal Metabolic Rate?
The body’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the basic energy load required to keep lungs, heart and all other vital organs running. This excludes the energy required to digest food. (Yes, the body uses calories simply eating and processing food.)
How Do I Calculate My BMR?
There are plenty of online calculators that can help with calculating the body’s BMR. (Type “Basal Metabolic Rate calculator” into any search engine and enter the requested data: age, sex, height and weight.)
A 41-year old male (let’s call him Slim Jim) who weighs 73 kilos and is 180 centimetres tall would have a BMR of 1700 calories per day. That is, his body would use 1700 calories per day just for the basic functioning of its organs.
Most online calculators will adjust the BMR figure for various types of daily activity. Sitting at a desk all day (it takes energy to sit upright and type) adds approximately another 300 calories for the day. If our Slim Jim character described above was an office worker, he would expend a total of 2000 calories per day.
The Benefits Of Exercise
Studies have shown a whole range of health benefits that are derived from regular exercise, for thin and overweight people alike. Exercise should be a primary goal as it boosts health and well being. For those trying to balance their weight, another benefit is the calories that are burned.
In the example above, if our Slim Jim character put in a vigorous 40-minute swim at the pool every day as a part of his routine, this would add another 400 calories to his energy expenditure. At the end of the day, a total of 2400 calories in energy would have been expended.
Overeating Ruins All Your Good Work
Going by this figure of 2400 calories expended for the day, our Slim Jim character cannot eat more than this amount of calories for the day. If he does, the excess energy will be stored as fat. That’s why it’s important to learn the calorie content of your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day.
Studies show we constantly underestimate the amount of calories we eat every day. It’s easy to be fooled. One doughnut contains 400 calories, the equivalent of 10 small apples. Obviously it’s better to snack on fruit through the day, not biscuits or pastries. Just six of those doughnuts would equal Slim Jim’s allowed daily calorie intake of 2400 calories.
Weight Control Is A Fine Balancing Act
Now that the importance of balancing the day’s Basal Metabolic Rate (energy used by the body) against energy consumed (food eaten) is understood, one last vital piece of the weight loss puzzle needs to be explained.
To figure out how much fat is lost or gained for the day, it’s vital to know how many calories are contained in a kilo or pound of body fat. The answer is: there are 7700 calories contained in a kilo of fat. One pound of body fat equals 3500 calories.
If Slim Jim, who can eat 2400 calories per day and maintain his 73 kilo weight, started eating 3400 calories per day, he’d be adding an extra 1000 calories in unused energy to is body every day.
If he continued with this pattern for seven days he’d add 7000 extra calories to his diet and nearly a kilo of fat to his body (remember, there are 7700 calories in a kilo). Or exactly two pounds of body fat (3500 calories per pound).
Conversely, if Slim Jim ate only 1700 calories per day, there would be a shortfall of 700 calories. Over a ten-day period (10 x 700) Slim Jim would lose another 7000 calories, which is equal to two pounds of fat, or almost one kilo.
Keep A Food Diary
The most effective way to keep track of calories consumed is with a food diary. Each page of the food diary should have the dieter’s daily calorie allowance written down clearly.
Research also shows that people who are better educated about food and diet are more successful at maintaining their weight.
The best place to start learning about food is with a calorie counter book, or merely use one of the many internet calorie counting sites. All forms of exercise burn calories. Mild exercise, like walking, burns about four calories per minute. Vigorous exercise, like running, burns approximately 10 calories per minute.
While balancing your weight is important, you don’t want to overdo it. It is recommended that you lose no more than one kilo of body weight a week, and that you don’t eat under 1200 calories per day.
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