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The Truth About Losing Weight
There are thousands of articles written every year on how to lose weight, each proposing a different approach to losing weight. However, the truth is that any excess weight you may have has to do with the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you burn each day. It’s that simple, and no one can prove otherwise. It’s like the gas you put in your car: the amount you put in, the distance you go. As far as your body is concerned, you eat a certain amount of food and it lasts you for a certain amount of time. If you eat more than you burn, the excess calories are stored as fat.
Let’s take a closer look at the calories you eat and burn each day. As it turns out, there are three main types of calorie burn. The first is called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. It’s the largest of the three and is your resting metabolism; in other words, it’s the number of calories you burn while sitting. It’s used to fuel your cells, keep your heart beating, your lungs function, your brain function, and more. About 60% to 80% of the total calories you burn each day are BMR calories.
The second largest calorie expenditure comes from the thermionic effect of eating. This may seem a little strange, but it takes calories to burn calories — in other words, to digest your food. For protein, aim for about 25 calories per 100 calories consumed, and for carbohydrates and fats, about 10 to 15 calories per 100 calories consumed. This can add a lot of calories. It makes up 10% to 30% of the total calories you burn each day.
Finally, we come to one item that might surprise you, exercise and general body movement. Most people think that exercise contributes a lot, but it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not important — it is. You can easily burn off 500 calories during a high-intensity workout, but in general, exercise and physical activity only account for about 10 to 15 percent of the calories most people burn in a day for most people.
Now let’s apply the above to a typical woman and man. First we need BMR formulas, they are as follows:
Adult male: 66+ (6.3 times your weight in pounds) + (12.9 times your height in inches) – (6.8 times your age in years).
Adult female: 655 + (4.3 times your weight in pounds) + (4.7 times your height in inches) – (4.7 times your age in years).
For example, let’s say you are a 40-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds and is 5’2″. Substituting the appropriate numbers, we find that your BMR is 1360. For your thermionic calories, we multiply 0.15 by the total number of calories you eat during the day. Let’s say it’s 1900; therefore, your thermionic calories are 285. The contribution of exercise and physical movement is a little harder to pin down precisely because it depends on how hard and how long you exercise during the day. Let’s assume you don’t exercise; in this case, your contribution might be around 200 calories. This gives you a total of 1845 calories.
If you burn 1900 calories during the day, you are eating more than 55 calories. It doesn’t seem like much, but in two months (if you do it every day) you’ll gain a pound, and in a year you’ll gain 6 pounds. (I’m using the fact that a pound is 3500 calories here.)
Let’s do the same for a 40-year-old 6-foot man who weighs 170 pounds. Substituting into our BMR formula, we get 1793. In this case, we assume a calorie intake of 2600; multiply that by 0.15 to get 390 thermionic calories. For exercise and physical activity, let’s assume he consumed 300 calories (meaning he did not exercise during the day). Therefore, his total calories are 2483, and if he eats 2600 calories during the day, he will have an extra 117 calories. This will add one pound every 30 days, or about 12 pounds a year.
It’s easy to see from here that weight gain can slip by if you’re not careful. Even a few extra calories per day can add up to a considerable amount of weight over the course of the year. The best way to keep an eye on your calorie input and output balance is of course to weigh yourself regularly, and if you notice weight gain, take steps to change it as soon as possible. You will have to reduce your calorie intake slightly or exercise more. What I want to emphasize is that even though exercise doesn’t seem to contribute much to the total calories we burn in a day, it can be very important. As I mentioned before, a good workout burns 500 calories, which easily offsets any excess you may have.
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