Just starting out and wanting a change in your physique? One of the first steps of building a body is understanding what the body actually needs, and doesn't need in the way of fuel (a.k.a. calories).
The way this is done is to determine first the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) of the body—and each person is very unique in his or her requirements. Metabolism is defined as all of the chemical processes of the human body.
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created nor destroyed and the total amount of energy and matter in the entire universe remains constant, only changing from one form to another, and then another... so on and so forth.
The First Law of Thermodynamics (which is also known as Conservation) further states that energy is always conserved, hence the change into one form or another.
You wonder, what the h*ll does all of this have to do with losing weight or gaining muscle? Well, we require energy in the form of food. Our bodies follow the First Law of Thermodynamics, and if you take in more energy than you put out through out the day, your body does its job and conserves that extra left over energy (ingested food/calories) as fat.
If you do not consume enough calories during the day, however, and your body requires much more than its Basal Metabolic Rate, your body will take the needed calories/energy from its fat stores, or in a malnourished state will take from its muscle stores, known as gluconeogenesis (the formation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino acids and the glycerol portion of fats). A person consuming a caloric amount that is equal to the energy put out, the person will maintain a consistent weight.
Calculating Your BMR
Every human being has a number, of Basal Metabolic requirement, the amount of energy in the form of food calories (kcal's) that one requires to do nothing but lay in bed and not move, the basal, bottom line, bare minimum you need to have cellular function.
Ok, so now how do you figure out what yours is? You can get an idea of your BMR by utilizing one of the following equations (as appropriate):
- Women: BMR = 247 - (2.67 * age) + (401.5 * height) + (8.6 * weight)
- Men: BMR = 293 - (3.8 * age) + (456.4 * height) + (10.12 * weight)
Where age is in years, height is in meters, and weight is in kilograms. For those imperially-inclined (or metrically-challenged) amongst us, one pound equals 0.4535924 kilogram, and one inch equals 0.0254 meter.
So, you can do the math, or you could just use this handy dandy calculator to determine your BMR (amount of calories needed per day just to function):
Activity Level Factors
- Level 1.0: Sedentary, couch potato.
- Level 1.2: Desk job, no outside activity.
- Level 1.4 Light activity and exercise, plus daily work.
- Level 1.6: Moderate activity and daily work.
- Level 1.8: High activity (construction, masonry, loading trucks).
- Level 2.0: Extreme activity (24 hour work detail—Marines/Soldiers on fire watch in Iraq, up all night, little rest; digging ditches, laying cement).
To determine your daily energy requirement, multiply your already estimated BMR by the level of activity that best describes your life from above. This number is the amount that will keep you properly fueled and maintaining your current body weight and body fat percentage.DAILY ENERGY REQUIREMENT CALCULATOR
Losing Weight = Simple Math
Remember, to lose weight, your physical output must be greater than the above maintenance number. Since it is difficult to burn so many calories through activity alone, the diet is also manipulated to reduce the number of calories consumed. By adding this to the thermogenic effects of exercise, you create enough of a deficit to require the use of stored body fat as fuel, and thus resulting in a body fat loss and weight change.
For example, Mary Jane is 5'5", 30 years old, 165 lbs., and 32% body fat. Her Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), therefore, is approximately 1473 calories per day. She is lightly active and walks her dogs several times a day, so she is a activity factor level 1.4. Following the calculation above, 1473 x 1.4 = 2,062 kcals per day.
This is the number of calories she is consuming at least every day or else she would begin to lose weight. In order for her to lose weight then (the standard recommendation is no more than 2 lbs. of fat per week), but we'll start with 1 lb. per week. This is 3,500 calories that she needs to cut out somehow through activity and/or diet. (One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. If she wanted to lose 2 lbs. per week, she could double the details outlined below.)
The way she can do this is to burn 250 calories per day through moderate cardiovascular (aerobic) physical activity like brisk walking at an incline, jogging, running, swimming and other numerous activities.
But this is only half of the equation. Add to that another 250 calories per day dropped from her current diet, and that's 500 kcals per day. Multiply that by seven, and the result is the magic number of 3,500 - Mary Jane loses one pound per week!
On to the first part: exercise. Some activities burn more calories than others, so here is a list of cardiovascular activities and how many calories or units of energy are used for Mary Jane.
- Mary Jane's Weight: 165 lbs. (74.8 kilograms)
- Cardio Exercise Time: 30 Minutes.
And some occupational activities per one hour worked—remember, this is constantly performing the said activity:
Just for fun, here are some other ways Mary Jane can burn calories (also based upon 30 minutes of activity):
So, cutting an extra 250 calories from the aforementioned maintenance caloric intake would be about 1869 calories per day. Put together with the 250 calories expended via exercise, this equates to a 500 calorie per day deficit, or 3,500 calories per week, which would equal about one pound magically lost!
Consciously Cutting Calories
Here are some quick ways to easily cut calories out of your diet. The trick is to eliminate something you typically consume on a daily basis. By taking that approach, it's easy to remember. You're basically forming a new routine—replacing a high-calorie habit with one that is lower in calories.
The following scenarios demonstrate the impact of small changes. Make just a couple of these adjustments and you can easily cut 100 to 200 (or more) calories per day:
Instead of two pieces of wheat toast with margarine, have 1 piece of toast. Instead of regular fruit-flavored yogurt switch to light or fat-free yogurt.
Switch from whole milk to non-fat milk in your latte. Replace the apple Danish with an oat bran bagel.
Put 1 tablespoon of light mayonnaise on your sandwich instead of 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise and make it turkey instead of salami. Replace cream-based soups with broth-based soups.
Replace a small bag of chips with a cup or two of light popcorn. Replace an ice cream sandwich with a low-cal frozen fudge bar.
Have two light beers rather than two regular beers. Drink a glass of wine instead of a margarita.
Have a green salad with light dressing instead of a baked potato with butter or sour cream. Choose a "light" frozen entree rather than regular. Use mustard, salsa or fat-free salad dressing in place of 1 tablespoon of regular mayonnaise. Order a cup of soup instead of a bowl.
Eat a plain baked potato with pepper; skip the sour cream. Eat cereal with non-fat milk instead of whole milk. Swap broiled chicken fingers for breaded and fried. Use tuna packed in water not oil. Swap diet soda for regular soda. Have a chocolate kiss instead of a chocolate bar.
Tracking calories can seem tedious at first, but it is priceless in your weight reduction efforts. If, however, you are working every day to make better food choices and/or drop some weight, but aren't seeing the results you expected, perhaps you need to be a bit more careful in portion control...
Here are some concrete examples that show how overestimating portion sizes can result in extra calories and, in some cases, carbohydrate grams. You'll quickly see how "eyeballing" and overestimating portion size can make a difference over the long run.
Let's say, for example, you meant to have:
8 fluid ounces of fat-free milk, but instead poured 12 fluid ounces?
Calorie increase: 40; 5.5 extra grams carbohydrate.
½ cup brown rice, but instead had 3/4 cup?
Calorie increase: 55; 11 extra grams carbohydrate.
2-ounce bagel, but instead had one from a bagel bakery at 5 ounces?
Calorie increase: 225; 47 extra grams carbohydrate.
1 tablespoon (equals 3 teaspoons) of peanut butter, but instead had 4 teaspoons?
Calorie increase: 30.
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil on your salad, but instead drizzled on 4 teaspoons?
Calorie increase: 80.
3 ounces grilled salmon, but instead had 5 ounces?
Calorie increase: 100.
3 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, but instead had 4 ounces?
Calorie increase: 43.
While using measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale is always the best idea to serve up the prescribed portion, we know that sometimes this is not possible. Use these visual serving cues recommended by the American Dietetic Association to help when you cannot measure:
|Visual Serving Size Cues.|
Some additional tips include:
- Find the drinking glass in your cupboard that serves 8 fluid ounces; you can also take a permanent marker and draw a line at the point that serves 8 ounces.
- Find a bowl that serves a one-cup portion; again, use a permanent marker to draw a portioning line if you need to.
- Buy individual-sized portions whenever possible: This helps with raisins, canned fruit, yogurt and cheese sticks.
After a week or so of consistent monitoring of your daily intake you will learn to accurately 'eyeball' the foods and know what is and isn't a correct portion size for your reduced calorie nutritional plan. Remember the numbers don't lie, use science to perfect the temple that is your body!