The Calorie Lesson
The Law of Thermodynamics applied: Calories-out must be higher than calories-in to lose weight.
The body cannot manufacture weight out of nothing.
All weight is imported, through food.
All weight is exported through movement.
Take ONE WEEK and actually journal your calories-in, meal by meal, snack by snack, beverage by beverage, nut by nut. Use www.caloriecount.com as a guide.
Then try to journal your expenditure calories-out as well. Add 15% to whatever the stair-climber or treadmill says to account for its effect post-workout. If it says you burned 500 calories mark it as 500 and then add 75 more to it.
Okay, now scrap that. You didn't burn 575 calories today just because you walked three miles up a hill and made new pit-stains on your favorite t-shirt. Logging your calories-out is next-to impossible because there's no way to be 100% accurate. You cannot ascertain your calories-out for the parts of the day when you’re not exercising, when you’re running around the grocery store, watching television, taking a shower, having sex in the shower, or sitting in your kid’s piano lesson.
Calories-out fluctuates constantly and there are too many variables.
To add to the problem, even the treadmill’s readout cannot be read as absolute truth because it doesn't take into account your body type, age or other factors. For example, two people can run the same distance at the same speed at the same incline on a treadmill, but if one person is 20 and weighs 150 and another is 50 and weights 220 they will burn calories at completley different rates. Plus, what did they do to warm up? What is the temperature of the room? Is one of them at sea-level and the other in the Alps? Again, too many variables to be positively accurate.
And then, if you ARE overweight, whatever the machine says you burned can likely be deducted from the total, but as a percentage. For example, if you're 30 pounds overweight, then the machine is possibly reading you as much as 30% higher than your physical, personal reality. If it says you burned 500, it may only be a true 350. The treadmill is just computing a formula for speed, incline, time and maybe your weight and age, but that's not enough information. Sorry! I'll explain why this is later on (keep reading). Of course there’s no hard-and-fast rule to this--it’s not science and, despite what’s coming in this section, please note that I wasn’t a math major.
There is another way to look at the math (of course there is) and it is more accurate, but it's also more complicated. Life is complicated. Bear with me here...
Basically, there is BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) and RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) which correlates to the waking and sleeping burning of your calories.
This can be expressed using two different formulas:
The Harris-Benedict equation for BMR
* For men: (6.2 x w) + (12.7 x h) - (6.76 x a) + 66
* For women: (4.3 x w) + (4.7 x h) - (4.68 x a) + 655
The Mufflin equation for RMR:
* For men: (4.5 x w) + (15.9 x h) - (5 x a) + 5
* For women: (4.5 x w) + (15.9 x h) - (5 x a) - 161
w = weight in pounds, h = height in inches, a = age
For your daily calories burned, assuming you sleep 8 hours a night:
(.66 x BMR) + (.33 x RMR) = Total Calories Burned.
But then, to make it even more fun, take your Total Calories Burned and multiply it by your Activity Factor:
1.2 Sedentary Little or no exercise and desk job
1.375 Lightly Active Light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week
1.55 Moderately Active Moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week
1.725 Very Active Hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week4
1.9 Extremely Active Hard daily exercise or sports and physical job
It takes a little time to plug in the numbers, but for someone like me, 172 pounds, 69 inches, 38 years old with 1.55 activity factor getting approx 8 hours of sleep a night, according to the formulas I burn approximately 2257 calories a day. Again, not 100% exact, but it’s a good guideline.
([(6.2x172) + (12.7x69) - (6.76x38) + 66] x .66) + ([(4.5x172) + (15.9-69) - (5x38) +5] x .33) x 1.55 = 2257 calories.
If I were a woman with the same height, weight, age and Activity Factor getting the same sleep I would be burning approximately 1957 calories a day. Sorry, ladies. Your love burns strong, but slower...
([(4.3x172) + (4.7x69) - (4.68x38) + 655] x .66) + ([(4.5x172) + (15.9-69) - (5x38) - 161] x .33) x 1.55 = 1957 calories.
Again, this isn’t always the hard-and-fast 100% true rules for everyone on the planet. But it's a good guideline. (Thank you, www.caloriesperhour.com for these formulas).
Now here’s where we run into trouble and here's what the number really mean:
Let’s say I ate mass quantities of Taco Bell and now I'm 50 pounds overweight. My waist has expanded, my face is broader, I might be developing some boobs... But on the inside the mathematical formula as it relates to my body changes as well. Even if I was just as active as before I would be burning more calories; my new body mass would require I consume more calories just to stay put. Totally unfair! At 222 pounds with the same exercise routine I have now I would be burning more, 2689 calories, in fact, or 432 more than I was at 172, but even that additional burn would only be enough to keep me at 222. What is means is that to lose weight I would have to burn not only what my body is already burning, but another 500 calories to start losing that weight. I would have to raise my activity level almost to the 1.9 level to achieve that. And that's a lot of work!
Still with me? I'll say it again in another way: If I weigh 172 pounds and I want to lose weight I’ll have to burn 2257 calories to stay even, and then I'll have to burn more to lose the weight. But if I weigh 222 pounds I’ll have to burn 432 more calories that that just to stay even, and then even more to lose weight. Let's say I add another twenty minutes a day to my exercising and I burn an extra 100 calories at my 172 weight. To achieve the same effect, at my 222 weight I would have to do three hours of exercise to burn 532 calories. Do you see what I’m saying? Do you see what this means? That’s why it’s so much harder to lose weight when you’re overweight. That’s why fat people hate skinny people who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and still stay thin. It’s not the same world for fat people and skinny people because they are burning calories at completely different rates. This totally sucks, doesn’t it?!
But, of course, you don’t have to exercise away that extra 500 calories a day to get rid of it.
Remember the Law of Thermodynamics?
All weight is imported, through food.
All weight is exported through movement.
Consume 500 calories less each day and you’ll achieve the same goal without the all-day workout.
Another thing you need to know is that the Activity Factor is the BIGGEST VARIABLE in the equation. If I take a day off of exercising my calories burned that day goes down to 1810. If I eat to maintain my current weight at 172 that means I’m eating 2257 calories on the days that my activity factor is 1.55. If I eat the same way on my “day off” and I’ve only burned 1810 then I’ve kept 447 calories that day. And keeping it means storing it and it gets stored in our tissues as fat. If I was 50 pounds overweight my caloric burn at Activity Factor 1.2 would go down to 2081, but I would be used to eating 2689, so now I’ve added 608 calories to my pot belly. Again, incredibly not-fair for overweight people because the days they lower their Activity Factors they put on more weight than people who aren't overweight who take a day off. Again, the math is the reason skinny people seem to be able to eat more... the reason skinny people suck...
Days-off are hugely disruptive to losing weight. The only viable solution is to eat less on the days you don't exercise because you’re burning less calories when you're sedentary. The irony is most of us enjoy our days off tremendously and it’s on those days that we typically eat even more.
This is the Doubly-Whammy that keeps us imprisoned in our over-weight bodies.
Here’s the fantastic conclusion that wraps it all up with a silver bow:
In order to lose just one pound a week
you need to reduce your caloric intake
by 500 calories PER DAY, EVERY DAY.
Whether this means exercising another 500 calories away or eating 500 calories less, or maybe splitting the difference, 500 calories seems to be the magic number for losing pounds.
If you eat more, you’ll lose slower; if you eat less you’ll lose faster.**
If you exercise more you’ll lose faster; if you exercise less you’ll lose slower.
**Maintain your nutrition! This is where making smart choices about what you eat comes into play, but we'll deal with that in future posts, I promise.
The very super-best news I have for you regarding The Calorie Lessson is that once you start losing your weight then the numbers ALWAYS work in your favor, maing it easier to do more with less. Think of all of this math and your body as a grocery cart: As you load it up it gets heavier, harder to push around, it takes longer at the check-out, you have to move more bags into the car and then the kitchen, and it takes up more space in your refrigerator and cabinets. Also, it costs more. But if you put less in your cart it’s easier to move around, you can use the fast lanes, you can throw it on the front seat and put it away in a flash--and save money. The numbers work in your favor in the very same way. You can do more, save more and have more time--with less in your cart, less on your plate....
Less junk in your trunk, as they say.