Friday, September 13, 2013

Figuring out your weight loss "numbers" - part 1

Gaining and losing weight it a matter of calories in vs calories out, we've all heard that. But, knowing and internalizing are two very different matters.

Ha ha ha
Calorie is a term used to refer to the amount of energy required to heat one gram of water by one degree celsius. Check out that high school chem rising to the surface.

So, what does that mean in terms of your health?

Calories are how we measure the energy contents of food. Your body then uses that energy to fuel itself. Any leftover fuel that you don't burn off by walking around, exercising, existing, etc... that gets stored, stored temporarily in your body as triglycerides and glucose, and is later converted to fat for long term storage.

From Dr Cate
Yum, visceral fat. The kind that surrounds your organs. Gross you out a little? Scare you a bit? Good, it should. Visceral fat is different than subcutaneous fat (under the skin) and from intramuscular fat (think marbling on steak). 

There is way too much fat in the photo above. Visceral fat is the kind that is linked to diabetes, insulin resistance and other obesity comorbidities (related illnesses) like pulmonary disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and hypertension among many others.

Photos taken 4 years apart
Losing weight can be oversimplified to one idea, burn more calories than you eat. More difficult part of that.... how do you know how many calories your body burns on a daily basis? That, friends, is what we call your BMR. BMR stands for basal metabolic rate, your base metabolism essentially. It's the number of calories your body burns at rest. This is dependent on many many factors: height, gender, age, activity levels, metabolic disorders, muscle mass, fat mass.

You can get a pretty good idea of your  BMR using equations based on your age, gender, height, and activity levels. There are two major equations used, the Harris Benedict equation and the Mifflin St. Jeor equation. The HB equation is used more for people who tend to be sedentary. The MSJ equation is more accurate for people who are active. 

The Harris Benedict equation requires you know (or estimate) your BMR and multiply it by an appropriate activity factor. 

To calculate your BMR:
For example, this calculator estimates my BMR to be 1433.73.
If I multiply that by the activity factor 1.55 since I go to the gym 4-5 days per week, the HB equation puts my estimated maintenance (not gaining or losing weight) caloric needs at 2222.28 calories. Fairly close to what I know from experience to be right.

Alternatively, I can use the MSJ equation:
That puts my maintenance needs at 2128.


When losing weight, you should aim for your total calorie intake to be 500-1000 calories under maintenance, that equates to 1-2 lbs of weight loss per week. I'd say 1000 calories under, 2 lb weight loss per week, is a bit on the high side. This defecit should be from a combination of diet and exercise. Use a tracking application like My Fitness Pal or LoseIt and do it right. Track what you eat and be honest. Track your activities and be honest. If your calorie goal is 1800 calories and you eat 2200 calories but you burn 400 through exercise, you're golden. :)

If you have questions, let me know in the comment section! Or you can use the buttons on the side to email me. I'm more than happy to help you set a goal and figure out what it is you need to do to be happy.

PS - I named this part 1 because I know I will have forgotten at least one important thing I wanted to say. :)

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