The Secret Math of Calories
Welcome to Lesson #5! So far, you have learned about the most important factors of weight management: diet, identifying emotional hunger, and exercise. Today, you will learn about the math of calories so that you will know without a doubt that you’re on track to see the results you want.
Did you know that it takes 3,500 calories to equal one pound of body weight? That means if you eat 3,500 calories beyond what your body needs to maintain its weight (remember, maintenance = 2,000 calories per day), you will gain one pound.
On the flipside, if you decrease your calories by 3,500 beyond what your body needs to maintain its weight (again, 2,000 calories per day), you will lose a pound.
That being said, weight gain isn’t usually due to one bad day, since it would be very difficult to eat an excess of 3,500 calories in just one day (unless, of course, it’s Thanksgiving). Gaining weight takes time and is often the result of a habit of consuming excess calories. Usually, weight gain takes about a week to notice, at minimum, on a scale.
Of course, the inverse rule goes for exercise. If you want to lose one pound of stored body weight, you need to have a deficit of 3,500 calories. If you space that calorie deficit over the span of a week (the recommended timeframe), that means you would need to shave off an average of 500 calories per day to lose one pound in a week.
2,000 calories – 500 calories = 1,500 calories per day to lose one pound per week
This 500-calorie deficit results when you:
• Cut back either the number of calories you consume and/or
• Increase the number of calories you burn through exercise
There are different variations of what shaving off 500 calories per day could look like. Here’s an example:
The diet consists of 1,800 calories per day (for a 200-calorie deficit from the regular 2,000). Exercise burns 300 calories per day (for a 300-calorie deficit). All together, the net calories are 1,500. This 500-calorie deficit per day equates to having a deficit of 3,500 calories in a week, putting the person on track to see a weight loss of one pound for the entire week, assuming they repeat that same pattern every day.
This leads us back to the point that it’s important to use a tool to track both your calories consumed and your calories burned. If you use an app, it will do the math for you, so you don’t have to worry about calculations!
Basal Metabolic Rate
The (average) human body needs about 2,000 calories per day from food to be able to maintain its current weight. Within this 2,000 calories a day, a very large portion—about 1,400 calories (average)—is used to help the body do its normal, basic functions, like breathing, pumping blood, and essentially the functions that are needed to stay alive. This calorie requirement is called the basal metabolic rate, or BMR. You can calculate your specific BMR here. BMRs will vary slightly depending upon your weight, height, and activity level. You should never decrease your daily calories below your BMR, as doing so can cause long-term metabolism issues!
When you add in other activities to your life, such as working, walking, cleaning, etc., those activities add to the overall energy expenditure, bringing your total daily calorie needs to about 2,000.
Today you learned about the secret math of calories. Here’s a quick review:
• It takes 3,500 excess calories to equal one pound of body weight.
• To lose one pound of stored body weight, there needs to be a deficit of 3,500 calories.
• A calorie deficit can be the result of cutting out calories from the diet and increasing exercise.
• You should never make your total daily calorie intake less than your specific BMR.
Cheers to your health,
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