The internet is full of helpful tips about weight loss, from optimum foods to exercise tweaks, but the real key to weight loss comes down to one very simple explanation. IF YOU BURN MORE CALORIES EACH DAY THAN YOU EAT, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT.
Here’s the how and why, in simple terms:
You’ve probably heard this a million times, but your body is like an engine. Inside your cells, you have little things called mitochondria which take energy from food (measured in calories) and literally BURN it to make your body move / go (when people talk about ‘burning’ calories, it’s not just an expression!).
So what does this mean? Well basically it means every day you need a certain amount of calories just to keep your body going. This is called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This number is fairly easy to calculate from your age, weight and height, using the formula below (don’t worry this isn’t as complicated as it looks!):
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 5 x height in cm) + ( 13.7 x weight in kgs) – (6.8 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (1.8 x height in cm) + (9.6 x weight in kgs) – (4.7 x age in years)
Once you have your BMR, it’s a lot easier to figure out what you need to do to lose weight.
In terms of weight loss and weight gain, your body has been trained over thousands of years to work like this:
If you eat exactly the number of calories you need day to day, you will stay the same weight.
If you have eat more calories than your body needs day to day, it will store the extra calories as fat for later (you gain weight as fat).
If you eat less calories than your body needs to function, it will try and get this energy from your body by breaking down those fat supplies (you lose weight as fat).
It would appear that the easiest way to lose weight then, is not to eat very much. This is true, but starving yourself very rarely works long term. It is important though to take note of how much you’re eating every day, and at least try and get this number closer to your BMR. If you are a food person and just love your food, then there is a final part to this equation, exercise.
Exercise is very important because it means you will burn more calories in a day than just your resting BMR. This means that you can get results without starving yourself. Walking or jogging on a treadmill are probably the two most common and sustainable forms of cardio exercise, but every chance you can get to burn a few more calories during the day you should.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can eat as much as you like and expect to lose weight if you exercise. The point of exercise such as cardio is to not only become fitter and healthier, but to help your body burn those few extra calories you need to tip the calorie scale in your favour and lose weight. If you are eating far more than your BMR every day, then even with regular exercise chances are you will still be putting on weight.
So the key really is to exercise when you can, but understand your BMR and the role calories play in your overall weight.
You don’t need to make calorie counting an exact science, but knowing your BMR is a very useful guide, because it helps to put certain foods in perspective. For example, if your BMR is 1400 calories a day, then eating an 800 calorie meal doesn’t leave you with much room to play with for the rest of the day.
The easiest way to get your calories down and closer to your BMR is not by cutting out occasional treats, but by eliminating some of the worst sources of ’empty’ calories that might be part of your regular diet. We will list a number of these in another blog post.
So in summary, we recommend working out your BMR, and then looking at the nutritional info on a few common food items you eat and seeing how close or far away from your BMR you are every day. If you’re eating a lot more than your BMR every day, then you need to really focus on eating less. Once you understand this, your exercise on the treadmill or in whichever form it takes, will be far more effective in helping you lose weight.