Fat is your body’s way of storing energy. Your body’s energy currency is calories. Some people have large stores - lots of extra calories stored as fat. And some people have very small stores – they are lean.
A simplified explanation: When you take-in more energy than you spend, there is some left over which automatically goes into storage (fat). So if you want to shrink your storage and get lean, you have to spend more energy (calories) than you intake.
First we’ll look at how we take-in and spend calories each day. Then we’ll briefly look at what we can do to take-in less and spend more. We won’t go into too many details because this is an introductory article, but you can find more information in articles that follow.
We take-in energy by eating and drinking. It can be summarized in one word: nutrition.
We spend energy is several ways each day, so here are the 5 basic ways we spend energy.
- Basic Metabolic Rate - This is the amount of energy your body uses in basic body functions like breathing, heart-beat and digestion. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR. So a little more muscle keeps your metabolic engine running higher all day long.
- Thermic Effect of Food – This is the amount of energy it takes to digest food. Proteins have a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fats. It means if you eat 10 calories or protein, it takes 3 calories to digest the protein, so you only gain 7 calories.
- Everyday Activities – Walking, standing around, dancing, shopping, etc…..everything you do burns calories. So your lifestyle choices make a huge difference in how many calories you burn each day.
- Heavy Physical Activity – Sports, exercise and some jobs. These activities burn the most calories per hour. When considering exercise, it is important to consider both cardio and weight (resistance) training. Weight training builds muscle and burns lots of calories. Remember that muscle mass increases BMR which burns calories all day long – even when you are not exercising.
- Post Exercise Afterburn Effect – This describes the increased metabolic rate that is observed after you have finished your workout. It is greatest after intense workouts and especially after weight training. This is why weight training is as important as cardio for losing weight.
To lose weight, we must take-in fewer calories than we spend each week.
Let’s break it down:
Taking-in fewer calories is simple but not easy for most people. We live in a culture of excess and convenience. Still it is possible for someone who is determined to look and feel great to reduce the calorie intake and still stay satisfied all day long. There are many articles and books written on the subject. My next article will be about nutrition and conscious eating. Please look for it in the coming weeks.
We have many ways to spend calories, and each of them can be tweaked to maximize our fat-burning:
- Basic Metabolic Rate – BMR represents 60% of your total daily calorie burning because you are doing it all day long. The best way to increase BMR is to increase muscle mass by resistance training with weights.
- Thermic Effect – The best way to make use of the thermic effect is to eat high-protein foods. I am not talking about a protein diet fad. I am talking about a balanced diet that is high in protein. Each day you should eat 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight.
- Everyday Activities – Going for a walk, gardening and recreational sports are a great way to have fun and burn calories at the same time. The human body evolved over thousands of years to move around and get lots of physical activity. We are simply not designed to sit on the couch and watch TV all afternoon.
- Heavy Physical Activity – This is a no-brainer. Have you ever seen an overweight professional soccer player? One important note here is to stress the benefits of weight training. Some people are afraid to use weights because they don’t want to get big and bulky. Don’t worry – it won’t happen unless you make that your goal. Weight training is probably the best and most underestimated way to lose weight because of direct calorie burning, elevation of BMR and post-exercise afterburn effect.
- Post Exercise Afterburn – The afterburn effect is greatest when your body is in ‘recovering’ from micro-trauma that you cause during an intense workout. That is why weight training and intense cardio (called high-intensity-interval-training) can cause the afterburn effect. Those people you see casually walking on the treadmill while reading a magazine are not burning nearly as many calories as someone who is running their tail off. And there is not afterburn effect from walking. You have to push yourself hard during a workout to achieve the afterburn, but it is a great tool for someone who is trying to lose weight.
- Fat is stored energy = (calories in) – (calories burned)
- Reduce caloric intake by learning about nutrition and healthy eating.
- Increase caloric expenditure in each of the 5 categories above.
If you can reduce your intake and increase your expenditure, you can easily and safely lose up to 2 pounds per week. It is important to keep a written record. If you can, be accountable by asking some to keep track for you. Better yet, ask someone to join you in your quest for a healthier happier lifestyle.
If you lose weight too quickly, there is a good chance that you are losing water and lean muscle tissue. The problem is that you will most likely gain it back just as quickly. This is an example of when slow and steady wins the race. Two pounds per week is a realistic goal that you can chart and stay inspired by your own progress.
Stay tuned for my next article on nutrition and conscious eating, which will make it easy to drop your caloric intake and still be satisfied all day. Don’t worry - It’s not another diet. Extreme diets don’t work in the long-term.
Welcome to the new you!
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