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Weight loss: surfing the waves of energy

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transformed from one form to another. This is the law of conservation of energy, the first law of thermodynamics.

Surfers must master a wave's energy much like exercisers must master energy in order to succeed
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In a closed system, which is a system in which matter is constant and no mass may be transferred in or out of the system, the change of the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of heat supplied less the amount of work done on its' surroundings.

This is one of the most famous laws of science and very relevant in the exercise world. It describes how energy, by nature, is always balanced. It illustrates how body weight is gained or lost and your body is transformed. By applying this law, you learn:

1. The only way to lose weight is to consume less calories (energy) than you expend.

2. The way to gain weight is to consume more calories than you expend.

For instance, suppose you are trying to lose weight and your resting metabolism (RMR) requires a consumption of 2000 calories a day to achieve equilibrium, which is where all your organs' and systems energy requirements to function are met.

You exercise 5 days a week and your average workout burns 500 calories..On any given day of exercise, any amount of calorie intake less than 2500 calories will contribute to weight loss. If you are trying to gain weight or mass, intaking more than 2500 calories on any given day would contribute to your goal.

There are other variables at work, such as post workout metabolic rate increases that stem from anaerobic exercise, as well as thyroid gland function and medication side effects that can slow or increase metabolism.

In anaerobic activity, such as sprints or intense weight lifting, a metabolic rate is stimulated for more than the usual 10 hours and sometimes up to 24 hours or more. This would increase caloric expenditure.

An underactive thyroid gland or medication, on the other hand, can actually do the opposite and slow down a metabolism, triggering less energy output than usual throughout the day.

Another factor that could result in an atypical metabolism level could be long periods going without a meal, which causes metabolism to slow down, resulting in less energy burning for fuel than usual.

All of these processes on the metabolism are related to the law of thermodynamics. To apply the law use this simple formula to figure and calculate your weight loss/gain goal:

_________(Calories per day consumed, for most people 2000-3000)
-_________(RMR: resting metabolism usually 2000-2500 calories per day)
-________ (Calories burned in a workout usually 450-750 calories on average)
=________(Caloric energy difference)

For example, suppose Jane has a daily natural RMR of 2000 calories. She exercises and burns 600 calories through vigorous cardio and aerobics and weights. Her day's caloric intake was 2300, and because her activity was anaerobic, or sufficiently above 80% of her VO2 max for a good amount of time, she burned an additional 400 calories post workout.

2300-2000-600-400= -700 calories.

This means Jane is about 1/5 of her way to officially losing a pound from her day's workout. If she keeps it up and can do 5 workouts in the week like that, then she will likely burn a pound or more as 3500 calories= 1 pound.

Another thing she could do to expedite the process is "caloric restriction". On other days of the week, instead of intaking 2300 calories, she can reduce unnecessary items in her diet and increase lean fruits, vegetables, and lean protein, dropping her daily calorie consumption from 2300 to 1800. This -500 calorie difference 7 days a week would result in an additional pound coming off in that week as -500x7 days in a week=3500 calories (1 pound).

If you can do this or estimate this over the course of 7 days while factoring in some post workout metabolism increases, which are likely a few extra hundred, you can come up with a fair estimate of not only how many pounds you are losing or gaining per week, but also how long it will take to get to your overall weight loss or weight gain goal.

Energy conservation as stated in the first law of thermodynamics can apply all across the board in life. The harder you work, the more you change and transform.

Just like working out, the more energy you put forth into your work, the more results you generate. If you want to go forward, produce results, and see change in a positive direction, it comes down to the law of thermodynamics. If you don't put forth enough energy, then nothing will change and you will go backwards.

This is why riding the laws of energy when it comes to weight loss is a lot like surfing. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but it is always changing forms. To be a master at weight loss or anything you do in life, you must master the waves and tides of energy.

And weight loss, as is with all endeavors you master in life, always remember one thing that is certain:


-Greg Mickles

Watch the video to gain more of an understanding of why weight training may be better than running when it comes to losing weight.

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