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Weight Loss Math

July 24, 2013

If you are new to exercise and a general lifestyle change you may become frustrated about the lack of weight loss you have experienced. There could be many factors at play in your lack of progress, a few of these are metabolism, body type, or a disorder that has yet to be diagnosed. While these are possible roadblocks, my experience is that the problem is usually just simple math. If your calories in exceed your calories out YOU WILL STORE FAT.

One pound of fat is the equivalent of 3500 calories. In order to lose a pound a week it is widely accepted (with some debate) that you need to have a 3500 calorie deficit or 500 calories per day. An easy way is to do it is 250 calories of exercise and subtract 250 calories from your diet. This post will discuss ways that you can use math to help you lose or maintain your weight. 

I cannot tell you how many clients I have that swear they are exercising a lot but when we plug it into an activity calculator (Acefitness.org) it shocks them. A 175 pound person walking 3 mph for 30 minutes on a treadmill will burn about 130 calories which is only 910 calories a week if its done 7 days a week. Which means to get to the 3500 calorie deficit mark you have to take 2590 calories out of your diet per week or 370 calories per day.  This is possible, but better ways to help you with this deficit are nutrient dense foods and exercise intensity.

Nutrient dense foods 

Nutrient dense foods are those with lots of nutrients without a lot of calories. Examples are: Broccoli, spinach, collard greens, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, whole grain breads, low fat milk, extra lean ground beef, salmon, grilled chicken. Processed foods, sweets, fatty meats, etc have a lot of calories but minimal nutrients. A lot of calories plus lower amounts of nutrients equals overeating because you have to eat more to make up for the lack of nutrients you are getting per serving.

Exercise Intensity

If you do not sweat while working out you are probably not working out hard enough. Walking is a great way to ease into exercise but it is not enough to spark a sufficient weight loss regime. Bumping the treadmill up from a 3 mph walk to a 5 mph jog will almost triple the calories burned in the same amount of time. Doing different types of exercise will also help you reach that 250 cal mark easier. 30 minutes of walking 3 mph plus 30 minutes of strength training equals about 250 calories burned for a 175 pound person. You should aim for 60-85% of your maximum heart rate which is 220-age then multiply it by .6 and .85. For a 50 yr old that is (220-50) X .6 and .85 which equals a workout heart rate of 102-145. 

We usually underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we exercise. Use the resources available to you to accurately determine how many calories you are burning per day. This is not a call to count calories for the rest of your life but to help you jump start the weight loss process. 

Losing weight is a numbers game; If you put out more calories than you take in, you will begin to see changes.  The key to lasting and significant change is making this calorie balancing act work for you.  Turn it into a lifestyle change instead of a “diet” and I promise you will see results that last. 

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2 Comments
  1. Another thing that few people (or weight calculators) realize is the difference between net and gross caloric expenditure. Your body, even sitting on the couch burns calories. So you have to subtract the number of calories that you ALREADY would have burned doing nothing from what you burned working out. For example, if you burn 75 calories per hour (doing nothing), and you then workout and “burn” 300 calories, you have to subtract the number of calories that your body would have burned at rest. You can’t double dip. So although the workout itself was 300 calories, 75 calories would have been burned whether you exercised or not. So the NET caloric loss is really 225 calories. This is huge because it impacts your weight loss and diet plans in a very significant way. Understanding this crucial concept can help you plan your exercise and diet regimens with much more efficiency.

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