Back when I lived in a colder climate that facilitated a hearty “hibernation layer”, January marked the beginning of my annual pursuit of fat loss. Unbeknownst to those around me, I named this 8-12 week period Operation Rub-a-Dub-Dub Burn Off the Chub.
But enough of my painfully nerdy internal dialogs…
With spring on the horizon you yourself may be in the market to drop some El-Bee’s.
To burn some Kee-Lo’s for our international brethren.
To say “scram” to those extra grams?
Alright, let’s get a grip here.
Do you want to know what the fundamental principle behind my annual fat loss program was? The fundamental principle behind all nutrition programs- both for weight loss and weight gain?
“Cut out Gluten!”
Who let that guy in here?
The most basic and important aspect of nutrition planning is calorie balance.
It’s Diet 101. The Foundation. The Roots.
Although they’re great and you should listen to them too. Maybe after you finish reading this…
Getting Down To Business…
The calorie (technically kilocalorie for those of you in the know) is a measured unit of energy.
Assuming you don’t grow leaves and photosynthesize it from the sun, you’ll be eating to supply the energy your body needs to live.
Thus, food is often referred to as having “XYZ calories”. This tells you how much energy your body will get from eating said food, make sense?
Whether you gain, maintain or lose body weight will depend on whether or not you consume more energy than you expend.
The Expenditure Side
There are 3 elements to how much energy we expend in a given day.
- The energy your body expends on the basic processes of maintaining the status quo: bodyweight, breathing, keeping your brain and heart working, etc. is referred to as your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. BMR for individuals can range massively from 1,000 cals/day for a small female to 3,000+ for a large male.
- The energy expended to digest your food is referred to as the Thermic Effect of Food, or TEF. Somewhere between 1 and 30% of the calories you consume will be expended via the thermic effect of food. That range depends on what type of foods you eat. Protein has the highest TEF, so if you eat two diets of 2000 calories and one has significantly more protein, you’re actually likely to lose more weight on the higher protein diet.
- The energy you expend performing activity is exactly as it sounds. It’s important to recognize that activity includes quite literally everything, not just the calories you expend in the gym. I’m expending calories just typing this…
Consider those the three musketeers of calories out. Picture them with mustaches and tri-cornered hats if it helps.
So what about the calories in? Pretty simple, it’s how many calories you eat in a given day/week.
Every diet created to date has simply manipulated calorie intake via banned foods/meal frequency/etc. to cause the dieter to somehow consume less energy than they expend.
That reality is not as exciting as blaming 1 food for all your problems, and that’s why people aren’t sold on it. As you know, on this site we’re in the business of truth, no matter how unsexy that truth may be.
So now you’ve got the inside scoop, and you’re armed with the first principle of diet planning.
In the 201 series we’ll be covering protein, carbs and fat and how they fit into the picture of total calories we covered here.
Did this post help make clear up some of your misconceptions regarding diet?
If so, do me a favor and share it so that we can help spread the good word of sensible nutrition.