Calories in vs Calories out …But how much is “out”?

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In my previous post we discussed the myths surrounding the industry buzz words on “fat burning.” All the while there may be items available that help stimulate the breakdown of fat cells we all know now that this is only done within the liver and only metabolized if there is a need for it.  By “need “I mean a caloric restriction in which your body request additional calories to sustain itself from your fat stores. Or in the case of building lean muscle mass, your body request the calories to help build muscle.  But for the sake of this article we are going to just look at the fat loss side of calorie restriction instead of muscle growth.  Let me share an analogy.

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Imagine for a moment you are riding / driving your moto, car, motorcycle, van or SUV, and you take a look at the fuel gauge and see that it is “full.” However you decide to go fill up anyway, so you pull up to your favorite petrol/fuel (or gas station for my fellow Americans), and you start adding additional fuel to the tank.  I think we all know what happens next, the excess fuel starts to spill over, and out of the tank and onto the ground.  This will continue for as long as you continue to add additional fuel. Pretty simple right.  Now lets imagine for a second that your vehicle of choice had an additional storage compartment for all that extra fuel and its capacity was limitless.    See where I’m going, well as you continue to add more fuel instead of it spill onto the ground it goes into this extra storage compartment.  Now once again, it doesn’t take a mathematician to tell you that the gross weight of the vehicle will go up with each additional amount of fuel that’s added.  However on the opposite end of the spectrum,  if you continue driving or riding your vehicle without adding fuel eventually the tank goes to empty and if you push pass that, the vehicle would then turn to this additional storage compartment, for that extra fuel you added days, weeks or years ago.

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So now the question is how do we get our bodies to utilize this stored fuel we have, since we don’t have an obvious fuel gauge that tells us when we are full or empty.  And no this is not in reference to the “feeling” you have physiologically where you “feel” full after a binge at a buffet or “feel” hungry  at certain times of the day.  This is referring to 4 acronyms that will help you further understand just how much fuel your body needs on a daily basis and how to manipulate that for fat loss.  Allow me to introduce you to RMR, BMR, NEAT and TEE!

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Lets start at the bottom and work our way up in regards to increased daily calorie consumption according to these terms.  So first on the list is Basal Metabolic Rate or (BMR). ” Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy expended while at rest with little to no activity. ” The key in this definition is no activity, the closest real life example of this would be sleeping or in a coma for 24 hours, more so the coma since you might have some movement during your 24 hour nap.  Lets look at some factors that can affect our BMR.

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Factors that influence BMR

  • Body Mass – A person with a greater body weight will have a higher BMR, due to the body having to “work harder” to support the additional weight
  • Body Composition – Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest, estimations state that 1kg of muscle will burn 3-5 times more calories than 1kg of fat
  • Age – Metabolism declines naturally as we age at a reduction rate of about 2%-3% per decade
  • Gender – Men generally have a higher BMR primarily due to natural body composition
  • Nicotine – Tobacco products can increase BMR by 3%-7%
  • Illness / Injury- An increase in body temperature will increase your BMR. Additionally the body is expending more energy to help combat the illness or injury.

This list is not all-inclusive but just gives you and idea of some of the influences on your BMR.  If you are curious about you BMR you can get an “estimate”from some online calculators, again these are very rough estimates and shouldn’t be taken as 100% exact, but they will give you a good starting point.

Resting Metabolic Rate

Next on the list we have RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate.  In actuality both RMR and BMR are used quite interchangeably in regards to fitness, there are some slight differences between the two however.  The difference is that while BMR only measures basic processes of breathing, blood circulation, and temperature regulation in a completely resting state, RMR also includes energy expended by digestion and non-exercise daily movements, like getting dressed and lifting your fork to your mouth. Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is one of the main contributing components of your total energy expenditure (around 70%). Once again you can check your RMR via an online calculator.

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Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT. It is, therefore, not surprising that NEAT explains a vast majority of an individual’s non-resting energy needs.  NEAT is generally not calculated on its own, instead it is added to a formula to determine an individuals Total Energy Expenditure or (TEE /TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure).

Total Energy Expenditure (TEE)

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This is probably the most important number you will utilize on your fat loss journey.  As you will see below its calculation includes everything your body does on a daily basis, as outlined in the name “Total Energy Expenditure”.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR), plus the thermic effect of the foods you eat, added to something often referred to NEAT makes up your energy requirements for each day.

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BMR + thermic effect of food + NEAT/NEPA = daily energy requirement

BMR, or Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), is the energy requirement of your body either without any activity or while lying motionless. BMR/RMR accounts for about 60% – 70% of your total daily energy requirements. The thermic effect of food (the amount of calories needed to digest food) accounts for about 10-15% of your energy requirements. The rest of your energy requirements are dependent on how active you are in both intentional exercise and NEAT activities (normal life activities like cleaning, shopping, walking,  brushing your teeth etc.) So you can see that TEE will be a much higher amount of calories than the other 3 metabolic process we discussed.  Once again you can check your estimation here.

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Great now what do i do with these numbers?

Glad you asked, now that you have an idea of how many calories you burn on a daily basis, its time to start looking into creating that calorie deficit we spoke about earlier.  Lets say for example (using the calculator above) you discovered your TEE is 2500 calories.  So we know now that consuming that many calories daily will keep your tank pretty much at the “full”mark.  So simple math tells us that we need to get a caloric deficit in order to have our body tap into fat stores for fuel.  This can be done in 1 of 2 ways. Either through additional energy expenditure (move / exercise more) or controlling what we eat.  Lets take a further look:

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To give you an idea, 3500 calories equals 1 total pound of fat. So if you wanted to lose 1lb of fat a week (1/2 kg) , you would need to create a calorie deficit equivalent to 500 calories less per day.  So this can be achieved 1 of 2 ways.

1.) Exercise 1 hour a day at moderate to intense activity 7 days a week ( 500 calories burned in 1 hour times 7 days.)

2.) Create a 500 calorie deficit in your total calories eaten per day. Such as not having the coffee and snack, or choosing the baked chicken with steamed veggies vs fried chicken and french fries.

Or even a combination of both, exercise a little each day and make better meal choices daily.  No matter how you slice it, you must create a caloric restriction.  All that being said it comes down to a lot of trial and error, i provided links to various calculators but a quick google search will provide 100’s more and whats more alarming is they will all yield different results (though most are within the same ballpark). So if you’re just starting out take a look at the number provided and start with that and make slight modifications as you check your weight and body fat percentage periodically throughout your journey.  Or if you want a more accurate jump-start invest in some fitness apps and fitness trackers which will help you more accurately determine your TEE and monitor your calories your ingesting. I’ll be discussing some great fitness apps and trackers in my next blog.

Categories Diet, Exercise, Fat

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