Ever since the 3rd century BC, people have been looking for the 1 secret behind looking and feeling great. This search is still happening today, but what if I told you that this ‘secret’ has already been found?
The secret everyone is looking for is right under their noses. I wanted to help with this search so I am going to reveal this secret now.
The secret to changing your weight is actually very simple. All you need to do is create a negative energy balance.
What is a negative energy balance?
The simplest way to describe this is ‘calories‘. But before we can change it we need to know what it is:
Each day your body needs to burn energy to stay alive. You needs energy to pump blood round your body, digest food, repair your muscles, etc. There are trillions of cells that use and recreate energy every second during rest and during exercise. This is called your metabolism.
Metabolism = the sum of reactions that take place to build up and break down the body.
Your metabolism can be broken down into 5 different components:
1. Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
2. Resting metabolic rate (RMR)
3. Thermic effect of feeding (TEF)
4. Exercise activity
5. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
Adding all these up will give you the amount of energy you burn in any given time frame.
Now don’t worry about the terminology it’s actually simpler than it sounds.
Your basal metabolic rate is the minimum amount of energy expenditure needed to maintain vital functions of the body. In essence, your BMR is the amount of energy needed to stay alive without movement or digestion.
Now you can measure your BMR but it can be very difficult and expensive as it needs to be done under strict laboratory conditions.
A much easier way to find out how much energy you burn is to calculate your resting metabolic rate. This is measured in a similar way using oxygen consumption but the measurement is taken at rest.
The thermic effect of feeding is just the amount of energy you burn to digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrients in your food.
Exercise activity kind of speaks for itself. This is the amount of energy you burn when doing purposeful exercise. Things like running, weight lifting and swimming.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis sounds scary but NEAT is just the amount of energy you burn moving around doing your daily activities. This could be walking to the shops, fidgeting, caring for children or taking the dog for a walk.
I don’t really want to go into all the scientific stuff, I like to keep things simple. But if you’re the type of person who loves to know the science, Precision Nutrition have a great article called ‘All about energy balance‘ check it out to get more in depth.
Estimating your energy needs
So now we know how your body uses energy, next what we want to do is find out how much energy you need.
The most accurate and most commonly used method of doing this is called the ‘Harris-Benedict equation for RMR’. The equation looks like this:
RMR (in kcal/day) = 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in KG) + (1.85 x height in cm) – (4.68 x age in years)
RMR (in kcal/day) = 655 + (9.56 x weight in KG) + (0.5 x height in cm) – (6.76 x age in years)
For example = A 35 year old male who weights 100kg, and is 180cm their RMR would be:
66.5 + (13.75 x 100) + (1.85 x 180) – (4.68 x 35) = 1610.7 kcal per day.
Note: No equation is perfect and is considered acceptable to predict RMR within 10% of the actual measured value.
However, if you are obese or one of the people who this equation doesn’t really work for then the answer could be off by as much as 43%!
An easier way to do this would be to use the table below, this way you can estimate your total calories needed, not just your RMR:
The rule of energy balance
Now that you know how much energy you need, i’m going to start to go into the weight loss secret.
Your estimated calories is like your turning point for your body.
If you consume over that amount of calories then you will gain weight, if you consume under that amount of calories you will lose weight. If you consume exactly that amount your weight will stay the same.
It’s really that simple!
All you need to do to lose weight is consume less calories than you burn each day. The bigger the gap between how much you consume and how much you burn, the more weight you will lose.
This is called a negative energy balance. If you we’re to eat more then you would be in a positive energy balance. And eating just right would mean your energies are in balance.
Now, before you start to plan a starvation diet, let me give you the big reveal.
The real secret!
The truth is that counting calories is actually more harmful than you think.
In fact in our coaching program we don’t recommend it at all. Our clients don’t have to count a single calorie.
Here’s the big secret, and the reason people can’t see it.
In a healthy person, appetite generally corresponds with daily energy needs.
The calorie estimation you made is already hardwired into your body via your hunger levels. And that is what people don’t realize.
So what can you do to make sure you’re eating enough to lose weight?
What to do now?
To ensure you are eating enough, I recommend following the below simple rules:
1. Eat slowly – it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize that you have eaten something, so aim for 20-30 minute meals.
2. Eat to 80% full – this will help you to make sure you are not going over that energy tipping point. Ask your self every so often, ‘how full am I between 1 and 10?’. If the answer is 8 or higher then stop eating.
3. Eat more lean protein, colorful veggies and healthy fats. – Unfortunately our bodies haven’t adapted to the western diet so eating calorie dense foods like cookies and cake won’t register in your bodies hunger bar.
4. Eat minimally processed carbs only after a workout. – You’re body uses up a lot of carbs during a workout so ensure to refuel with healthy carbs like brown rice, potatoes or quinoa. Although they are healthy it’s easy to eat too much of them so keep them to after workouts only.
Try one or all of these rules and see how it works for you.
If you’re new to health and fitness then check out our post ‘how to get going when you’re just starting out‘. It has loads of great tips on how to set yourself up for success.