Weight Loss Essentials- Understanding Your Energy Balance

Have you been on a quest to lose those extra pounds? It’s fairly easy to lose weight if you are 30 or more pounds over weight.  Its not as easy as the amount you want to lose becomes smaller.  Put this information in use today to start your journey to better health!

I hated to make today’s blog so lengthy, however this information is vital for healthy, long-term weight loss.

I will be using the terms below in this blog, get familiar with them.

Glucose= carbohydrates converted into blood sugar

Glycogen=glucose that is stored in muscle cells and the liver for later energy needs

Triglycerides=excess glucose, dietary fats and unused proteins converted into body fat

BMR= basal metabolic rate

EER= estimated energy requirements

TER= total energy required

One principle many people overlook is their calories in/calories burned factor.  If you do not know how many calories you need to consume per day to maintain your weight or more importantly how many calories you should consume to lose weight, it would be like driving your car on a long trip to a place you have never been with your gas gauge and odometer broken.  The gas gauge represents your calories needed and the odometer represents how many calories you are burning.  Without these facts you are totally relying on luck and a guess to not end up stranded on the roadside. With your body it can mean unhealthy weight loss or even weight gain.

Calories are very important ( so are the type, another blog). They provide energy and valuable nutrients. Our bodies depend on nutrients to turn the fuel (food we eat) into energy. Carbohydrates, fats and to a lesser degree proteins are used as fuel. The body really loves carbohydrates and fat for fuel. Our brains will only use glucose or glycogen (glucose that is stored in the liver and muscle cells) for fuel. Most people will need approximately 100 grams of carbohydrate each day to meet the brains demands.  The blend of fuel type our cells use depends on the demands at that given moment.  Muscle cells will use primarily glucose and glycogen for anaerobic activity and primarily dietary and triglyceride fats for aerobic activity.  During both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism the muscle cells will always burn a ratio of all three fuel types.  The intensity of the physical activity dictates the ratio of  glucose, fat and protein. It is important to maintain a good dietary ratio between your carbohydrate, fat and protein intake for your particular lifestyle.  If you do not consume enough carbohydrate the body will burn the protein for brain fuel robbing your body of protein needed to make and repair tissues, enzymes, white blood cells, red blood cells, hormones, hair,  finger nails and antibodies.  If you continue to under consume carbohydrates the body will also break apart muscle and organs to convert the protein into glucose. This is highly inefficient and causes ketones ( COMPOUNDS THAT HARM THE BODY)to be released into the blood. The over consumption of protein is also harmful for the body.
To determine your protein requirements refer to the previous document.
So lets say you need to lose 30 pounds. Where do you start? I am going to assume you know that 1 pound of body weight represents 3500 calories.   If you want to lose 1 pound per week, then you would need to burn 3500 more calories than you consumed that week.  Are you still with me?  To know how many calories you body needs daily, we need to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the amount of energy your body uses at rest.  We then apply the Harris Benedict equation to determine your estimated energy requirement (EER) based on the your daily activity level.  We then add the two together to get the estimated actual number of calories you burn per day. Thankfully there are calculators on the web that will estimate these numbers for you.  These are estimates.  I have found most of them to overstate the number of calories actually needed by approximately 10%.   I have two links for you at the end of this blog that will do the math for you.  I think you will find them helpful.
Now that you can determine the number of calories you need daily to meet your energy requirements, you need to be able to track the number of calories per day you are consuming. There are a number of web-sites that offer free food journals. For the first 90 to 120 days you should count your calories, fat grams, protein grams, sugar grams, sodium grams and fiber grams every day.
Studies have shown that people who use food journals on a daily basis lose weight and keep it off a higher percentage of the time.
You can load a tool bar calorie counter and online food journal at www.fatsecret.com it is very easy to use.  I really like it because  it is very convenient to access from my toolbar. It will also allow you to add custom foods to the data base. This means that if you like a certain food that is not in their database you can add it to the database for everyone to use as well.
I recommend, never losing more than two pounds per week unless under the supervision of an appropriate health professional.  Studies show that losing weight quicker than two pounds per week increases your chance of  is regaining the weight.  It also means you are consuming less nutrients that are present in those calories. This can cause bodily harm due to a lack of nutrients.
  • shoot for consuming 500 calories less per day, try eating 250 calories less and exercising away 250 extra calories.
  • never consume less that 1200 calories per day unless under the supervision of a health professional.  This will put the body in starvation mode forcing your body to conserve energy and actually store extra fat. Not only will it stop the weight loss it can cause you to gain weight.  Let’s say your BMR is 1500 calories, then you will need to exercise the extra 200 calories so you do not drop your calories under 1200 but still bank those 500 calories per day towards your 1 pound per week of weight loss. I have many clients that ask for my help that are consuming 600 to 1000 calories per day and can’t seem to lose weight.  They just don’t understand that just like you have a household budget to maintain a certain lifestyle.  Your body also has a calorie budget to meet the demands you place on it.  If your income is reduced  by 30 percent, you must start to reduce your spending by 30%. Your body’s total energy requirements (TER) represent your household budget, Your income represents your calorie intake.  When consuming fewer calories than the body needs,  the body has no choice but to reduce its internal processes. Life support functions and processes are the priority. Extra energy and fat metabolism are reduced.  Like wise if your body gets accustomed to getting plenty of calories to meet its daily calorie budget it will begin to spend those extra calories towards energy for mental and physical activity, immune and hormonal processes, the repair and building of muscle and organs etc….  Like wise, if you believed your bank account had plenty of money, you are naturally going to spend more right? By meeting your BMR you body knows it can satisfy its basic needs and does not have to conserve energy or store fat for life support when the famine arrives. Your behavior of cutting calories too much makes your body think starvation is near. Feed your body a generous amount of nutrient dense foods and your body will be happy to spend extra calories in the form of stored fat.
  • Drink plenty of water,  fat metabolism is dependent on hydrolysis, which is the breaking down of fatty acids for use in the body.
  • Exercise often, if you are just starting, begin with walking. Start slow then when you are able include resistance training to build muscle and interval training to build a stronger lungs and heart. This increases fitness.
  • make sure you are getting at least  30 or more grams of fiber per day.  Fiber is very filling, keeps our intestines clean and absorbs some fat. Refer to this list for high fiber foods.
  • limit the intake of processed and refined foods, not only are they poor sources of nutrients they actually rob our bodies of nutrients
  • eat highly nutritious foods,  check out www.whfoods.com
  • cut your salt intake, it makes your body retain fluids
  • eliminate foods with added sugars
  • eliminate refined grains and flours, use only whole grains
  • reduce your intake of saturated fats, they should provide no more than 10% of your daily calories
  • use the tools below to determine your calorie needs

Advanced BMR/EER Calculator


Simple BMR/EER calculator


Body Analysis Calculator


Calories Burned by Activity Type

I hope you now understand how to determine your calorie needs and the way to monitor your calorie intake and the calories you burn daily.

Wally’s Daily Dose

The information contained in this blog is not medical advice. Never stop taking prescriptions or stop following the advice and directions of your doctor. Always seek the advice of your doctor when making diet or health related changes to your lifestyle particularly if you have health challenges.When beginning a diet or exercise routine always consult with your doctor first. The information contained in this document is not intended to be and should not be considered medical advice.

14 thoughts on “Weight Loss Essentials- Understanding Your Energy Balance

  1. Pingback: Body Workout 101
  2. Thank you for all the research and personal experience that you put into your blogs. It shows that your heart is truly in helping others to become healthy “one step/ one meal/one day at a time. Seeing you go from extreme obesity to great health and physically active is just so inspiring. And in your blogs I feel you are reaching out to just me, just as I am so sure others feel the same way. You make it simple and you give me hope that ALL of us who honestly follow your advice will get healthy and get our life back the Natural way!

    Healthy Blessings and I hope to meet you all on our journeys back to health one day.
    Arlene Nicholson

  3. I just have a question can you suggest an exercise program for a morbid obese woman with disabilities that make it hard to exercise, I am just starting this weight loss journey…I am following your blog. Help.

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