So I started to write a few articles, and bust some common myths and myth-understandings.. sorry, misunderstandings.. that people believe about losing weight and it came to my attention that there is just a few basics that everyone needs to know, that they just might not, about how to lose weight. And so without much further-ado, let this article serve as your primer.. a basic-training if you will to becoming a fat-burning machine…
I’m not going to beat around the bush. There is one fact that you need to know, and you need to know it now.
Caloric restriction is the only proven method of losing weight
Number one, numero uno. It really is the bee all and end all, and I’m hoping I don’t need to use anymore cliches to get you to believe it.
What does that mean?
In short, this:
You can only lose weight when you are in a total calorie deficit
And in non-nutrition/scientific terms; if you eat too little to cover the energy your body uses daily – then you’re going to lose weight.
It works like this: your body has a certain energy requirement to keep ticking over. Even if you spend all day laying in bed, not eating, moving or doing anything at all – your body still has to use a specific amount of calories to function. This amount of calories is called your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR and is basically the number of calories your body requires in a day, to keep itself alive.
Every single persons BMR will be different, some will be higher naturally and others lower. Anything you do in a day will go on top of your BMR as additional calories required for the day. Your daily energy expenditure, ie. any activity you do that requires calories (like running, walking, talking) is made up of all the energy required to partake in those activities on top of your standard BMR. So if you did nothing in a day but go for a run that burns 200 calories, your daily expenditure would be:
Daily Expenditure(Maintenance Calories) = Your BMR (in cals) + 200
The resulting number (when in calories) is called your Maintenance Calories. This is your favourite (or most hated) number that you’ll know if you’re planning on losing or gaining any weight sensibly (ie. fast weight-loss, and nigh on fat-less weight-gain)
So how do I use this magic number?
Your maintenance calories represents the number of calories you want to stay below on a daily basis in order to burn fat.
So, in an easy example: if your maintenance calories are 2000 per daily. You would aim to eat around 1700-1800 (200-300 calories less than MC) in that day, so that you are in a caloric deficit (and therefore adhering to the process of caloric restriction) and your body will burn some of its fat reserves to make up its excess energy requirements.
So is maintenance calories an absolute number for a daily basis?
Maintenance calories can be increased or decreased through an increase or decrease in exercise, respectively.
The more exercise you do, the more calories you’ll be expending on a daily basis – so you’ll have a higher maintenance calorie level.
You also don’t have to think of maintenance calories in a daily aspect. You can for example, consider maintenance calories over a two day period. To do this is just simple maths:
if you know your daily maintenance calories is 2000 cals, then for two days it will be double the daily rate (2×2000) = 4000 cals.
What is the advantage of thinking this way? Well, you can be less strict with yourself. You could eat say 2500 calories in one day – knowing that the next day you should keep to only 1500 calories. It will have no effect on your weight-loss to do it that way, and you could even consider maintenance calories on a weekly basis and keep yourself in check that way – whatever is easiest for you to keep to!
So no other methods work but being in a caloric deficit?
Nope, consistent caloric restriction really is the only proven way to lose weight, and it makes sense. Think back to chemistry, or physics, you’re always told that one side of an equation must match the other.
No energy can be lost, only transferred. So if you think of the equation like this:
Maintenance Calories = Food Intake (in cals) + Fat Burned (cals)
It’s easy to see that if your food intake is the same as maintenance calories, fat burned must = 0. You aren’t burning any fat.
And if food intake > maintenance, then fat burned is going to be negative. You’re gaining fat.
The only other option? food intake must be less than maintenance, and fat burned will be positive. You’re losing fat!
But what about no carb diets? surely they work?
Nope, only if the calories of whatever else you are eating is lower than your maintenance calories (which a no carb diet would usually promote through the loss of calories from carbs, this is why people think eating no carbs magically makes them lose weight).
What you want to take away is that no diet is going to do you any favours by suggesting that their awesome new method will help you to lose weight, unless that method somehow causes caloric restriction (like fasting for 24hrs, which effectively reduces your total calories by a days worth). Science, and sense, needs to be the winner here.
You don’t have to stop yourself eating cupcakes, or not have a slice of your friends birthday cake – just mold your eating around these moments, so that you stay below maintenance calories, and you’re golden.
That’s really all there is to it!