One of the things I’ll be teaching my FIT group this fall is the concept of an food/energy budget. You see, making health changes isn’t as complicated as we make them. It’s actually simple math. And math doesn’t lie. We’re always working from two angles, with two numbers if you will when we’re trying to make changes. Your food/energy budget is all about the input and the output. Let’s talk about those today:
Metabolic Rate needs to go up!
Your metabolic rate is just the amount of calories (energy) your body requires just to function all day. You can calculate it here. (The equation is also at the bottom of the page) This is the output. In budget terms, it’s what you’re earning, this is your income. The more of this you have, the more you get to spend.
Your energy output increases while you’re working out. Obviously, your body needs more energy to do push ups or run. So, that’s a short term way to increase the output. You can add to your income by working out.
In my house, my husband always used to have an easier time losing weight than I did. Eventually I realized it wasn’t because he was in an alternate reality, it was simply that his resting metabolic rate was so much higher than mine. That meant he simply had to make a few adjustments and he’d start shedding any excess. Why was it higher? The biggest reason is because of his big huge muscles. He’s almost always worked out and he has a lot of muscle. Muscle burns through energy faster! As a gender, men have more muscle and women have more fat. (I don’t make the rules.) So, they’re typically going to have a higher metabolic rate.
Once I got my own lean muscle mass up higher, I found it a little easier to lose weight as well. This is the way you can add to your output, to your income like savings on a bank account. It just happens. Of course, that combined with the other big number is the ticket.
Energy going in your mouth needs to go down!
That sounded weird. Moving on. Your input is the amount of energy you consume. The food you eat equals a certain amount of calories. Calories equate to energy. In budget terms, this is what you’re spending.
The simple math here is we are consuming more energy than we are expending. Most Americans are consuming more energy (calories) than they expend (metabolic rate). We need to fix that balance. I see this in action every time I’m at the gym. I see folks trudging away on the elliptical. If they’re really pushing, they’ll burn 300 calories off. That is the equivalent to one soda, one bag of chips, one bagel, a sandwich, etc. It really doesn’t take much to undo all that work you’ve just done.
Counting calories is tedious but it’s a good learning tool. Begin by figuring out what your output is. Then, if you want to lose weight, you’ll take that number, subtract about 500 calories and then you’ll have the number for your input, how much food you should consume.
Here’s a hint: real, natural, whole foods are lower in calories and denser in nutrients. Anything processed or made by man will add up quick and it won’t fill you up as long because it’s not real food. So, if you’re sad your input number goes really quick, trade some crappy foods for healthier ones and you’ll be chomping much longer!
Another hint? Measure. You cannot, at least not in the beginning, eyeball portions. Without being very specific on portions, your math will be wrong. That’s not how you do a budget! You know exactly what you make and exactly what to pay the electric company. Specifics matter in math.
There you have it. Your food budget = (metabolic rate + workout calories – weight loss deficit). It’s very simple math. If you’re not losing weight, it’s most likely because you’ve got the math wrong. Your output needs to be higher than your input!
- For men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
- For women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
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