- You have to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight (but there is an exception I’ll discuss in a bit)
- You have to consume more calories and the right kind than you burn if you wish to gain muscle.
- Not all calories are equal
- A pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories
You have to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume to lose one pound of fat.
But there is more to this simple equation than meets the eye. Let me teach you a very valuable truth about body stress. When the body is stressed, in any form, it will store energy in the form of FAT for survival and it doesn’t care about the formula I just quoted. This fact throws many professionals off the mark.
What kind of stress will affect this formula? Many forms such as lack of or ineffective sleep, emotional stress, toxic chemicals found in the body (in the form or antibiotics, steroids, pesticides, herbicides, larvecides, fungicides and pharmaceutical drugs) stress and my favorite, not eating enough stress!
Did you know that you’ll stop weight loss in its tracks by not eating enough? In fact, in my experience its the cause of at least 95% of the weight loss plateaus. The body will have no stress if the calorie deficit is no greater than 1,000 per day. When people ‘starve’ themselves to lose weight and create calorie deficits greater than 1,000 daily the body goes into survival mode and will begin to store energy in the form of FAT. The body is an amazing mechanism that is programmed to keep you alive whether you’re conscience or not. If you are starving yourself over 1,000 calories a day you’ll actually stop weight loss because your body needs fuel to survive and believes it’s not getting enough so it slows your metabolism way down to make sure it has enough fat fuel to live from.
Let me give you a true example that is typical in my world. I’ve coached 11 women to lose over 100 lbs and every one of these beautiful women hit plateaus. In each case I upped their calorie consumption by 500 per day more than once, essentially one or more large meal(s) a day, and the weight started to come off again. What I was effectively doing was making sure the daily calorie deficit was not greater than 1,000. As they became more fit and muscular their bodies started to burn more calories in exercise and daily activity. They ran faster, walked faster, and had more energy which needed more fuel to burn (this is why gaining muscle is desirable).
Linda has one of the greatest attitudes ever! She is a RN who started the program literally with one foot in the grave with poor health. She could hardly move without breathing hard. I started her out with simple walking using a heart rate monitor to keep her pace in a healthy fat burning zone. After about three months the walking was not intense enough to keep her heart rate up high enough. We decided that bicycling would be a good next step for her because she could vary the intensity to keep her heart rate perfect to burn fat. Right after that is when she hit her first plateau; no weight and very little inches lost over a 30 day period. I upped her daily intake by 500 and she reacted like everyone does, “No way! I can’t eat another meal a day. I’ll start to gain weight again!” I replied, “Trust me!” I warned her that over the initial few days she might actually gain weight because it takes the body a while to believe it’s not in survival stress starvation mode and will store the extra calories and not burn them. After this she began to lose weight again. There was one more time after that she had to again increase her calorie intake 500 per day because she was really getting fit on her bike and burning more calories with her added fitness.
Then the best part of the story. She had a goal to make the coveted 100 Pound Club and needed to lose 19 pounds in the 30 days before the deadline. She had not ever lost that much in a month. Again, we upped her calories overall by 500 per day but we varied it to shake up her metabolism. One day she would eat an extra meal, the next day two extra meals, then no extra meals and then one day a week she could eat the boat and not worry about calories. I also altered her heart rate and for the first time in 6 months of exercise I allowed her to go anaerobic doing some hard bike intervals. The next few days were amazing. The day after the hard ride she released 3 pounds, the day after that another 2 pounds. Her body hit the mother lode of health and she was able to release 19 pounds in 11 days! She looked great on stage as a member of the 100 Pound Club!
The Right Mix of Calories
All calories are not created equal. They come in three kinds; carbohydrates, protein and fat and the body needs all three. There are many myths about how to eat in a diet. Some diets say don’t eat any fat. Some say only eat protein and a limited amount of carbohydrates.
In my experience for the majority of people I recommend they follow this calorie breakdown to be consumed in every meal and snack;
Carbohydrate (C) 40%
Protein (P) 30%
Healthy fat (F) 30%
Keep in mind this is very general. For example; according to many sports nutritionist athletes need a mix of 60/25/15 (C/P/F). An endurance athlete is best at 65/20/15. Power athletes are good at 55/25/20. Female athletes need to adjust these numbers yet again. For me as a Ironman 57-year-old athlete I follow Dr. Michael Colgan’s formula for the amount of daily grams of protein to consume.
Free online and mobile app calorie counter at Fitday.com.