The Secret of Weight Loss! (Part 3 - Calculating BMR)
Ideally now you have been keeping constant track of your food intake for one week. I'm willing to bet that you had more than one surprise when you actually saw on paper what you were eating on a daily basis. There is a very specific purpose for having you keep track of the food you are eating. It's all preparation for the next steps which I will outline over the next few days.
In part one I told you that weight loss in its simplest form is really just a numbers game. Calories in vs. calories out. By tracking the values of food you eat you can start to learn how much you need to burn on a daily basis to be in the negative and keep your weight loss going.
The process is easy. Well....not really, but I'm going to make it easy, and as a very dear friend recommended to me, I'm also going to keep it in plain English too. Everyday your body burns energy for you to live. As a matter of fact if you just sat on the couch like the blob and did absolutely nothing all day but waste space and take up air, your body would still burn energy. This is called you basal metabolic rate or BMR. As I have already told you, depending on factors such as activity level, age, weight, and gender your BMR can be higher or lower than the norm. BMR is calculated with a whole long equation that you then take and enter into another equation and if you don't know what you are doing you can really screw it up, but I said I was gonna make this simple. By following the link below you can enter a few variables about yourself and viola!
Did you do it yet? Good! Now you have your daily energy (calorie) requirements. If you were to consume this amount of calories on a daily basis, you would maintain you weight. Eat more than this amount and you will gain weight. We are interested in losing so we need to be under that calorie value at the end of the day. This can be done a number of ways.
1) We can simply eat less than that prescribed amount of calories in a day and do no exercise
2) We can eat exactly that amount of calories a day and put ourselves into a negative balance by exercising
3) We can use a combination of exercise and eating less to reach a negative calorie balance
I always recommend the third option because it puts an emphasis on the two most important factors of a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise. Now that you are armed with your BMR, what are you going to do with it?
A pound of fat equals 3500 calories, so in essence for one to lose a pound in a week (a fairly safe amount) they need to create a calorie deficit, with proper diet and exercise, of 500 calories a day (500 calories x 7 days = 3500 calories/week). This is where the BMR comes in.
Let me give you an example:
Meet Darcie. Darcie is a moderately active, 23 year old female. She weighs 160 lbs and is 5 foot 7 inches tall. Darcie is looking to lose 5 pounds before her big vacation in July. According to the above link Darcie's BMR is 2300 calories. So in order for Darcie to lose one pound a week, she needs to make sure at the end of the day she has not consumed more than 1800 calories (2300 - 500 = 1800).
Let's say that Darcie goes to the gym and between her weight and cardio workouts she burns 400 calories. This 400 calories can now be added to the 1800 calorie limit she has set for herself because the exercise has moved her further into the negative. Darcie can now consume 2200 calories and still see the 1 lb of weight loss per week. Calories burned with exercise need to be accounted for and added back into your daily calorie needs. If you fail to do so you can run the risk of not providing your body with the proper energy it needs for the day and cause your weight loss to come to a screeching halt.
Now that we have your BMR we need to learn how to calculate what we are putting into our bodies. BMR does you know good if you have no idea how many calories you are consuming per day. Keep reading for more information.
As an aside, while any three ring binder and a pen can be a perfect food journal there are other, easier electronic versions. If you have a computer I recommend using an online food journal such as the ones found at:
If you have a smart phone such and a Droid or iPhone I HIGHLY recommend downloading an app. I'm not sure of apps available on the Droids or Blackberrys, but the hands down best app for tracking calories on the iPhone is LoseIt.
These online and smart phone options can be an all-in-one resource for you and save a lot of time if you are really busy.
Stay healthy my friends!