Thursday, January 15, 2009

Losing Weight—It’s Just Math!

Loosing weight is a multi-billion dollar industry but it’s not as complicated as you may think. To understand what you need to do to accomplish this requires some basic math. It’s simple.

• There are 3,500 calories in a pound of fat

• To loose a pound of fat, you must either burn an extra 3,500 calories or eat 3,500 calories less that you normally do

There. That’s it! Let me give you an example of how to do it. Look at your food journal (item # 10 in my “Top 10 things you can do to improve your diet in 2009”). Say you drink two cans of cola a day. Each 12 oz can contains 155 calories so two mounts up to 310 calories. If you stopped drinking soda and, instead, had a glass of water or a glass of ice tea sweetened with stevia, you would loose a pound in a little over 11 days. In a year, you would loose 32 pounds just from making this one change in your diet.

The other part of the equation is burning more energy. Every time you walk a mile, it burns 100 calories. That’s about a 15 to 20 minute walk. So if you added walking 2 miles a day in addition to your cutting out the 2 cans of cola, you are now saving more than 500 calories a day. This would allow you to loose 1 pound a week!

1 comment:

poser said...

love this post! Absolutely correct - one of the first things I remember hearing my grandfather (who was an orthopedic surgeon) say when asked what he ate to stay so thin was, "you can can eat whatever you want, just don't eat a lot of it." I'm not sure we agree with the first part of that statement, but you can't argue with the results. When I was dabbling as a personal trainer back in the 90's, I would tell clients who wanted to lose weight that it was all about math. Just burn more calories than you consume - simple.

So, you outline two methods here, and I wanted to point out some potential pros and cons to each method. This is through both anecdotal experience on my part, and more recently, the discovery of a study that may support that.

The anecdotal experience comes from over a decade of trying to get my weight down for the cycling season. I personally found that limiting calories to drop weight left me feeling flat, and adversely affected my athletic performance; while keeping my calorie intake the same, but increasing the amount of calories I burned through exercise made me feel great while still bringing the fat content down. Despite the lack of laboratory evidence to support this theory, I passed it on to my clients, and had a lot of success.

Well just this last year, I ran across this article on Joe Friel's blog.

(It would be the second article on the page titled, "Weight Loss". Joe Friel is a relatively famous cycling trainer in Colorado)

Here is the relevant excerpt from the article:

"...Unfortunately, there have been few studies of serious athletes that strictly examined weight loss. But in 1985, McMurray and colleagues examined the issue in exactly the way athletes view the challenge [4]. The scientists attempted to find out if reducing caloric intake or increasing training workload was more effective in dropping excess body fat. They had six, endurance-trained males create a 1,000-calorie-per-day deficit for seven days by either exercising more while maintaining their caloric intake, or by eating less while keeping exercise the same. With 1,000 calories of increased exercise daily (comparable to running an additional 10 miles or cycling about 30 more miles each day), the subjects averaged a 1.67-pound (0.76kg) weight loss in a week. The subjects eating 1,000 fewer calories each day lost 4.75 (2.16kg) pounds on average for the week. According to this study, the old adage that “a calorie is a calorie” doesn’t hold true. At least in the short term, restricting food intake appears to have a greater return on the scales than does increasing training workload.

Notice that I said “on the scales.” The reduced-food-intake group in this study unfortunately lost a greater percentage of muscle than did the increased-exercise group. That is an ineffective way to lose weight. If the scales show you’re lighter, but you have less muscle to create power, the trade off is not a good one."

While I'm not necessarily a fan of his recommended diet, I like seeing a study support my anecdotal evidence that the increase in activity is better for you body composition, and therefore your health, than just plain old calorie deficit dieting. (Maybe it's not so efficient at losing weight fast, but I'll take that trade-off!)

Feel free to pick apart the sources, I realize that the study he's basing this analysis on is pretty old...