Energy balance is the biggest contributing factor to body weight.
Energy Balance – Defined
Energy balance is the relationship between energy expenditure (BMR, RMR, TEF, Exercise Activity, NEAT) and energy intake (food). This relationship between the amount of calories that we eat in the diet and the amount of energy burn in the body determines our bodyweight as well as our overall health.
When you have have an energy imbalance, the expenditure does not match up with the intake, this can either be on the positive or negative side.
If your main goal is fat loss, you want to consistently be in a negative energy balance, or caloric deficit. On the other hand if your primary goal is lean muscle mass, you will want to maintain a positive energy balance or caloric surplus.
Let’s go through the major concepts of energy need and consumption.
The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum level of energy expenditure needed to maintain vital functions of the body. There are
The rest metabolic rate is very similar to BMR in that it’s measured during rest. Meaning, the level of energy required to sustain vital functions at rest.
Digestion, absorption, and assimilation of ingested food/nutrients is an active process, thus it requires energy. This is referred to as the thermic effect of feeding and it is generally estimated to be roughly 10% of the total daily energy expenditure.
The energy used to perform purposeful exercise is typically called exercise activity and is highly variable from person to person and from day to day.
The spontaneous physical activity you may perform throughout the day; such as tapping your feet on the floor, prepping your meals, giving your kids a bath, etc..
TDEE is short for Total Daily Energy Expenditure and is represented by some combination of the above concepts. In most cases, TDEE = RMR + Physical Activity + TEF.
Neutral Energy Balance
- Your energy output and energy input levels are roughly the same.
- You are consuming around the same amount of calories that you burn throughout the day.
- This leads to a maintained weight.
Positive Energy Balance
- Your energy output is less than your energy input.
- You are consuming more calories than you are burning.
- This leads to weight gain.
Negative Energy Balance
- Your energy output is higher than your energy input.
- You are consuming less calories than you are burning.
- This leads to weight loss.
Calculate Your BMR
Here is a calculator that will provide your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) based on the Harris-Benedict equation. This method provides a reasonable estimate of normal energy expenditures for specific population sub-groups.
Determine Your Caloric Needs
To determine your total daily calorie needs, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
- If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Calorie Needs for Fat Loss
There are approximately 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. So, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit through diet, exercise or a combination of both, you will lose one pound of body weight. (On average 75% of this is fat, 25% lean tissue) If you create a 7000 calorie deficit you will lose two pounds and so on. The calorie deficit can be achieved either by calorie-restriction alone, or by a combination of fewer calories in (diet) and more calories out (exercise). This combination of diet and exercise is best for lasting weight loss. Indeed, sustained weight loss is difficult or impossible without increased regular exercise.
If you want to lose fat, a useful guideline for lowering your calorie intake is to reduce your daily caloric intake by at least 500.
500 calories x 7 days = 3500 calories = 1 pound of weight loss per week.
However, if that 500 calorie reduction requires that you drop below your BMR, then you’ll want to aim for 10-15% above your BMR.
How Do You Manage Energy Balance?
The simplest and most effective way to manage your energy balance is to track it. Track your food intake daily and track your weight on a weekly basis.
- Tracking your food gives you quantifiable data to use. Meaning you can take the guess work out. No more questioning “Am I eating too much? or not enough?” MyFitnessPal is a great option here, but you have to be 100% honest and track everything!
- Tracking your weight regularly will show you a couple things. It will show you just how much your weight fluctuates. You will be able to determine if you are maintaining, gaining, or losing weight. Keep in mind that tracking bodyweight alone is not the greatest indicator of fat loss or lean muscle mass.
- If you goals is to reduce body fat, but your weight is increasing or you are simply maintaining current weight, you need to reduce your caloric intake. Decrease by small amounts, 100-150 calories at a time until you see a downward trend.
- If your goal is to add lean muscle mass but you are losing weight or simply maintaining, you need to increase your caloric intake. Increase slowly, 100-200 calories at a time until you see an upward trend.
Custom Meal Plans
Do you want a meal plan that really works? If you’re tired of screwing with calculators and spreadsheets, let me do the work for you. While the information above gives you the basic understanding of the factors involved and how to lose/maintain weight and increase lean muscle mass, you may find that you still aren’t sure where to start.
I can help by creating a custom meal plan for you that checks all the right boxes:
- The right calories and macros for your specific needs and circumstances.
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What You Get:
- Custom Meal Plan (Macro and Calorie Goals)
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