It's More than Calories in Versus Calories Out: Nuances of Weight Loss

Knowing how many calories you’re eating versus how many you’re using as energy can feel like a mystery. That’s why it can be so hard to maintain a stable, healthy body weight and teach children how to as well. The truth is, it doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tools you can use to help you maintain your body weight, lose weight if you need to, or even gain weight.

Learn Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

A good place to start managing your calories in vs. out is to learn your basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the number of calories you burn just by living and breathing. It’s different for every person and depends on age, height, current weight, and gender. There are lots of websites that help determine your BMR. Keep in mind every site will add the disclaimer that the measurement isn’t 100% accurate. There are also breath tests that help you determine your BMR. Despite the target accuracy, they are in the right range and a great place to start.

Add Exercise Calories Burned

Once you’ve got an idea of your basal metabolic rate, calculate the number of calories you burn from your daily walking and exercise. That’s much easier to do now with all the fitness tracking devices on the market. If you use one, you have a good idea of how many calories are going out of your body. Add your calories burned to your BMR to know your daily calorie budget. You can eat fewer calories than your daily budget to lose weight, eat the same number to maintain your weight and eat more calories to gain weight. It’s as simple as that, right? Almost.

Food Diaries

A great way to monitor your calories and nutrients is through keeping a food diary. Most of them are online with mobile device apps that sync. It takes a little effort to put what you eat into a food diary, but with some time you start to understand what and how much you should eat so it feels natural. Then keeping your calories in versus out won’t feel like a mystery any more.

Lower Your Carbohydrate Intake

The Atkin’s diet got so much attention when people lost dramatic amounts of weight through cutting and counting net carbohydrate intake as part of the weight loss program. This sensation really helped people to understand that as a population we were eating too many carbohydrates. Keep in mind that net carbohydrates equals carbohydrates minus fiber. Complex carbohydrates give us long-lasting fuel, but when people get more fuel than they can use, it is stored in our bodies as fat. Olympic athletes and marathon runners use that fuel, so eating plates full of pasta is a good idea for them, but for the average person, it’s really a poor dietary choice because it takes so much energy to burn those complex carbohydrate calories than we use on a daily basis.

 Learn Your Calorie Nutrients

Now you need to get an idea of the kinds of calories you’re taking in because not all calories are equal. Calories become energy, and every human body transforms calories into energy differently. The transformation is made up through a combination of genetics, lifestyle and eating habits. If your body consumes more carbohydrates in your diet, your body will turn to carbohydrates to get energy. If you eat more protein in comparison to fat or carbohydrates, your body will turn to protein to make energy, and the same goes for fat.

You want to be sure to be getting enough vitamins and minerals through your food, so if you’re eating too much pizza and not enough salad, you’ll have a vitamin deficiency in your diet. A balanced diet can include all these things but in the right portions. Quality of calories is as important as the number of calories you eat.

These habits help to maintain a healthy body weight and get the appropriate nutrients. You can build them into your lifestyle and even make learning them like a game with kids to teach them about health and nutrition, too.

What are your goals? Check out this other great content for tips on healthy living!

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