Calories In - Calories Out = Gaining Fat or Losing Fat?
The purpose of this article is to explain your daily energy needs in as simple a manner as possible, However the human body doesn't work in such simple equations. You can’t simply reduce your calories progressively day after day and week after week and continue to lose weight. Our bodies are way too intelligent for that and it will compensate in multiple different ways to preserve life. Having said that I am going to give you all the ways our bodies burn calories and let you decide where to put your energy.😉
Let’s break down some basics and then talk about the 5 ways our body utilizes energy to keep us moving and thinking.
A calorie is a unit of measurement of energy. We can easily measure how many calories we eat (how accurately is another topic of conversation) but what happens to those calories once they go into our system is determined by a lot of different factors, like the quality of the calories as well as the following 5 parts of calorie burning in our body.
The following 5 components add up to your total energy that you expend in a day. They all have fancy acronyms and terminology so we will break them down with examples and real life situations.
1. Metabolism = Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
2. Energy from food and to digest food = Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)
3. The amount of movement and activities you do throughout the day = Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
4. Repair and recovery (Afterburn) = Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)
5. Exercise = Actually what you do in the gym, in sports, outside, etc...
Now let’s talk about the variance in some of these energy consuming parts to your overall energy expenditure equation and how you can influence them.
Metabolism- there are things built in that you cannot change and there are things you can change with your lifestyle. Genetics cannot be changed and men tend to burn more calories and require more calories on a daily basis than women (sorry women). Your age is a factor in how much your metabolic rate increases or decreases and the older we get the slower it becomes. Your weight plays a big factor and your body composition is the biggest influencer in this category. The more muscle you have, the more energy it is going to require to keep your metabolism at a baseline, and the less muscle you have the less energy. Tall people require more energy than short people, etc...Now onto some things that you can control yourself.
Your diet has a big influence on your metabolism. If you are under feeding yourself consistently your metabolism will slow down to allow life to continue because it thinks it is being starved to death. Using your diet to boost your metabolism can be done with intermittent fasting and the composition of your macronutrients in your diet as well as the overall quality of the foods you are eating. You can also boost your metabolism with daily activities like ending your shower with 2 minutes of cold water as well as getting to a state where you are cold on a daily basis will boost your metabolism and your immune system response. Probably the biggest one with the most long-term effects on your metabolism is producing/repairing new muscle or the response your body has from strength training and high intensity exercise.
Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)- in other words the effects of the type of foods that you eat as well as the quality of those foods affects the amount of energy it takes to digest and absorb them. The #1 calorie burner in terms of food digestion is natural and indigestible fiber, basically plants! Protein is the macronutrient that requires the most energy to digest with carbohydrates in the middle (majorly dependent on the quality of the carbohydrates) and fat requires the least amount of energy to digest.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)- Think everything from busy work to the amount of brain power the activity you are performing requires. This is all the activity that is not included in your exercise routine. If you have an active job where you are moving around a lot or possibly even lifting and moving things around that have some weight to them then your NEAT calories are going to be pretty high. If you are someone that is sitting at a desk for 5 or 6 hours in a row. Just getting up and moving around for 5-10 minutes of every hour can increase this significantly. It's your step count and how fidgety you are. Do you shake your leg when you sit? Do you have trouble sitting for longer than 20 minutes? If so you probably have a pretty high NEAT.
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)- This is the afterburn required to get all your systems back to normal as well as repair and heal the damage from exercise. A simple way to think about it is the more intense and strenuous your exercise session is the longer it will take to recover from it and the greater the after burn or EPOC. So yes the type of exercise you perform makes a huge difference in your energy use. The more glycogen pulled out of your muscle that is needed for energy, the higher your EPOC. Imagine going for a nice walk for 30 minutes versus doing a CrossFit workout for 30 minutes, these are going to require a vastly different amount of energy to recover from with the walk having almost no EPOC and the CrossFit workout having up to 24 hours or more of EPOC. Resistance training is very high on the list of required EPOC because your body has to repair the muscle you damaged lifting weights.
Exercise- this is the one most people think of as their only option to increase their metabolism therefore increasing how many calories get burned and helping with body composition. Like we just talked about the type of exercise you perform is very important with strength training and high intensity requiring the most energy. You cannot simply exercise more to make up for eating too much and eating poor quality food too often. I hope this doesn't ruin your day but...exercise only accounts for approximately 5% of your body’s metabolic needs.
If you add all these up this is how many calories your body requires to maintain and thrive so if you are under eating by 500 or 600 cal your body is going to slow your metabolism down in order to preserve what it needs for health. Resetting or improving your metabolism can be accomplished by fasting as well as the type and amount of macronutrients you consume in your diet. Put simply if you want your energy needs to rise and you want to have more energy and better body composition, change the fuel you are putting in your body and time when you eat those fuels more appropriately for your lifestyle.
Don’t know how to do that? Well don’t worry you are not alone but we can help. Sign up for a free discovery call to discuss your nutritional needs and see if we can help you reach your health and nutrition goals.
Eat Well, Burn More