A lot of the information you read out there on random websites is based on nothing more than people’s opinions or experiences. Although this can sometimes carry some merit it should be taken very carefully as there is often no basis behind the claims. It is often very misleading as people trust what they read and go away believing false information to be correct. It may even surprise you to know that recommendations put forward by the government agencies, sources you would think to be reliable, on things such as recommended intake are themselves based on very little science.
What I want to do is present you the information that is out there in the form of journals in the scientific community in a way that you can understand, even if you don’t have a scientific background. This way you can decide for yourself if you think something is correct rather than relying and trusting others to do it for you.
An important question to address when thinking about weight loss is why do we put on weight in the first place? To understand this we must first look at energy balance. Energy is stored in the body in three different forms. Fat (120 000 calories worth in the average 70kg individual), protein and glycogen (carbohydrate stored in the liver and muscles approximating about 3-4000 calories when stocked). An important equation to remember that explains exactly why we gain or lose weight is
Change in Energy stores = Energy intake – Energy expenditure
So if we take in more than we use, we put on weight and vice-versa. It has been shown again and again that the body keeps its protein and carbohydrate stores remarkably constant, so in general most weight gained or lost on an everyday basis is through fat stores.
You will often hear people saying that they hardly eat anything yet still put on weight and that it is a result of their slow metabolism. As this is such a common notion and often used as an excuse to stay overweight we should explore it in more detail. Looking at the equation, what they are saying is that their energy stores (fat) are increasing despite a low energy intake. This can only mean that his or her energy expenditure must be reduced compared to someone who does not put on weight.
So what does energy expenditure consist of?
There are three main components. Basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy we burn at rest and is responsible for about 60-70% of expenditure. Exercise expenditure of physical activity (EEA) which consists of about 10% of expenditure. Diet induced thermogenesis (DIT), which is the increase in metabolic rate needed for digestion, absorption and processing of what we eat, and forms the rest of expenditure. So if an overweight person is overweight because energy expenditure is reduced, it must be due to one of these components. Let’s explore.
Using a respiration chamber it has been determined that the overweight individual has a higher BMR than a lean individual, which is likely due to an increased fat free mass. Even more importantly when corrected for fat free mass the metabolic rate of both individuals is often the same. So this is not the reason they put on weight.
Studies have shown that the energy expenditure due to exercise in the overweight individual is less than the average individual, but this is due to a reduced amount of exercise being undertaken, and if the same amount of exercise were done the same amount of energy would be burnt. So altered exercise efficiency isn’t the reason they put on weight either.
So it must be down to diet-induced thermogenesis. Well no, this is the same for everyone so cannot be held responsible. So despite what people may think, the reason we put on weight is not due to a reduced metabolic rate but is quite simply down to eating more food. Once this is understood and accepted, the individual becomes empowered to lose weight, as they know it’s not as a result of factors outside of their control that they are heavier than intended.
Another important question people ask is why, if you constantly overeat, do you not keep putting on weight after a certain point? This is interesting and occurs because the body burns more energy as it puts on weight, and eventually the extra energy burnt adds up to the extra being eaten and bodyweight remains constant. If you were then to up your calorie intake you would once again put on weight until you stabilized at a higher level. So an overweight person needs more calories to maintain their bodyweight than a lean individual does theirs. You might have tried taking phentermine or any other weight loss tablets and still looking struggling to lose weight? Read on.
So in summary it appears that although important, metabolic efficiency is not the main determinant of someone being overweight, but it is instead related to an increased intake of energy in the form of food. Now we understand this concept we can go on to discuss why people may eat more than they need, what is the driving force behind appetite, and the effect of different diet compositions on weight gain.
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Everything said was very reasonable. However, consider
this, suppose you wrote a catchier title? I ain’t saying your content is not solid, however suppose you added a headline to possibly grab a person’s attention?
I mean Why do we gain weight? – Energy Balance | MyHeartBlog is a
little vanilla. You might peek at Yahoo’s front page and note how they write news headlines to get people to open the links. You might try adding a video or a related pic or two to grab people excited about everything’ve got to say.
In my opinion, it could make your website a little bit more interesting.
“the body burns more energy as it puts on weight, and eventually the extra energy burnt adds up to the extra being eaten and bodyweight remains constant.”
You must recognize, then, that the opposite is also true: the body burns less energy as it sheds weight, the reduction in energy burnt compensates for the reduced food intake and bodyweight remains constant.
The flaw in the “only energy balance matters” argument can be illustrated by simple math. There are approximately 3600 calories in a pound of fat. So, if a person reduces their caloric intake by around 500 calories per day, they should lose 1 lb of fat per week. They will for a while, but then the fat loss stops. Of course it does; if it didn’t, eventually the person would waste away to nothing as the body burned up all its fat and lean tissue to compensate for the ongoing deficit. The reason the weight loss stops is because the body adjusts to compensate for the deficit. Whether that adjustment is a reduction in BMR or a decrease in Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or both is debatable. The point is, it happens. Therefore, when weight loss plateaus, reduce caloric intake or increase caloric expenditure MORE in order to continue to lose weight. It is also necessary to adjust macronutrient composition — strive to continuously get more calories from protein and fewer from carbs.
The goal is not to lose “weight”, the goal is to recomposition one’s body. That means reduce the % of body fat relative to lean mass. If an obese person loses a lot of weight by changing their diet, many pounds of the weight lost is muscle, not fat. You want to lose fat, not muscle. To do this, you must give your body a reason to hold on to the muscle but shed the fat. Here’s how:
1. Eliminate all processed foods, junk foods, sweets, and simple carbs from your diet. Eat whole foods in their natural state, mostly vegetables, meats, eggs, and some fruit. Over time, strive to continuously and incrementally remove all starchy carbs from your diet (pasta, rice, bread). These foods contain lots of calories but relatively little nutritional value. You don’t need them. Plan cheat meals in advance but limit them to no more than once per week.
2. Caloric restriction. Reduce your total average caloric intake. Think of your caloric budget in terms of calories per week instead of per day, and it will be easier to set up a deficit. Try intermittent fasting, it is the easiest way to reduce caloric intake. Caloric restriction is all about exercising your willpower and learning to live with hunger. Hunger is your friend — if you don’t feel hungry most of the time, then you’re not getting lean. This is the “dirty little secret” of the fitness industry. Saying you can get lean without ever feeling hungry is like saying you can cut your sleep in half without ever feeling tired. It’s nonsense! In our modern society, we are able to maintain a constantly fed (and overfed) state, but that’s NOT normal. Nor is it normal for humans to sit for 8, 10 or 12 hours a day. Living with some degree of chronic hunger is normal for humans, from an evolutionary perspective, and necessary for getting lean.
3. Resistance training. You must do resistance training (weights, machines, bodyweight exercises) to force the body to hold on to its muscle and build more. Muscle burns fat. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR.
Do NOT attempt to “lose weight” by exercising more unless you already have strict control over your diet and are able to endure hunger. Exercise increases appetite, and you can easily out-eat your exercise. That’s why you see people in the gym day after day, week after week, and month after month, sweating it out on the running machine but always looking the same. They are eating enough to fuel their daily exercise AND maintain their current body composition.
You will notice I did not say to cut fat from your diet. If you’re eating whole, natural foods (meats, eggs and vegetables) and you’re not overeating, then fat is not a problem. Ideally, you should eat organic vegetables (because non-organic are doused with chemicals), grass-fed meats (not CAFO meats), eggs from drug-free, free-range chickens, and RAW milk dairy products from grass-fed, drug-free cows. Look into dairy farm CSAs in your area. Generally speaking, the less active you are, the fewer carbs you should be eating. If you’re sedentary, then you should be eating well under 100g of carbs per day. If you can reduce carbs down low enough, you can train your body to burn fat for energy.
Who are you? That was a GREAT(!) well written article.
This is all not true. I do exercise and do not eat unhealthy foods, or eat or over eat I do have health issues with great pain and force myself to move and walk and exercise even though my pain screams. I followed many doctor diets either gained or stay the same so your article does NOT deal with people who are # 1 Elderly #2 have other health issues of pain like Bursistis and Fibromyalgia along with Hypothyroidism and so is only geared to people in general in otherwise fairly good health.
Purely Vibrant says
It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this
outstanding blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to fresh updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group.