Weight loss is thermodynamics. It basically equates to energy - calories are units of energy. Knowing that, you can determine what your body uses, and what it needs.
Resting Metabolic Rate
Your body uses a specific number of calories just to keep running. If you lay in bed all day and don’t exercise, you will still burn a certain amount of calories - your Resting Metabolic Rate, also called the Basal Metabolic Rate. There are online calculators to help you find your RMR/BMR - my personal favorite is http://www.bmi-calculator.net/
For my height, weight, and gender, a formula specifically created by a doctor from The Biggest Loser has determined my RMR to be 1,638.4 calories per day. This is how many calories my body burns just performing functions of living such as sleeping, breathing, blinking, digesting, etc.
However, this isn’t how many calories you need to maintain your weight (unless you literally do no activity during the day - you are bedridden).
Safe Zone, or Happy Face Zone :)
The doctor’s formula determines how many calories you need every day to maintain your weight based on your daily activity level (I have a desk job, so I’d call myself sedentary regardless of weekly exercise). The formula ensures that your Star Zone is going to allow for safe fat loss without losing any of your lean mass, that is, your muscles, tissues, organs, bones, etc.
Based on my height, weight, activity level (sedentary), gender and body fat percentage, I need to eat 2,294 calories per day to maintain my weight.
Explained below, I want to eat 1,311 to 1,511 calories per day to lose weight. I can eat between 1,511 and 2,294 calories per day and not gain weight, but I won’t lose much, either. This is why it’s safe, but not recommended for maximum benefit.
Star Zone, your target calorie range *
Although I exercise 3-5 days of the week, my job is sedentary so I spend most of my day doing little activity. The formula tells me that my Star Zone falls between 1,311-1,511 calories. This takes the calories I need to maintain my weight (2,294), and creates a deficit of 783 - 983 calories, which should burn about 1.5 to 2 lbs per week.
A pound of fat is worth 3,500 calories. If you want to lose one pound of fat in 1 week, you need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories that week, or 500 calories a day. You can accomplish this by eating 500 calories fewer than your maximum amount, so for me it would be 1,794 calories per day. This is higher my Star Zone, and will stick within it to lose weight more quickly, again - closer to 1.5 to 2 lbs per week instead.
The cool part: Creating a deficit means that my body needs something else to maintain its basic needs (breathing, exercising, talking): body fat! Your body literally uses its own fat to account for the energy it needs if you give it fewer calories.
Excessive Calories, the Sad Face Zone :(
It is not recommended to eat more than your safe zone. This is too many calories and it will cause you to gain weight, because your body is taking in more energy then it can burn, and it stores those calories as fat! For me, this range is 2,294 calories or higher.
That’s all there is to it. A lot of numbers, a little bit of math, and a bit of physics. Remember, all of the numbers involved in the example above were specific to me. Your numbers will all be different. See a staff member at Square One to determine your star zone and safe zone!
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