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Filed in Kim's Corner — September 12, 2016

What is Your Energy Balance Equation?

(As seen in Warrenton Lifestyle Magazine)

The first step in this four-part series to a Lean Body was to makeover our kitchens. Hopefully, your kitchen is now a cooking-friendly environment, jam-packed with nutrient dense foods, and one of the “happiest” rooms in your house!

Step 2 to a Lean Body is developing an understanding of your energy balance and finding the balance that works for you.

What is energy balance? Very simply stated, it is the difference between the amount of daily calories you take in (energy input) and your daily energy output (exercise, normal daily activities, the energy consumed to run your bodily functions). The difference between these two numbers results in a negative balance (weight loss), a positive balance (weight gain) or an even balance (maintaining current weight).

If only it were that simple….

Researchers have developed numerous calculations to help determine how best to formulate a weight loss plan. Unfortunately, there are many equations, with many variables; it can be difficult and frustrating to decide which method will work best to achieve energy balance and meet your weight-loss goals.

The Exercise Equation:
Experts recommend that an individual burn 1000 calories weekly to improve health, and 2000 calories weekly to lose weight and improve fitness levels. For many whose weight loss goal includes an exercise program to meet that goal, in order to burn enough calories to lose weight they will need to exercise harder, longer and/or more frequently to yield the 2000 calorie-burn. Research in this area suggests that requiring beginning exercisers to sustain longer/harder or more frequent workouts does not aid in their compliance for long term activity and weight loss. They simply don’t stick with it. Burning 1000 calories may be a more reasonable expectation of beginners, and will likely result in some added health benefits, but the 1000 calorie-burn is unlikely to result in weight loss. Since most people want to lose weight, the exercise equation alone will not work for most people.

The Metabolism Equation:

Another important factor in determining one’s energy balance is calculating the Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), a key component in one’s ability to burn calories efficiently. RMR is based on the amount of muscle tissue in our bodies. Muscle burns calories more efficiently than fat, so it is important that we
perform exercises that promote an increase in lean tissue. While the response time varies from person to person, research indicates that it can take between 6 and 10 weeks of regular resistance training to increase muscle enough to have a real impact on RMR. Research has also shown that the amount of energy (calories) we take in daily is vitally important to the growth of lean tissue. Unfortunately, those who seek to lose weight often go on a very low calorie diet, which conflicts with the body’s need for calories to build muscle. The body recognizes when it is not getting enough energy, and on a restricted calorie diet will store fat rather than building lean tissue. In the long run, weight training on a restricted calorie diet interferes with building muscle, and thus interferes with increasing the RMR that helps maintain a healthy weight.

The Nutrition Equation:
We must also consider one other factor associated with exercise and weight loss – the nutrition equation! As you can see from above, nutrition plays a key role in both the exercise equation and the metabolism equation, it may be the single most important equation but listen to this:

Research has proven how even modest intensity exercise can boost caloric intake by up to 383 calories per day! Whether this increase is due to a need to satisfy hunger, restore energy or fulfilling the need that we feel like we should reward ourselves for working out, you can see how this can have a negative impact on the effort you are putting into your weight loss goals. In order to meet our weight loss goals, you have to keep the energy balance in check. Slow and steady wins the race on this win through adequate nutrition and weight lifting.

The YOU-equation:
The equations described above have the potential to be helpful; however, there simply is no universal one-size–fits-all formula that meets everyone’s needs. We are physically unique and face a host of unique challenges in our quest to achieve a lean body. Even with all the variables to consider, I believe there is a simple two-step approach that allows us to achieve our unique energy balance. I call it the You-equation: it’s simple, it’s specific to you, and you can make it happen.

Most of us follow a pretty set routine from day to day, and creating the You-equation starts with writing down your daily schedule. (it is not necessary to do this every day, simply get a good idea overall from which can take action!)It may look something like this:

6:00am Rise – Shower and get ready for work and prep family for the day
6:45 Breakfast
7:15 Commute to work
8:15 Arrive at work
8:30-12:00 Seated at my work station

4:30-5:30 Commute Home
5:30 Take Child to soccer practice – sit and watch
6:30pm Pick up Dinner
7:00pm Arrive home eat dinner
7:15pm-8:15pm Laundry, Kitchen Clean up, Misc Chores
8:15pm-9:15pm Check emails while watching TV, pay bills etc.
9:15-10:15pm Complete household chores
10:15pm Get Ready for Bed
11:00pm -6:00am Sleep

In the above example, this person is awake for 17 hours, seated for an estimated 12 hours, sleeping for 7 hours, and moving around a maximum of 5 hours.

Using this example, the goal would be to alter the energy balance by increasing the energy output, which can be done simply by moving more throughout the day. Step one to creating your You-equation is to look over your daily schedule and identify opportunities to increase movement; as little as 60 minutes spread across your day has the potential to significantly improve your energy balance.

Step two in creating your You-equation involves writing down what you eat. Most of us follow a pretty routine schedule for what and when we eat; write it down in as much detail as possible. Again, keep it simple, you may not need to do this everyday, get a basic idea and than attack it with enthusiasm!

Identify those foods that do not supply you with valuable nutrition and eliminate (or at least reduce) them from your daily meal plan. Doing so will reduce your energy input, and create a healthier energy balance.

Step 2 to a Lean Body is finding the right energy balance. Your unique You-equation, formulated from the specifics of your daily schedule and nutrition, will help you find your energy balance, and lead to a healthier, happier, leaner you. Remember, be consistent, be honest and commit to small improvements each and every day!

Precision Nutrition
Idea Fitness Journal March 2012

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