In order to lose 1 lb. of fat you must burn 3,500 more calories than you consume. So, if you were to eat 1,500 calories and burn 2,000 calories a day, you would lose about 1 lb. of fat per week. If you were to eat 1,500 calories and burn 2,500 calories per day you would lose about 2 lbs. of fat per week. If you would like to know how many calories you are eating you could just count them, or use a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal. Figuring out how many calories you are burning is a little trickier. Fitness trackers like Apple Watch, and Fitbit track your daily calories burned. But, they are not super accurate, they are better used for giving you a ballpark and work well for goal setting and motivation.
Our body burns calories in 3 basic ways:
The one that burns the most is our resting or basal metabolic rate.
That is the energy expenditure in a rested and fasted state. This makes up about 60 – 75% of the average person’s total calorie burn per day. Things that can affect it are age, lean body mass, gender, nutritional status, and hormones. Younger people have a faster basal metabolic rate than older people. Muscle burns calories, so it can be helpful for people to add in some sort of strength training. Men tend to burn more calories than women. Restricting your calories too low puts your body in starvation mode, this can drastically reduce your metabolism – this is why extreme diets don’t work well long term. Hormones like cortisol, testosterone, and thyroid can make a big difference. Some people may need to get their thyroid checked, and possibly go on medication. Strength training, certain foods, and supplements can help keep your testosterone up. Getting good sleep and doing stress management techniques can keep your cortisol levels down.
The second most way our bodies burn calories is physical activity.
This makes up about 15-30% of the average person’s total calorie burn per day. Physical activity is the most easily manipulated component of the total energy expenditure. It plays a key role in creating a calorie deficit when weight loss is desired. This includes both exercise activity and non-exercise activity. This is why it is important to get more movement throughout the day and participate in an exercise program.
The least way our bodies burn calories through the thermic effect of food.
This makes up less than 10% of the average person’s total calorie burn per day. That is the energy used to digest, absorb, and store ingested food energy. The macronutrient composition of a meal can affect the thermic effect or the number of calories required to do it. Fat has a very low metabolic cost, carbohydrate has a medium metabolic cost, and protein has a high metabolic cost.
Even though the macronutrient profile of a person’s diet makes a little difference, the most important part is just the total caloric intake vs expenditure. This is how all different kinds of diets can work, in some form or fashion they make you decrease your calories. Though with that said, making sure that a person eats a decent amount of protein can be very helpful. Not only does protein have a high thermic effect, but it is also the most satiating macronutrient, so people tend to eat less with more protein. Also, protein can help spare muscle when a person is losing weight. As mentioned above, more muscle helps your basal metabolic rate.
The main thing is that a person finds an approach that works best for them to decrease caloric intake, and increase physical activity. It is important to remember that what works for one person does not work for another. We all have different likes/dislikes, and lifestyles to consider. But, also keeping some of the tips I have mentioned in mind could be helpful.