The energy balance equation

The absolute success of any fat reduction program is the understanding of the energy balance equation. It is a simple equation really, however it’s not so simple to apply.

The energy equation dictates that for every 3500 calories of energy that you expend over and above your intake a corresponding reduction of 1 pound of body-fat will occur.


 energy balance equation

  Again, simple in theory, however putting it into practice is another story. Here’s why. Look at the diagram above.

The triangle on the left represents our food intake, carbohydrates representing the greatest proportion of calories required for the average individual (whoever that is).

The other side of the scale represents the three greatest determinants of energy out-put. At the top of the triangle is TEF (thermogenic effect of food). This represents the amount of energy utilized by the ingestion and digestion of all the food we eat which is represented on the left hand side of the scale. A minor amount compared to physical activity and resting metabolic rate, but alas, it does have major significance. The mere fact you eat food means you will burn calories. In this instance the more time your body spends digesting food the more calories it will burn.

Move down the triangle to the next larger section-physical activity- including exercise. Exercise and how much you move your body is the next determinant of the energy output balance of your body. So it’s simple move more and you burn more energy.

Now take a close look at the bottom of the triangle representing the greatest amount of energy utilized by your body. The resting metabolic rate. Yes, surprise, surprise. The amount burnt here is the major difference between being fat and being thin, or should I say lean.

We’ve all heard it before. “He’s lean because he has a faster metabolism.” And it’s true. This is where the most calories are burnt. You can do all the running you like but you will rarely exceed the energy burnt sitting around doing nothing.

Great! You may say, “I’ll just sit on my behind and do nothing, I’m really good at that, and I can do it in abundance.” Unfortunately it’s not quite as easy as that. If it were I would join you and we could munch on a box of chocolate bars together. If it were that simple we as a nation and species would never have a fat or obesity problem, ever.

Remember, the triangle on the left in order to lose body-fat, must always be smaller than the one on the right. So what is so hard about that? A lot!

For this to occur short term is relatively easy. Simply eat less so that the left triangle is smaller. This however quickly negates itself.

As I’ve mentioned before eating less merely slows down the metabolism to the point where your survival mechanism is activated. In no time at all starvation is recognized and countered by the body. This means a single ‘normal’ meal can be enough to begin putting back on any weight that has been lost. You will also have an even slower metabolism and your weight gain will be an inevitable ‘snowball’. Incidentally, most of the weight gain will be due to the associated retardation of the metabolism caused by the loss of Lean Body Weight.

The greatest determinant of the speed of a person’s metabolism is the amount of Lean Body Weight they carry. The resting metabolic rate equates to about 60% of the amount of calories burnt every day. Even when you sleep it’s your muscles that burn the most energy. Their integrity must be guarded at all cost. However, if this valuable fat burning tissue is compromised and lost there is very little you can do to speed up your resting metabolic rate.

Authors Details: John Moore – Personal Trainer


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