What is the secret to weight loss? It isn’t difficult. In the two parts of this article you will learn the important concept behind all diets and how to apply it to make your weight loss happen.
The Magic Diet
Every year tons of diet books hit the shelves, all having the ultimate answer and magic formula for making pounds disappear.
Some tell you to only eat raw food, others to avoid carbohydrates. Or they confuse you with scientifically looking terms like “insulin response.”
But it’s all window-dressing for a very simple secret: To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. As long as a diet follows this principle, it will work. And all that work, do follow it.
What Is A Calorie?
A unit of measurement: one calorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C (1.8°F).
Food containers normally state calories as “kcal,” meaning “kilocalories.” “Kilo” stands for “1000” and one kcal therefore is actually 1,000 calories. But people often use the term “calorie” and “kcals” interchangeably. Don’t be confused by this; if you so far thought of kcals as calories, you already got it.
We usually associate calories with food, but you can measure the energy of anything with them. One gallon of gasoline, for example, contains 31,000,000 calories (or 31,000 kcal). It could therefore heat 31,000 kg of water by 1°C (1,000 g = 1 kg).
Gasoline leads us over to your body and calories: just like a car, your body runs on fuel. For your car that fuel is calories in form of gasoline, for your body the fuel is calories in form of food.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
The difference between a car and the human body is that when you turn off the car, it ceases using energy. But our bodies do exactly that.
Because even if you lie in bed all day and sleep, some processes have to go on: your heart has to beat, your skin renews, your hair grows and you breathe. All this costs energy and the energy burnt by these basic, always-on tasks is called basal metabolic rate. “Basal” stands for “minimum” and “metabolic” is a term used to describe the processes that occur within living organisms.
You can translate “basal metabolic rate” as minimum processes needed to run to stay alive.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)
Of course we don’t lie in bed all day and sleep. That would make life rather dull. We do stuff: wash that car, go shopping, work out, clean the house etc. All these things burn energy in addition to what is burned by the BMR.
The total energy yo use per day therefore is what you need for the BMR and to do all the things you do. Together they make up the “TDEE,” the total daily energy expenditure.
Your TDEE And Weight Loss
If you eat more than your TDEE, you give your body more energy than it needs. Whatever you eat it converts to fat and stores it as reserve for bad times. A mechanism very useful for our prehistoric ancestors, who didn’t know when the next mammoth might be coming around.
To once more go back to cars, this reserve is a bit like your car’s gas tank. The problem with our “gas tank” is that it has no fixed size. By building more and more fat it can increase almost endlessly, as many of us to our dismay already experienced.
But if you give your body less energy than it needs for the TDEE, it will have to rely on the reserves to make up for the rest and the reserves (and you) will become smaller.
You can summarize it like this:
- If you eat more than your TDEE, your weight increases
- If you eat about as much as your TDEE, your weight remains constant
- If you eat less than your TDEE, your weight decreases
Putting It Into Action
Take a bit of time to wrap your head around these. In part two of this article we calculate your BMR and TDEE and look at how you practically use them to lose weight.