weight loss

Its not all about the calories

Today the headlines are about reducing calories in processed and takeaway foods, and encouraging people to choose the lower calorie options.

The report also states that women should not consume more than 2000 calories per day, however everyone is not equal and into todays more sedentary life styles, daily calorie requirement are actual lower for the majority of people.  Height and age also effect the calories required, for example Susan burned 2200 calories last Sunday, but that included a 10k run, compared to Thursday where the only exercise was a 2 mile dog walk and she burned 1600 calories, so without the exercise Susan’s daily calorie requirement would be much lower than the average quoted.  It’s not good to get too worried about daily calories but look at it on a weekly basis as quite often it will all balance out and stop any unhealthy relationships with food.

Every person has an individual daily requirement, your basic metabolic rate (BMR) this is the daily calories that your body requires to stay healthy and not lose weight assuming you didn’t leave your bed all day, however these calories should be nutritious and not empty calories.  Your  individual total calorie requirement will then be based on how active you are in the day, the more active the more calories you will require to stay at your current weight, if you are trying to lose weight lower your calorie requirement by 200/300 calories per day.  Apps such as fitbit or my fitness pal, allow you to calculate your BMR and then track your food intake to allow you to have a rough idea (they will not be scientifically accurate) of your calories in compared to your calorie out, tracking food over the course of a week is a good idea, it makes your more mindful of foods that you are eating and looks at the macro nutrients balance as well. The three macronutrients (Carbohydrates, protein and fat) all have their own specific roles and functions in the body, and all supply us with calories or energy. For this reason, the body requires these nutrients in relatively large amounts to grow, develop and continually thrive. Remember macro means large, though many diets the proportion is out we eat far higher carbohydrates and proteins than required and too little fats. Healthy fats are an essential part of our diets, good fats come from nuts and seeds and their oils and oily fish.

If you rely on processed meals, its important to not just go for the lowest calorie option, in the long run this may not be the best for your health.   For example a ham sandwich on white bread is 275 calories, this is processed meat, giving 42% of your daily sodium, 9% of fibre, 33% of your protein, wheres as a wholemeal chicken sandwich with lettuce is 328 calories per serving, however sodium is 6% of daily requirement, fibre 22% of daily requirement, 60% of daily protein, along side having a portion of salad and benefits of B vitamins in the bread a far better choice.


weight loss

Weight loss

When people start a weight loss diet, many lose weight initially then stall. Why is this? Your body stores energy as fat and glycogen. Whereas fat stores can vary dramatically from person to person, your body can only store so much energy as glycogen. Glycogen requires water to be stored. In the initial stages of diet/caloric restriction and exercise, your body depletes these glycogen stores (it needs the glycogen for energy.. its the bodies first go to source), reducing your bodyweight from the elimination of both the weight of the stored glycogen and the weight of the water. Note that nowhere in this process is the much-desired loss of fat! hence the saying that the initial weight loss is water loss. For every gram of glycogen stored, you store anywhere from 3-4 grams of water with it. Carbohydrates which are the initial source of the glycogen when eaten, if they are not needed for immediate energy use they are then stored as glycogen and if these cells are full as fat. On most calorie controlled diets the amount of carbohydrate you consume is significantly reduced, so the body resorts to the stored glycogen as its first energy source, releasing the attached water. Its also why many people have a shock if they have an off diet day and eat a diet rich in carbohydrates and suddenly put on a couple of pounds overnight. If you reduce your calories by 2000 calories a week, the first 2 weeks some people if they have a lot of weight to lose can lose up to 10llbs. If they continue with reducing their diet by 2000 calories per week, over the next two weeks they may only lose 1 or 2lbs since a pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories.
If you continue with your 2000 calories a week reduction, while initially you will see a reduction in weight loss and fat reduction, this will slowly slow down since weight loss is not linear. This linear assumption does not take into account the bodies natural mechanisms that kick in, with less calories being consumed the body becomes more efficient and learns to survive on less calories. Depending on the overall composition of your diet, if your body has depleted it stores of glycogen and then fat it will start looking to protein as its fuel source, individuals will start to lose muscle mass as the body breaks down muscle tissue to use as its protein source.
When losing weight its very important to take a good multi vitamin since the guidelines of 2000 calories per day also ensures that you obtain the required amount of vitamins and minerals to stay in good health.
Also don’t overestimate how many calories your body actually needs. Every person will have an individual calorie requirement, if you have a smart watch many of these will now tell you how many calories per day you have burned based on your Basic Metabolic Rate ( BMR) and what movement/ sports it has calculated that day. Looking at my results over the last month I burn just under 2000 calories per day, but that includes jogging twice a week, spin class once a week and daily dog walks, if you don’t exercise you may naturally need less calories per day.