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Calories In vs. Calories Out

December 12, 2012

As I’m writing this I’m in week 7/10 of my latest weight loss experiment. Yesterday I decided to enter some of the data that I’ve gathered for the ecperiment so far – mainly calories in and calories out, as logged/measured via FitBit.com, but also my actual weight and body fat percentage as measured daily. The interesting thing for me was how well the actual weight loss so far matches the total caloric deficit. One pound of body fat is typically equated to about 3,500 calories in the weight loss literature. So far I’ve lost about 6 pounds, with a caloric deficit of about 22,000 calories, and as you can see, the numbers add up. Body fat percentage has also been going down, although the data is a bit fuzzy there as I’m only using a simple impedance scale, but still.

This means that at least for me, empirically, the “calories in, calories out” paradigm of weight loss is validated. If you’re new to weight loss and the various theories and books out there, this may seem obvious to you – of course you’ll lose weight if you expend more calories than you consume. The thing is that on top of the caloric balance (or even sometimes instead of it) many authors have proposed that the macronutrient composition of the diet is more important. Macronutrients are, in essence, carbohydrate, fat and protein. Some authors claim that in order to use bodyfat, you have to cut or reduce carbohydrate, while some others will make the same claim about fat. When it comes to protein, some authors will claim that you need to eat a lot more protein than people typically do (e.g. the book “Protein Power” as well as most paleo approaches), while others don’t consider that to be important.

Well, over the previous 6 weeks I have been eating all over the place, so to speak. During some weeks I’ve been eating a lot of protein, even purposefully supplementing with protein shakes. I’ve been eating a lot of “junk food” containing simple sugars and flour (pancakes). I’ve been doing intermittent fasting during some of the weeks. On some days I’ve been eating a lot of fiber – again also supplementing at times – and on other days practically zero. None of that mattered much when it comes to weight loss, and I find that interesting. It doesn’t prove anything scientifically – but it tells me that I don’t need to be obsessive/compulsive about any of the things that I’ve just listed.

These are the two things that seem to matter:

  • Caloric deficit
    Measure your caloric intake to a reasonable degree of precision (stop short of taking your digital food scale to restaurants)
    Consider using a FitBit.com tracker to gauge your caloric expenditure, or use other (free) tools that estimate it – such as websites or smartphone apps
  • Strength Training
    You don’t need to do much. But in order to improve your body composition while you’re losing weight, it’s reasonable to do some strenuous exercise here and there. That means, as the “minimum effective dose” (as Tim Ferriss would say): Some pull-ups, some push-ups, some squats, on a daily basis.

But that’s only my opinion – any comments?

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From → Weight Loss

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