What if I told you the best kept secret to weight loss? One that would not only make you lose weight but will also become a lifestyle that is easily adaptable and manageable? Everything that we do for our weight loss – be it nutrition or exercise, it all falls under the one big umbrella of ‘Calories.’ The one end goal of everything is to burn more calories than you eat. And that, dear reader, is the secret – CALORIE DEFICIT.
Today, let’s unravel this concept to understand what it is and how it helps us.
What are Calories?
Before we get into understanding calorie deficit, let’s understand what exactly are calories.
A calorie is a unit of energy. This energy is what is used / needed by our body for functioning. It is extracted from the fuel that we give to our body viz., the food that we consume. And this energy is measured in terms of kilocalories (Kcal) but are more commonly termed as Calories.
How do calories make us gain weight?
This is based on a simple science – The law of Thermodynamics, which states, “Energy can neither be created, nor be destroyed.” It can only be converted from one form to another. So whatever fuel we are feeding the body will get digested and, energy and nutrition is extracted. This extracted energy is either used or stored. The used energy is spent or expended out of the body. The additional energy that is not utilized, is primarily stored in the body as fats. This is where we gain weight, when we consistently keep storing this energy for a longer period of time and not use it.
Calorie Deficit – The Secret
Let’s simplify this secret. Deficit simply means the demand is more and there’s a shortage of supply. And this is exactly what Calorie Deficit is – Calories In < Calories Out
“Creating a calorie deficit is basically burning more calories than you eat.”
Translated into even simpler terms, it means we are creating an energy gap, for the body to tap into and utilize the stored energy i.e., primarily fats.
How does this work?
This equation has two ends –
- Quantified Nutrition – you count/track your calorie intake and limit it to the scientifically calculated number
- Targeted Activity – you move your body for a specified time period every day. This movement can be in the form of
- Non Exercise Activity (NEAT) – This is any physical activity you carry out throughout your day without the mindset of working out (e.g. taking the stairs, walking the dog, cleaning the house, going shopping, etc.)
For a calorie deficit to work for you, you have to balance both the ends of this equation. This is where it gets tricky and you may need to educate yourself.
Let’s understand this in detail –
It is of utmost importance that you do not randomly set any limit by yourself. If you were to follow a herd like a sheep, you would come across the standard ‘1200 Kcal’ limit for weight loss. But that is NOT how it works and does more harm than good.
The MOST important aspect of healthy weight loss is understanding your Basal Metabolic Rate.
Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR denotes the body’s daily energy requirement to function properly and/or is basically the body’s capacity of burning calories at a rested state over the day doing nothing whatsoever. Some body processes requiring energy include: breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function, and contraction of muscles.
BMR will vary from person-to-person. Some intrinsic factors affecting basal metabolic rate include: weight, height, surface area, gender, body composition, body temperature, age, hormone levels, and overall health.
- Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body weight, height, and surface area
- Metabolic rates are lower in fat tissues than muscle tissue
- Metabolic rates are lower in women than men
- Metabolic rates decrease with age
- Metabolic rates increase with an increase in body temperature
- Metabolic rates vary in response to T4 hormone levels. T4 is the key hormone released by your thyroid glands and has a significant effect on body weight
- Metabolic rates decrease with a decrease in overall health
Why is BMR so Important?
It is because you HAVE to eat at your BMR for a healthy weight loss. In extreme obesity cases, you may eat lesser than BMR but that too for a few targeted weeks only. Eating below BMR makes the body dig deeper for fuel and it starts burning muscles. This leads to greater overall weakness. Moreover, continuously eating below your own BMR will drastically slow down your metabolism.
Here’s the crux of everything – You have to eat at least at your BMR and simultaneously increase your activity level for the day so that your body burns more than what it gets on daily basis. Over a period of time, it will start utilizing the fat stores for energy requirement and this will lead to weight loss.
With this, hope you will make an informed decision and take this secret to turn it into your lifestyle. Eating in calorie deficit and increasing activity will ensure your weight loss but we wouldn’t want to go overboard with only one ingredient and miss out on all the essential nutrition. Have wholesome meals and always remember, eat right to feel right and stay right. What you eat becomes you, so be mindful of what you’re eating. If you have any doubts, please drop a comment below and I will be happy to help you out.