Calories In Versus Calories Out
Most of us have probably heard the phrase “calories in versus calories out” when it comes to weight management. We’ve been told that if we want to gain weight we need to consume more than we burn and if we want to lose weight we need to burn more than we consume. It’s completely logical. Eating more than we burn will leave us in a caloric surplus while eating less than we burn will leave us in a caloric deficit. This IS the fundamental principle of weight management. There’s only one small problem. It seems that many of us don’t actually know how to calculate the amount of calories we burn in a day.
It’s easy to calculate how much we consume. We can keep a food journal and add up everything we’ve eaten or we can download an app where we can scan all our food in and it will total it up for us. But how do we figure out how much we burn? Everyone is unique and the last time I checked that number wasn’t tatted on our arm.
Well, friends, I got you!
The amount of calories we burn in a given day is called our Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE for short. Our TDEE is the sum of our basal metabolic rate (BMR), physical activity, and the thermic effect of our food. In layman’s terms, it is how many calories we burn for living, being active, and processing food. If we really want to, we can calculate our TDEE by pen and paper. However, to make things a little easier and a whole lot quicker, click the link below for an online TDEE calculator where all you have to do is enter in some basic information. (Note that the body fat category is optional and the number 1 mistake people make is overestimating their activity level.)
TDEE Calculator: https://tdeecalculator.net
Once you click ‘calculate,’ it should give you two numbers. One is your energy expenditure for the day and the other is your energy expenditure for the week.
Let’s just look at the daily.
This is approximately how much you burn in a day. If you were to eat this many calories in a day you would stay the same weight. This is your maintenance number. If you were to eat less than this number you would lose weight because you would be in a caloric deficit. If you were to eat more than this number you would gain weight due to the caloric surplus.
Eventually, as you lose weight or gain weight according to your goals, you will hit a plateau. This is because your body becomes accustom to the surplus or the deficit. Once you hit that plateau, you can recalculate your TDEE and consume less or more.
Don’t Go Too Low!
If losing weight is your objective, be mindful that Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs) can be severely dangerous and are discouraged unless under the recommendation and supervision of a professional. Most experts believe that a diet should not be less than 1,200 calories a day but even that can be considered a VLCD for an active or very large person. For these individuals, it is suggested that a caloric deficit be no more than 30% of one's TDEE. Any deficit over the 30% mark can become too risky. If the next step is to go dangerously low, don't. Instead, increase your output by being more active.
A Number Away
Whether you want to lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same, the fundamental principle of weight management is a matter of calories in versus calories out. Keeping a food diary or downloading an app can help you keep tabs on how much you consume but it will do you little good if you don’t know how much you burn. Knowing your TDEE gives you the power to take control of your weight and tailor your calories toward your goals. Now that you have a clear starting point, success is just a number away.