Calories – Running the numbers on weight loss
I’m going to talk about calories. Now, I’m going to try and keep it simple too. We could have a long, drawn out conversation about how not all calories are the same but, for the sake of this article, we’re just going to talk about calories and calorie deficit. And, I swear, I’m going to try and keep it simple.
So, I’ve already mentioned calorie deficits. What’s that? Well it just means taking in less calories than you would normally need in order to lose weight. But how do you know how many calories you need? There are lots of fancy terms used around this stuff and knowing what they mean, let alone what the magic number is can take some working out. Let me explain.
The terms and the numbers
Some of these terms you may have heard before. Others, maybe not but it’s really not that complicated.
BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate
(This just means the number of calories your body burns at rest, with zero activity)
TEF – Thermic Effect of Food
(Just digesting the food you eat will burn some calories this is the TEF)
NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
(This is the number of calories burned in all activity excluding exercise. Walking to the bus, going up stairs, running after your kids, it all burns calories.)
TEA – Thermic Effect of Activity
(As you might expect, this is the number of calories you burn during exercise or during any activity with a higher than usual energy output)
So if we take all these terms and add the number of calories they each represent we come up with your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or TDEE. Quite simply it’s the total amount calories your body burns over 24 hours from everything you do, eating, working, exercising, and even sleeping. And your TDEE is the magic number when it comes to fat loss.
What’s the big deal with TDEE?
TDEE is the most important piece of information we have when trying to gain muscle or burn fat and lose weight, because it is the total number of calories we burn.
And – In order to burn fat, we must eat fewer calories than this number.
Creating a deficit from your TDEE will force your body to use body fat as fuel. That’s the affect we want when trying to lose weight effectively, because we’re not just losing weight, we’re losing fat.
So TDEE is the number we should base all our calculations on when putting together a diet plan and not just BMR, (as some PTs will mistakenly do), or some old-fashioned arbitrary number like 1,200 calories for women and 1,800 calories for men.
Any solid weight loss program will base your calorie allotment on TDEE as the foundation. Once we have this number we simply subtract 15-20% in order to see how many calories we should eat to burn fat and lose weight at a steady pace.
Now remember, there is not substitute for human experience and trial and error, but using our TDEE will definitely get us close.
How do I calculate my TDEE?
You’ll find several websites that offer online calculators to do just that.
Try tdeecalculator.net or www.bodybuilding.com – but do talk to your PT, (hopefully that’s me) and DO NOT subtract more than 25% from your TDEE calculation.