Fat loss: Understanding energy balance and utilization

Fat loss from first principles

Fat loss: Understanding energy balance and utilization

Are you struggling to lose weight? Have you tried every diet and exercise regimen out there but still can't seem to shed those extra pounds? Perhaps it's time to take a closer look at energy balance and utilization.

What is Energy Balance and Utilization?

At its simplest, energy balance refers to the balance between the calories you consume and the calories you burn. To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn. But there's more to it than just calories in versus calories out.

All calories are not created equal. They may be measured using the same unit, but the sources of those calories are not equal. Your body processes different types of food in different ways, and the way your body utilizes energy varies depending on the type of food you eat.

Carbohydrates are converted into glucose and enter glycolysis, while protein is converted into amino acids that can be used for muscle synthesis or converted into glucose via gluconeogenesis. Fatty acids create energy through beta-oxidation.

Metabolism is responsible for capturing the metabolizable energy in food, and ATP is your body's energy currency. A lot of metabolism is devoted to creating ATP.

The calories you consume are not always easy to track. Food labels can have up to a 20% error rate, so the calories you consume may be harder to track than you think.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the energy your body expends per day without exercise or other activity. It's about 50-75% of the energy you expend per day, and it's sometimes referred to as the "cost of keeping the lights on."

Your metabolic rate is closely related to oxygen consumption. A highly trained person can burn up to 20 calories per minute.

The thermic effect of food (TEF) is responsible for 5-10% of your daily energy expenditure. Fats have the lowest TEF, carbs have a moderate TEF, and protein has the highest TEF. However, this doesn't mean you should just eat more protein and count on burning more calories.

For most people, the biggest component of physical activity is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which refers to spontaneous physical activity like fidgeting or shifting your weight from one side to the other. The calories burned from NEAT can be significant, up to hundreds per day.

Exercise and Weight Management

Exercise is an essential component of weight management, but it's not always easy to track the calories you burn. Day-to-day changes in weight are often due to fluid shifts rather than changes in adipose tissue.

Wrist fitness trackers tend to overestimate the calories burned from exercise, but calorie trackers can be useful for comparison. Exercise has a mild appetite suppressant effect, and people rarely compensate for the calories burned during exercise.

Exercise increases satiety signals, and most people who lose weight and keep it off exercise regularly. Sedentary people tend to eat more than lightly active and moderately active people.

The power of belief is strong. If you believe something works, it is more likely to work.

Spontaneous activity (NEAT) fluctuates depending on exercise intensity and can impact the total calories out.

Diet and Fat Loss

Most people focus on weight loss rather than what will happen after the weight is off. It's essential to pick a form of restriction that feels the least restrictive for you so that it becomes a lifestyle you can sustain, not a diet.

The thing that matters most about selecting a diet for weight loss is long-term adherence. Without fail, there's a diet "honeymoon" period across all diets that wanes after a few months.

Pick the tool that works for you. There's basically no difference