As the new year begins and many of us make New Year’s Resolutions, I’d like you to keep a little bit of simple math in mind. Complex math is not really my thing, but simple math, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing are pretty easy for everyone. With that in mind, my goal here is to share some simple math that may help you stick to your New Year’s Resolutions this time. And if you, like me, do not subscribe to the whole New Year’s Resolutions but instead set goals throughout the year, this will still apply.
3500 Calories equal one pound
So, the first number I want you to know is 3500. That’s how many calories equals one pound. Now that sounds like a lot, and quite honestly, it is. But if we divide that into the number of days in a week (3500/7=500) the number becomes more manageable. So, if 3500 calories are equal to one pound, that means to lose or gain a pound, the net negative or positive number of calories you need to consume in a week is 3500, or broken down into a week, 500 calories per day. You can break it down however you want to, but the 3500 is the goal either way.
To change the number of calories in your life, you either need to consume more or less, or burn a greater or lower number. So your goal determines what you need to do here. Let’s for the sake of this post use the scenario that you want to lose 20 pounds. That’s a grand total of 70,000 calories. Sounds daunting doesn’t it? Don’t let it intimidate you. I only share so in the end you can see how far you’ve come.
In the fitness industry we, based on years and huge sums (that’s a great math term right there) of research, subscribe to the belief that it is conceivable, achievable and optimal (truly sustainable) to lose 1-2 pounds a week. So, for the sake of math and the law of averages, we’ll focus on 1.5 pounds. That equates to 93.3 days, 13.3 weeks or 3.325 months to lose 20 pounds. So what sounds the least difficult for you to focus on? For me, smaller numbers are easier and again for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on the 3.325 months and to simplify it even more and give myself a little wiggle room (because in that time there are often little setbacks, but, a setback is just a little hiccup, or a bump in the road, not a total derailment or call it quit moment) , I’m going to say 4 months.
Food is Energy (Calories)
Moving on. How do we create that deficit of 5250 calories (1.5 lbs. = 3500/2 +3500)? Let’s take a look at where calories come from. Food is our energy source. Like a car needs gasoline (or some need electricity now) to move, we need food for energy. Food is a glorious and wonderful thing. I love food. And I love all kinds of food. We have the basic macronutrients of proteins, carbohydrates (I’m going to shorten that to carbs going forward) and fats. Here are a few more numbers for you. Proteins and carbs each contain 4 calories per gram while fats contain 9 calories per gram. Put that in your pocket for another discussion.
Here are a few examples of calories in your food – The number of calories in:
1 TBLS of butter = 100.
a cappuccino = 120
one average beer = 150
a 5 oz. glass of red wine = 125
These are all simple ways to reduce your daily caloric intake. If you eliminate just a few things from your diet (which by the way is not a terrible four-letter word, but just a way of describing what you eat) the calories quickly add up. If these are a part of your diet, then consider some or all of these as a possible food to eliminate or at least reduce from your diet. You may be able to think of other non-essential foods to eliminate. I know we all think that food tastes better with sugar and fat in it, but I promise you, other spices can create flavors that will make your mouth water just thinking about them.
Most of us have heard the term “empty calories”. If you haven’t then either you’ve been living under a rock or you’ve been in denial about calories. Empty calories are those that provide you with no usable fuel. It’s like giving a car a liquid other than gas…it’s not going to run well. What kind of calories give you the best fuel for your body? Proteins, Carbs and Fat. I’ll keep it simple for you. To continue our course of keeping it simple our diet should contain approximately (and these are just approximate numbers, this could be a whole other post) one third of each. 33.3% of your calories should come from protein, 33.3% should come from carbs and 33.3% should come from fat. Again, consider that 1 gram of protein and 1 gram of carbs each supply you with 4 grams of energy (calories) and 1 gram of fat supplies you with 9 grams of energy.
Carbs are our main fuel source as human beings. That doesn’t mean your diet should be 90% carbs. We need the other macronutrients for other functions such as brain and muscle development. The information is out there, but a nutritionist or dietician is your best source for knowledge on the best diet for you. Keep it simple sweetie – complex carbs not processed are the best carbs, lean meats and then your best fats come from things such as olive oil, coconut oil, fish and avocados.
Burn the fuel
Now that we understand a little more about the fuel source, let’s look at how we burn that fuel, because that is the point when trying to lose weight, right? Right! Okay, so burning energy as humans takes movement, just like a vehicle. It’s difficult to give an average number of calories that a person burns in a day because we are all different and many factors go into that number such as your weight, how much muscle you have, your current level of activity, and your sex. The FDA basis their numbers on 2,000 calories a day which for our purposes is fine.
What is the best way to burn calories? That really depends, but as a wise man once said, just move. Begin by just moving more than you currently do. For most people walking is the easiest thing to do. It requires nothing more than a good pair of shoes and your body. That’s the simplest, but you may be ready for more. So start by trying new things. I’ve heard it said over and over, if you want something you’ve never had you have to do something you’ve never done. Here are some more numbers and simple math for you – the number of calories burned by:
walking 30 minutes – 150
in a 20-minute HIIT workout – 200
in a 30-minute bike ride at 12 mph – 300
in 60 minutes of lifting weights – 250
There are incredibly huge numbers of ways to get your body moving. So start by moving. Try something you’ve never done before. If you don’t like that, then try something else and keep trying until you find that thing that makes you move. What will happen is you’ll keep moving trying to find that one thing or you may just find your new favorite activity. If you commit to that you’ll conquer your goals. The goal is to create that deficit by moving more.