By Malia Frey. Weight Loss Expert
Malia Frey has been teaching weight loss, health, wellness, diet and exercise for over 20 years. Her passion for good health inspires her to stay active, eat well (most of the time) and encourage others to do the same. Connect with Malia on Facebook. on Pinterest or Twitter. visit her website, MaliaFrey.com. or connect with her on Google .
Updated May 02, 2014.
What is Energy Balance?
The equation looks like this:
Energy Balance = Energy input – energy output
Sounds reasonable, right? To figure out your energy balance you need to gather a few numbers.
How Do I Input Energy?
We input energy in the form of kilocalories, or "calories." Calories are simply a unit of energy or heat. The food we eat and the drinks we consume provide different levels of energy, or calories. Protein and carbohydrate each provide 4 calories per gram, and fat provides 9 calories per gram.
One of the best ways to start a weight loss program is to determine your current level of energy input or caloric intake so that you can make adjustments to your energy balance.
A typical woman may consume anywhere from 1200 to 2500 calories per day depending on her size, activity level and lifestyle factors.
What is My Energy Output?
Energy output happens when your body uses energy. We often refer to this as "burning” calories. Even when you’re sleeping, your body uses energy to perform basic functions like breathing and circulating blood. The rate at which your body burns calories at rest is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). BMR makes up roughly 60-75% of the total number of calories you burn each day.
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You also expend energy during activities of daily living, like washing dishes or shopping, and of course, through physical exercise. These activities make up about 15-30% of your total calorie burn each day. The last 5-10% of calories are burned through the thermic effect of food, when you eat and digest meals and snacks.
There are different ways to calculate the number of calories you burn each day. Many people use one or two methods to determine the most accurate number.
Tip the Scales to Lose Weight
If your energy input and your energy output are perfectly balanced, you won’t lose weight. A perfect energy balance creates a stable weight. To change your weight you need to tip the scales so that they are no longer balanced.
A positive energy balance occurs when your energy input is greater than your energy output. That is, you eat more calories
than your body needs. Your body stores excess energy or calories as fat. This results in weight gain.
Weight gain = energy input > energy output
Weight loss occurs when you create a negative energy balance. That is, you burn more calories than you consume. When this imbalance occurs, your body burns stored energy in order to function and you lose weight.
Weight loss = energy input < energy output
When you evaluate your own energy balance, it's best to get the numbers as accurate as possible. Small differences in energy input and energy output can make a big difference in your weight.
Calculate Your Own Energy Balance
Are you ready to calculate your own energy balance? Here are two sample equations to use as a guide.
Dieter #1: Megan
Calories consumed each day: 2000
Calories burned each day: 1750
2000 (energy input) - 1750 (energy output) = 250 calories
Megan has a positive energy balance of 250 calories per day. That doesn't sound like much. But over the course of a week, her estimated balance would be 1750 calories or enough to gain a half pound of weight.
Dieter #2: Carol
Calories consumed each day: 1800
Calories burned each day: 2050
1800 (energy input) - 2050 (energy output) = -250 calories
Carol has a negative energy balance of 250 calories. Over the course of a week, her body will need to burn 1750 calories of stored fat to meet its needs and she will lose roughly one half pound of weight.
If the Math is Simple, Why is Weight Loss So Hard?
So if weight loss is just a simple equation, then why is it so difficult to lose weight? Because there are many factors that affect both your energy input and your energy output. Things like your medical status, your age and your mood affect your energy balance equation every day. Weight loss is a simple equation, but finding the right balance requires a little bit more work.
If you are at the beginning of your weight loss journey, or if you are questioning your current diet and exercise plan, the energy balance equation is a perfect place to start. You don't need to buy fancy tools or invest in an expensive weight loss program. Try to make some changes on your own. Evaluate the factors that affect your caloric intake and caloric output. You have control over some factors (like activity level) and no control over others (age, gender). Simply change what you can to tilt the scales of your energy balance equation and reach your weight loss goals.