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The Metabolic Equation

In theory weight loss is a simple concept. Fewer calories in than calories burned will equal a caloric deficit, resulting in weight loss. But if weight loss and weight management are based on such simple mathematical equations, why do some of us find it so hard to drop those extra pounds?

In reality, the answer to weight loss is as straightforward as understanding just how much energy your body actually burns every day and finding ways to increase your metabolic rate (the amount of calories that your body requires daily). Because weight loss is an equation of calories in versus calories out, in order to create a deficit you need to positively affect (increase) your body’s calorie burning capacity. You can effectively target your metabolism in one of three ways:

The first way we can increase our body’s calorie demands is called the Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF), which has to do with the type of foods we eat. It may seem to be a shocking statistic but the calories burned in the process of eating, digesting, and absorbing food can account for as much of 10% of our total daily energy expenditure. The TEF is not the primary focus in weight management, but should still be recognized as a way to maximize your energy output. Eating foods high in protein, fat and fiber take more energy to break down than refined carbohydrates and simple sugars, making your body work harder at digesting your food. Consuming more foods closer to their natural state is a simple, yet effective way to give your metabolism an extra boost!

The second component of your metabolism is the Thermic Effect of Physical Activity. How much you move constitutes approximately 10-35% of your total daily energy expenditure. This is the most variable component since more active people burn more of their total daily energy through physical activity than less active people. It’s also the component that can create the most negative energy balance (and weight loss) by increasing the amount of purposeful physical activity you do each day.

The largest component of your metabolism is your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the metabolic component that most people blame for their inability to lose weight. Your BMR determines the amount of calories you burn just by being alive – even when you are lying down, doing nothing. BMR accounts for approximately 60% of the calories burned for an average person. However, by increasing the amount of lean muscle tone in your body, you can affect the amount of calories that your body requires each day- even at rest! After all, muscle tissue is very “calorie expensive” to maintain while body fat is “calorie cheap” comparatively.

Although genetically we all have a different metabolic makeup, there are 4 ways you can increase your body’s calorie expenditure…and get the most from your weight loss efforts!

#1- Incorporate strength training into your routine. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Studies reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Journal of Applied Physiology showed that adding about 4 pounds of muscle weight through strength training can increase your metabolic rate by 7 percent! This can be done by performing strength training exercises 3 times a week. Challenging your body to recruit more muscle cells than it typically uses leads to denser muscle rather than bulky muscle. Also properly modified the exercise you perform as your body becomes accustom to them is important in maintaining the muscle development to avoid weight loss plateau and boredom.

#2- Move it! The more physical activity you do through out the day will increase the amount of energy you expend.

#3- Eat a little- more often. There is some evidence to suggest that eating small, regular meals will keep your metabolism going faster than larger, less frequent meals.

#4- Adjust your caloric intake. Since the number one factor that influences BMR is body mass, a loss of body weight will decrease a person’s metabolic rate, and vice versa. As you lose weight you body will require less calories to keep in going. Adjust your intake accordingly.

By understanding how your metabolism works and applying these 4 tips you will be able to tip the energy equation in order to see the weight loss results you want.

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