Have you ever tried to lose weight? Many of you may be shaking your heads. Have you gone on and off diets or ever had a big weight loss only to put the weight back on again?
Research shows that slow and steady wins the weight loss race in the end. It seems that people who lose one to two pounds per week are more likely to maintain weight loss. Although everyone is different and the math doesn’t always work out perfectly, an individual would need to create about a 500-calorie deficit per day to lose about one pound of weight per week.
Let me break it down. First, a calorie is a measure of heat or energy. Most of us need about 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, give or take about 500 calories. However, activity such as daily exercise may increase caloric need. For example, Michael Phelps when training needs around 8,000 or more.
One pound equals about 3,500 calories. If you need 2,000 calories per day to maintain weight, then you will need to take in 500 fewer calories daily to lose about one pound per week. The deficit can be made by increasing physical activity and/or decreasing the calories consumed. Calories come from three nutrients: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
The idea is to create this deficit but also try to conserve lean body mass and the resting metabolic rate. Lean body mass expends more energy at rest. Men usually have more lean body mass than women and therefore usually need more calories per day. The resting metabolic rate is the number of calories a person expends at rest. If we increase our resting metabolic rate then we will use more calories per day during rest.
An issue researchers are finding with rapid weight loss is that a person’s resting metabolic rate actually decreases. One reason may be that muscle is broken down for energy therefore the person loses lean body mass, but there may be other reasons as well.
In the past few years, the National Institute of Health has begun to examine the weight regain experienced by many “Biggest Loser” participants. Many participants continue to exercise and eat healthily when they return home, however they experience weight gain. Researchers are seeing the participants’ resting metabolic rates may decrease due to the rapid weight loss experienced while on the show.
We live in a society of instant gratification. We do not want to have to continue to work at a nice slow and consistent rate to obtain what we want. However, if you are in the weight loss game, this is what I would recommend. Decrease your intake by 200-300 calories per day and increase your exercise to about 20-30 minutes per day and you should see some steady weight loss that actually stays. Hey, one pound per week is 52 pounds in a year.