Knowledge is power. And it is my goal to give you lots of knowledge!
But let’s start with the basics: Weight and Calories
Your body is made up of two general categories: fat-free mass (organs, muscles, bones, water, blood, etc.) and fat mass. We can change 2 things through diet and exercise: muscles and fat mass. We will dive more into detail with these later, but first, let’s focus on fat.
The amount of fat you have on your body can change your health status drastically. People who have a higher percentage of fat are at risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), and certain cancers.
An easy way to measure your body fat percentage is through Body Mass Index (BMI). You can find BMI calculators throughout the internet and all you need to know is your weight and height. And for the average person, BMI is a good indicator of your fat percentage. The CDC has an easy BMI calculator here that you can use to find your body fat level. (It is a good idea to go ahead and write down your weight and BMI as a starting point for future reference.)
If you are considered overweight or obese, lowering your fat mass should be one of your top goals in your journey to health.
You can do this through diet and exercise, all through the science of calories.
Calories are like fuel for your body. Your body needs a certain amount of calories a day to run all its internal processes, for your heart to beat, lungs to breathe, intestines to digest, and so on. This is called your basal (or resting) metabolic rate. It’s the amount of calories your body will burn if you lie in bed all day and do not move, just for your body to stay alive.
But we do get out of bed and move, so those are extra calories are body burns. The movement we do daily plus our basal metabolic rate comprise our total metabolic rate. The amount of calories our body burns to live our normal daily lives.
Exercise obviously increases this number, as we burn more calories during additional movement. The amount and type of exercise does determine how many calories you burn, and we will learn about this later. On average, a person burns 250-350 calories in a 30 minute exercise bout.
So where do we get these calories? From the food we eat! Not all foods are created equal. Some foods are higher in calories (baked goods, fried foods, nuts, seeds, oils) while others are lower in calories (vegetables, herbs, spices, some fruits). What we eat and how much we eat all make up how many calories we consume.
If our diet is lower in calories than what our body burns, we will be in a calorie deficit. If that deficit reaches 3500 calories, then we will lose 1 lb of fat. (That’s a 500 calorie deficit every day for a week). If our diet is higher in calories than what are body burns, we will have excess calories. An extra 3500 calories will cause us to gain 1 lb of fat.
So diet and exercise are very important in weight management – it’s all about the calories!
We will be learning more about calories and how to use this knowledge to your benefit in future challenges.
Remember to check your BMI and write it down!