Many people find weight loss difficult - but it is a simple equation:
Calories in < Calories Out = Weight Loss
Calories in > Calories out = Weight Gain
It's easy to get distracted by whether or not you should consume high carbs, low carbs, high protein etc. But if you stick to the above equations you will lose or gain weight, depending on your goal.
The problem is most people don't know how many calories they expend in a day. How can you know if you are consuming less than you expend if you don't know how much your expending.
To work out roughly how much you expend during the course of a day you first need to work out your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) - the amount of caloric energy your body would need just to complete normal body functions if you were to do absolutely nothing.
Work out your BMR here
The next step, using the Harris Benedict Formula, is to factor in your activity levels - multiplying your BMR by a predetermined figure relating to your level of activity. This sum will give you your total daily calorie expenditure, in other words the amount of calories required to maintain your weight.
Tip: When choosing your activity level, underestimate slightly. This will ensure that your calorie intake will not be higher than it should be if your goal is to maintain your current weight
So how should you be using this information to effectively reach your weight goals?
Once you have calculated how many calories you need to consume to maintain your weight it is much easier.
In order to lose weight, you should not be looking to reduce your calories drastically. Doing so will often provide short term success in terms of weight loss, but will contribute to a reduction in lean muscle mass, a slow down in your metabolism and after an extended period of time - an increase in fat retention. When reducing your calories it needs to be by a realistic, sustainable amount. I recommend a reduction of about 300 calories to begin with, and then a gradual reduction of 50-100 per week whenever fat loss begins to slow down.
In order to gain weight, the maths should be the same but just the opposite way. This means your calorie increase should again be realistic and sustainable. If you increase calories too quickly and your body, but more importantly metabolism, isn't used to so many calories - you will get fat. So again, if you are looking to increase calories begin with an increase of 300 calories, and then gradually increase by about 100 per week when weight gain begins to slow down.
Once you have decided what your daily calorie intake, the next step is tracking it to ensure you're staying on track. This doesn't have to be a lifelong thing, but it can help to give you a much better understanding of food, and what it contains in terms of calories. Try tracking your food for a week or two just to ensure you're keeping in line with your goal calories. I recommend MyFitnessPal - a nice and simple app that can be downloaded from the app store
Don't leave your food intake up to guess work. Calorie intake is the single most important factor in weight loss/gain, so make sure your intake is in line with your goals!
If you're struggling with calories, macro-nutrients and food in general, get in touch to see how we can help you!