Weight Loss Simplified.
A Quick & Simple Guide to Calories, Fat Loss and How to Calculate Your Daily Needs to Lose Weight and Stay Healthy
Welcome to this quick guide.
I wanted to put this together for anyone who has a desire to understand the often confusing topic of how we actually can lose weight.
Lots of people do get confused with this and I felt it could be of help to have a simple document you can refer to that can give you a clearer picture of the basic essentials to understand how you can/should eat for the goals of weight loss / weight management / fat loss and muscle building.
This could be a long and deep discussion but I’ve tried to cut out all the fat (pun intended) and give you the basics I use myself to get straight to the rules that work.
If you would like to learn more and go into great details then ask me questions or feel free to dig deep online, but be careful as we all know the Internet is often like a black hole of competing opinions and information.
I trust this document will give you what you need.
Energy Balance >
The simple rule to lose weight – for every one of us is this: Burn off more calories than we take in through food.
· If we have an excess of calories (calorie surplus), more than our body needs each day, then we are in a positive energy balance.
· If we take in less than we need (calorie deficit) we are in a negative energy balance.
To lose weight we should be in a negative energy balance but not a drastic one every day.
If a person needs 2500 calories a day / but they consume 2400 calories / they are in a negative energy balance of 100 calories per day / multiply this by 7 days and in a week they are down 700 calories (approx. <¼ pound of body fat).
I’ll explain how we work out the all-important amount of calories each of us needs in a moment.
A Calorie >
For our purposes a calorie is a single measure of potential energy from food.
All calories are the same regardless of food source. This statement is specifically true if you are looking to LOSE WEIGHT.
If we are looking to LOSE FAT/GAIN MUSCLE then the calorie and what food source it comes from is of a bit more importance, specifically: how any food breaks down (macronutrients) to be used by our body.
If you only want to lose weight you could do so by being in a calorie deficit eating junk food. You could also gain weight eating a calorie surplus of the healthiest foods on the planet.
Losing weight and losing fat are different. And require a slightly different approach to calories and your intake.
A Pound of Body Fat >
As a general estimate 1 pound of body fat equates to 3,500 calories.
If you take in 500 LESS calories per day than your body actually needs (BMR /TDEE discussed in a moment) you will lose around a pound of body weight/fat each week.
If you are aware of Macronutrients (carbs/protein/fat) and focus on their % in your daily calorie goals, you will be more likely to lose body fat as opposed to weight.
And also consider this, the above 500 decrease is assuming you do no exercise. If you exercise as well you burn more calories.
(Now you see the benefit of exercise AND eating within your calorie goal).
Your Calorie Need / Goal >
Every one of us has a daily need of ‘X’ amount of calories. There are 2 numbers you should know.
Knowing this you’ll easily begin to see how eating within your caloric needs is the solution to losing weight and also burning through stubborn body fat.
Basal Metabolic Rate is very simply the lowest amount of calories your body needs to simply survive.
Think of laying on your bed all day, this is the amount of calories needed for basic bodily functions as you lay on that bed all day. There are online calculators to easily work out your number. It will not be 100% accurate but it does not need to be. BMR is the 1st important numbers to know (the other is TDEE)
Note: You may have heard of RMR Resting Metabolic Rate. This is similar to BMR but is the energy your body burns daily while resting and performing movements that are non-taxing on your body. BMR is what I use.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is the second number I focus on and I feel the most important.
Very simply put: TDEE is your BMR and the energy you use for real physical activity in a day, along with the energy used for processing and digesting your food.
If you get nothing else from this documents just get this: 75-80% of my TDEE is the number I focus on for daily calorie needs to lose weight/lose fat. This is the number I work off of and so should you.
A Basic Example Using Me >
I’m 5’10. Currently: 220 Ibs, 18-20% bodyfat (educated estimate).
Using a simple online calculator I can find my TDEE.
*I have tested a few, and also tested just BMR calculators, then used my BMR with equations to work out the TDEE. Either way the result I find is within 50-100 calories so I’m ok with that and this calculator above is great.
My TDEE is around 3,200 Total Daily Energy Expenditure
From this number I would SIMPLY work out 75-80% of it.
75% of 3,200 = 2400 CALORIES
THIS NUMBER – 2,400 CALORIES – IS WHAT I WOULD USE AS MY DAILY CALORIE TOTAL.
- I would eat at this amount daily.
- I’d track my calories with a simple food tracker app (I use MyPlate)
- I would eat 80% of my foods as whole, unprocessed, nutritious foods (fruits, vegetables, meats, potato’s, rice etc.) the other 20% I’d let be ‘cheat foods’. The ones many people think you can never eat (ice cream, pizza etc.)
- Bear in mind this number takes into consideration my exercise (that’s the difference between ‘just BMR’ & TDEE)
- And my exercise amount is roughly calculated with a multiplier (see image below) and I chose Moderate setting – 3-5 days a week to guesstimate my exercise amount.
Notes about the above results >
BMI: I’d completely ignore this. It’s outdated and proven to be largely inaccurate for many people. I have always been listed as obese. I don’t think I’m obese. ☺ Focus on what you see in the mirror and how clothes fit. I do think it has more relevance and importance when considering ‘internal health’ such as heart health etc than for aesthetic/appearance reasons. (*For more specifics on your internal health go to your doctor.)
Ideal Weight: Again, I ignore this. I know – having been doing this for nearly 30 years – that ‘me at 155 pounds’ would likely be very ill. For women there could be more benefit in this number, but remember muscle weighs more than fat so if you have more lean fat burning muscle (which you want) then you’ll be heavier, but look good and be much fitter.
Now I know for a fact that with how I workout, and with eating 2400 calories (I’m currently eating 2500 approximately) I will lose weight / fat. (Eating enough protein will protect my muscle mass)
I always take the longer term approach (i.e. I watch results accumulate and track things to an end date, I’m not expecting to see six pack abs in a few days. For example I like to do this over a 12 week plan etc. could be 8 or longer)
And I know at first you’ll likely experience faster results due to water weight and other early factors that alter when you reduce calories from what you are used to.
It’s not as hard as you think to stick to a sensible calorie amount on a daily basis.
Maybe you’ve been thinking: What about Fasting? I tell you I do it all the time. And its very popular in the media right now.
Well here’s how I add Fasting into my lifestyle: (Currently)
Note: You do not have to fast. But I like it and recommend it for internal health mainly.
- I fast mainly for the health benefit (that’s another discussion but the word here is Autophagy)
- I fast once a week for 24 hours (occasionally twice) every Monday – beginning Sunday night and ending Monday evening sometimes Tuesday morning.
- I currently break my fast with some baked potatoes with tomato ketchup and salt (yes really) only a few hundred calories. Then the rest of the week I am onto my ‘2400 daily calories)
- Each day I typically eat in an 8 hour window – from 12pm to 8/9pm (or similar)
- I don’t really believe it matters too much when you eat if you’re inside your calorie goals – I just like to give my body a break from the intensive processes of digestion and I feel better sticking to this time frame / window. But I do deviate from it occasionally and it’s not a big deal.
One Important Thing >
You notice if I fast on a Monday, and eat a few hundred calories at night to break the fast (i.e 400) then I have already right here eliminated 2000 calories from my week if I stick to my goals for the next 6 days.
Another reason I fast like this is strategic and for a reason: I want to have fun on weekends so I ‘take the pressure off’ so to speak (though I must say I don’t find this a pressure at all and once used to it I quickly found eating with a bit of a plan made my life infinitely easier).
If I have a higher calorie day on the Sunday or maybe the full weekend then I’m above my 2400 calories for those days and my weekly calorie total is over the limit.
So when I’ve had a rise in calories I‘ll add the Monday fasting day to not only help my body and digestive functions have a break but also to balance out my weekly calorie total amount.
Make sense? Hope so 🙂
I’ll try to explain this simply:
We’ve already discussed that you will LOSE WEIGHT if you are in a calorie deficit each day. Explaining that a calorie is a calorie…
But when it comes to body composition (fat loss / muscle gain) the ‘type’ of calorie is important and how it breaks down in your body.
When you want to lose body fat and gain more muscle then an understanding of our MACRONUTRIENTS is more beneficial and important.
*From healthline .com: Macronutrients are eaten in large amounts and include the primary building blocks of your diet — protein, carbohydrates, and fat — which provide your body with energy. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, and small doses go a long way.
Essentially the 3 main Macros are Protein, Carbs & Fat.
These are the suppliers of nutrients in your body.
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Fats: 9 calories per gram
A typical macronutrient profile for your diet could breakdown like this:
I like this as a base. You aim for 80% of all the foods you eat to be nutritionally dense and healthy, the other 20% can be your cheat foods. All these foods fit into a macronutrient profile as above.
TIP: If you put your foods into one of the calorie counting apps they will automatically show you your macros. This is helpful and saves you wasting time trying to work it all out.
IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros (Flexible Dieting) >
A lot of people (me included) like to do what’s known as flexible dieting.
You could consider this a way of eating where you track macronutrients but don’t restrict food choices.
Simply put I have a daily calorie goal (currently 2400 determined by my method I showed you earlier above determined as 75-80% of my TDEE)
I then decide that for me, and my goals (lean muscle gain and fat loss) I should plan to have my macros look like this:
Protein 35% (840 calories / 210g of Protein)
Carbs: 50% (1,200 calories / 300g of Carbs)
Fats 15% (360 calories / 40 g of fat)
*I can manipulate these numbers anytime I like, maybe I want to increase protein and would drop carbs a fraction etc. depending on what I see in the mirror – but don’t make the mistake of changing these numbers randomly and frequently, test a period of 4-8 weeks before changing.)
I’d recommend the 40/40/20 split above for most people as a good start as the fats you should digest are slightly higher than mine helping hormonal functions in your body. 20-35% for fat is a good range.
*If you’re sedentary or not as active, carbs don’t need to be so high, and protein would be better to increase.
I could go into much more detail but this is what I focus on when being aware of my MACROS.
Remember to lose weight you really only need to be in a calorie deficit (negative energy balance) and could essentially eat anything to reach a weight goal. A good gradual start point/plan for obese people wanting to begin losing weight before getting into macronutrient specifics.
To LOSE FAT and STIMULATE LEAN MUSCLE you would want to be focused more on the macros in your food as discussed above. And again, just let an app take care of the calculations – all you do is scan your food into the app.
How could I leave this out?
Many people like an alcoholic drink every now and then. I’ve tested and experimented with no alcohol and the simple fact is if you did not drink then fat loss would be infinitely easier.
However it is still ‘possible’ when alcohol is a part of your lifestyle, but certainly not optimal.
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram (almost double what protein and carbs have and only 2 less than fats!)
The calories in alcohol are essentially ‘empty calories’ – that is they are calories without nutrition and don’t benefit healthy metabolism.
Alcohol is the FIRST fuel to be used when combined with carbs, proteins and fats – this therefore postpones fat burning processes in our bodies.
To simplify this greatly – alcohol eventually turns into acetate through chemical processes in our body, our body can handle acetate but not in huge amounts. It becomes toxic. The body uses this as primary fuel, switching from carbs, proteins and fats to dispel this acetate, before anything else.
Or: After ingesting alcohol, lipolysis (fat being released from your body’s fat stores) and fat oxidization (fat being burned as fuel) plummets.
Think of alcohol as a delaying process. If your body is primed to burn fat but then we introduce alcohol, everything is delayed as the body works through the alcohol. Once the alcohol is burnt off the body returns to ‘fat burning’.
Drinking can quickly put us over our daily calorie amount (75-80% of TDEE) and causes the dietary fat we ate for a particular day to store as body fat. Remember the body burns alcohol first so it’s not prioritizing the burning of fat, so if you drink a load of calories and still eat at your daily calorie amount then the fat is not getting burned off because your body burnt off the alcohol calories instead first.
All drinks have different calorie contents – red wine and spirits are a bit better to focus on. Beers have more carbs.
A Solution >
Possibly the simplest solution is to reduce your food calories to the amount of your alcohol calorie intake, and do so by reducing carbs and fats, not protein.
Use this website (calorieking.com) or others like it to calculate just how many calories your drinks have. Apps can do this too)
3 Coors light beers contain approximately 310 calories.
So I’d consider reducing my carbs by 200 calories
And maybe fats by 85-100 calories.
Just bear in mind again that you would at least want to drop food calories to counter the alcohol. And ultimately the more you drink the harder fat loss becomes. Moderation is truly key.
Drinks Alcohol Calories >
Here is a list of the best and worst 13 drinks rated by Huffpost in 2017 (from worst to best). You can find thousands of websites who do this too but these figures tie in with what I’m seeing in my researching and act as a good solid guide:
13) Beer, Pale Ale (HIGHEST CALORIES): 175 calories for 12 ounces (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale)
12) Beer, Lager: 170 calories for 12 ounces (Sam Adams Boston Lager)
11) Wine, Red: 160 calories for 5 ounces (Cabernet Sauvignon from France)
10) Wine, White: 160 calories for 5 ounces (German Auslese Riesling)
9) Hard Apple Cider: 150 calories for 12 ounces (Angry Orchard Crisp Apple)
8) Tequila: 104 calories for 1.5 ounces (Jose Cuervo Gold)
7) Whiskey: 104 calories for 1.5 ounces (Jack Daniels)
6) Vodka: 101 calories for 1.5 ounces (Absolute Vodka)
5) Wine, Rosé: 100 calories for 5 ounces (Echo Falls)
4) Champagne: 100 calories for 3.4 ounces (Moet Champagne)
3) Gin: 97 calories for 1.5 ounces (Hendrick’s Gin)
2) Beer, Light: 96 calories for 12 ounces (Miller Lite)
1) Rum: 96 calories in 1.5 ounces (Bacardi Superior)
Conclusions For Now >
I may revise this document over time but wanted to begin with giving you as simple and clear advice as possible to help you understand how to eat to lose weight and body fat.
A well-known saying used in the fitness world is: “Abs are made in the kitchen.” And it’s true.
Exercise and working out makes us feel great and is the magic sauce to a healthy and long life.
But ‘diet’ or the way and the amounts we eat are the rule that cannot be denied when we want to lose weight, lose fat and see the muscles and lean healthy bodies we are working hard for.
Make no mistake: Anyone who understands and follows this will lose that stubborn fat and look how they want. But particularly as we get older, relying on exercise alone will not cut it.
If you’re in a calorie deficit each day then make sure you know just how much so you’re not too low. Metabolism (fat burning processes) will slow down when you get close to starvation calorie levels. This is when people hit plateaus and stop losing weight. Do NOT starve yourself.
If you’re in a calorie surplus each day then you owe it to yourself, and the body you want, to work out how much and change it. It’s not as hard as you think.
Remember: I’m not asking you to count calories ad nauseam to lose weight, I just want you to understand the relationship between your calorie intake and how much your body uses. (Once you have got the hang of entering your food into an app it becomes second nature and will change your life)
I promise you with a little dedication, some understanding of this and application on a consistent basis alongside your exercise you’ll eventually see exactly what you want to see in the mirror.
Summary Points >
- The most important thing to know right now and be clear of for the rest of your life is if you had to choose ONE thing to focus on to lose weight Nutrition is ALWAYS that one thing.
- You cannot ‘out-train’ a bad diet. Luckily being on top of your nutrition coupled with exercise (the right exercise) will present to you ‘the magic key’ to a healthy body, low body fat, lean muscle and the body we all want and are all capable of obtaining. Training on its own is great and will strengthen your body, make you feel positive and act as a wonderful stress relief. But, particularly as we get older, it will not elicit the true potential you have to lose fat without being aware of your ENERGY BALANCE (calories in / calories out).
- Do not let anyone tell you that you can eat anything you want and go over your body’s calorie needs month after month and still lose weight or fat. You never can and never will get results this way. That’s the brutal, honest reality.
- Eat within your calories, exercise at least 2-3 times a week (use resistance whenever possible) and the magic begins to happen. You can fall off the wagon occasionally, you can eat all the foods you like in moderation, you can fit your eating into your lifestyle so it works for you. But you should never get sucked in by the latest ‘diet fad’ and you should know that being healthy does not need to be a chore or something that disrupts your lifestyle. It will enhance your lifestyle.
- Weight loss is simply a result of positive or negative energy balance (taking in less or more calories than your body needs daily)
- Work out your BMR and more importantly your TDEE
- *IMPORTANT: Work out your daily calorie target as 75-80% of your TDEE
- Fast if you want to, but possibly begin that lifestyle by just eating in an 8 hour window. If you stick to you calorie goals you don’t need to fast for weight loss or fat loss but it can help.
- You can eat almost anything to LOSE WEIGHT as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
- To lose fat and build muscle an understanding and focus on your MACROS is important.
- You should plan your eating around your lifestyle and what you like to eat as well as your goals.
- Eat foods you like – if it’s in your calorie goal that’s fine (But try to stick to 80% from nutritious, non-processed food and the other 20 can be ‘naughty food’ 🙂
- How much you eat is basically more important than what you eat and when you eat when considering weight loss.
- Rank in importance: 1) Energy Balance 2) How the foods break down (macronutrients) 3) what type of foods you eat. – eating healthy foods has little to do with weight loss but more importantly it offers vital micronutrients you’d not get in junk food.
- You need to stick to your daily calorie goal as much as possible.
- If you fall off the wagon don’t sweat it get back on, it takes only a day or so to reset if its once, and a week or two if you go nuts on a full-on regular binge ☺
- If your gluten intolerant change the foods you eat. The rules we discussed will not change and they all still apply.
- Don’t fall for fad diets. What you’ve read above is time tested simple advice proven by bodybuilders and people who took years to do the ‘in the trenches research’- we should thank them for it (you’ll see new ‘diets’ spring up all the time but this is the approach that will always work).