Understanding Weight Loss

Calories are found in most foods. When you consume calories your body uses them as fuel.  The leftover calories that your body doesn't use are stored as fat.

One pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories.

Your BMR, also known as your Basal Metabolic Rate, is the number of calories your body burns in a single day from performing basic functions like breathing and pumping blood. Think of it as the calories you would burn if you sat on the couch all day. This is the number of calories your body needs to function.

When you create a deficit your body will turn to the in your fat stores to function properly -- burning those unwanted pounds away.

In order to lose one pound of fat, you need to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. This means you need a deficit of around 500 calories per day in order to lose one pound per week.
 

How to Create a Calorie Deficit

  • Change your diet and eat fewer calories than you burn each day. If you eat 500 fewer calories than your BMR each day for a week, you'll lose about one pound of fat.

  • Introducing physical activity and burning more calories than you consume. If you eat enough calories to support your BMR, but exercise more, you'll create a caloric deficit simply by burning extra calories.

  • A combination of eating fewer calories and exercising to burn more calories. If you cut just 200 calories a day from your diet and burned just 300 extra calories a day by exercising, you'd lose about one pound per week.

  • A combination of diet and exercise is the easiest way to lose weight because it requires only small tweaks to your lifestyle.

Example

Eliminate Calories

  • 1 Can of Soda = 140 Calories
  • 1 TBSP of Butter =  102 Calories

Add Physical Activity
  • 20 Minutes of Circuit Training =  113 Calories
  • 30 Minutes of Walking = 179 Calories
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Total Deficit: 525 Calories
 

Calculate your BMR

Keep in mind that this formula isn't fool proof—there are a lot of complicated factors that determine your BMR and how you lose weight. Understanding how calorie deficit works is just the first step to finding and sticking to a weight loss program that works for you.

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Dena Stern is a certified personal trainer and the Content & Community Manager for Exercise.com. She works with a highly trained group of nutritionists, trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors and athletes to provide the best information, tools and motivation related to exercise and fitness.


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