Calories and Energy Balance

By Roger Tsen

Calories and Energy Balance

Key Takeaways

  1. Energy Balance and calorie management is the key to whether you gain or lose weight.
  2. By finding your calorie target and tracking your daily intake, you are fully in the driver's seat and will be successful with any diet.
  3. Stay at or below your daily calorie target to guarantee weight loss occurs.

Have you ever gone on a diet that didn’t work? Or perhaps it did, but you gained the weight lost right back? If you’re looking for mastery over your weight loss and maintaining your weight after a diet, this is the article for you! The biggest “secret” behind how I consistently create client success stories isn’t exactly a secret, but rather an uncomfortable truth. Whether or not a person gains or loses weight is wholly dependent on a simple principle called Energy Balance--how many calories you eat versus how many you burn.

Energy Balance is a basic representation of physics and the law of conservation of energy. Energy (the calories you eat in food), cannot be created or destroyed; rather it can only be transformed from one form to another. In plain English, it means:

  • If you eat too much food (calories, energy) it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is fat in your butt, waistline, etc.
  • Eat just what your body needs, and your weight stays the same.
  • Eat less than what your body needs, and the body eats its own energy stores (fat, glycogen, muscle) to make up the difference.

Intuitively, we all know this. However, because the fitness and supplement industry constantly bombards us with news of special “fat burning foods”, supplements, and diets that claim to give some fat-loss advantage that others don’t, we conveniently forget because they do some damn fine marketing and often by twisting or withholding scientific truths. Plus, not a lot of people like being told that they have to eat less in order to lose weight. People want shortcuts, and I hate to be the one to say the harsh truth, but if you're eating too many calories, you'll never lose fat no matter what diet or supplements you're on.

As a coach in the industry for a decade, I’ve heard it all. “Calorie counting doesn’t work.” “Intermittent Fasting is the best way to lose fat.” and more recently, much pushback from dogmatic proponents of the Keto lifestyle. Hell, even I was a skeptic about calorie counting in my early years. However, opinions are just that. Science is the truth.

People have mixed results when they diet because they aren’t using the principle of Energy Balance correctly.

Here is the step-by-step “secret” to how I consistently create client success stories:

Step 1: Take your measurements.

Record the following:



Body Fat Percentage

Step 2: Find your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

BMR is the total number of calories you burn just to keep the body alive. It does not include energy burned through exercise, and daily movement. We have two equations to choose from.

If you have determined your Body Fat Percentage:

Use the Katch-McArdle BMR formula

370+(21.6 x lean body mass in kg)

If you do not know your Body Fat Percentage:

Use the Mifflin-St Jeor BMR formula

Male: (10 × weight in kg)+(6.25 × height in cm)-(5 × age)+5

Female: (10 × weight in kg)+(6.25 × height in cm)-(5 × age)-161

As a quick review...

1 lbs = 0.45 kg

1 ft = 12 inches

1 inch = 2.54 cm

Step 3: Find your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

TDEE is the total number of calories you burn on an average day going about your business, working out, fidgeting at your desk, etc.

Take your BMR from Step 2 and multiply it by the appropriate Activity Multiplier:

Sedentary: little or no exercise, x1.2

Lightly Active: light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week, x1.375

Moderately Active: moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week, x1.55

Very Active: hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week, x1.725

Extra Active: very hard exercise/sports and physical job, x1.9

For best results, I strongly recommend erring on the conservative side--at least for your initial baseline calculation. My clients slay it in the gym 4-5 days a week and I typically use between a 1.15 to 1.2 multiplier when estimating their TDEE. This number is highly variable depending on genetics and lifestyle as well. Fine-tune it as necessary.

Step 5: Find your dieting target

TDEE (your total daily energy expenditure) is the amount of calories necessary for you to maintain the current body weight. In order to lose meaningful weight, we need to consume fewer calories than TDEE, putting us in a caloric deficit. I suggest a 20-25% reduction.

Daily Calorie Target = TDEE * (1 - % Reduction)

Ex. A TDEE of 2000 calories and a 20% reduction.

2000 * (1 - 0.2) = 1600 Calories/day

Step 4:

The goal is to stay at or below your TDEE. To do this, make a meal plan (link to our service page) or track your calories daily. Tracking and looking up the calories in food items can be done with various free apps and websites such as MyFitnessPal and CalorieKing, to name a couple.

I know doing math sucks. So, to make things easier for you guys, we have developed a handy dandy calculator for you to use! Just punch in your measurements, activity multiplier, and voila!

Weight loss is at its most basic, simply a math problem. The uncomfortable truth is that there are no magic foods or diets to cause fat loss. Regardless of diet type, in order to lose weight (fat), you must eat 20-25% fewer calories than your body burns every day. This forces your body to go hunting for energy within itself and make up the difference by burning your fat or muscle. So, find your daily calorie target, stick to it, adjust it up or down as needed, and enjoy week after week of consistent weight loss! If you need help, the Upliffs team is here with personalized meal plans and full-service online coaching programs.

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