Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Weight Loss and Counting Calories

If you want to lose weight and you increase your exercise, how many calories should you consume? Do you increase calories, decrease calories, or leave well enough alone? This question was asked of me lately. There is not an easy answer, because there are many questions to be answered. How much are you increasing your exercise? What type of exercise are you doing? How many calories were you consuming before you decided to lose weight? How much weight do you want to lose and how fast do you want to lose? What and when are you eating?

Here's the basics of calories. 3500 calories are in one pound. If you normally eat 2500 calories per day and cut 500 calories per day, it will take seven days to lose one pound, assuming you do not change your exercise routine. If you add two miles of walking per day, you will burn approximately 200 calories assuming you weigh 150 pounds. More if you weigh more than 150 pounds and less if you weigh less than 150 pounds. Assuming you walk six days per week, you will burn an extra 1200 calories per week or approximately 1/3 of a pound. Doesn't sound like much? That translates to approximately 17.3 pounds per year for exercise alone. Add the cut in calories and you now have a weight loss of approximately 69.3 pounds for the year! If you want to lose weight faster, then either decrease calories more or increase exercise. I would not try to lose more than two pounds per week. Studies have shown higher success rate in keeping weight off for those who lose two or less pounds per week.

That's the basics of calories. The problem with counting calories depends on what exercise you are doing and what and when you eat. Let's start with exercise. If you are doing strength training, your calories burned will be higher. Strength training increases muscle mass and muscle mass increases your metabolism. Calories burned increase even after you have finished exercising. Another benefit of strength training is increase in bone density. Therefore, I highly recommend that strength training be added to your exercise routine two to three times per week for 30 to 45 minutes (with your doctor's approval, of course).

What you eat is important. Not all calories are created equal. Different foods are metabolized differently. For instance, the sugar from a candy bar will enter your blood stream much faster than the same amount of sugar from beans. Since the sugar from the candy bar enters your blood very quickly, the calories you are not using will convert to fat. The sugar from beans will be absorbed at a much slower pace, therefore, increasing the likelihood that you would use up the calories before they convert to fat. So 300 calories of a candy is not equal to 300 calories of beans. So, in addition to cutting calories and increasing exercise, it is important to eliminate or reduce refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are any foods containing sugar (see previous post), high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, fruit juices (100% fruit juices diluted with half water are fine in small quantities), and products made with refined flours. Healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds

When are you eating? This is important because eating a healthy breakfast with protein will jump start you metabolism and keep it going at a higher rate all day. This doesn't mean eating a donut or bagel (refined flour) with cream cheese. Eating a whole grain bagel with apple butter and an egg is much better. Other breakfast options include slow cooked oatmeal with walnuts, humus and sauerkraut on sprouted whole grain bread, and whole grain toast with low fat cottage cheese. Eating before bed is not a good idea, either. While you sleep, your metabolism slows down, therefore the food you eat prior to sleeping will more likely convert to fat instead of being used. In addition, the digestive process is energy intensive so eating before sleeping results in a more restless sleep. Stopping eating at least two hours before bed usually results in a more restful sleep.

By increasing or adding aerobic exercise, adding strength training, eliminating refined carbohydrates, eating breakfast, and not eating before bedtime, you may find losing weight is easily achieved without counting calories.

In health always :-)

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