Math was never best subject. I'm flustered by fractions, can't solve for 'x', tremble doing Trigonometry and I think I passed calculus in college with something like a D+.
Clients might say that I can’t count either based on how many times I tell them they have one or two more reps and wind up having them do an extra four or more. Thankfully the fitness profession as well as getting one's self fit only requires the ability to add, subtract, multiply and divide and when it comes to those four elements of math I could hang with Sir Isaac Newton.
When I am asked how to lose body-fat my patented answer is, "It's a numbers game." Before you concern yourself with cutting carbs, reducing fat, adding protein or choosing the right foods you need to first figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. This is done by taking your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and accounting for additional caloric needs based on your activity level.
Use the equation below to calculate your BMR and get a baseline of your caloric needs.
Women: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): Calorie calculation = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): Calorie calculation = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): Calorie calculation = BMR x 1.55
On the PURE PHYSIQUE Blog I've also provided a link to an online BMR calculator which I've found to be accurate in determining caloric needs for fat-loss. The important thing to keep in mind is that the numbers you arrive at are merely estimates, a starting point. You will have to make adjustments to arrive at that 'sweet spot' where you're consistently burning body-fat from week to week and please keep in mind it could take upwards of 4-6 weeks to figure out exactly where this point is.
How important is it to establish caloric needs?
Consider this, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate a Twinkie every three hours, instead of meals over the course of 10 weeks and shed 27 lbs. What Haub was successful in proving is that, "In weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most – not the nutritional value of the food."
However the nutritional value of food does matter when it comes to looking, feeling and functioning our best which is why I would never recommend "The Twinkie Diet" to anyone and always opt for more nutritious foods. The types of foods you consume will affect whether weight loss comes from fat, muscle or water but we'll discuss that at another time.
The point I simply want to drive home is that you won’t lose any weight until you’re in a caloric deficit and getting into a deficit is as easy as doing a little arithmetic. I have seen plenty of clients who "eat healthy" fail to lose an ounce of body-fat because they eat too much healthy food. Conversely I've seen those who don't make the healthiest choices lose fat or keep fat off because they consume less than they require.
For those that are ready to crunch some numbers and get moving on their fat-loss I have a couple of points to make based on personal experience before finishing up.
- Your BMR will likely wind up being the number you'll need to get to in order to get the best fat-loss affect however you do not need to start there, nor should you.
- Take a 1-3 day sample of how you currently eat and add up the calories so you can compare this to what you're real needs are.
- As a starting point subtract 200-500 calories from your maintenance caloric threshold (BMR X activity level).
- When fat-loss slows down or stops decrease calories by another 50-100.
- As long as you are losing weight consistently from week to week don't lower your calories.
Do not attempt to lose any more than .5-2lbs of weight a week as this puts you at a greater risk for muscle loss.