Putting It All Together for Weight Loss

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The last few posts have been about setting up your personal nutrition plan. The last post pulled it all together for those who want to maintain their weight. What if you want to lose weight or fat? In order to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn – you need to create a calorie deficit. In order to lose a pound, you need to have a total deficit of 3,500 calories or about 500 calories per day for a pound per week loss. This deficit can be achieved by eating less, exercising more, or a combination of the two.

To calculate the calorie deficit, the first thing you need to know is how many calories you need a day to maintain your weight. This post has all the information to determine your maintenance calories on rest days. To get the calorie deficit, you can subtract 500 from your maintenance calories. We will call this your weight loss calorie goal. Now, you need to determine the best number of calories to use for your body.

  • If your weight loss calorie goal is less than 1200 calories, your minimum should be 1200 calories. Research has shown that you cannot get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs by eating less than 1200 calories per day.
  • If your weight loss calorie goal is below your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), you should use your RMR. If you eat less than your RMR over a period of time, your RMR will decrease making it harder to lose weight.
  • If your weight loss calorie goal is greater than 1200 and greater than your RMR, use that number.

As an example, lets go back to Sandy, our marathon runner from the prior set of posts. Sandy’s maintenance calories on rest days are 1805. If we subtract 500 calories, this means Sandy would need to eat 1305 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week. However, Sandy’s RMR is 1377 calories. If Sandy was my client, and based on the guidance above, I would set her minimum calorie intake to 1377 calories (her RMR).

Now that we have your weight loss calorie goal, you need to determine how many calories you will burn working out and what you are going to do with those calories. You have three choices:

  • Eat enough to makeup the difference between your workouts and weight loss calorie goal
  • Put those calories towards your weight loss effort
  • Eat some of them and put the rest towards your weight loss efforts

Part of your decision will be based on your overall goals. However, the most I recommend for a daily calorie deficit is 1000 calories. This would be a two pound per week weight loss.

Back to Sandy. If Sandy ran five days a week for a total of 18 miles, she would burn approximately 1800 additional calories over the course of a week (the general estimate is 100 calories per mile of running or walking). When I help people lose weight, I look at their calories over a week compared to a single day when the goal is weight loss. Our bodies do not have a reset button that gets pressed at midnight and weight gained or lost based on that total. Your body uses more of a 7 day average of calories in vs. calories out. Based on her weight loss calorie goal, Sandy’s daily deficit would be 428 calories (1805 – 1377)  which would be 2996 calories per week (428 * 7). Add to this number 1800 calories for her runs and her total weekly deficit would be 4796 calories. This would equal a loss of about 1.4 pounds per week (4796/3500). Based on this information, Sandy could eat an extra 185 calories per day ((4796 – 3500))/7) or base her intake on her daily workouts and eat more on her longer run days and less on her rest and short run days.

The next thing is to determine her protein, fat, and carbohydrate needs. To determine this information, I would suggest you read through the last post that explained how to do this in detail. I’ll go over a summary here. Based on the recommendations for protein, I’d recommend Sandy’s eating be based on 1.2 g/kg from protein, 0.8 g/kg from fat, and 2.4 g/kg from carbohydrates. The percentages below are based on her eating 1377 calories per day. On the days that she chooses to eat more, those calories should come from carbohydrates. Based on these recommendations, Sandy’s eating would be based on the following guidelines:

 

Recommendation

Grams

Calories

% Total Calories

Protein

1.2 g/kg

76

304

22%

Fat

0.8 g/kg

51

459

33%

Carbohydrates

2.4 g/kg

154

614

45%

As you calculate your own eating guidelines, you will realize that it takes some tinkering to get the numbers right. I could play with Sandy’s more to reduce the calories from fat, but I know she likes nuts. In general, I do not go under 1.2 g/kg for protein, 25% total calories for fat, and 2 g/kg for carbohydrates.

I hope this helps you determine your own eating plan to lose weight. If you have questions, please let me know.

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