Eating to Lose Weight

Did you know that you need to eat to lose weight? Within a given day the amount of calories needed for normal function of basic life processes is determined by your BMR (Basil Metabolic Rate).  Sweating, breathing, the breakdown of foods, physical activity, and many other cellular processes require energy in the form of calories.  When an individual cuts calories too low for prolonged periods of time it can slow down metabolic rate or cause the body to go into energy conservation mode. In addition, “part of metabolism is RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), which is the amount of calories your body burns at rest in a comfortable environment. RMR is less precise, varies for each individual, but provides more insight into energy needs” (Groff,Gropper, Smith ).  Calories expended have to be greater than calories consumed in order for weight loss to occur. Energy expenditure can be influenced by various factors such as the thermic effect of food, exercise, and body composition.

The thermic effect of food represents the body’s metabolic response of food. The percentage increase in energy expenditure over BMR as a result of the thermic effect of food in a balanced diet of fats, proteins, and carbs is about 10%. Protein tends to have the greatest increase in thermic effect. The metabolism is increased at maximum, one hour after eating. . (Groff,Gropper, Smith ). Not only do several small meals help with portion control and stabilizing blood sugar, but may also help burn some extra calories every time the metabolic “furnace” is fired. However, calorie intake and energy expenditure through exercise are more influential factors to consider in the scheme of weight loss.

Exercise has several benefits and is one way to increase energy expenditure to put the body in negative energy balance. Energy expended during exercises varies based on a person’s weight, duration, type of exercise, and intensity. It is best to consult with a health professional to determine a healthy balance between food intake and exercise. Approaches to weight loss include reducing calorie intake, increasing energy expenditure, or a combination of both. A calorie intake too low leads to dips in blood sugar, food cravings, binging, and it is difficult to sustain long-term weight loss.  Furthermore an adequate calorie intake is important to prevent the breakdown of lean body mass and promote gains in lean muscle tissue.

Lean muscle tissue is built through strength training, or weight-bearing activity. The more lean muscle tissue an individual has can impact RMR. “ A pound of muscle, at rest, burns about six calories per day” (Sisson,2011). Although muscle can increase RMR, the daily calorie burn that muscle produces is often overestimated.   Exercise helps regulate blood glucose levels. The more muscle tissue an individual has is beneficial. The muscle fibers help increase insulin sensitivity, as a result less glucose is stored as body fat.

Part of energy expenditure is BMR, and RMR helps determine overall expenditure when a person at rest. Other factors such as the thermic effect of food and body composition can have an effect on daily calories expended. Consuming enough calories is important for vital processes which help promote weight loss, performance in daily activities, exercise, and efficient use of food consumed. Every person has different calorie needs. Lifestyle factors and metabolism is different for each individual. Living an active lifestyle and proper calorie intake can facilitate the negative energy balance necessary for healthy weight loss.


Andrea Urso

Nutritionist & Personsal Trainer



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Gropper, S. S., Smith, J. L., & Groff, J. L. (2009). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (5th ed., pp. 290-301). Belmont,CA: Wadsworth.
Sisson, M. (2011, August). How Many Calories Does Muscle Really Burn. In Mark’s Daily Apple. Retrieved March 2, 2015