The law of energy balance is THE major law of weight control which you MUST understand and obey if you want to get super lean. Even if you’re eating “clean” and “healthy” you are missing the most obvious factor of all if you are eating too much. If you eat too much of ANY food it will get stored as body fat. To lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume each day.
Now you don’t want to cut your calories TOO low otherwise a few things will happen, none of which are very good at all: 1) you won’t have enough energy to get through the day let alone your workout routine 2) your metabolism will come to a screeching halt 3) you will experience a loss of lean body mass (muscle).
1. Calculate your daily maintenance needs using the Harris-Benedict Formula.
The first thing you’ll need to do is calculate the amount of calories your body needs to perform normal functions. This calculation will also take into effect your age, height, gender, current weight, and activity level. To do this we will be using the Harris-Benedict formula. You can find an online calculator here: http://www.calculatorslive.com/Calorie-Calculator.aspx
I typically tend to be a little conservative when choosing an activity level so I selected MODERATE EXERCISE from the drop-down menu. It will calculate how many calories you require to maintain your body weight. Now, all you have to do is adjust your calories for fat loss.
2. Create a calorie deficit.
Keep in mind that a calorie deficit that’s too large or maintained for too long will eventually invoke the starvation response and slow down your metabolism. The key is to use a small calorie reduction and to avoid any diet that calls for extremely large calorie restrictions.
Reducing your calories by 15-20% below maintenance level is a good place to start for optimal, safe fat loss. A larger deficit (25-30%) can be effective in some cases especially if you have a high percentage of body fat. However the best approach is to keep your calorie deficit from your diet small, while increasing your activity level to create a bigger deficit, if needed. The way I look at it, I would rather exercise a little harder if that means I can eat just a little bit more. 🙂
So for example, according to the Harris-Benedict formula my daily energy requirement is 1946 calories to maintain my weight. If I multiply that by 20% that creates a calorie deficit of 389 calories which brings my daily calories down to approximately 1500 calories.
Keep in mind that all these formulas are just estimations. The ONLY way to tell if your estimates are accurate is to just get started and track your results carefully. You need to know how your body responds by tracking your daily nutrition and recording your results (in the form of weight and measurements). If you don’t get the results you expect, you need to adjust your calorie intake and exercise levels.