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UNIDENT Posts: 33,498
9/3/12 2:33 A

A word on net calories.

Subtracting today's exercise burn from today's food intake tells you nothing useful whatsoever. Let's take a look at three people with identical "net calories"...

Suzy takes in 2,000 calories a day and does 500 calories a day of exercise. That's a net calories of 1500. Suzy is a muscular physique, and takes 1800 calories per day to sustain herself before exercise. So with 500 calories burned, she's burning 2300 calories daily. The difference between that and her eating (2000) is 300 calories deficit. Suzy is going to lose about a pound every 2 weeks or so at a net calories of 1500.

Lily takes in 1500 calories. She doesn't like exercise, so she doesn't do any. So that's a 1500 "net calories" daily. Lily is a fairly slightish person and takes about 1500 calories daily to sustain herself before exercise. Lilly is going to maintain her weight at a net calories of 1500.

Jae takes in 1700 calories and tries to do around 200 calories daily of exercise. Jae has a 1500 daily net calories. Being wheelchair bound and a small frame, she's a lot less mobile than a fully able bodied person and only burns around 1100 calories daily before exercise. So with 200 calories burned she's burning 1300 calories per day, but taking in 1700. Jae will gain a pound every 1.5 weeks or so at a net calories of 1500.

See how it's a completely useless figure by itself? Three different people all with an identical "net calories", and one will gain, one will lose, and one will maintain.

You don't learn anything by subtracting exercise from food. This figure is not a useful piece of information. You need to add exercise to BMR and daily activity burn, and then subtract food from that. At your weight, with a half to a full pound a week as a goal, you would want to see a daily result of minus 400 calories or so - the burn numbers being 400 calories in total more than you eat.

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,313)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
9/2/12 11:52 P

Believe it or not, that's the way it works. Yes, your weight shifts 1-2 pounds in a day, but that's not fat loss. That's water weight and fluid shifting. Drink 8 ounces of water, your weight goes up half a pound.

Fat loss is a long-term process. You're looking for long-term downward trends. This is one reason Sparkpeople recommends one-weekly weigh ins, under the same circumstances each week. Generally speaking, first thing in the morning, on the same day each week, naked, after your morning constitutional, will give you the lowest number of the day, but your mileage may vary.

It may seem weird, but it's true; 1/2-1 pound per week is far more reasonable for your current weight than 2 pounds. The closer you get, the slower it'll be. When you're within 10 pounds, you'll find it slows even more!

To put it bluntly... you're not fat enough to lose 2 pounds per week consistently! That's a good problem to have.

9/2/12 11:38 P

Thanks so much for the reply. I do believe the "lose it" app takes into consideration the resting metabolic rate using the miffin equation. The calorie allowance it calculates is based on daily metabolic needs also. I can't imagine only aiming to lose 1/2-1 pound per week. My weight varies 1-2 pounds at any given time of day!

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,313)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
9/2/12 11:23 P

Ah, I see. Your calculations are off, though; "Net calories" don't work the way you're talking about. You're not including your BMR in those figures.

I'm going to use myself as an example, since I don't know your numbers. I'm 5'7 and 190 pounds. My BMR + daily activity multipler is about 1900 or so. This means that to maintain, before doing anything at all, I have to eat over 1900 calories! If I figure in exercise (let's go with your number, 800 calories per day) then that's a total daily calorie burn of 2700 per day. If I eat 1800 calories, that gives me a calorie differential (what I think you meant by net calories) of 900.

You're not figuring your BMR into your calculation, so your calorie differential is different! If you're using the sparkpeople range as the basis for your calculations, that's part of the problem. That's not your BMR, that's your suggested range for weight loss including the fitness you've input (a default of 30 minutes, 3 times per week, unless you set it higher.)

Let's assume that at your weight, your BMR is 1560 (I'm using average figures of female, 5'6, and 171 pounds here, since I don't know your statistics.) That's how much you're going to burn before even getting out of bed. Sparkpeople includes a daily activity modifier of 1.2 - this is to account for things like getting up, moving around, light housework, going to the grocery store, that sort of thing. So, multiply that: 1,872 would be your BMR. (You can look up your number as calculated in Spark by going to My Trackers and clicking on Reports... your calorie differential will show your BMR calculated with the activity modifier. It'll tell you all this stuff I'm about to explain.)

Now. If you burn 800 calories, your total daily calorie burn would actually be 2,672. Eat 1800 calories, your ACTUAL calorie differential is 872. A bit more like 1.5 pounds per week.

You don't subtract exercise from calories eaten; that doesn't actually tell you anything. :) So your math's a bit off!

Now, what's throwing you off here is that the less you have to lose, the lower your daily calorie differential needs to be, because you have less to lose. You can reasonably set a goal of about 3% of your total weight remaining to lose per week. For you, that's about .5-.65 pounds per week. Anything more than that is going to be really, really tough. You can probably aim for 1 lb, but don't be surprised or disappointed if that's not consistently attained each week. If you were over 200 pounds, it might be doable to go for 2 pounds per week, but that's not as easy when you get closer to your goal. When you have 10 pounds to lose, you can attempt to lose about .25-.30 pounds per week!

If you increase your calorie differential too much, you actually have kinda the opposite effect... you slow your metabolism and sabotage your efforts.

Edited by: DRAGONCHILDE at: 9/2/2012 (23:27)
9/2/12 10:40 P

I probably can't see myself excercising more than an hour a day once I reach my goal, but I am pretty active. I would say when I reach my goal I would most likely average around an hour of cardio 3-4 days /week

9/2/12 10:37 P

My "net" calories is my allowance per lose it based on weight, metabolism, etc to lose 2 lbs/week. My net allowance is 1030 calories. I usually end up being right around there at the end of the day after eating 1500-1800 calories and burning 500-1000.
Ex- 1800 eaten-800burned=1000 net calories. did i confuse you yet ? LOL

DRAGONCHILDE SparkPoints: (61,313)
Fitness Minutes: (15,545)
Posts: 9,713
9/2/12 6:03 P

At 171 pounds, 2 pounds per week may not be a reasonable goal for you. The less you have to lose, the more time it takes to lose it! You can reasonably aim to lose about 3% of your remaining weight loss goal each week. If you were over 200 pounds, 2 pounds per week is doable, but at your weight, you may be creating too much of a deficit!

How many calories are you actually eating each day? I don't really understand your "net" calories statement.

SP_COACH_NANCY SparkPoints: (0)
Fitness Minutes: (112,042)
Posts: 46,222
9/2/12 5:50 P


Congrats on your success, but know that what looks good on paper does not transcribe to the human body. Firstly, much of the weight loss one experiences in the beginning is some fat loss, some lean body mass loss and mostly fluid, so it is not unusual to see a greater loss on the onset. Secondly, the less you weigh, the fewer calories you will need to consume because you are not supporting the same amount of weight you were when you started. Even during exercise your body is not expending the same number of calories as you did when you first started. The body's goal is to move toward a state of homeostasis or balance and in doing so, your body, over time will expend fewer calories for your active daily living activities and even formal exercise.

I ask people who find themselves working out more than an hour a day (if they are not training for an event), do you see yourself doing so for the rest of your life? The idea behind weight loss, is not just to shrink the fat cells, but to incorporate life-long healthy habits into his/her life so that one never has to start a diet again. Studies actually show that those individuals who lose 5% of their weight over the course of three months kept the weight off for a much longer time frame than those who lost at a faster rate.

You cannot rush the process to lose weight, especially as you continue on your journey, but if you make life-long habits that will carry you through, that speaks volume. There are so many more benefits to health and fitness besides a smaller number on the scale.

Hang in there!

Coach Nancy

9/2/12 4:25 P

I've been back to the grind since July 23. I have lost 14.2 pounds. I am using the lose it app and my current NET calorie allowance is 1040 to lose 2 pounds/week. In the past few weeks, I have increased to daily calorie burn from 550-750 to close to 1000 calories/day. (mostly bc I want to eat more, so i burn more!) While i'm not completely stalled out on my weight loss, it is not coming off nearly as well as I would anticipate with staying in my target net allowance. I typically do 90 min of cardio with some circuit training mixed in. Any thoughts?

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