Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote work, many Americans have struggled with prolonged proximity to their kitchens, a highly sedentary routine, and subsequent weight gain. In fact, one survey conducted by biotechnology company Genesis found that nearly 60% of all Americans want to feel healthier in the new year, with 51% of Americans specifically hoping to lose weight. As many people can attest, however, losing weight is easier said than done. Although the majority of Americans hope to lose weight, research has shown that very few individuals possess a foundational understanding of exercise and dieting or know where to start.
Diet, exercise, caloric deflect – the three pillars of weight loss. Eli Max understands that while these three concepts are repeated time and time again in weight loss articles and gym magazines, these concepts are not widely understood outside of fitness communities. This makes it very difficult for those just starting their weight loss journey to know how to form an effective diet, what exercises will work best for their goals, or even how much to reduce their caloric intake. As a self-proclaimed fitness enthusiast, Eli Max possesses an in-depth understanding of weight loss concepts and hopes to share the basics of weight loss with the many Americans hoping to lose weight in 2021.
In order to lose weight, a person must remain in a caloric deficit or consume fewer calories in a day than the number of calories their body burns. This will force the body to burn energy stores of fat, reducing body fat and, ultimately, weight. When first starting a weight loss journey, you must first calculate the average number of calories your body currently burns throughout the day.
The number of calories a person burns will significantly depend on their body composition, including:
- Their age
- Their gender
- Their daily physical activity level
- Current weight
Those with moderate exercise activity can manually calculate how many calories they need each day by multiplying their current body weight by 15. Next, individuals can determine how many calories they need to consume for a calorie deficit by subtracting 500 calories from that number. For a more precise caloric number, individuals can also use their basal metabolic rate and activity level to determine their current caloric needs.
To determine basal metabolic rate:
- Adult male: 66 + (6.3 x body weight in lb) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) = BMR
- Adult female: 655 + (4.3 x weight in lb) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years) = BMR
Once a person has calculated their basal metabolic rate, they can use one of the following activity level formulas to determine their body’s current caloric needs.
- Sedentary (0 days per week of exercise) = BMR x 1.2
- Minimally active (1–3 days per week of exercise) = BMR x 1.375
- Moderately active (3–5 days per week of exercise) = BMR x 1.55
- Very active: (6–7 days per week of exercise) = BMR x 1.725
Its important to note that those looking to lose weight will often try to speed up the process by subtracting more than 500 calories from their diet. This is not advisable, as eating too few calories can cause anemia and extreme fatigue while actually reducing the likelihood of losing weight. When the body believes it is receiving too few calories, it slows the metabolism to try to hold onto fat stores and maintain weight.
When people think of losing weight, they often think of extreme diets and tiny portions. Dieting should not be equated with starving yourself, and in fact, many nutritionists believe that you do not need to be hungry all the time while dieting. The secret to dieting is staying within a caloric deficit while prioritizing foods that are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and highly filling.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Trusted SourceAmericans 2020-2025, a healthy diet with fewer calories should include:
- Lean proteins: Turkey, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, soy products
- Vegetables: dark green, orange, red, and starchy vegetables
- Grains: at least 50% of all grains consumed should be whole grains
- Oils: Healthy oils including olive oil, canola oil, and coconut oil
- Low fat/ Fat-free dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt (greek)
- Fruits: specifically whole fruits
Finally, people should avoid consuming trans fats and sugary drinks. Although diet drinks advertise themselves as “zero-calorie,” new studies have found that diet sodas have been found to increase hunger when consumed by themselves, often leading to drinkers eating more calories after snacking.
Once again, a person needs to burn on average 500-1000 more calories than they consume a day to lose between 1-2 pounds per week. While individuals can accomplish this by drastically changing their diet and caloric intake, another way to burn these calories is to begin a weekly exercise routine.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults looking to improve their health and reduce their weight are encouraged to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five times per week, or 150 minutes of exercise per week. If individuals enjoy a more high-intensity activity, the CDC and ACSM recommend reducing exercise to 20-minute sessions three or more days per week, 60 minutes collectively.
When exercising solely for weight loss, it’s important to recognize which exercises burn the greatest amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. Traditionally, high-intensity workouts will be the best bang for your buck in regards to calorie burning.
Some exercises that are known for burning the most calories include:
Running/ Jogging – Running at a fast pace for an extended period of time is one of the most effective ways of burning calories compared to any other exercise routine. A person who weighs 160 pounds, and runs at a 10-minute mile pace, can expect to burn 364 calories in 30 minutes. Additionally, research has shown that alternating between sprinting, and jogging can further increase the number of calories burned.
Swimming – Although swimming is considered a high-intensity exercise, it is low impact, making it safe for those with arthritis or joint issues to enjoy. Someone with a weight of 160 pounds can expect to burn close to 220 calories when swimming for 30 minutes.