Losing weight, finding that six-pack, and toning up those love handles is hard. Scheduling workouts, actually doing the workouts, and making sure you’re doing the right workouts takes a lot of effort. No one wants to waste their time and sweat (and tears and blood) working out without seeing results. But many people overlook the most important part of a weight-loss program – your diet. You may be surprised to learn that 70% to 80% of weight loss comes from diet, not extra physical activity.
Generally, a person will lose weight if their body burns more calories than it consumes. The number of calories the average (not accounting for individual activity level, height, weight etc.) male burns per day is 3,000, and the average female 2,400. It’s also important to know that one pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories.
So with some simple arithmetic, we know the average male would need to reduce his daily calorie intake to 2,500 to lose 1 lb of fat in a week:
|Normal Week||3000 calories per day x 7 days = 21,000 calories per week|
|To Lose 1 lb, weekly calories||21,000 cals – 3,500 = 17,500 calories per week|
|To Lose 1 lb, daily calories||17,500 / 7 days = 2,500 calories per day|
For females, all other things being equal, daily calorie intake would need to be reduced to 1,900 calories to lose 1lb of fat per week:
|Normal Week||2,400 calories per day x 7 days = 16,800 calories per week|
|To Lose 1 lb, weekly calories||16,800 cals – 3,500 = 13,300 calories per week|
|To Lose 1 lb, daily calories||13,300 / 7 days = 1,900 calories per day|
Now calorie counting isn’t the only thing you should focus on. Things like having the right workout routine for your specific goals, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated are all essential to losing weight. However, knowing how many calories you’re consuming is very important, and to do that, you need to know where your calories are coming from.
Bad foods like sugary sports drinks, soda, processed foods and foods containing high fructose corn syrup will not only leave you feeling bloated and lethargic, they’re often loaded with hidden calories. Alcohol is another place people often overlook when tracking calories. Not only can a light hangover keep you from hitting the gym, 2 or 3 drinks can quickly consume your daily calorie allotment. A 12 ounce mug of your favorite microbrew has 200 or more calories. One 5 ounce pour of red wine will have at least 120 calories, while a delicious margarita may have well over 200 calories.
In comparison, a diet filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats won’t weigh you down, and often provides flavor without the calorie penalty of less healthy options. For example, steamed broccoli, a staple of most fitness meal plans only has 61 calories per cup. A serving of brown rice will net you less than 200 calories. Here’s a table of some of the most common foods found in good weight-loss meal plans (and a few fast food entries for comparison):
|Steamed Broccoli||1 Cup||61|
|Green Beans||1 Cup||62|
|Roasted Carrots||1 Cup||109|
|Roasted Asparagus||6 Spears||45|
|Brown Rice||¾ Cup||162|
|Baked Potato (medium)||1||161|
|Chicken Breast||5 ounces||230|
|Lean steak||5 ounces||265|
|Ground beef (90/10)||5 ounces||249|
|Scrambled Egg (large)||1||91|
|Steel Cut Oatmeal||1 Cup (cooked)||170|
|Whole Wheat Toast w/ Peanut Butter||1||170|
|McDonalds French Fires||1 (large)||510|
|Burger King Whopper||1||677|
Tracking calories is a vital part of any weight-loss plan. In most cases, calorie counting alone won’t get you to your weight goals (but it could). Combining calorie tracking with exercise, adequate recovery and proper hydration is a reliable and sustainable path to losing weight quickly and keeping it off.