The Calorie and Energy Balance Relationship

Tanner Batten | tanner@paradigmsport.com


We’ve all heard it before, “All you need to do to lose that weight is eat less and move more.”  This refers to the most basic of all nutritional principles: Energy Balance.  

Energy Balance = Caloric intake (food and drink consumption) & Caloric expenditure (exercise)

Although outside factors (digestion, hormones, etc.) can affect it, Energy Balance is the guiding principle on whether we will lose or gain weight.  So, if everyone knows this basic principle, then WHY do we still struggle to reach our goal weight or body fat percentage?

Let's consider some factors that may be affecting our efforts,

How many calories do you need?
A:  Caloric need is dependent on age, gender, activity level and personal goals. For weight maintenance, a good place to start is by multiplying Body Weight x 13.

Example: The Caloric Need for a 200lb Male looking to maintain his weight is 
(200lb x 13) = 2,600 Calories per day

Maintenance Goal (Body Weight x 13) = 2,600 Calories per day
Weight Loss Goal (Body Weight x 12) = 2,400 Calories per day;
a 200 Calorie per day deficit
To begin, these simple coefficients and a small amount of trial and error should move you in the direction of your goals.  If not, simply make an adjustment up or down in calories, track your progress and evaluate your results.  Remember, just because a 200 calorie deficit is good, does not mean that a 1000 calorie deficit will be better. Be sure to set up a nutrition consult if you have more questions!

How much do I really eat and drink?
A: Most of us have absolutely no idea how many calories we consume. An easy way to better understand your caloric intake is to fill out a 3-day food log.

For this you will need to write down everything you eat or drink for a 3-day period. Read nutrition labels, weigh your food, and find out the truth of how much you are really consuming.  Don’t forget to count calories from condiments, salad dressings, vegetables, and cooking oils!

This is where many people miss the mark and yet, it is relatively easy area to evaluate and make adjustments. It is easy to underestimate our consumption. Some people have been blown-away by missing their intake by over 1000 calories!

How much exercise do I get?
A: In order to accurately measure your caloric expenditure (burn), a measurement device needs to account for your age, weight and heart rate. That's why we love our MyZone Heart Rate monitoring system; it captures all of these factors. Tracking and measuring caloric burn is key to helping you achieve your goals. 

If you burn 1000 calories in a workout is the goal to immediately go home and eat more than that? I like to think of training sessions as 'icing on the cake'.  If you want to lose weight, try to create a deficit through consuming fewer calories, and then any exercise you get will simply help you reach your goals faster! Eat to match your goals and exercise to be stronger and healthier. 

All in all, calories dictate our overall energy balance. Other parts of the pyramid are important, but it would be foolish to ignore the base! Try using these three points to examine your own lifestyle and see where you could make improvements.  Remember, you don’t need to count every calorie you eat for the rest of your life, but taking the time to take a good look at what you’re eating can benefit every athlete.