The Skinny on Weight Loss

Desiring to lose weight is one of the most popular reasons to hire a personal trainer. It is critical that every trainer understands the facts about metabolism, nutrition, caloric expenditure, and the psychology of weight management.

We teach these concepts to personal trainer students in FON105 Nutrition for Fitness Professionals, and EXS125 Introduction to Exercise Physiology. The following is a little taste of what you could expect to learn.

Clients are exposed to so many myths on a daily basis that they don’t know who to believe. Advertisements that promise unrealistic results, money-hungry sales experts, uneducated and uncertified trainers who mis-advise clients, and family members passing on misinformation through generations.

The cycle will continue unless more fitness professions get educated and certified. It’s time to start dispelling myths and promoting safe and effective methods of weight loss. And it needs to be done in a way that each individual client will understand.

Why do people keep going on diets? Is there one diet that can guarantee results? Why do some people have such a hard time with weight loss? Let’s address some of these issues:

I have recently returned to work after maternity leave, and am all too aware of the desire to shed unwanted fat in a hurry. This is the third time I have been through this, and each time I learn a little more about patience and persistence. And with each beautiful child comes less and less time to focus on fitness.

You can’t lose fat in a hurry. Fat metabolizes slowly. We store fat so we will have a constant fuel source available. Without it, we would not survive. If you want to tap into your “fat fuel storage,” you have to create a daily caloric deficit, on a regular basis.

There are lots of diets that guarantee weight loss. There’s nothing really magic about them. They all restrict calories. Some more drastically than others. They usually have some fancy twist to them that entices people, but eventually the novelty wears off and the starvation and binge eating sets in. And then we blame the diet.

All clients should be given a rough idea of how many calories they should be consuming. They should also have a general idea of the calorie content of the foods they enjoy. Evaluating their 3-7 day food log is a good place to start.

You can find scientific equations all over the Internet on how many calories your client should be consuming. You will discover that most women need around 2000 calories and most men need around 2500. Seriously active people need more.

Some people think they are seriously active, but only for an hour a day. Then they sit at a computer for 8-10 hours, ride in a car for an hour, eat for an hour, sit in front of the TV for two hours, socially network for 2 hours, and then sleep for eight hours.

Rapid weight loss through drastic dieting is not safe for clients. If it happens too quickly, the weight loss will be mainly in the form of water and muscle. The way to avoid losing muscle is to create small daily caloric deficits and avoid dropping below the resting metabolic rate (RMR). This is good news for people, like myself, who actually enjoy food.

The RMR is the number of calories required for your body to function normally at rest in a 24 hour period. It does not include calories burned during basic movement, eating, or exercise. A quick method for figuring out your RMR is to multiply your ideal weight by 10.

“So what’s my ideal weight?” you might wonder. A quick way to estimate it for women is: 100lbs plus 5lbs for every inch over 5 feet. I am 5 feet 9 inches, so my ideal weight is roughly 145 lbs, give or take 10% on either side. This formula will not be accurate for body builders.

For men, that formula changes slightly to 106 lbs plus 6 lbs for every inch over 5 feet. It gets complicated, because people forget that there are 12 inches in a foot, so if you are 6′ 2″, it’s 106 plus (6 x 14). That adds up to 170 lbs for an average, non-body-building male, give or take 10% on either side.

My RMR is approximately 1450 if I multiply my ideal weight by 10. I can’t imagine surviving on less than that anyway, so no worries here. If I go below that number, I may start to use muscle for energy. This would be a problem.

Our muscles churn up calories all day long! If we lose muscle, we actually reduce our RMR, which means we burn even less calories at rest. This is how dieters end up gaining more weight when they go off of a strict diet.

If you want to figure out how many calories you need in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you will need to start with the RMR. Then you have to add in calories for daily movement (not counting exercise).

So if you sit at a computer all day, you would add on another 10-20% to your RMR. If you walk around a lot, then maybe add up to 50%, and if you have a strenuous job that involves lots of lifting and walking, then maybe add 60-70%.

And then you have to add exercise calories to that total. But, you should look at how many days a week you actually exercise. If you swim 3 times a week and burn 500 calories during those sessions, you can’t add all 500 to your caloric needs every day, or you might end up gaining weight. The best thing to do is to multiply 500 calories by 3 (workouts per week), and then divide it by the 7 (days in the week). This will give you a more realistic total to add to your calculation.

So that’s how you estimate your caloric needs. RMR, plus daily movement, plus exercise. I bet you came close to 2000 if you are female, and 2500 if you are male! That would have saved you from all those calculations!

If you want to create a deficit, knock off anywhere up to 20% of that number. The less you knock off and the longer you take, the easier it will be and the more likely it will be permanent weight loss.

Permanent weight loss, in the form of fat, is not easy, but it is possible with patience and persistence. An educated and certified personal trainer can guide a client toward their goals with the help of these basic facts. Let’s dispel the myths and share the knowledge to help prevent obesity from destroying lives.


One thought on “The Skinny on Weight Loss

  1. It’s arduous to find educated people on this subject, however you sound like you realize what you’re talking about! Thanks

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