For real permanent weight loss you need to be a student of physical fitness because real weight loss is about losing your body fat.
Nutrition 101 has told us for years that burning 3500 calories drops a pound of fat, but recent studies have shed some interesting light on this theory. Fitness enthusiasts listen up because now we are moving into “Nutrition 102” and will be learning something new about calories and what we are really losing.
Let’s start with some history. Max Wishnofsky M.D., conducted the original research in 1958 and adopted the “3500 calorie deficit” formula which continues to be cited in thousands of educational websites, studies, and scientific articles. Dr. Kevin Hall challenged the formula and released a manuscript in 2007 and has redefined the “3500 calorie to burn a pound” idea. His paper is impressive with enough scientific data and formulas to stump even the brainiest nerd and I will not be jumping into math class right now but sticking with the discovery. Following up the research published in the International Journal of Obesity is Dr. D.M. Thomas who has not only debunked the “3500 calorie to burn a pound” theory, but has also provided 3 new downloadable applications that “simulates a rigorously validated, dynamic model of weight change.” I will provide those links at the end of this article.
3500 Calories to Burn What?
Losing fat is a challenge, and we have been under the impression by simply subtracting 3500 calories per week, we would be able to lose one pound of flab. This is based on the old simplistic theory where 3500 calories represents only fat and not taking into consideration lean mass (muscle). The new research takes all tissue into account understanding muscle is also lost during the process, and just how much depends on initial body fat level and caloric deficit. That means weight and fat loss calculation will differ from person to person. For example, a lean person will tend to lose more muscle and retain fat while an overweight person will lose more body fat and retain lean mass. This is why a fat person can better tolerate a lower calorie diet and the opposite applies to a lean person, however restrictive diets are not recommended for either since they are linked to eroding muscle tissue.
What Does This Mean?
The original “3500 calorie to burn a pound” theory needed to take into consideration that fat and muscle metabolize (use) energy at different rates. A pound of muscle is not 3500 calories but approximately 600 calories and if you applied a 3500 weekly caloric deficit and lost 100% muscle hypothetically that would equate to 6lbs. Of course this would be ludicrous and the takeaway is to remember lean mass loss equals greater weight loss which we want to avoid. If you created a 3500 caloric deficit and lost 100% body fat then you would lose one pound but again impossible because both lean and fat tissue are lost during the process. Other factors taken into the new formula applications are the need to adjust caloric deficit as body weight decreases and energy levels decline. In addition, the studies indicate stimulating more fat loss to lean mass through progressive resistance training and higher protein intake.
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