Posted by: Dee | 2004/11/01

Is my energy intake lower than my energy out?

Perhaps you could help me with something that I am batteling to fathom. I believe that in order to loose weight your energy intake (ie calories???) should not exceed the energy that you use (by doing excercises etc???) Am I correct in saying this? I don't want to loose more weight because I am already under my ideal weight (BMI 17,7) but I do want to maintain this. When I go to gym the machines show how many calories I am burning - are these machines accurate in anyway? I take in about 1000cal or less and do about 1 and a half hrs of gym but I can't see how you can burn all that up in that time because 15min on the bike burns only 130calories (I think, on average). How much do you burn during the day doing odd jobs and normal day to day things? Do you think the moderately active person burns 1000 calories or is my energy intake exceeding my energy out? Do I make any sense???

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Our expert says:
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Hi Dee

The big problem with calorie counting, apart from it being really difficult to do and a possible self-defeating task, is accuracy. You are right in saying that the most basic way of looking at calories and weight loss is to say that to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. You put calories in by eating and you burn them by exercise, and by just going about daily living. Now, to lose weight, you need to address both sides of this equation. In otherwords, you must both increase what you burn (by means of exercise) and you must decrease what you consume. However, the reality is probably not quite as simple as this. If you think about it, someone who remains at a stable weight over a period of just 10 years, is probably eating an average of 8 or 9 million calories during this period. In order to remain at the same weight, the body is somehow balancing this amount by using about 8 or 9 million calories too! So, it’s staggering that the body is able to do this as efficiently as this, and for this reason, being very particular about counting calories all the time is probably a lost cause. It’s also the reason why sudden crash diets, where you cut right back on eating and live on lettuce every day, for example, will not work. The body simply adjusts its metabolism and so you use fewer calories. This also promotes weight gain when you do eventually start eating again. SO that is why calorie counting is self-defeating - the big picture 'wins' eventually, so there must be another way to do this.

Added to this is the inaccuracy of the machines. Although there is a lot of research, the thing about these studies is that they take the general population and work out averages, but you have to remember that there are always people who are not 'average'. So, while it is getting better all the time, it's not perfect yet, and I would not suggest using the machines to quantify your calories burned. The last thing to remember is that you don't just burn calories during exercise, you burn the whole day long, and maybe you are underestimating this aspect - you may be surprised at how much something like an odd-job does, when it is repeated over and over during the day.

The final thing I have to mention is that your energy intake of 1000 is incredibly low, and I really do think that you need to increase it. Your BMI is seriously low, even unhealthily low, and you don't need to maintain weight, you need to put on weight. It's great that you are exercising, but I think that if you are doing cardio, you may need to add on some weight work so that you can build a little lean muscle mass and get your weight up, because at the moment it is very very low. I also think that you have to change your diet and try to increase your energy intake, it is unhealthy to be as energy deficient as you must be, since the recommended intake per day is 2000 Calories or more and so I would suggest seeing a dietician.

Good luck

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Our users say:
Posted by: Poof | 2004/11/02

I TOTALLY AGREE with FitnessDoc!! You need to gain some weight darling!!

Reply to Poof

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