When the ounces don’t add up to pounds as fast as someone in a weight loss program might like (or expect), looking at calories consumed vs. calories used can offer some insight as to why.

Reducing body fat isn’t always easy. In fact, most people find it to be an uphill climb. And like any trip, it’s important to know much fuel it will take to arrive at the destination.

For someone who wants to lose five pounds of weight from fat, for example, that destination can be said to be five pounds “away”. Most people are aware that the way to get there is through some change(s) in both diet and exercise—but how much of each? It’s important that the beyond the vague notion that calories consumed should be less than calories expended, the client understands that this process can be reduced to a simple equation using real numbers.

One key number is 3,500. That’s an approximate estimate of the number of calories required to burn in order to lose one pound. So, in order to lose two pounds, someone would need to expend 7,000 calories. This can be useful because it’s easier to keep track of calories consumed and calories expended than it is to keep track of weight in pounds, which can include changes in the amount of water held in the body and in lean tissue mass.

Combining proper caloric intake with the right exercise program is the preferred method of achieving any weight maintenance goal, be it fat loss or weight gain. It is important to understand that if the participant is exercising and dieting, each of these two variables must be considered. For example, if a participant in a fat loss fitness program is expending 300 calories per day during exercise, the daily caloric intake need only be reduced by 200 calories. If the weight gain participant is expending 300 calories each day during exercise, the diet needs to be increased by 800 calories, offsetting this expenditure to arrive at an increase of 500 calories per day.

In most cases, it is up to the personal trainer to practice his or her best judgment in establishing the initial diet and exercise recommendations based on an initial, in-depth consultation. Only after this consultation is it possible to arrive at a clear picture of a new fitness program participant’s past level of activity, dietary behavior, and metabolic predisposition (high, low, or average resting metabolic rate (RMR).

NFPT Staff Writer

NFPT Staff Writers contribute in various ways to the NFPT blog