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Weight Gain vs. Weight Loss Equals Calories In vs. Calories Out


Diet: It's perhaps the biggest issue surrounding weight gain and weight loss and is spoken about with regularity.

You've probably heard so many different arguments regarding "your diet" that you don't truly know what to believe anymore when it comes to weight loss. I know that's true for me. Or it was. 

You've probably been told that if you don't eat "right," meaning "healthy foods," you'll gain weight and lose definition and so on.

There are so many horror stories about junk food and understandably so. And it's important to note, junk food WILL make you fat...if you eat to much of it. 

But guess what? Apples and yogurt and seeds and nuts and vegetables will also make you fat...if you eat too much of them?

Wait, what? 

I can gain weight no matter what?!


Let's talk about weight gain for second and how it occurs.

First and foremost, there are no "good calories" and "bad calories." There are just calories. Calories are a measurement of energy and provide your body with fuel. If you give your body too much fuel, it will store the excess as fat, and if you give your body too little fuel, it was burn the calories your body has previously storied. 

And not to trivialize weight loss, but it's a simple as that. 

Two hundred calories worth of pizza packs the same energy as two hundred calories of watermelon. A calorie is a calorie and as far as storage goes, your body process the energy the same: it will store the excess and burn the rest.

Now, the caviat to that is this: you can eat WAY more watermelon for two hundred calories than you can pizza. "Junk food" tends to be much more calorie-dense, and therefore the reason we associate junk food with weight gain is that if you eat it in normal serving sizes, it tends to add up much more quickly than fruit and vegetables do, for instance. 

When it comes to eating enough to feel satiated, you will ALWAYS be able to eat more salad and fruit than you will cookies and ice cream. That's just the way it goes, sadly!

BUT! The upside to that is this:

If you are aware of what your maintenance calories, and you know that anything above your maintenance calories will be stored as fat and anything below your maintenance calories will be burned as energy, you can "cheat" on your diet every now and then, just as long as you stay within your maintenance range!

There are no foods that make you gain weight and there are no foods that make you lose weight. You need to dispel that notion immediately and think about it logically. 

Junk food packs more calories and therefore makes it easier to overeat; healthier foods pack fewer calories and therefore allows you to eat more volume and stay within your maintenance limits, but that's really all it is. It's finding the right balance between the two food categories to stay within your ideal limits.

Knowing your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is key, and then you can factor in your activity level and what you're burning on a daily basis. BMR simply pertains to what your body burns at rest for it to function: heart beat, lung function, etc. It decreases with age, but as long as you know that and can add BMR + calories burned through activity, you'll have a pretty good estimate of where you stand!

BMR for women tends to be about 2000 calories per day for a 15-25 year old female and decrease by about 200 calories every decade thereafter.

For men, BMR tends to be about 2500 calories per day for a 15-25 year old male and decreases by about 250 calories per decade after 25.

Yes, ladies, unfortunately men can consume more calories because of that little hormone called "testosterone." We have significantly more than you do, but like most good things, it decreases with time.

What I want you to remember is this: there are no good foods and bad foods, there are just foods. What you eat daily is your "diet." The term "diet" does NOT refer to healthy food only; the term "diet" refers to what you consume and nothing more. You can eat less healthy foods as long as you understand that they tend to be much more calorie-dense, meaning that overall, you have to eat less food if you're going to fit them into your diet. 

Healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, tend to be lower in overall calories, meaning that you can eat much more volume and probably feel much more satiated as a result. 

The biggest thing I want you to understand is this:

Don't associate junk food with weight gain; you must think of weight gain as a surplus of calories over your maintenance calories and nothing more. 

The more "junk food" you eat, the less you're able to consume in a given day to stay within your limits; however, that does NOT mean you can't enjoy those foods throughout your day as long as your cautious about what you're consuming and how much.

Basic guidelines--eat more healthy food than not, but don't punish yourself for splurging every now and then. Just track it and know how it might affect your overall calorie consumption on any given day. 

Life is short. Live a little now and then. Don't develop a negative relationship with foods and denote "healthy foods" and "unhealthy foods" as their own categories.

Yes, I will agree, a healthier diet is rich in vitamins and nutrients which you won't get from less healthy foods. A diet completely consisting of unhealthy foods will result in poor overall nutrition and negatively affect body composition. I'm with you on that. 

BUT, as far as weight gain vs. weight loss (which is the subject of this argument), it's always going to be calories in versus calories out.

But how might certain foods and certain diets affect your body composition?

You'll have to refer to the video for that :)

But in summary, the more lean protein and healthy fat you consume within your maintenance calories, the leaner and more defined your musculature will be.

The more carbs and unhealthy fats you consume within your calorie limit, the less muscle definition you'll maintain; hence the term "skinny fat."

The macro-nutrients we consume daily certainly do play a vital role in how we look, how are muscles develop and our overall, outward appearance. 

High protein, low carbohydrate makes for a leaner and more muscular figure.

Low protein and high carbohydrate tends to make for a softer and less defined figure.

Neither would make you overweight as long as you stay within your caloric limits, but it will have an impact on your body composition.

If you're looking for a quick tip, remember this:

40/30/30 is a good way to think about your diet.

That is--40% of your calories from quality, complex carbohydrates, 30% from fat and 30% from protein. Use that breakdown within the parameters of your caloric limit and you should be on your way to successfully controlling your weight!