Breaking it down: The science of losing weight
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There is nothing particularly difficult about losing weight. It can be broken down into a science. Once you understand how your body gains or loses weight, reaching your weight loss goals becomes a lot easier.
Understanding How Your Metabolism Affects Weight Loss
If you have been trying to lose weight for some time, you have likely seen the word metabolism thrown around. Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories to power all its systems. About 70 percent of the calories a person burns each day goes into activities like maintaining body temperature by generating heat, producing new cells, getting rid of old cells, blood circulation, hormone regulation, and managing nerve and brain activity. Some of these calories also go into sedentary things you do like sitting, reading a book or sleeping.
About 20 percent of the calories you consume are reserved for more significant actions like walking, performing chores around the house, or exercising. The more active a person is, the more calories are needed to complete this task.
The remaining 10 percent of the calories you consume goes to the breakdown and absorption of food. The amount of calories used for digesting food does not vary much based on how active a person is. It is why some foods like celery are classified as negative calorie items since it takes your body more energy to digest them than they supply.
How Exercise Affects Your Metabolism
Merely being alive requires a lot of energy and that is something you can use to your advantage when looking to lose weight. When you add activities that increase your body’s energy demands, you reach your weight loss goals a lot sooner.
Most people use up about 2,000 calories a day, and they can burn up to 1,000 calories for every hour spent doing a high-intensity activity like Muay Thai. That means someone who adds such exercises to their regular routine can burn about half the calories they consume each day in an hour.
That is one of the reasons why people with active lifestyles tend to be leaner on average. Walk into a martial arts gym, and you will notice a lot of these people are in really good shape. Watch a professional basketball game and you will notice most of the athletes are slim and fit.
Obviously, these people do not have lean physiques because they are all on strict diets. Their bodies look the way they do because they burn an abnormally high number of calories each day because of their occupations. For example, famous U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps burns about 3,000 to 10,000 calories per day depending on how intensely he trains. That means he can consume up to 10,000 calories on certain days and still have a caloric deficit. It is really easy to be in great physical shape when you are burning that many calories. Putting in the work to burn the calories is often the most difficult part for most people.
Muscles are your friend when weight loss is your goal. They are more active than most of the other tissues in the body, and they burn more calories even when they are not being used. Adding on muscle can help to prevent your metabolism from slowing down as you age.
That means exercise doesn’t only help you to reach a caloric deficit, it also gives your metabolism a boost.
What Occurs When You Start Losing Weight
When most people say they are trying to lose weight, what they really mean to say is that they want to lose excess fat on their body. However, losing weight is a lot more complicated than that. When you reduce the calories you consume, your body does not automatically target the layers of fat you are trying to get rid of. Your body can also burn lean muscle tissue when it runs out of calories to convert into energy.
When you are trying to lose weight, your priority should be to lose fat and not necessarily weight. It is possible to become significantly leaner and fitter while not losing much weight.
Research indicates that it is best to cut down on calories slowly over time. You should aim to lose about 1 kg of fat per week.
Your body stores fat as a way to store energy. It is quite an ingenious system, like a biological battery of sorts. It is what got our distant ancestors through famines. Fat is a more efficient way to store energy than carbohydrates. A skinny, athletic person has about 120,000 calories in their fat reserves. When you factor in the fact we brought up earlier that the human body only needs about 2,000 calories to run all its systems and perform daily activities, it becomes clear how well your body stores energy.
How The Body Stores Fat
Fat is the result of a caloric surplus. Think of the body as a car and the things you consume the fuel the car runs on. The car has an automatic storage system that stores any excess fuel so it can be used some other day.
Put too much fuel in the car and some will be stored. If you forget to put enough fuel in the car one day, the car will tap into the reserves it stored instead of breaking down on the side of the road.
How nice would it be if cars worked like that?
Fortunately, your body is capable of doing all that and a lot more. Any sugars and starches you consume are broken down into glucose, which cells burn and convert into energy. When we eat more calories than we burn, the excess is converted into fatty acids and stored.
As long as you have energy in your bloodstream, those fat reserves will be left untouched. The most effective way to lose weight is to regularly create a caloric deficit so your body starts using these reserves. Do it consistently, and you’ll be able to wear your favorite skinny jeans in no time.