Energy Balance*

Wednesday, 10 January 2018, By Chris Foy

If there is one overarching rule that always applies in regards to health and fitness (and believe me there are not many) it's that energy balance dictates body weight.
This is called the law of thermodynamics and it simply means if you consume more energy than you expend in a day then over time your body weight will increase. Vice versa if you expend more energy than you consume then over time your body weight will decrease. This is of course not inclusive of rare metabolic disruptions which are an exception to the rule. This is a law that you cannot escape.

This is the reason that the multitude of different diets out there all actually work (at least in the short term) because they put people into an energy deficit resulting in body weight coming down. There are many different ways in which to create an energy deficit including:

  • Reducing food intake
  • Increasing exercise 
  • Eliminating certain foods or macronutrients
  • Intermittent fasting

I think it's important for people to understand physiologically why it is that all of these methods work and that is ENERGY BALANCE. So, let me be clear, it is very possible to overeat and put on body fat when eating only "healthy" food. Your body does not care if it's chicken, brown rice and broccoli, if you overeat without the appropriate exercise then you will gain weight.
There are of course other factors involved when it comes to creating optimal body composition, energy levels, recovery etc. however it's important to know that the number one factor is calories in vs calories out. Then and only then, can you start to look at other fancy things like macronutrient ratio, meal timing and supplementation.


Here are a few simple steps you can follow to help control your energy intake:

  1. Eat slowly and stop before you are completely full - Being more mindful of your food is extremely important to help become more aware of appetite cues. Don't scoff your food down so quickly that your brain doesn't even have time to register being full. Sitting down to eat in a relaxed environment to eat will also help you absorb and digest your food more efficiently.
  2. Eat some lean protein with every meal - Protein has a high satiety rating so will help keep you fuller for longer between meals and prevent binge eating.
  3. Eat vegetables with every meal.
  4. Portion sizes - It's really easy to overeat within each meal. Putting your food on a smaller plate will help with this.
  5. Aim to be doing 3-4 hours per week of "exercise". This can be in the form of conventional exercise like running, rowing or cross training or simply getting outside and doing what you enjoy. This will help with the energy out side of the equation.

The most important thing is to start to become aware of what and how much you are eating on a daily basis. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of exercise to burn off certain calorie dense foods so it is impossible to outrun a bad diet!

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.

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