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- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Ways to Shave Calories
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If you are working out consistently and eating right, you may expect to lose weight. However, losing weight involves more than eating healthy foods and exercising. To lose weight, you need to eat the right quantities of healthy food to create a deficit in your caloric balance. Exercise will enhance your weight loss efforts as you burn calories every time you work out.
Weight Loss Equation
The mathematical equation for weight loss is simple. To lose about 1 pound of weight per week, you need to create a weekly caloric deficit of about 3,500 calories. Eating less food than your body requires creates a deficit, and regular exercise adds to the deficit. If you burn 350 calories five days a week through exercise, you burn about 2,450 calories for the week. If you eat more or the same number calories you burn through exercise and day-to-day activities, you will not lose, but rather maintain or perhaps even gain weight.
Use an online calculator and input your age, sex, weight and activity level to determine your maintenance calories, then subtract between 250 and 500 calories from that level to determine an appropriate weight-loss caloric intake. The combination of exercise and caloric reduction will help you lose weight. A realistic goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week.
Healthy, Low-calorie Eating
If you want to lose weight, eating healthy food is a good first step. Recognizing that even healthy, wholesome food has calories can help you understand that simply substituting healthy foods for unhealthier choices may not result in weight loss due to the similar calorie contents. A 1/4 cup of trail mix contains iron from the raisins, healthy fats from the nuts and 174 calories. Even though the trail mix is healthier than one candy bar, there are 55 more calories in the trail mix 1. Likewise, substituting 1 cup of baked sweet potato for 1 ounce of potato chips is healthier, both have similar calorie amounts -- 158 for the sweet potato and 154 calories for the fried chips.
While exercise is good for your heart, blood pressure and triglyceride levels, a study published in the February 2009 issue of the “PLoS One” journal found that people who regularly exercise may unintentionally eat more, negating the calorie burn from the exercise. You may burn fewer calories than you realize while exercising, particularly if your exercise level is less intense. For example, a 155 pound person bicycling for 30 minutes at 12 mph burns 298 calories, while cycling with vigorous effort, at more than 20 mph, burns 614 calories, according to the Harvard Heart Letter.
Choose healthy foods that have lower calories to keep within your targeted caloric intake. Raw or steamed vegetables have fewer calories than salads with dressing, light meat poultry has fewer calories than dark meat, and whole fruits have fewer calories than dried. Nutrient-dense foods such as whole grains and beans fill you up without adding extra calories. Choose reduced-calorie wraps or breads and fat-free dairy, and measure your portions of calorie-dense rices and pastas. After you exercise, drink a glass of water rather than having a snack. Work on increasing your exercise speed, add strength-building exercises to your exercise regimen and vary your exercise to avoid boredom.
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