Where Does the food Go Understanding the Energy Balance Equation

Before we get to setting calories and figuring out amounts for proteins, fats and carbs, it's important to get an understanding of where the calories go when we eat.

Understanding what happens to the calories in metabolism helps us make smart decisions as to what we should be eating for a particular goal, such as losing or gaining weight.

There is a strong synergism between the foods we eat and our performance, muscle mass and bodyfat levels. People debate (make that fight!) about every aspect of nutrition: high carb vs. low carb, high proteins diets, high fat diets vs. low fat diets and so on.

Regardless of which diet a person follows, one element always remains a constant however, which is the concept of energy balance. The energy balance equation can be summed up as:

• Energy Intake = Energy Expenditure + Energy Storage.

It does not matter if your goal is to lose, maintain or gain bodyweight. Everything ultimately revolves around this simple equation. The type and ratios of macro nutrients we eat matters as well as the total number of calories.

Brink's Universal Law of Nutrition states: "Total calories dictate how much you lose or gain, and macro nutrient types and ratios dictate what you lose or gain."

To better understand energy balance we must first be familiar with the components of energy expenditure. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE or the average number of calories one oxidizes or "burns" in a day) can be partitioned into three components:

  • Resting metabolic rate
  • Thermic effect of a meal
  • Energy expenditure of physical activity
  • a) Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) - RMR accounts for up to 75% of TDEE and is associated with the energy cost of maintaining physiological homeostasis.

This includes the energy cost of maintaining body temperature, cardiac output, respiration, nervous system function and other non-voluntary activities.

This component of energy expenditure is determined primarily by lean body mass and is also influenced by body fat levels, gender and physical fitness. Therefore, the greater the amount of lean body mass that you have at any given body weight will increase your caloric expenditure at rest compared to a less lean counterpart of the same weight.

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