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Basic Fat Loss Math

Created on Monday, 29 March 2010

Fat Loss Calculator While I was standing in the grocery store checkout line a couple of days ago, I saw on a magazine cover, a headline about how some TV celebrity "lost another ten pounds in 10 days." Big, bold, attention grabbing letters. It got my attention, and I'm sure it got the attention of many frustrated people who've had little success in losing excess fat and keeping it off. I only hope they weren't suckered into buying the magazine just to be let down, again.

It seems that losing weight has become synonymous with losing fat, but they are not always the same. For example, a high school wrestler, who already has his body fat levels down into the single digits and needs to lose one pound to be eligible for a match that starts in under an hour, is not necessarily concerned with the same kind of weight loss as a 43 year old woman wanting to slim down for an upcoming 25th high school reunion. When someone is trying to lose "weight", and they're looking for tips from some pop culture magazine found in the grocery store, normally that weight should be adipose tissue, commonly known as fat.

It's not all that unrealistic to be able to lower your total body weight by one pound in a day. Sweatin' to the oldies in a sauna suit, without drinking anything to replace the lost fluids is one way. It's not a safe, nor effective way, and certainly not something you would want to try for ten straight days. The reason is because almost all of that weight will be from water, and it will only be a temporary reduction that just shows up on the scale. One cup of water equals about a half a pound. Sweat out 2 cups of water, and you've just lost one pound of water, not fat. Replace the needed water, and you've just regained the weight. Don't replace it and risk dehydration.

Another way to lose a pound in one day is by using a detox formula, which might be a diuretic or laxative. Again, the change will show up on the scale, but if you were trying to get rid of a pair of bat wings, that's no solution. One more method to quickly lose a pound in one day is with an enema. I won't go any further into that, enough said. Depending on your diet, if you use one of these methods to rid yourself of solids and fluid(but not fat), you might be able to lose even more than a pound. Your waist band might be a little looser, and that might last for 2 or 3 meals, again, depending on how healthy your diet is.

Now if you're trying to lose fat, by the pounds, or preferably by the inch, there is different math involved. Fat is measured in pounds or ounces, but also in calories. One pound of fat is 3,500 calories. Now in order for you to lose one pound in a day, you need to expend 3,500 calories, through a reduction in food intake, or by burning them through physical activity (in addition to what you normally burn in a day), or a combination of both.

In order to lose one pound of fat per day through diet alone, you would have to cut out an excess of 3,500 calories a day, and still consume enough calories to sustain your Basal Metabolic rate, and your specific daily activities for your activity level. For most people this means you must be eating more than 5,300 calories a day. 3,500 calories is about 6 and a half Big Macs, or a 14" supreme pizza with a soft drink. I don't think that particular celebrity was eating close to 5,000 calories a day.

As far as exercising, it would be the equivalent of swimming freestyle at a fast pace for anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on your body weight. Or running at 10.9 miles an hour for about 2 and 1/3 to 3 1/2 hours, again depending on your weight. I don't know too many people needing to lose a lot of fat that could withstand that kind of intensity for those durations.

A realistic amount of fat weight to lose is about one pound in a week. That equals a reduction of 500 calories a day (less than one Big Mac, or about one 24 ounce Frappuccino). Some people can lose close to 2 pounds of fat in a week, and some morbidly obese people, after getting their hearts conditioned through regular exercise, may even be able to safely lose more than that. But as far as the young lady on the magazine cover losing ten pounds in ten days, well, you do the math. I wouldn't suggest you buy it for effective fat loss tips.
What's the most outrageous "weight loss" claim you recall hearing about recently?



# Monty 2010-03-31 06:46
Evaluate the following, and would love to hear your opinions on the same 5 topics...maybe it could be one of your next blogs? See some of the comments people are making on the article. Are articles like this bad for the masses?

Hope all is well amigo!

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# Aaron 2010-03-31 16:42
That article was pretty much right on target.
As it stated, carbohydrate is a general category. Since it includes fruits, vegetables, candies, and pastries, it's easy to see how it creates confusion. To say ALL carbs are bad is like saying vegetables are bad.
Sweating is not only relative to the training intensity but also atmospheric temperature and how efficient one's body is.
The fifth one was worded kinda weird, and reading some of the readers' comments just adds to the confusion. A pound is a pound, but we know what was meant was that 1 pound of muscle is denser than one pound of fat.

The problem with these kind of articles is that they can be condensed too much and leave out important information that makes it clearer and more useful.
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# Aaron 2010-03-31 17:14
:ooo: Jon,

I just read a few more pages of the comments on that Shine link. The article itself, as I said isn't bad, but the way some of those resident experts bicker, argue, and contradict one another is terrible! That's what is bad. People need to be warned to not read that stuff unless they want to go out of their minds!! :-x
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# Paramjit 2010-04-04 23:06
This is and always will be a problem. Most people are just going to need to learn about this the hardway as no amount of information is going to convince them otherwise. People are just convinced that there is something out there that can give weight loss at the push of the button. Great article Aaron. Hope some people are able to realize the difference between weight loss and fat loss.
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# Aaron 2010-04-05 14:23
Hi Paramjit,
You're right. People are always looking for the shortcuts or miracles. I think too much of this desire is out of desperation. I'm sure it's keeping some scientists busy in a lab somewhere, actually working on the method to lose weight without any effort on the individual's part.
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Anne Moss aka IsraeliMom
# Anne Moss aka IsraeliMom 2010-04-05 06:35
I want to lose 40 pounds in a day. Please?

One funny thing about weight maths is how much faster it is to gain weight than lose it :sad:
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# Aaron 2010-04-05 14:26
Sorry Anne, but I'm willing to bet you don't have an extra 140,000 calories in your daily diet :idea:

It's easy to gain fat, hard to lose it. Harder to gain muscle than it is to lose it. It's just not fair, huh?! ;-)
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# Everett 2014-10-29 21:22
I'm amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that's both educative and amusing,
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I'm very happy that I came across this in my search for something concerning this.
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