Losing Weight Comes Down to Energy Balance

Everyone who has tried to lose some weight without having a plan knows how difficult it can be. However, people don’t know that it adds up to frustration – not knowing what is the actual deciding factor in getting them where they want to be. Many nutrition experts lose sight of the bigger picture of dieting while attempting to pit the details of their theories against the details of other’s. Let’s bring back the big picture of dieting and see which things require a change in order to get results.

The Main Variables

Nutrition, exercise, recovery, lifestyle, and supplementation are the main variables for body composition, with nutrition being the biggest leverage point. It means that it all starts with your diet and the lifestyle of a 21st century consumer.And it seems pretty simple on the surface – you’ll see results if you make changes in your food choices. However, it starts to get confusing when one doesn’t know what and when to change.

Nutrition Components

There are a number of individual components to dieting and nutrition. They include everything from the amount of food you eat to the type of food you eat, to what other foods you eat it with, to what it’s made up of, to when you eat it. These variables are important in the overall equation because they are going to have more overall impact. Thus, sometimes the only way to see progress is simply focusing on these things.

On the other hand, changes in personal nutrition always have different total value for different people. Perhaps this all sounds mathematical, but the human body isn’t cut and dry. There are few constants to balance the variable out, and as we get further into the equation – things change.

The Variables

Food typology – To put it simply, it’s the term used for describing one’s general eating habits. It might be Primal, Omnivore, Paleo or Vegetarian.

Food Combination –Eating or avoiding to eat foods with certain other foods.

Energy intake – The total of your calorie intake. Calories are not a unit of nutrition, but a unit of energy, because they are used to power your body. Both the intake and output of energy are measured in calories.

Macronutrients – There are three types of macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When talking dietary manipulation (and things far beyond the scope of it), each of these is very important.

Food timing – It is all about how many meals you eat per day, how often you eat, whether you do some kind of fasting or eat every 2 or 3 hours.

Energy Balance

Without a proper metabolic intervention (exercise),over-consumption or calorie restriction is likely to produce equal gains in lean/fat mass or losses in lean/fat mass). People usually look like larger or smaller versions of themselves, retaining the same shape. In order to properly control energy balance, we need overall lifestyle habits to help support it. When the energy balance is properly controlled, then the body can either gain lean or lose fat mass, because of the prevention of positive or negative excessive swings.

Struggling to Get Positive or Negative

People struggle to get positive or negative because it’s uncomfortable. Also, with an increased consumption of processed food and repeated dieting, body fat levels have increased greatly in the past 25 years. Calories from processed foods are actually not the sole reason for a skewed energy balance. It related to the entire environment and lifestyle. Regular physical activity, avoiding processed foods, raising your body awareness, and resisting the persuasion of advertising demonstrate their importance here.

The solution is not in calorie counting, and trying to add to or reduce your daily calorie intake in order to solve your energy imbalance problems. The neurological information about acquisition, storage and retrieval of internal food experiences are relayed, and those signals impact your energy balance. That is a variable that cannot be tracked that easily, so the exact amount of calorie intake and energy output can’t really be known. Instead of focusing on dietary restraints and calories, start looking at ingredients labels. Nutrition facts don’t mean a thing until you know what you’re eating. A 100 calories from cooked lean meat and from any brand of chips is not the same.


The kind of overeating we’re talking about takes place when we choose high calorie density food to sneak in extra calories. For example, we may add a few hundred calories of fat and not know it just by choosing lean protein over extra lean. Also, we can add 810 calories and 90g of fat if we use 2 tablespoons of olive oil for preparing our meals 3 times per day.

That is when it is possible to overeat on quality food. It is when we sneak the extra calories without changing anything else about our day and/or without being any fuller. So, watch out for that extra calorie intake and other possible side-effects of overeating. It is important to take care of your health, specifically your stomach. Otherwise, you’ll risk experiencing a bloated stomach (read more about it here) or fatigue.

How to Create a Positive or Negative Energy Balance

Create a positive energy balance by starting with intense weight training, consuming more liquids with calories (such as shakes), consuming good omega-3 fatty acids and energy dense foods (such as oils, trail mix, nuts and other foods that don’t cause rapid satiety), staying consistent with habits and having 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

On the other hand, a negative energy balance can be achieved by building muscle with weight training, boosting non-exercise physical activity, eating lean protein, vegetables and fruit at regular intervals throughout the day, not engaging in extreme diets, and ignoring food advertising.

Being in a negative energy state (when we try to lose weight) can be uncomfortable because it can result in hunger, slight sleep problems, and agitation. The positive energy state can also be uncomfortable, because these are both extremes that cause our bodies to lose their balance. However, constant energy balance extremes are not necessary once the body gets into “maintenance mode”. It means that a skewed energy balance needs to be achieved in short periods of time, not forever.

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