Physics of Weight Management

Simply put, weight maintenance is a matter of balancing the energy consumed with the energy spent. Body weight changes when there is a long-term imbalance between energy consumed from foods, beverages, and supplements and calories expended during training and the activities of daily living. Losing one pound(0.45 kg) of body fat requires an energy, or caloric, deficit of 3,500 calories. To  lose this much in one week, there must be a negative balance of 500 calories each day. 

This is accomplished by eating less, being more active, or a combination of the two. To gain this much as body fat, there must be a positive balance of at least 3,500 calories.That said, however, some people can overeat a bit on occasion and manage to avoid gaining weight, whereas others gain weight every time they eat an  excess calorie. The difference in these people is mainly related to their ability to waste, or burn off, some of the excess energy consumed

The person who gains weight puts nearly every excess calorie into his or her body fat stores.The resistant gainer, on the other hand, increases his or her metabolism enough that a smaller proportion of the excess calories is stored as body fat. The average person wastes about 12 percent of the excess energy consumed and thus banks about 78 percent of the excess calories.The other important factor is that the resistant gainer may—without even thinking about it—increase physical  activity or fidgeting after overeating, thereby spontaneously increasing energy expenditure

The opposite is true to some extent with regard to weight loss. The resistant reducer loses a bit less than predicted because metabolism slows somewhat to fend off weight loss, and he or she may even subconsciously decrease physical activity level. These reactions do not occur in the person who loses weight easily. What causes these differences in metabolism in response to overeating or calorie restriction is not well understood but is likely related to variations in enzymes and hormones that regulate metabolism, including skeletal muscle energy-generating enzymes, thyroid hormone, and sympathetic nervous activity.

It should be stressed, however, that although these differences in metabolism exist in response to energy restriction or energy excess, they are small relative to the big picture and do not support the contention that a person can achieve a 3,500-calorie deficit with no effect to his or her weight. Instead, these differences in metabolism explain why two college athletes with similar energy needs who splurge on 500-calorie ice cream sundaes every night for two weeks (in excess of their energy requirements, of course) gain different amounts of weight, or why a person who eats 500 calories less than needed every day for a week loses three quarters of a pound instead of the predicted pound. And if you are wondering if your sex makes a difference—it does. 

Women are more likely to gain weight easily and have a difficult time losing it. But that is a generality. Some men have what we call a conservative metabolism that makes it easier for them to gain weight, and some women have a wasteful metabolism that makes it easier for them to lose it.If truth be told, I have worked with male athletes who struggle to keep weight off and female athletes who are able to eat everything they want but cannot gain an ounce. Indeed, in our weight-conscious, food-abundant society, these women are considered lucky; however, during a famine, their faster metabolisms wouldn’t serve them so well.

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