Body Fat And The 500 Calorie Deficit Myth
The energy present in food is termed as calories. Calories are a fuel which makes us capable of doing our day to day activities right from sleeping to running a marathon. Calories come from macronutrients like carbs, fat and protein. Your body can use up calories to carry out task or store them away for later use. Some calories are stored as glycogen but the majority of it is stored as body fat.
So, what is body fat?
Body fat is not pure fat. Pure fat has a really high calorie content about 9 calories in a gram. This amounts to 4,100 calories in a pound of pure fat. But body fat is not just pure fat. Body fat comprises of fat cells that are called adipocytes that also contain fluids and proteins along with the fat. This means that the calorie content of body fat is not as much as that of pure fat.
How many calories does a pound of body fat contain?
In 1958, one scientist concluded that one pound of body weight lost or gained equaled 3,500 calories. Since then, this figure has been cited everywhere. But, it is really true? Let us find out.
Let’s get calculating. In general we can assume that one pound equals 454 g and pure fat has 8.7-9.5 calories per gram and body fat tissue is 87 percent fat.
With the above values it can be estimated that a pound of body fat contains anywhere between 3,436 and 3,752 calories.
Busting the 500 calorie deficit myth
It is a common myth that if you consume 500 lesser calories each day or 3,500 calories less in a week, you will lose a pound of fat each week. And if you calculate more it would amount to losing 52 pounds a year! Great math, but the reality is different. This estimate seems to work just ok in the short term for moderate weight loss in overweight and obese people. But it doesn’t work on a long term basis, leaving people disappointed.
Why this myth fails is because it fails to account for the body’s response to changes in body composition and diet. When your calorie intake drops, your body responds to it by making you burn fewer calories. Along with losing fat you may also lose muscle mass. The body actually enters into what is called ‘starvation mode’. You see, weight loss typically slows down over time.
Weight loss is not just fat loss
When you aim for weight loss, what you really want to get rid of is body fat which is under the skin and around organs. Unfortunately, weight loss doesn’t mean fat loss alone. There is an unwelcome side to it and that is loss of muscle mass. However, you can minimize loss of muscle mass by doing the following:
Studies have proven that strength training can be helpful in preventing the loss of muscle mass in your endeavour to lose weight.
- Eat lots of protein
Increasing your protein intake is less likely to break down the body’s muscles for energy.
Both the above strategies also prevent a reduction in the number of calories you burn.
The bottom line
It is a myth that eating 500 calories less each day will help in weight loss. It may be helpful in the short-term but the body will soon start burning lesser number of calories and the weight loss slows down.
Hope this post has cleared doubts about body fat and the 500 calorie deficit myth!
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