If you burn 550 calories more than you eat each day, you should lose ½ kilogram of fat each week. It sounds simple but unfortunately, weight loss can be a little more complex.
Your body naturally tries to maintain a level of homeostasis, i.e. your body tends to compensate for any attempt at reducing its energy stores. Note that the opposite is also true, i.e. if you eat more calories than your body can use, your body will endeavour to speed up your metabolism to use the excess calories to a point. After a while your body will simply create a new point or a new homeostasis.
Some people trying to lose weight by increasing exercise may stimulate appetite to a level which results in eating more and hence completely replace the calories consumed (or more) during exercise.
It seems that within the first 14 days of starting an exercise program, appetite does not increase enough to cause a full compensation of the energy burnt during exercise. Thereafter, however, some people will fully compensate and therefore need to be aware of the potential for this to happen.
Some reasons that people compensate for exercise performed include:
- That they allow themselves to eat more as a reward for the effort they have put in to exercising
- A decline in daily incidental activity because a person feels they do not need to be as generally active because they ‘exercise’!
If you are not gaining the results you feel you should be getting, check the actual calorie deficit that you are creating (or not). Are you overestimating the volume and intensity of your exercise and activity? A heart rate monitor and a pedometre can help you with monitoring your intensity and volume. On the flip side, are you underestimating your food intake?
Most importantly, implement gradual lifestyle changes for the long term. Your body’s homeostasis or set point will change within a reasonable time making it easier for you to maintain the new you!