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By: Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA Date: 5/1/12

How many times over the years have I told clients that the “secret” to weight loss was to “eat less and move more”?

But does that simple advice actually work for everyone the same way?  As with all advice, it’s actually a little more complicated!

During the “Energy Balance: A New Paradigm” session at the annual Experimental Biology meeting recently, we learned that the relationship between the calories we consume and the calories we burn is a little more complex than originally thought.

Energy balance is a term that is not always easy for consumers to understand but equally confusing for the scientific community -- as all seek ways to reverse the obesity epidemic. Energy balance is uniquely defined for each individual. It’s a framework that not only includes food intake and physical activity but each person’s inherited factors, such as how efficiently we burn calories, our body fat composition and food preferences.

So what should we do, eat less or move more? Current studies are showing that exercise may prove to “move the needle” on weight loss even when individuals (especially men) continued to eat whatever they want. But was that 30 minutes or 60 minutes of exercise most days per week? Actually, the studies by Joseph Donnelly, EDD at the University of Kansas Medical Center, showed that it was the number of calories burned per session, an average of 600 calories, that promoted similar weight loss (9-13 pounds/10 months) for men and women (and most of it fat!)

But as in most cases, men and women are not equal! To achieve this outcome, a 230-pound man would need to exercise for 37 minutes (at an 80% of maximum heart rate) while a 174-pound female would need to exercise 85 minutes. But think positively! Seek ou
t physical activity that can maximize your calorie burn and remember -- sweating is a bonus!

A spinning class or brisk walking with running intervals is my “calorie burner” of choice.  What’s yours? Just remember, taking charge of your weight: balancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories you burn through physical activity puts you in control!


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