Dare to Do Week One: Calories in vs. Calories Out

Posted on by Lauren Updyke. This entry was posted in Being Active. Bookmark the permalink.

When you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain, and when you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose. It’s a simple equation, right? But it can be so hard to stay focused on creating a deficit each week.

Incoming Calories

Let’s start by defining a calorie as a measurement of energy. One calorie from food is equal to the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. Calories provide the body with energy, and if there is an excess, this energy is stored as fat. In order to gain (or lose) one pound of fat, your body requires an excess (or deficit) of 3,500 calories.

The four sources of calories from diet are: carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol. There are some differences in the digestion of different foods and macronutrients, but overall what matters more to weight gain and loss is the total calories consumed. Gram for gram, fats are the most calorie-dense, providing nine calories per gram compared to four per gram from carbohydrates and protein and seven per gram from alcohol. As a result, foods and meals that are higher in fat, such as cheeses and processed foods, will contain more calories.

Beverages also provide a significant source of calories that many people overlook. A 12-ounce Coke provides 140 calories, while a 20-ounce bottle provides 240 calories. Even just one per day adds up to 7,200 extra calories over the course of a month.

Another downside to processed foods is that they are “empty calories” that provide calories without any nutritional benefit. A 1.6-oz frosted cookie provides 400 calories, 18g of fat and 56g of carbohydrate. A “snack size” 2-oz bag of salt and pepper potato chips provides 280 calories, 16g of fat and 34g of carbohydrates. Snacking on fresh fruits or vegetables instead can save a significant amount of calories. Try a medium apple (80 calories), an orange (65 calories) or 10 baby carrots (35 calories). Eating whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Added sugars in products can also increase calorie count. For example, six ounces of Yoplait Blueberry yogurt provides 170 calories with 33g of carbohydrates, while six ounces of low-fat plain yogurt provides 100 calories with 12g of carbohydrates. You can add 1/4 cup of blueberries to the plain yogurt and still save yourself 50 calories and 16g of sugar. This may not sound like a substantial difference, but if you made no other change than to switch to the plain yogurt, this alone would result in a one-pound weight loss in 50 days.

Cutting back on portion size is another way to decrease calories Eat only half of the portion of food at restaurants and take the rest home for leftovers. At home, try making small changes to your meals. By decreasing a hamburger patty from four ounces to three ounces with one slice of cheese instead of two, you will save about 180 calories.

So if you wanted to lose one pound in a week, should you focus only on cutting back 3,500 calories? Not necessarily. Outgoing calories can help in creating a deficit. Start moving more!

Outgoing Calories

We burn calories three ways: when we are at rest, when we are moving around, and when are exercising.

Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is an estimate of how many calories you would burn at rest for 24 hours. It is the minimum amount of energy needed to keep your body functioning at rest. It does not include the calories you burn from normal daily activities or exercise.

There are some great tools now that can help you estimate your total calories burned in a day. Myfitnesspal.com has both a resting metabolism calculator and a physical activity calorie burning calculator.

Just like with nutrition, there are ways you can burn extra calories throughout the day. For example, standing burns approximately 99 calories an hour while sitting burns just 78. Taking the stairs burns approximately nine extra calories a minute. Scheduling time for exercise will burn the most extra calories. Thirty minutes can burn anywhere from 300 to 500 calories depending on intensity.

The Whole U has a ton of ways you can exercise, either on your own with guided plans or with coaching sessions this month.

  1. Check out our Virtual Training
  2. Sign up to train for the F5 St. Patrick’s Day Dash 5K.
  3. Sign Up for the first available Coaching Sessions.

Also, try these tips this week:

  • For every meal, try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • For every restaurant meal, try to put 1/4 of the meal in a to-go box for another meal.
  • Stand more, walk to meetings, and take the stairs.
  • Exercise an extra five minutes every time you fit it in this week.

Dare to move more and be mindful of what goes into your body. It’s not too late to join our Dare to Do New Year’s Challenge for more support and ideas. And keep us posted on your progress on the Being Active page!


Thanks to Charlotte Furman MSRD,CD from UW Medicine Department of Food and Nutrition for her help with this article.