Energy In VS Energy Out - Understanding the Energy Balance Equation

A beautiful summer sunset walk on Naples Beach, walking off a delightful dinner on 5th Ave South. Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II.

Have you ever felt that you are up against a brick wall when it comes to weight loss?

You are not alone.

Many people struggle with the weight loss dilemma daily. Metabolism is a complex subject with a plethora of variables but we are going to break down a few basics to help you. 

First, understand that you need a certain amount of energy (calories) to stay alive, as well as to move around.

You can get this energy from food, or you can retrieve it from stored energy (fat reserves) in the body.

If you consume less energy than you expend, you will lose weight – and if you consume more energy than you expend, you will gain weight. 

This relationship between ‘energy in’ and ‘energy out’ is called the Energy Balance Equation, and it’s the most commonly accepted model for calculating how much weight you will lose or gain.

Understandably, people get very frustrated and confused with the Energy Balance Equation when the numbers don’t add up, or their results fall short. It’s a fair frustration. Most of the time, the numbers don’t add up.

This discrepancy between expectations and reality is not because the Energy Balance Equation is wrong. It is because the equation is more complicated than it sounds. Many factors affect the Energy Balance Equation. 

The adage, ‘eat less, move more’ is a good start, but alone isn’t enough.

It doesn’t account for the complex, intersecting factors of metabolism. ‘Energy in’ is trickier than it first sounds, for two primary reasons:

1) Inaccurate nutrition labelling.

It might sound unbelievable, but the number of calories in a meal probably doesn’t match the number of calories on the labels or menu.

The way companies, and even the government, come up with energy and nutrient estimates is incredibly complex, rather imprecise, and somewhat antiquated.

The resulting nutritional Information can be off by as much as 20%, making it difficult to accurately gauge what your ‘energy in’ truly is.

2) We don’t absorb all the energy we consume.

The amount of energy a food contains in the form of calories is not necessarily the amount of energy we absorb, store, and/or use.

Remember that the food we eat must be digested and processed.

We absorb less energy from minimally processed carbohydrates and fats because they’re harder to digest, and we absorb more energy from highly processed carbohydrates and fats, because they’re easier to digest.

For example, we absorb more fat from peanut butter (approximately 38%) than from the same volume of whole peanuts.

It’s also important to remember that how your metabolism reacts to changes in energy balance is highly individualized.

How much you can lose or gain will depend on age, genetics, gender, if you’ve had relatively more or less body fat and for how long, what medications you’re taking…

If you’re struggling and can’t make sense of the Energy Balance Equation, it behooves you to meet with a registered dietician or health care professional to get the optimal results for your health.

If you need more help, take the Take the 14 Day 'Fit & Fresh' Challenge by joining our GearedUp Family in our Monthly Membership program here.

Angie Ferguson is an exercise physiologist and Tony Robbins Results Coach from Fort Myers, Florida. She also is a Corrective Biomechanics Specialist, USA Triathlon Advanced Level 2 coach, USA Cycling coach, has a Specialty in Sports Nutrition certification, and a PhD in results!  

If you're looking for continual support, direction, guidance & accountability join Angie's Monthly Program here, and we'll help you look, feel and be your very best!


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.