A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise Volume 2: Weight Loss Basics

As important physical fitness can be in establishing overall health, I personally view it as a mere supplemental piece to the absolute essential concepts of nutrition. Understanding what role caloric intake plays in the overall scheme of energy expenditure is something that is relatively simple to understand and can truly reap tremendous weight loss benefits for beginners and experts alike. Other more complicated topics such as macronutrients, supplements, and performance related nutrients aren’t as important for beginners, and thus will be discussed in future articles.

For a beginner, it all begins with the concept of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE). Total Energy Expenditure describes the three major bodily processes that utilize the calories we ingest from the foods and beverages we consume. Take a look at the chart below:


As you can clearly see, the three main components of TEE are Basal Metabolic Rate, Physical Activity, and Dietary Thermogenesis (also known as the Thermal Effect of Feeding). By far the biggest component of energy use is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). It uses up a massive 60 to 75 percent of the total energy the human body uses, and I think of it as “Life Energy” because all of these calories are utilized in the maintenance of proper organ function,  the regulation of internal body temperatures, and much more. Basal Metabolic Rate does not require a single movement to burn calories. In fact, it is a measurement of how many calories an individual burns over a 24 hour span by just sleeping or sitting. This rate is different for everyone and is affected by age, lean body mass, body size, height, weight, and other physiological processes. There are several BMR calculators online, and a quick google search will allow you to discover a relatively accurate estimate of the number of calories your body burns by simply maintaining itself.

The next biggest component of TEE is physical activity, and this is the only component of total energy expenditure that you have complete control over. Participating in exercise, regardless of its intensity, increases energy demands placed on the body. In order for the body to satisfy the requirements of these demands it uses the energy from calories ingested from food. Think of Total Energy Expenditure as a test and physical activity is thirty percent of that test. If you don’t take it the best you can get is a 70. If you do well, you burn more calories, and thus lose more weight, or can eat more food.

The final component of TEE is dietary thermogenesis. This is a very scientific term to simply describe the energy required to digest food, and thus I think of it as “Digestion Energy”. This is for the most part completely out of your hands, and your body will burn ten percent of total calories ingested autonomously. It is possible to manipulate this number by eating frequent meals, but overall this will not make or break much.

How Weight Loss Works

Now that we know how the energy ingested from food is utilized, we can understand exactly how weight loss works.

Total Calories Ingested (TCI) – Total Energy Expenditure(TEE) = Net Caloric Deficit/Surplus

If (TCI-TEE) is > 0 Weight will be gained (Caloric Surplus)

If (TCI-TEE) is = 0 Weight will be maintained

If (TCI-TEE) is < 0 Weight will be lost (Caloric Deficit)

If you subtract total calories burned in a day (TEE) from the total calories you ingested from food (TCI), you will arrive at a number that represents your net caloric value. If this number is positive you have a caloric surplus, meaning you ingested more calories than you burned and thus will gain weight. If the opposite occurs and you have a negative number, you have a caloric deficit. This means you burned more calories than you ingested, resulting in weight loss. If the number is zero, you will neither gain nor lose weight as you have burned the same amount of calories that you have ingested. To calculate exactly how much weight is gained or lost, you take the surplus/deficit amount of calories and divide it by 3500. For example, if you had a surplus of 700 calories, you would gain 700/3500 (.2) pounds.

Putting it All Together

Now that we understand exactly how weight loss is achieved, I think providing an example of calculating energy balance would be helpful. So let’s observe a sample of my own personal daily caloric receipt to understand this better.

Alex’s Caloric Receipt

Breakfast                    +400

                                                                 Lunch                           +650

                                                                 Dinner                          +500

                                                                 Snacks                          +250

                                                                 BMR                              -2078

                                                                 Exercise                       -400

                                                                 Digestion                      -180


                                                               Caloric Deficit of 858 calories

As you can see, I ate three total meals throughout the day, and two snacks in between these meals for a total of five meals. The way you figure out the caloric values for each of these meals is to ensure you are tracking the calories that are portioned for the serving size you consume. For example, if I was eating a serving size of chicken (one piece) I would see on the back that this relates to 425 calories. You must do this for every meal you eat or drink, and at the end of the day tally up the total amount of calories you consumed. However, if you are busy, or just lazy like me, you can use one of several phone applications that will not only do all the math for you.  All you have to do for these apps is search what you ate, tell them how much you ate, and then it will tell you exactly how many calories you consumed. It will also keep track of your calories for the day. If we add all the calories from my meals together, we get a total of 1800 calories, and this number represents by total calories ingested for the day.

Now that we figured how many calories I ingested, it is time to figure out how exactly I calculated my total energy expenditure. If you do a quick search on Google for “Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator” you will find an abundance of websites that will ask for your height, weight, age, and gender. If you are willing to provide this information, the websites will give you a rough estimate of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This rate stays relatively constant and only changes with increases in the things mentioned above (age, height, weight, etc.). After plugging this information in, my estimated BMR was 2078 calories. In addition to our BMR, we still have to calculate my Dietary Thermogenesis (Digestion Energy) and my physical activity to see exactly how many calories I burned. Digestion energy is simply about ten percent of the total calories you consumed. So for this, I added the calories consumed from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (1800) and then multiplied it by (.1) resulting in 180 burned calories. As far as calculating exercise goes, you can either purchase a heart rate monitor and it will measure your burned calories, or you could also use apps made for phones that will provide an estimate of how many calories you burned during your workout based off what you did and how long you did it. Add all three of these things together, and you will get your total energy expenditure.

Although these numbers were artificially created (except for BMR), you can see that I subtracted my ingested calories from my total energy expenditure to find out that I was at a calorie deficit of 858 calories, which would be amazing. If everything were to stay exactly the same (highly unlikely), I would burn a total of 6006 calories in one week, and thus lose approximately 1.71 pounds in that week. I calculated this number by multiplying my daily caloric deficit by seven and then dividing that number by 3500. Generally, most people try to be at a deficit of 500 calories per day, because this means that they will burn exactly one pound a week.

Weight loss, as you can probably see, is a very inexact science for someone who isn’t necessarily an expert in nutrition like most of the population is. It relies heavily on technology measuring ingested calories, tracking how many calories we burn in workouts, and our Basal Metabolic Rate. However, understanding how weight loss work is incredibly important, and learning how to track calories really can make a tremendous difference for people who struggle with their weight. With a little precision and discipline, a new and better life is completely attainable!

Author: Alex Perelló –  click here to view his bio and other articles

*As a certified personal trainer, I am to make explicitly clear that I am not a qualified to create individualized dietary plans, and I am not necessarily a nutrition specialist. However, I have taken several college courses on nutrition, received several basic nutritional guidelines while studying for the certification, and have years of experience of personal research. This article reflects some useful information I have discovered through these endeavors.


Coffee Naps are Better than Coffee or Naps Alone – Things Worth Sharing

Are you a coffee drinker, napper, or both? It appears that the best way to wake yourself up is to drink coffee, and immediately follow it with a 20 minute nap. Don’t believe me? Check out this great video by Vox!

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness articles not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.

5 Things to Quit Right Now

1. Sitting for Extended Periods of Time

In 2010, doctors in Australia set out to see if watching TV affects your chance of dying. They observed that if you watch no TV each day, your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease in the next 10 or so years is close to zero. Then if you watched about 5 hours of TV per day, that probability of dying from cardiovascular disease increases to about 5%. This increase is added to the average probability of death of other non-cardiovascular ailments, so your chances of dying increases from 3% to 8% just by making your favorite after work hobby watching TV or playing video games. If you also have a desk job, this can increase significantly as you are now sitting for 8+ hours per day. So why does the death rate increase? When you sit down your natural enzymes that burn fat are reduced, your metabolism slows, insulin effectiveness is reduced, good cholesterol drops, your circulation slows, and you begin to have muscle degeneration. Choose hobbies that keep you active, and when you’re at work, ensure you are making time to get up and walk around.

2. Smoking Cigarettes

In any given year in the United States, there are close to 500,000 deaths that are directly related to smoking. Smoking can cause cancer in at least 16 different organs, including your lungs, mouth, and kidneys. Other parts of the body that research has shown to be negatively affected by smoking are your bones, immune system, blood, eyes, and reproductive system. Cigarettes have 43 chemicals that are known to cause cancer in them, as well as an additional 400 other toxins. You’ve been taught that smoking is bad since middle school health class, and that’s still the case today. If you are a current smoker, perhaps the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking.

3. Eating Processed and Packaged Food

Processed and packaged food is a very large category that encompasses everything from potato chips to frozen dinners. If your food comes frozen or in a sealed bag or box it probably falls into the quit list. Processed and packaged food are notoriously high in fat, high in sodium, high in sugar, and low in nutrients. So if they’re so bad, why do they taste so good? It wasn’t until about the last century that food has become abundant, and that’s only in select parts of the world. Because food wasn’t as abundant, our bodies became hard-wired to love foods that had high energy contents, such as fat, salt, and sugar, which were difficult to come by in the wild. Now that these foods are available everywhere, our body still craves them, but we no longer need them to stay alive, they only hurt our health. So next time you reach for food that is packaged or processed, try to think about a fresh alternative that won’t have as much added fat, salt, and sugar. Your instincts may think you need them, but you’re better off going with fresh foods.

4. Drinking Soda Pop

A single 12oz can of Coke has 140 calories which are almost exclusively from sugar (a carbohydrate). Drinking just 2 cans of soda per day will account for about 15% of the average daily calorie intake for an average person. The problem is soda adds no nutritional value to your body and it isn’t filling, so these calories are usually added on top of what your body already is eating. This means your soda is being stored as fat. Soda can also cause insomnia due to the caffeine, and tooth decay from the sugar. So what if you drink diet soda? You may not be drinking any calories, but the artificial sweeteners may have some effects on your physiology. The more sweeteners you drink, the more your body will crave a diet that is very sweet, causing you to continue to crave foods that are high in sugar. Studies have shown that when it comes to losing weight, switching from normal to diet soda has very little impact on the outcome. It’s best to cut them out of your diet altogether and drink water.

5. Complaining and Making Excuses

Wait, this isn’t a food, how can this effect my health? Mental health aside, when it comes to staying physically healthy, you need to keep a positive attitude and work hard to meet your health goals. You need to keep a positive attitude toward any changes you make to better your health. For example, if you decide to cut out soda from your diet, then instead of complaining about how you don’t feel any different after only day one, stay positive and realize long term it will have great health benefits. Also, never make excuses for not exercising or eating healthy. It’s a matter of priority. If you prioritize your health, then you shouldn’t be telling yourself “well I got home late so I’ll make a frozen dinner and skip my workout”. Make time, not excuses.

Author: Scott Van Hoy – Click Here to view the author’s profile


What’s the Single Best Thing We Can Do for Our Health? – Things Worth Sharing

In this video posted by DocMikeEvans, we learn that perhaps the best thing we can do for our health is to walk for 30 minutes per day. Watch to learn why!

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness content not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.

Reignite Your Metabolism – Things Worth Sharing

Dr. Oz always comes up with fun and creative ways to teach us about how our bodies work. In this segment, he discusses the pituitary gland and how it can affect our metabolism. He also offers an easy solution to keep it working efficiently. What I love is that it hits on the point that we are all built slightly differently. To some of us, our hormones that are controlled by the pituitary gland might make weight loss much more difficult. However, something that was brought up by Michael Matthews in his book 12 Health and Fitness Mistakes that You Don’t Know You’re Making (summarized here), brings up that even if you have a naturally slower metabolism, the chances are it is no more than 20% slower than the average person. That 20% equals about 400 fewer calories a day needed by your body to function, meaning you must eat less or exercise more than the average person to lose weight, but it’s still very possible to do by eating lower calorie foods and hitting the gym. So watch the video below to learn about how your pituitary gland may be making it harder for you to lose weight, but keep in mind even with a slower metabolism, you have all the tools you need to lose weight and live a healthy life.

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness articles not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.

The Top 5 TED Talks on Health and Fitness

For those who are unfamiliar with TED Talks, TED is an organization that hosts conferences around the world so people can share their ideas that are worth sharing. Usually these ideas worth sharing tackle some kind of societal issue. There are hundreds of talks about health and fitness on TED, but here are 5 of my favorites!

Can you be so healthy it kills you? AJ Jacobs took every little piece of health advice he received and followed it, leading in this talk titled How Healthy Living Nearly Killed Me. This talk is filled with humor and great facts about living a healthy and balanced life.

“We are literally going to sleep our ways to the top!” Sleep is incredibly important for our health, and this talk by Arianna Huffington talks about how if we want to succeed, we need to get more sleep.

In Emily Balcetis’ talk titled Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others, we dig deep into the perception of exercise. Mentality is often more important than physical ability when it comes to living a healthier life, and this talk discusses how our perceptions can change our mentality.

Mick Cornett, the Mayor of Oklahoma City, talks about his own problems with obesity, and then how he analyzed his town to help make other healthier too in this talk titled How an Obese Town Lost a Million Pounds. What I like about this talk is it shows that once we learn how to live healthier, we should spread our wealth of knowledge and start a local movement starting from the grassroots level.

“This could be the first generation in which our kids have a shorter lifespan than we do.” Dean Ornish gives his talk The Killer American Diet That’s Sweeping the Planet, and it’s definitely one to watch. It gives a good world perspective on how obesity affects us as a whole and how we can work to combat it.


Author: Scott Van Hoy – Click Here to view the author’s profile


Top 10 Unhealthy Health Foods – Things Worth Sharing

The WatchMojo YouTube channel hits the nail on the head in this video. You might be surprised how unhealthy some of your “healthy” foods really are!

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness articles not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.

A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise Volume 1

Entering the health and fitness world can be an overwhelming process because of the incredible amounts of information that is presented to beginners. One minute you hear about crazy mass building protein shakes, and the next you are hearing about falsified nutrition plans that get insane results in two days. All this information makes it difficult to get a basic grasp of the essential information that is necessary to creating your own sustainable, healthy lifestyle. It is my goal as a personal trainer to change this trend, and empower and educate normal, everyday people to have the knowledge necessary to revolutionize their own lives.

Exercise Science Basics

Exercise has many guiding principles, but none more important than the Principle of Overload. This principle is extremely simple, but the very foundation that all training programs are based upon. The Principle of Overload states that in order to experience physiological adaptations, you are going to have to place a physical stress on your body that it is not accustomed to. This stress comes from performing workouts that include weight, tension, or an increase in muscle energy demands. In addition, it comes from other things such as frequency, duration, and intensity. These things will be discussed later on.

Another important principle is the Principle of Specificity (also known as the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands principle). This is another important foundation that describes the body’s ability to adapt to whatever demands you place on it. In other words, a workout program should reflect the desired outcome. For example, if you want to get good at running, your workout program is going to have to include running, if you want to get a stronger chest, your workout program has to include chest exercises, so on and so forth.

The fitness industry is incredibly superficial and predicated over aesthetics. Because of this, it would only be fair to discuss the term Muscular Hypertrophy. Muscular Hypertrophy in very simple terms is the increase in the size of a muscle as a result of some kind of resistance training (weightlifting). The weightlifting needs to be specific and these specifics will be discussed shortly. In general, people who want to increase muscle mass and increase the appearance of size participate in this kind of training.

Muscular Hypertrophy has a brother and its name is Muscular Endurance. Muscular Endurance is a muscle’s ability to produce and maintain a force for an extended period of time. Much like Hypertrophy, training for endurance also creates muscular adaptations, but instead of an increase in muscle size, it generally leads to a toned muscular appearance. How to train for endurance will be discussed below.

Workout Basics

Now that we discussed general exercise theory at a basic level, we can dive into topics that are important for the creation of workouts. In addition to introducing these topics, I will also discuss how to manipulate them in order to gain muscle size (hypertrophy) or muscle tone (endurance).

A Repetition is probably the simplest term in the entire workout industry. It is the completion of an exercise one time (i.e doing one push-up).  In order to gain muscle tone and improve endurance, one must perform 12-20 repetitions of an exercise. In order to increase muscle size and train for hypertrophy, perform 6-12 repetitions of an exercise. Body weight exercises are an exception, and should always be conducted until failure.

A Set is another simple term, and it is just a group of repetitions. To increase muscle tone, perform 1-3 sets of an exercise. To increase muscle size perform 3-5 sets of an exercise.

Failure is the point in which you have done so many repetitions of an exercise that you physically cannot do anymore. This is the point you want to reach for each and every set, so one must ensure that they are using the appropriate weight in order to reach this point for the kind of training they wish to participate in. For example, if you want to train for hypertrophy, and you are doing 6 repetitions in your training, you need to use a weight that is heavy enough so that when you reach that sixth repetition, you cannot do a seventh.

A One Repetition Maximum is an important measure to let you choose the appropriate weight so that you can reach failure. It is exactly what it sounds like, the maximum amount of weight you can (with good form) perform one repetition of an exercise with. This goes hand and hand with Intensity, which is a measure of a level of effort that is generally represented as a percentage to your One-Repetition Maximum. Gaining Muscle size requires training in the 75%-85% of one rep max, and gaining muscle tone requires training in the 50%-70% range.

Rest Interval is a measure of the time you rest between each set. For tone, rest between 0 and 90 seconds. For size, take rests between 0 and 60 seconds.  

Training Volume is the amount of total sets of exercises you do in a single workout. For weight training, begin by shooting for 16 total sets of exercises, and then try to move up to 24 total sets of exercises.  For example, if you are working out your arms (shoulders, biceps, triceps) try to do 5 sets of each muscle group for 15 total (beginners), or 8 sets of each for 24 sets total (advanced).

An often overlooked but extremely crucial aspect of creating a workout is having an appropriate warm-up and cool-down. Performing both of these exposes your body to a vast array of physiological benefits, such as a decreased risk of injury, proper muscle activation to ensure maximum performance when it counts, and an increase in psychological preparation. A warm-up lasts generally 5-10 minutes and precedes any of the actual workout. A good split for warming up is to start with a quick 3-5 minute cardio warm-up (running, jump rope, etc.), and then stretch the muscles that your body will be tackling in the workout for the remainder of the time. The Cool-Down more than likely will mirror the Warm-Up, with a 3-5 minute cardio cool down, and stretch for the remainder of the time.

You now have the necessary knowledge to understand what causes your body to change, and how to manipulate the basic components of a workout to get your body to change in the way most people want it! Check out volume two, where we tie all this knowledge together, and address Program Design and Nutrition basics!

The Shocking Truth About Your Health – Things Worth Sharing

“The body is a mirror for how we live our lives.” Lissa Rankin, MD, talks about the moments when a patient’s tests come back as “well” when the patient obviously feels sick. When nothing appears wrong but we feel poor, what pill can treat it? Maybe on top of what we already know about fitness and health, we should treat the body as not just a lone entity, but as a mirror of how we live the rest of our lives that we don’t usually associate with wellness.

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness articles not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.

Tips for Starting a Healthier Lifestyle! – Things Worth Sharing

With the new year just a few days away, this is another chance to make resolutions and adhere to them. Here are a few tips to starting a healthier lifestyle by Cambria Joy. Just remember, the goal is to change your lifestyle, your resolutions should not be temporary, but the start of continued learning and personal growth.

‘Things Worth Sharing’ is the portion of the website where I share interesting and useful health and fitness articles not written by 2 Weeks to Health. Nothing is advertised, everything is awesome.