The concept of energy balance is often overlooked, but essential to those with goals related to a change in body composition. Many elite athletes have to lose or gain weight for competition, most personal trainers would agree that the most common goal amongst gym users is to ‘tone up’ and even the general population have weight related targets due to the social stigma associated with being ‘too fat’ or ‘too thin’.

The purpose of this blog post is to give you a brief overview of energy balance, which can be defined as:

‘The difference between the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you burn each day’

(Grays Fitness, 2020)

It’s important to understand this definition, because along with a range of other factors, it will determine a person’s bodyweight. To put it simply:

  • If you eat the same number of calories as you burn (energy intake equals energy expenditure), you maintain weight – ENERGY BALANCE
  • If you eat less calories than you burn (energy expenditure exceeds energy intake), you lose weight – CALORIE DEFICIT
  • If you eat more calories than you burn (energy intake exceeds energy expenditure), you gain weight – CALORIE SURPLUS

Based around this information, individuals can manipulate their body composition, whether it be for lifestyle, training or competition purposes:

It’s important not to solely focus on calories, consider the nutrients (macro and micro) contained within the food sources you are eating, as these will not only effect your health but also your energy to exercise.

Take eating a 600kcal bar of chocolate verses a 600kal chicken, rice and vegetable meal. Both have the same calorie content, so calorie intake remains the same regardless of which option you choose.

BUT the chicken, rice and vegetables contain a range of nutrients essential for bodily processes and to provide energy, this will more efficiently fuel exercise, increasing energy expenditure.

So although according to energy balance weight should remain the same, the foods you eat may also influence energy expenditure, which can then impact energy balance and weight loss/gain.

“Biological individuality means the relationship between the human body and food is extremely complex. We may never understand the unique ways in which our genes interact with nutrition”

(Ross Edgley, 2018)

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