Turns Out You Need to Burn 7,000 Calories to Lose a Pound, Not 3,500

weight scale

The dieting world may be in shock right now.  In fact if you’re trying to lose weight, this may really bother you but unfortunately it’s nothing new.   Those of you out there who like to calculate how much weight you’ll lose by cutting x amount of calories per day may use this formula:  1 pound of fat = 3,500 calories.  Unfortunately that calculation is 100% wrong.

While it might be right in a technical sense (as in if you actually burned a pound of fat in a lab somewhere it would be correct), but cutting out 500 calories a day will not necessarily result in a pound of fat loss.   When you try to balance calorie intake and calorie burn, this simple equation never works out the way we want it to.

In fact, now there’s a new equation that’s more accurate, and unfortunately looks bleaker.   Based on research done by the National Institutes of Health, Amby Burfoot explains at Runner’s World why we should ditch the old rule and embrace the new:

“The biggest flaw with the 500-calorie-rule is that it assumes weight loss will continue in a linear fashion over time,” says [mathematician Kevin] Hall. “That’s not the way the body responds. The body is a very dynamic system, and a change in one part of the system always produces changes in other parts.”

What’s realistic? According to Hall, in the first year of a new weight-loss program, most overweight people will lose about half the weight that the 3,500-calories rule predicts. In other words, over 12 months, the new rule is 7,000 calories = one pound. (The math changes slightly over shorter and longer periods of time, with few managing to lose weight beyond 12 months.)

The new number may sound awful at first, but long-term dieters should be rejoicing.  Science has finally caught up to what your body was already telling you.  Basically, work harder, don’t cheat, and you know, work harder!


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