Weight Loss & Weight Gain

In today's society and social media, we are constantly presented with expectations of how we should look, we are bombarded with 'perfect' images and told this is how we need to be in order to be happy, successful or popular. When in reality, these images are nothing more than snapshots of highly organized and choreographed moments, supplemented by lighting, shadow, posing and digital manipulation. Yet, this is often the cause of our lack of body confidence and our incessant need to try and conform to unrealistic standards. It'll also be the reason for our obsession with weight loss, weight gain, and dieting.

There isn't a point in anyone's life where they don't either want to gain, lose or maintain their weight. Whether it's for aesthetic purposes, for work, for health or a seemingly endless list of other reasons, the manipulation of one's own weight is always a present thought. It affects our daily habits, exercise, and diet, as well as our mental state.

It's important to remember that we should aspire only to look like ourselves, as individuals we are unable to replicate someone else's physique or shape and we would be misled if we thought we needed to do so. If we truly desire change, it needs to come from within to be sustainable - comparison is the thief of joy - and whilst we can take inspiration from others it's crucial to find the version of ourselves we want, regardless of what form that takes. 

We often embark on a journey for change when we are still wholly unaware of how to affect it in a healthy and sustainable way. This month's post hopes to shed some light on how we can better understand the processes behind controlling our weight and how to utilize them in a healthy balanced way.

Let's jump straight in! In its most simplistic form the key to controlling weight loss, weight gain or maintaining weight comes down to a very simple equation; the Energy Balance Equation.

This equation simply states:

- If you're energy input is greater than your energy output, you will gain weight.

- If you're energy input is equal to your energy output, you will neither lose or gain weight.

- If you're energy input is less than your energy output, you will lose weight.

So, what do we mean by energy input and energy output?

- Energy input is the amount of calories consumed through food and drink.

- Energy output is the amount of calories expended through maintaining homeostasis (internal bodily function) and any activity you perform.

This simple equation is the reason why calories are so important when it comes to weight manipulation and control.

energy equation balance.jpg

If your goal is simply to lose, gain or maintain body weight, then the energy balance equation will help you achieve that.

So, let's now take a look at how we can figure out how many calories we need to consume each day dependant on our goal.

We can do this by determining our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), which is the rate at which we burn calories just by being alive. The equation is based on our height, weight and age, this is then multiplied by what is called a Physical Activity Factor, to account for any energy expenditure through movement and exercise.

Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation

The Mifflin-St. Jeor equation was developed in 1990 and is an improved version of the Harrison-Benedict formula. 

The equation is as follows:

For females = (10 x Weight in kg) + (6.25 x Height in cm) - (5 x age) - 161

For males = (10 x Weight in kg) + (6.25 x Height in cm) - (5 x age) + 5

This equation is multiplied by one of the physical activity factors below to estimate daily caloric needs.

Physical Activity Factors

BMR x 1.2 for low intensity activities and leisure activities (Primarily Sedentary)

BMR x 1.375 for light exercise (Leisurely Walking for 30-50 minutes 3-4 days/week, Golfing, House Chores)

BMR x 1.55 for moderate exercise 3-5 days per week (60-70% Max Heart Rate for 30-60 minutes/session)

BMR x 1.725 for active individuals (Exercising 6-7 days/week at Moderate to High Intensity (70-85% Max Heart Rate) for 45-60 minutes/session)

BMR x 1.9 for the extremely active individuals (Engaged in Heavy/Intense Exercise like Heavy Manual Labor, Heavy Lifting, Endurance Athletes, and Competitive Team Sports Athletes 6-7 days/week for 90 + minutes/session)


Below I will use a base example and run through the formula to show you how it works and the outcome (Remember that the equation is not 100% accurate).

For the purposes of this, let use a moderately active male, 25 years old, 175cm and 70kg.

- 10 x 70 (weight in kg) + 6.25 x 175 (height in cm) - 5 x 25 (age) + 5 = 1673.75 (BMR)

- 1673.75 (BMR) x 1.55 (Physical Activity Factor - Moderate) = 2594.3125

- So if we round it down to the closest whole number, we get: 2594 (kcal) calories per day.

We can assume that this calculation is what is needed to meet our calorie (energy) requirements to maintain weight.

Another formula you can use is the following:

- Body weight in lbs x 12 - lose/cut

- Body weight in lbs x 14 - maintain

- Body weight in lbs x 16 - gain/bulk

This is only accurate if you do very little exercise, as it does not take into account your physical activity.

If we use the same example person above, we can see that 70 kg is about 154 pounds (lbs). 

So if we assume we want to work out our maintenance caloric need we would do the following equation:

- 154 x 14 = 2156 kcal

This is a much closer reflection to the above formula if we had used the physical activity factor of someone who is sedentary, thus showing that whilst this equation is quick, it does not take into account any physical exercise and it may slightly overestimate your caloric needs.

- 1673.75 x 1.2 = 2008.5 kcal (Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation - using a sedentary physical activity factor).

Macronutrient Ratios

However, if your goal is to change your body composition, then we need to go a step further and combine the energy balance equation with specific macronutrient intake ratios. By controlling and manipulating our macronutrient intake, we can have far greater control over our body composition.

We previously wrote about the three macronutrients; Protein, Carbohydrates & Fat

Before we proceed with macronutrient splits and ratios. It's important to point out that each one of us will have a different body type, exercise routine and caloric needs, therefore the following is just a rough guide and as you progress towards your goal, it's important to remember that you'll need to tweak and adapt your macronutrients to stay in line with your progress.

General Recommendations

Protein (4 kcal per gram) - It is generally recommended to have circa 1g of Protein per pound (lbs) of body weight. 

Fat (9 kcal per gram) - The general recommendation for Fat is between 20-40% calories intake.

Carbohydrates (4 kcal per gram) - Most often Carbohydrates make up the remaining % in your split once you've accounted for the other two macronutrients.

The Calculation

If we use our example from above, we have 2594 kcals to work with.


Our example guy was 154 lbs.

Using the recommendations above, that would equal 154 grams of Protein.

As we can also see above, each gram of Protein is equal to 4 calories.

154 x 4 = 616 kcals will come from protein


Let's go down the middle and say we want to calculate a 30% Fat intake.

2594 / 100 x 30 = 778.2 kcals will come from Fat

Each gram of Fat is equal to 9 calories.

778.2 / 9 = 86 grams


To work out what's left as our Carbohydrate intake, we must take the calorie numbers away from the total.

2594 - (616 + 778.2) = 1199.8 kcals will come from Carbohydrates

We then divide this number by 4, as Carbs have 4 calories per gram.

1199.8 / 4 = 299.95 grams

The Ratio

Protein - 154 grams | 616 kcals | 24%

Fat - 86 grams | 778.2 kcals | 30%

Carbohydrates - 299.95 grams | 1199.8 kcals | 46%

Summing Up

There are other methods, tools and technologies which can calculate and track both your caloric needs, caloric intake and energy expenditure. Items such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and My Fitness Pal app can do all the above for you and whilst they can make things easier, be aware of the negative effects they can bring with that ease. We've previously written about Fitness Trackers, why not check it out? 

When attempting to make any changes to your weight or composition it's important to remember that diet, nutrition and exercise are unique to each individual and what works for someone else may not work for you. There needs to be an element of experimentation to achieve the right balance and above all commitment to the process - changes don't happen overnight but with the steady and consistent application of the right methods.

There are no quick fixes but when done right you can enjoy the journey!

The Springhealth Team