How many calories do you consume doing nothing?

How many calories do you consume doing nothing?

It is an estimate of the energy that our body uses to perform its vital functions, and is the starting point for many do-it-yourself diets. Is it really necessary to use mathematics to lose weight?

(photo: Alex Block / Unsplash) Summer, the sea, doing nothing. Or rather, we do nothing: our organs, fortunately, do not even take a day off and work all day to maintain our basic bodily functions. Obviously, all this consumes energy, which takes the name of basal metabolism: we measure this quantity in calories, those we consume when we do absolutely nothing. This number occasionally pops up when we decide to lose some weight, because, strictly speaking, by ingesting fewer calories than we consume, we should lose weight. But is this really the case?

The energy to stay still

Breathing, maintaining an adequate body temperature, eliminating waste present in the blood: the basic functions of our organism are many, and they consume energy in the form of oxygen. The estimate of oxygen consumption in basal conditions (i.e. fasting and resting from any physical and mental effort), which reflects the amount of energy needed by our body to maintain vital functions, is called basal metabolism, and is measured in kilocalories. In fact, the official unit of measurement of energy, according to the International System of Units, is the joule, but, when it comes to nutrition, the kilocalorie is used, which corresponds to 4184 joules.

To get an idea of ​​the basal metabolic rate of each person, without measuring it directly through specialized tools, the experts in the science of nutrition have developed different formulas, which, starting from information such as age, gender, weight and height , are able to estimate the kilocalories consumed by a body at rest. One of these is the Mifflin-St. Jeor formula: just enter the weight, height, age and a factor that varies according to sex within the mathematical notation and you can get an estimate of the basal metabolic rate. Before running to the calculator, it should be noted that in reality the Mifflin - St. Jeor estimate (or the other formulas for calculating the basal metabolic rate) can also be quite far from reality: in addition to the factors mentioned, in fact, the basal metabolic rate it depends on a myriad of individual variants, even very complex ones.

Losing weight: a question of mathematics

Basal metabolic rate estimates, therefore, we cannot blindly trust. Yet, when you try to lose weight on your own, it often starts from there, because the basic rule for weight loss is that you need to use more energy than what you ingest. First of all, however, it must be said that the basal metabolism does not correspond to the real energy expenditure, which is higher precisely because, in addition to all the vital functions, a living organism eats, uses energy to digest food, moves , think, work. Even considering the energy requirement, the basal metabolic rate is only a part of it.

Around, then, you can find the so-called "do-it-yourself" diets that propose to calculate, even more in spans, the basal metabolic rate, multiplying our weight in kilograms by 30 and then, to obtain the number of calories to consume each day, subtracting 500 from the number obtained. In addition to the fact that these estimates do not take into account the individual factors that really determine how much energy it spends our body, chronically eating less than your basal metabolic rate is not a good idea, because weight loss would not be sustainable in the long term and would give rise to the annoying yo-yo effect.

Take a pen and paper and apply math to the complex biochemical mechanisms that regulate our body weight can be an interesting exercise, but the wisest choice, if we are intent on losing weight, is to discuss energy intake. ethics with a nutrition specialist. And then, often, with all due respect to those who love mathematics, too many calculations are useless: to feel a little lighter, the real golden rule, however trivial, is really to move more and eat a little less ( and better).

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