Shaping up for summer? Here are some fundamental tips to inform and inspire you. If you can track it, you can improve it.
Welcome to Gizmodo's Get Fit For Summer challenge, powered by the advanced new Fitbit Charge. Each week Danny will be tracking his progress with Fitbit's mobile dashboard and online tools. Mapped routes, steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, floors climbed, active minutes and more.
A few weeks ago I set myself the challenge to shape up a little for summer. Nothing crazy, just positive changes in a healthy direction. The below tips are some of the basic principles I've used as direction. The silly season has lots of sweet and delectable distractions, but once Fitbit sent me over a Charge to track my results and share them with you, I knew I had to stay the course dammit. It's actually been quite fun.
The Simple Maths Of Losing Weight
Regardless of what you are or aren't eating, there's a fundamental formula at the heart of weight loss: you need to burn more energy than you consume. Calorie deficit. Conversely, if we take in more calories than our bodies use, the spare energy is stored as fat.
Next equation: A 7500 calorie deficit in a week equals 1kg weight loss. If you're under about 100kg, it's generally considered that 0.5kg per week is a healthy target for weight loss (1kg should really be your maximum). I can't stress enough that it depends on your individual situation and health. If you're unsure, check with your doctor or nutritionist.
Personally, I want to lose a couple of kilos over summer; maybe get down to 80kg. I need a deficit of 3750 calories per week, or about 535 calories a day.
The good news is that we burn calories just by getting up, brushing our teeth and going to work each day. How much is determined by our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it depends on individual factors like your weight, height, age, gender and general level of activity.
I'm 35, 185cm, 83kg and exercise moderately. According to the NSW Government Health's calculator at 8700.com.au, I could eat about 2500 to 3000 calories a day and hold my current weight (with my current level of exercise also maintained). But to lose half a kilo each week, 8700.com.au recommends I consume about 2000 to 2600 calories a day.
Note: The 8700.com.au calculator reports figures in kilojoules. So divide your results by 4.2 to get calories as 1 calorie = 4.2 kilojoules.
Thankfully, modern trackers like the Fitbit handle all these sorts of calculations for you — and provide more personalised estimates for what you need to achieve to reach your goals, including how long it'll take to reach them.
Tracking Your Food
In Fitbit's case, part of that can optionally include starting a food plan. Tracking intake helps keep you mindful of not only what types of food you're eating, but also how much and when. And for me, portion control is what I've often struggled with.
Tracking food isn't for everyone, though. And that's OK. I'm not overly obsessive about it and Fitbit's app removes much of the data entry hassle to let me geek out on (and be motivated by) pretty dashboard stats. If you've got an iPhone or iPad, the latest Fitbit app includes enhanced food logging with a barcode scanner. Android users like myself will also get this redesigned interface in the New Year.
I've also long been a big fan of MyFitnessPal, a dedicated calorie-counting app/website that has a crowed-sourced database with many Australian foods. Turns out that MyFitnessPal syncs wonderfully with Fitbit, which opens up further food tracking options. Once the integration is set up with a few clicks on the site, just exclusively log all food and activity through MyFitnessPal to avoid duplicate tracking.
Meanwhile, the Australian government has lots of great refresher information on dietary guidelines, and most of us are across the basics of healthy eating anyway, even if we tend to conveniently ignore/forget sometimes.
The 80/20 Rule
No, I'm not talking about the 40/20 start from Rugby League, or the 'Pareto Principle' where, in broad terms, 80 per cent of effects stem from 20 per cent of causes.
In a healthy eating sense, 80:20 refers to the philosophy that as long as you eat healthy 80 per cent of the time, you can indulge in your favourite treats 20 per cent of the time. In other words, cut yourself some slack and seek positive long-term eating adjustments, not crash diets. When losing weight, you need to eat a balanced diet to fuel your body, kick start your metabolism and minimise muscle loss.
Bonus round: You may also heard that losing weight is 80 per cent diet and 20 per cent exercise. The exact ratio is up for debate, but there is some essential truth there.
As your fitness progresses and your confidence grows, you'll hopefully be looking for a few new challenges to keep you motivated. That's where new classes, sport and all sorts of fun stuff comes in. You might even create a friend network on Fitbit and challenge each other for most steps to earn badges.
One new area I've been looking at lately: fitness tests. Sites like Bodybuilding.com and TopEndSports are fantastic resources to learn about everything from beep tests for cardio (download an app and head down the park!) to your maximum weight reps to your v02 max aerobic capabilities.
You'll even find the AFL reaction time test. Now that's a challenge!
So what happens to all the fat once you lose it? Apparently most of it goes into thin air...