Tag Archives: Calorie

Lesson from wearing a heart rate monitor for 24 hours

I decided to see how many calories I would burn in 24 hours by wearing my Polar heart rate monitor the entire day. I thought I had a pretty good idea just how many calories I would burn in 24 hours based on other tests, but I wanted to test two things. First, how accurate are these heart rate monitors, and second, if it proves accurate, how close was I to being correct. Based on my body fat testing (done by bioelectrical impedance) my basal metabolic rate is about 2100 calories per 24 hours. Basal metabolic rate is defined as the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to keep vital functions going, such as breathing and keeping warm. With that knowledge in mind, I assumed day-to-day I probably burn about 2500 calories (after all, I’m not at rest ALL day). That would be on a non-workout day. However, I wanted to do this test on a day I exercised. So with all that information I calculated I would burn about 3,000 calories in 24 hours on a workout day. Here is what I learned:

My total burn was 3,238 calories in 24 hours. Not too bad. I was a little low on my assumption, but I also assumed my workout would burn 500-600 calories. It ended up burning 800 calories. That makes my estimate just about spot on.

24 hours. 3,238 calories.

24 hours. 3,238 calories.

Sitting is bad:

While seated and doing desk work (like I am at the moment), my heart rate touches the high 40’s but is mostly in the low 50’s range. While standing and doing miscellaneous work stuff, my heart rate is in the mid 60’s to low 70’s. This makes a huge difference and is congruent with research that shows people with sedentary jobs have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and higher mortality rates. The lesson? Get up and move.

I don’t eat enough:

In the back of my mind, I knew this. There are plenty of days where I get busy and cannot have a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. I need to be better about that, especially on the days I exercise. In the 24 hours I also kept track of my calories with a calorie-counting app. According to it, I consumed just over 2,500 calories. Clearly a deficit, but not necessarily a bad thing. It all depends on what you’re going for. For me, I know I do better when I at least approximate my caloric expenditure.

Heart healthy:

My average heart rate over 24 hours was just 64 beats per minute. This number is quite good. I was happy to see it. My maximum heart rate was 179 during my workout.

Burn, burn, burn:

I burn through just over 100 (somewhere between 100-110) calories an hour while awake and just under 100 calories an hour while sleeping (about 80/hour). This total excludes my exercise for the day. That is about what I expected it to be.

My heart monitor seems to be pretty accurate:

Based on the body fat testing and basal metabolic rate calculation, my heart rate monitor did a pretty good job accurately predicting calorie burn in accordance with the bioelectrical testing I did the week before.

I think the moral of the story is if you want to have the wiggle room in your diet to eat more food, you need to get up and move. I challenge anyone to try and eat 3,200 healthy calories today. It’s much harder than you think. The more you move, the more muscle you build which only adds to your ability to burn energy.

8 Comments

Filed under Diet

‘What’ you eat is more important than ‘How Much.’

The Hat in Rancho Cucamonga California

Image via Wikipedia

Finally a large-scale study has concluded what I have been telling patients for years! What you eat is more important than how much of it you eat.  A calorie is not a calorie!

If you ask many classically trained dietitians about maintaining a healthy weight they will regurgitate the same old rhetoric they always have – “as long as you don’t eat more calories than you expend you won’t gain weight,” and “there are no bad foods, just bad amounts of food.”

The above statements have never made sense to me.  I remember taking ‘advanced biology’ in high school.  (There was nothing really ‘advanced’ about it. It was just the second of two courses, the first being ‘basic’ biology.)  In this class I remember learning about physiology and how the body responded differently to different types of food.  Some foods caused the release of insulin while others caused little or no release of this hormone.  The job of this hormone? It basically tells the body to store fat.  From that information I concluded that what you ate had to make a difference in your weight.

As I progressed through my eduction in college (as a biology major) and then on to chiropractic school where I truly received advanced training, my view did not change – the quality of food that I ate had to make a difference on maintaining my weight.  It could not possibly be as simple as calorie-in/calorie-out.

Yet when you read information online or from other mainstream media outlets you will hear just the opposite. “Eat whatever you want, just be sure it’s in moderation.” Or “It doesn’t matter what kind of food you eat as long as it’s low calorie.”

A new study of just over 120,000 people finally has come up with a conclusion that makes more sense.  Hopefully the American Dietetic Association will take notice.  Individually there are some very good dietitians out there, but the American Dietetic Association is making people sicker and sicker with their stance on many aspects of health in my opinion.

The researchers analyzed data on three separate studies over a 20-year period, tracking the long-term effects of different foods and lifestyle changes on more than 120,000 men and women. Adults in the study gained an average of 3.35 pounds every four years, for a total average weight gain of almost 17 pounds.

Regular consumption of potato chips, French fries and sugared beverages were most to blame for slow and steady weight gain. However, people who ate yogurt, fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains either lost weight or gained the least.

Now, I will be the first person to tell you that weight is not the be-all, end-all of health markers.  It’s a good one, but there are plenty of thin people in this world who are very unhealthy.  Also, I generally do not recommend grains be a big part of anyone’s diet.  In small amounts they are ok, but they contribute to inflammation which can be problematic for many reasons.

The other foods in this study – yogurt, fruits, vegetables and nuts – are free foods! Eat them as much as you want.  I routinely encourage people to eat these foods as much as possible.

Interestingly, nuts are a high calorie food yet they performed very well in helping people lose or maintain their weight.  If it truly was about calorie-in/calorie-out then nuts should have performed poorly.  It just goes to show you it isn’t about the calories that we’re putting in, it’s about the quality of those calories.

As much as I’d like to say it’s only about the quality of our food that matters, I cannot.  The amount matters to a certain extent.  If you are regularly consuming 7,000 calories per day you will gain weight.  That type of excess cannot be combated with ‘good’ foods.  However, to get that kind of extra calorie one would have to consume huge amounts of the ‘bad’ foods like fast food, doughnuts, etc.  Those clearly are not quality foods in the first place.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital is the author of the study that appears in the New England Journal of Medicine.  He says the calorie-in/calorie-out theory is incorrect “because different foods have a different effect on the body. ‘You can’t just say a calorie is a calorie. It doesn’t address your feelings of fullness, your blood glucose levels, your blood insulin levels and the other biological responses in your body.”

I could not agree more and this has been my point to other ‘experts’ on nutrition when we debate the calorie-in/calorie-out theory.

Let me pose this scenario to you –

Two people are going to embark on an experiment.  They are going to eat identical calorie diets for the next year.  One person is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in potato chips and the other is going to eat 2,000 calories per day in chicken and vegetables.  Who will be healthier and have the most optimal weight at the end of our experiment?  Intuitively we would say the person eating the chicken and vegetables would be and I believe this is correct.

There have been many short-term studies that have concluded healthy diets only need to focus on calorie content.  The quality of the food was not important for maintaining weight.  Finally a study has looked long-term and concluded that the quality of your food is important. Make sure your choices are good choices.  If you focus on the quality of your food you will maintain your weight more effectively than counting those calories.

5 Comments

Filed under Diet, Public Health

Thanksgiving Weight Gain – Fact or Fiction?

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

Image via Wikipedia

It’s the start of the Holiday Season!  I love the holidays.  Food, fun and family.  It’s a great time of year for those things. It’s not a great time of year for most of us in terms of our health, however.  But, instead of focusing on the bad things, I want to fill you in on a health myth that surrounds Thanksgiving.  Hopefully I can put your mind at ease and you can enjoy your Thanksgiving just a little bit more.

Myth – I will gain 5 pounds from eating too much this weekend

This blog comes from something a patient said to me this morning about gaining weight this weekend.  I thought it would be a good topic to analyze and share with you all.

Weight gain is an interesting subject.  People are often very concerned about how much weight they gain over the entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to the New Year.  If you look at the statistics, most people are rightfully concerned.  The average American will gain 12 pounds over the holiday season!  That’s a lot to gain in just 6 weeks.

If the average American gains 12 pounds over 6 weeks then how could someone gain an entire 5 pounds over the course of this long weekend?  Is it possible?  If you ask many men and women across the country they will tell you it is.  I’ve had many patients tell me that they have weighed themselves before and after Thanksgiving and found they’ve easily gained 5 pounds in one weekend.  Fortunately, they are confusing what the scale says with actual weight gain.  Let me explain.

In order to gain 5 pounds of fat in just 4 days a person would have to consume an inordinate amount of food over that 4 day span.  One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories so five pounds of fat contains 17,500 calories.  You might be thinking, ‘I could eat 17,500 calories over this 4 day binge no problem.’  That may be the case but you have to remember that you will burn calories as well.  These calories are required for your heart to beat, for you to breathe, for your brain to function, etc.  The list could go on and on.  Essentially, given an average metabolism, you would have to consume an extra 17,500 calories over a 4 day period.  This does not apply if you are insulin resistant or have other hormonal problems.  Although it would still be difficult to gain 5 pounds in 4 days, keep that in mind.

Let’s put that into perspective –

The average person will burn about 2,000 calories in a day.  So over this 4 day holiday weekend a person would burn about 8,000 calories assuming no exercise is taking place.  That means to gain 5 pounds you would need to consume a total of 25,500 calories over the 4 day weekend.  That’s 6,375 calories per day!  That’s a lot of calories.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the average American will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day.  That’s no where near the required 6,375 needed to jump start this 5 pound weight gain.  And remember, you’d need to consume 6,375 calories everyday over the weekend to gain 5 pounds.

‘So then why does my scale read 5 pounds heavier on Monday?’ I hear you saying.  This is likely from water retention.  Between the meal, the alcohol and the lack of physical movement water begins to accumulate in all areas of the body.  Water weighs a lot and this is reflected on the scale when you check it.  Basically, it is a physiologic impossibility to actually gain 5 pounds of fat in 4 days.  Remember, the scale is only measuring your weight, not fat.  Many factors will affect your weight.  Try not to confuse what you weigh with actual weight gain.  In this case one does not equal the other.  Phew!

Now, this is not to say that you will not gain any weight over the holiday weekend.  You might, but it can be avoided.  Stay active and make your worst day Thanksgiving.  Don’t continue it through Sunday.  If you return to healthy eating habits and exercise after Thursday there is no reason for weight gain over this weekend.  Keep that in mind and enjoy!

3 Comments

Filed under Diet