The amount of energy you burn each day, in calories, is known as your TDEE – your total daily energy expenditure.
It’s the sum of how many calories you burn at rest (known as your RMR) plus the number of calories you burn doing your daily activities, digesting food and other bodily functions when you’re not resting.
For you to maintain your weight and not increase body fat, your energy expenditure (TDEE) should be matched by the energy in the food and drink you consume. The number of calories in what you eat and drink is known as your ‘maintenance calories’.
Therefore, your maintenance calories and your TDEE are two very important numbers because, knowing them means you can work out what you can eat in order to lose body fat, maintain weight or gain muscle.
But they are just numbers. Or, rather, they are estimates or calculations of numbers. You DO NOT need to obsess over them and you don’t even need to know them, especially if your main goal is to lose body fat. Why? Because at the end of the day your body weight will show pretty conclusively if you are hitting your maintenance calories.
Consider this analogy, where your height is your maintenance calories and a bridge you walk under is your TDEE.
If you have been measured as 5'7" tall but bang your head every time you walk under the bridge that declares a clearance of 5'9" there is no point in re-measuring either the bridge or yourself - you are too tall for it! To walk under the bridge you need to duck down (reduce your calories), whatever the sign on the bridge (your calculated TDEE) says.
Forget about the numbers. Getting under the bridge is an empirical exercise. Either your height or the bridge clearance – or both – has been calculated incorrectly. You can’t change the height of the bridge but you can duck.
In the same vein, if you are putting on fat, you are eating more than your maintenance calories, regardless of whatever any formula or machine says it is or however many calories you think you are consuming every day (or how active you think you are). You need to reduce calorie intake until you stop putting on weight, and then duck down some more (go into a calorie deficit) so you start losing weight.
Many people come to Bodyscan wanting an accurate measure of their RMR and maintenance calories because “I’m eating less than maintenance and I’m still not losing weight.” Well, if you’re not losing weight you are NOT eating less than maintenance! Rather than try to make RMR/maintenance fit consumption, you need to change consumption to fit your TDEE!
If people see an increase in body fat fat when they "are in a calorie deficit" it's because, pure and simple, they are NOT in a calorie deficit! This is because
a) they are eating more than they think they are
b) they are less active than they think they are
c) both of the above
Tracking calories is notoriously difficult and unreliable; on average people underreport their calorie intake by about 47% and over-reporting energy expenditure by about 50%.
It may well be easier to track what you currently eat and adjust from there.
1) A decrease in Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)
As we age, we burn fewer calories. One reason for this is the decline in resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the number of calories we burn at rest. This has been shown to fall linearly with age. The fewer calories we burn, the fewer calories we must eat to maintain our weight, and so adherence to a deficit becomes more challenging.
2) Lifestyle changes
Typically our lifestyles at 50+ are not the same as they were when we were 25. Our activity levels are far lower, and so our energy expenditures are also far lower. 
So how do we overcome these hurdles?
One way we can help prevent the RMR from declining is by maintaining muscle mass. One of the reasons our RMR falls as we age, is because skeletal muscle mass tends to decline as we get older . There are other factors which contribute to the decrease in RMR (eg, a decrease in sodium-potassium pump activity) so some slowdown may be inevitable. However, by weight-training and preserving as much skeletal muscle mass as we can, we can mitigate as much as possible the decline in RMR and stop body fat increasing.
As for lifestyle, we simply need to keep as active as possible. More sitting around and less activity will lead to fat accumulation. Staying active will keep energy expenditure high, and thus make fat-loss easier. While we may lose speed and agility, walking, swimming, cycling and other low-impact activities are all good ways to burn calories. Better to move slowly than not at all.
To sum up, those who maintain the same activity level and who continue to weight train into older age, see just as good results. Take the example of Albert (results below), 66 years old, who in the space of 3 months lost over 6kg (a stone). Not only that, but the vast majority of it (5.1kg) was body fat; less than a kilo was lean mass. In our experience, people often lose 1kg of lean mass for every 3kg of fat, so not only has he done better than most, but he has done so at 66 years of age (our clients' median age is 37). Age is just a number, don’t let it define your results.
Given the disruption to our daily routine and built-in habits, many are panicking about gaining body fat, losing muscle and the potential implications for our general health and well-being.
This is on top of the stress, anxiety and uncertainty we’re all experiencing. It’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed and find yourself mindlessly eating/snacking due to the monotony, boredom and stress of our current situation.
To help combat the constant fridge-raiding, here I give you some tangible tips on how to manage your nutrition, health, well-being and sanity!
1) Your Food Environment
This is the number one area that you have control over. The food you bring into your home matters. Surrounding yourself with highly palatable/junk-type food leads to overeating. Do not purchase foods that you cannot control yourself around, especially packets of things like crisps, biscuits and snacks - who can eat only one crisp?! Out of sight, out of mind. Instead, keep nutritious, filling foods in the house that you enjoy and satisfy you.
2) Mindless snacking
Try not to consume meals/snacks when distracted (eg, when watching TV) as this can increase your food and overall calorie intake.
3) Develop your cooking skills
With more time on our hands, lockdown is a great opportunity to hone your cooking skills and develop your recipe repertoire. Cooking homemade meals in bulk is an easy way for you to continue to consume nutritious meals and practise portion control, plus it’s a money-saver!
Maintaining some routine can provide mental clarity and structure to your day. My clients and I have found this to be extremely beneficial. You can create a daily routine, or a weekly structure as a method to maintain some normality. I’d recommend including regular meal and bed/wake times, a set training/exercise schedule, and regular social interaction (e.g. video/phone chats).
5) Keeping active
Walking or any formal cardio is an easy way to stay healthy, improve mood, enhance cognition, reduce anxiety and keep a lid on body fat. I strongly encourage adding in some form of weight bearing or resistance exercise (e.g. dumbbells or bodyweight) to maintain and/or gain muscle tissue. Pick an activity that you enjoy and focus on how great it makes you feel afterwards.
6) Exposure to light early in the day
Where possible, aim to get some natural light exposure earlier in the day to help regulate your biological clock or circadian rhythm.
Sleep is one of the most important and perhaps underrated aspects of our lifestyle that plays a crucial role in our health. Sleep is restorative, and a lack of it can disrupt many systems in your body that protect you and keep you functioning at your best, including your immune system. Prioritise your sleep - this is the perfect opportunity to start creating healthy sleep habits.
8) Stay connected – mental health
During isolation it’s super important to stay connected. With modern technology, it’s easy to check-in with family, friends and loved ones. Reach out, communicate and ask if they’re okay or if there is anything you can do to help.
Stay positive and, for everyone's sake, stay at home as much as possible!
Nutritionist and Bodyscan Consultant
My favourite piece of home equipment is a suspension trainer (TRX, pic below). This is hugely versatile, takes up little room and allows anyone of any fitness level to get a very effective workout for the full body whether the goal is losing body fat or gaining muscle.
A pull-up bar (these can be installed in a door frame, as above) is another good buy, and both this and the TRX will serve you well long after lockdown is over.
Many people struggle to get into the good habit of motivating themselves to train from home and end up cutting their workouts short. 'Little but often' is the key here - if you’re feeling lazy or unmotivated, a 50-60 minute session may seem unappealing but most people could commit to 20-30 minutes pretty easily.
With bodyweight exercises, I’d advise taking all your sets to the point of failure (where you physically can't do any more) to ensure you’re challenging your body. Without the heavy loads, this is essential to still make the exercises effective, especially when it comes down to muscle and strength.
You can also look to increase the total number of sets you do by 25%. Due to the lighter loading, you will be able to recover more easily.
If you've got no equipment at all, here are some of the best bodyweight exercises you can do. Make sure you have good form on all of these.
Some real results from home workouts
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