August 31, 2021

Understanding the Basics of Energy Balance and Weight Management

Written by: Zaakir Shakoor, MSc

What Could You Learn From This Article?

This short article intends to give you a foundational understanding of weight/body composition for our "Understanding the Basics of Weight Management Series."

We will cover what weight gain is and the health implications of excessive weight gain. 

We will go through topics like why we gain weight through a caloric surplus (positive energy balance), why some individuals maintain weight (energy balance), and how people can reduce weight through a caloric deficit (negative energy balance).


What is Weight Gain?

Weight gain is the increase in mass, specifically adipose tissue, more commonly known as body fat.

Weight can also come in the form of lean body mass, which doesn't have the potential to degrade health, but this is less likely amongst sedentary (inactive) people. 

If you keep gaining weight, this can lead to becoming clinically obese. 

We must prevent obesity as it increases the risk of multiple injuries and illnesses. 

Body mass index (BMI) is an excellent indicator of weight status for the 'normal' population.

A simple formula can be used to estimate your body mass index

height (in meters) x height (in meters) = height value

weight (in kilograms)/ height value = BMI

For example, if a male subject had a height of 175cm and a weight of 90kg, the formula would be as followed:

Meter = CM/100

1.75m x 1.75m= 3.0625 and then 90kg/3.0625=29.3. This example subject would be classified as 'overweight' with an increased risk of weight-related health problems and would greatly benefit from losing weight, based on his BMI of 29.3kg/m2

Below I have highlighted the different weight ranges according to the BMI scale


Where do you sit within the BMI scale? 

Healthy range: 19-24kg/m2

Overweight Range: 25-29kg/m2

Obese Range30-39kg/m2

Extremely Obese Range40kg+/m2

(1, 2)


The 5 Main Health Implications Caused by Excessive Weight Gains

#1 Clinical Obesity

 When you gain too much weight, you become classified as clinically obese, putting you at risk for many illnesses. 

#2 Type 2 diabetes millitus 

High blood glucose levels occur from a damaged pancreas which commonly stems from chronic overeating and under-activity. 

At first, an individual is likely to become pre-diabetic, which can be reversed through caloric control and activity.

 If an individual does not act promptly, he/she will likely develop diabetes and then be reliant on specific medicine to help control their blood glucose levels. 


#3 High Blood Pressure 

Being overweight can increase high blood pressure as the heart needs to work harder to pump blood around the body. 


#4 Heart disease 

 As mentioned, obesity can cause the heart to work a lot harder. Not to say, you could expect an irregular ratio of 'bad' to 'good' fat (lipids), which can begin to block the arteries of the heart and leads to poor blood circulation.

Over time the arteries can become entirely blocked, which can then cause

  • Heart failure
  • Cardiac arrest 
  • Angina attack


#5 Stroke 

High blood pressure caused by weight can lead to other conditions known as stroke. Stroke is the bursting of blood vessels in the brain and neck, thus damaging the brain tissue and degrading cognitive functions. 


Take home message

In simple terms, excessive weight gain is Bad for;

  • Blood sugar
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart 
  • Brain

(3, 2)


Why Do We Gain Weight?  

Calories are a unit of energy; that's why we refer to eating as 'energy input' and 'energy output.'

If energy input (calories in from food) topples over energy output (calories out from activity) you would expect to gain some body weight; this is known as a caloric surplus. A caloric surplus can cause weight gain over time.

For example, an individual needs 2000 calories to maintain weight based on lots of different variables like height, weight, age, gender, etc.

If these individuals eat 2700 calories from food but only burn 200 from activity that puts him/her at 2500 calories per day and a 500-calorie surplus. 

Generally, 3500 calories equate to 1lb of body fat, and if the example subject remains inactive, 1lb of weight gain would be expected in the week (500kc x 7 =3500kc).

If you get into poor habits of eating more and more food with low activity levels, there's a chance of weight gain, obesity, and all highlighted illnesses. 

In this day and age, it's so easy to get into bad habits as food is so easily accessible. Activity levels have also been going down. 

Have you felt lazy, so you just picked up your cell phone and ordered 'junk' food?



Basically, you burned next to no calories and ate 1000s. 

Check out the image below to visualize energy in vs. energy out; it shows a caloric surplus.



Related Article (Tool for Weight loss): Guide To Best Wobble Board Reviews


Weight maintenance

Let's say the example individual eats 2500 calories but burns 500 calories from activities. Remember that his metabolic rate sat around 2000 calories? 

This energy intake would put him at energy balance and maintain weight, as shown in the image below. 




Is it Possible to Achieve Weight Loss?  

Of course its possible to lose weight!

In the same way that we gain weight, we can lose it, but we just need to tip the scale the opposite way by perhaps eating less and exercising more.

Let's use the example individual with the maintenance of 2000 calories; if this individual gets 2200 calories from food and burns 500 calories of activity, that is a net energy intake of 1700. 

This creates a 300-calorie deficit, which adds up over time and will promote weight loss, but remember, energy intake will always need to be adjusted to stay at a consistent calorie deficit as body weight influences metabolism. It may come as a surprise, but a lower bodyweight= lower metabolism vice versa. 

Usually, overweight or obese individuals will have a much higher energy balance than 2000 calories (calories to maintain weight). In my experience working with obese patients, 4000 calories would be more realistic, but these individuals still tend to topple over.  

Check out the image below of what a caloric deficit would look like. 



Final Message

The reason for weight gain in 'healthy' individuals is a caloric surplus, vice versa. Excessive weight gain can negatively impact our health, so I cannot stress the importance of weight management. 

Stay tuned for more articles as I dig deeper into manipulating different variables like eating, exercise, none exercise activity etc. To help you stay within a healthy weight range. 



  1. Hill, JO, Wyatt, HR, Peters, JC.  Energy balance and obesity. Circulation. 2012; 106 (1): 126-132.
  2. Douketis, JD, Paradis, G, Keller, H et al.  Canadian guidelines for body weight classification in adults: application in clinical practice to screen for overweight and obesity and to assess disease risk.  Canadian medical association journal. 2005; 172 (8):995-998
  3. Grundy, SM.  Obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2004; 89 (6): 2595-2600.


Article written by Zaakir Shakoor, MSc
Zack Shakoor Kayani was born and raised in the South East of England/London. Zack has attained a bolus of knowledge regarding biosciences through academia and his career experiences. In terms of his educational background, he has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology (Hons.), a Postgraduate diploma in sports nutrition with the International Olympic Committee, and a Master’s of Science in Nutritional Sciences. Zack has been fortunate enough to apply his Exercise Science and Nutrition Knowledge to aid Hundreds if not Thousands of Patients and Athletes, providing 1-1 consultation, Personal training, Information sheets, offering recommendations to collate nutrition and exercise programs, etc. Not to mention, in 2020, he authored a book called ‘Obesity Decoded’

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