Understanding Energy Balance: The Key to Optimal Weight

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Understanding Energy Balance: The Key to a Healthy Weight

Date of Content: March 6, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


Have you ever heard the phrase “calories in, calories out”? This simple concept forms the foundation of energy balance, a crucial factor in weight management and overall wellness. But what exactly is energy balance, and how can you achieve it?

Energy In vs. Energy Out

Energy balance refers to the relationship between the calories you consume through food and drinks (energy in) and the calories your body burns (energy out).  The “calories”, more exactly measured as kilocalories (kcal), are units of energy that your body uses to perform various functions, from breathing and digestion to physical activity.

  • Energy In: This comes from everything you eat and drink.  Different foods and beverages contain varying amounts of calories.
  • Energy Out:  This is the total amount of energy your body expends throughout the day. It can be broken down into three main components:
    • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):  The number of calories your body burns at rest to maintain essential functions like circulation and respiration.
    • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)The energy your body uses to digest and absorb nutrients from food.
    • Physical Activity:  This includes all forms of movement, from daily activities like walking to planned exercise sessions.
Energy Balance

The Importance of Energy Balance

When your energy intake equals your energy output, you are in a state of energy balance, which means your weight will likely remain stable.  If you consistently consume more calories than you burn, you create a positive energy balance. This excess energy is stored as fat, leading to weight gain.  Conversely, if you burn more calories than you consume, you are in a negative energy balance, which can result in weight loss.

How Genetics May Influence Energy Balance

Understanding how genetics may influence energy balance is crucial for tailoring wellness strategies. Genetic factors play a significant role in how the body handles and uses energy, and exploring specific genes provides insights into the individualized aspects of nutrition and wellness.

UCP1 Gene 

The uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), located in brown adipose tissue, significantly influences energy balance through its role in thermogenesis—generating heat by uncoupling nutrient oxidation from ATP synthesis.

Certain genetic variations in the UCP1 gene, particularly the C/C genotype of the SNP rs1800592, are associated with diminished resting energy expenditure (REE) and reduced sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, indicating impaired UCP1-linked thermogenesis. 

This reduced thermogenic capacity may lead to inefficient energy dissipation as heat, potentially contributing to increased energy storage as fat.

Recognizing the impact of UCP1 genetics on energy balance underscores the need for personalized approaches to nutrition and health tailored to individual genetic profiles.

FTO Gene

The FTO gene, implicated in obesity, governs mitochondrial thermogenesis within adipocyte precursor cells in a tissue-autonomous manner. A disruptive SNP, rs1421085 T-to-C variant, within FTO, compromises a conserved motif for the ARID5B repressor, leading to enhanced IRX3 and IRX5 expression during early adipocyte differentiation. This genetic cascade prompts a developmental shift from energy-dissipating beige to energy-storing white adipocytes, reducing mitochondrial thermogenesis fivefold and increasing lipid storage.

Beyond cellular dynamics, FTO gene variations impact energy balance at an organismal level. In murine models, inhibiting Irx3 in adipose tissue lowers body weight and enhances energy dissipation, independently of changes in physical activity or appetite. Targeting IRX3 or IRX5 in primary adipocytes from risk allele carriers restores thermogenesis, highlighting the direct influence of FTO genetic variations on energy balance modulation.

AMPD1 Gene 

The AMPD gene, encoding the enzyme adenosine monophosphate deaminase, primarily contributes to energy balance through its role in cellular energy metabolism. Adenosine monophosphate deaminase is a key enzyme involved in the regulation of cellular adenosine nucleotide levels.

By catalyzing the deamination of adenosine monophosphate (AMP) to inosine monophosphate (IMP), AMPD influences the cellular AMP: ATP ratio, thereby acting as a crucial modulator of energy homeostasis.  Notably, persons with an AA genotype of the AMPD1 SNP  rs17602729 can have AMPD1 deficiency leading to diminished cellular energy. 

Furthermore, the intricate regulation of exon 2 inclusion within the AMPD gene, as revealed by the complex interplay of intronic sequences, suggests a potential link between AMPD expression and cellular energy dynamics. The cell type-dependent inclusion of exon 2 and the involvement of myocyte-specific factors underscore the nuanced role of AMPD in muscle-related processes. 

Further studies elucidating the downstream effects of AMPD expression on cellular energy utilization and metabolism will deepen our understanding of how genetic variations within the AMPD gene may influence overall energy balance and contribute to physiological outcomes.

Genetic exploration of energy balance reveals how different genes impact vital metabolic processes. Bridging genetics and energy balance opens the door to personalized wellness strategies, aligning our genetic makeup with optimal well-being.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Energy Balance

Several factors come into play when considering an individual’s energy balance needs, contributing to how the body utilizes and expends calories.

  • Age: One pivotal factor is age, as the basal metabolic rate (BMR) tends to diminish with advancing years, primarily due to a reduction in muscle mass. This decline translates to a lower calorie burn at rest as individuals progress through different life stages.
  • Gender: Gender is another influential element, with men typically exhibiting a higher BMR than women, largely attributable to their naturally larger muscle mass. Body composition also holds significance, as muscle tissue consumes more calories than fat. Individuals with a higher percentage of muscle mass generally experience a higher BMR, reflecting the energy demands of maintaining muscle.
  • Hormones: Hormones contribute to the equation, with fluctuations during life events such as pregnancy or menopause affecting BMR.
  • Medications: Certain medications can influence metabolism and energy expenditure, further complicating individual energy balance.
  • Activity Level: Activity level, a factor within an individual’s control, plays a crucial role. The more physically active an individual is, the more calories they burn throughout the day, significantly contributing to overall energy balance.

Understanding and acknowledging these diverse factors can empower individuals to customize their approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy energy balance. By recognizing the interconnected nature of age, gender, body composition, genetics, hormones, medications, and activity level, individuals can make informed lifestyle choices that align with their unique metabolic needs.

Reaching Energy Balance

While achieving a perfect daily balance might not be realistic, aiming for balance over time is key for healthy weight management. Here are some tips:

  • Be mindful of your calorie intake: Consider portion sizes and choose nutrient-rich foods.
  • Increase your physical activity:  Incorporate regular exercise into your routine, even if it starts with small changes like taking the stairs or going for a walk.

Remember, everyone’s energy needs are different. As discussed, several factors influence how many calories your body burns. Consulting a registered dietitian or healthcare professional can help you determine your specific kilocalorie (kcal) needs and develop a personalized plan for achieving energy balance.

About the LifeDNA Fitness Report

Imagine having personalized insights into your unique genetic traits related to fitness and well-being. This is where the LifeDNA Fitness Report steps in. Going beyond generic advice, this tool provides tailored recommendations based on your genetic code, offering a holistic perspective on your strengths and weaknesses in terms of fitness. By unlocking your genetic insights, you can take proactive steps towards a brighter, more informed lifestyle with the LifeDNA Wellness Report. Get it today!


  • Understanding energy balance involves recognizing the relationship between calories consumed (energy in) and calories burned (energy out). This balance determines weight stability, with excess calories leading to weight gain and deficits resulting in weight loss.
  • Genetic factors, such as UCP1, FTO, and AMPD gene variations, significantly impact energy balance. UCP1 influences thermogenesis and fat storage, while FTO and AMPD genes regulate mitochondrial function and cellular energy metabolism, respectively.
  • Genetic variations in the UCP1 gene, particularly the C/C genotype of SNP rsrs1800592, are associated with diminished thermogenesis and reduced energy expenditure. This impaired thermogenic capacity may contribute to increased energy storage as fat, highlighting the importance of personalized nutrition and health approaches.
  • The FTO gene plays a critical role in mitochondrial thermogenesis and adipocyte differentiation. Genetic variations in FTO impact energy balance at cellular and organismal levels, influencing body weight and energy dissipation.
  • The AMPD gene modulates cellular energy metabolism by regulating adenosine nucleotide levels. The AA genotype of the AMPD1 SNP rs17602729 can lead to AMPD1 deficiency and diminished cellular energy. 
  •  Age, gender, hormones, medications, and activity level are non-genetic factors that influence energy balance. Understanding these factors empowers individuals to make informed lifestyle choices that align with their unique metabolic needs.
  • Achieving and maintaining energy balance involves mindful calorie intake and regular physical activity. Consulting healthcare professionals can help individuals determine their specific calorie needs and develop personalized plans for healthy weight management.


  1. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/healthy-weight-basics/balance.htm
  2. https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6003580/
  3. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2010261
  5. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1502214
  6. https://www.jbc.org/article/S0021-9258(20)79650-X/fulltext

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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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