Calories – Beyond Eating ‘Clean’.
If you gained the fundamental knowledge, principles and application to get lean, improve health and vitality almost effortlessly following just just one week of focus and attention on learning about food and its energy value – would you do it?
If it’s yes, then what you read here will be of huge value to you.
Mentioning the word calories generally puts peoples back up in the fitness industry, why?
Because many associate this word with obsessive behaviour and envision continuous counting, stress and meticulous meal preparation.
Ideas of extremely low carbohydrate, downright miserable diets come to mind (atkins, paleo etc).
I’ve tried these and failed miserably. If this is what it really took to get lean – I would not have done it.
These thoughts and assumptions about fat loss were actually my own, for a very long time.
As a result I rejected the idea of calories and energy balance – did what most others do which is chronically over train and (although I ate good, clean food) chronically under eat.
The result? Zero tangible progress.
Incorrect nutrition is one of the single biggest detrimental factors people face on their mission to both shred body fat and/or gain muscle.
I don’t know about you, but training 4 + times per week and not consistently seeing improvement is simply a terrible return on investment in time and money.
Getting lean, fit and strong is purely about correct training intensity (load), volume and frequency to provide the stimulus. What governs how the body adapts to this stimulus is purely through our diets.
Incorrect nutrition = extremely limited/zero adaptation to the stimulus.
So we must accept the laws of energy balance, stop winging it and learn how calories apply to us and our goals. .
Our total daily energy expenditure (total calories burned) is calculated from our weight, height and activity level. Our total daily energy expenditure consists of the following:
- Basal metabolic rate: This is the amount of energy we burn per day with zero physical activity (i.e lying in bed all day). Calories here are burned by the body to keep us alive i.e. breathing, digestion, brain function, heart pumping – all essential processes with will burn energy to keep us ticking.
- Thermic effect of food: The number of calories burned from digesting and absorbing food. Digestion of Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates all in their own right burn slightly different amounts.
No… this doesn’t mean lying in bed all day, demolishing a huge bag of Cheetos to burn more calories!
- Thermic effect of activity: Calories burned through activity.
There are quite a few formulas out there to go on here. Through experience, application and trial and error they’re all fairly accurate and work pretty well.
One thing to note is that there is usually a margin for error – for men it’s generally + or – 200 calories and women + or – 100 calories.
So – how this works and applies to you.
The outright simplest formula out there is based on the Harris –Benedict equation.
Grab your weight in pounds and multiply by 10. This figure will give you a good approximate of basal metabolic rate. This works exactly the same for girls.
Eg. 170lb male
170 x 10 = 1700 calories
From this point – if you’re going to be training hard 3-4 times per week, with light activity of some form on most days (that is, literally just moving around) I’ve found multiplying your bodyweight in pounds by 15/16 pretty darn accurate.
Eg. 170lb male, training 3 or 4 times per week and fairly active on off days.
170 x 15 = 2550 calories – this is the approximate daily intake level needed to maintain existing weight. No muscle gain, no fat loss – just maintain.
This is a good base line to shoot for as most training protocols which are effective for fat loss and especially muscle gain will have the individual in the gym 3 – 4 times per week.
Now – this formula only works on individuals with moderate body fat levels.
Let me explain..
Lean body tissue is what burns calories as it’s active.
Fat mass is dead weight.
If we have a man who is 100 kilos and 25 – 30% or over body fat (overweight – obese). Simply multiplying total body weight in lbs to achieve our calorie set point won’t work – it’ll be a huge over estimate.
Not to mention, the more fat we have to lose the higher the calorie deficit we can get away with – especially in the beginning.
For this it’s necessary to go off calculations from lean body mass instead and not total body weight.
I won’t go into these equations now (I will do in the future) – but just so you know.
So back to it.
For our 170 lb male above, we have a basal metabolic rate at 1700 calories, daily expenditure of 2550 calories.
To lose weight – we’ve got get this guy or girl eating consistently below their daily expenditure, but not below his basal metabolic rate.
It really is this simple for an individual to get their body fat down to a normal, healthy level.
The issue I see most is this.
Under eating (just like I did).
I’ve worked with people who ‘think’ they’re eating a lot, but when breaking it down we actually discover their eating 1500 – 2000 calories per day, and the intake is literally all over the place.
Huge upswing one day with a huge downswing the next.
What comes with this?
Mental fatigue, sluggishness, feeling weak in workouts, lack of motivation, headaches, you name it and yes, you guessed it… zero progression.
This is where understanding the energy balance of food and applying it consistently day in, day out will get the metabolism burning to the level it should be.
I can almost guarantee when this happens and the calories are coming from optimum levels of Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat – the above symptoms, over time, will evaporate into thin air (subject to other variables i.e. adequate water intake, sleep etc).
Does moderating intake at this level involve eating cardboard and most importantly mean sacrificing the foods you love? Hell. No.
Understanding the calorie set point means pretty much fitting in what you like as long as you stick to the set point.
So Andrew, does this mean I can just get it all from chocolate?
No, although it technically can be done (proven by one mad individual set out to prove we can dramatically reduce BMI and body fat levels through doing so – see here). This is an extreme – we avoid extremes. In this instance it can’t be done purely because foods like chocolate / pizza etc are very calorie dense. Put it this way, eating 4 chocolate bars per day would blow out calories to be obtained from Carbohydrates and Fat – hence why it’s not possible. These foods are also deficient in micro nutrients which over time will do the individual zero favours from a health standpoint.
People tend to sweat the small stuff with fitness. Worrying about:
– Carbohydrate intake after 6 pm making them fat
– Whether it’s best to eat before or after a workout
– Being constantly ‘fed’ otherwise muscle will waste away.
– The best supplements to be taking
– When’s best to train in the day
– How a new super food will help get them ripped.
The list goes on.
What I will say is this….
Losing weight is purely about:
– Moderating food intake consistently
– Being in a moderate energy deficit
– Obtaining the calories from the right balances of Protein, Carbohydrate and Fat.
This really the starting point. Hope you’ve found this one useful and our aim was to deliver some formulas which can be applied to get you started on your journey.
If you’re interested in specific 12 week coaching to lose fat, build muscle and dramatically improve your health – drop us a message. We’d love to discuss your situation and show you how we can help.