Nutrition

The Calorie Counting Conundrum

Hello everyone,

We hope you’re having a happy and healthy week. Most of our articles up to this point have been about exercise and running. So today we decided to do a nutrition article. In todays post we will delve deeper into the big ‘C’ word…..Calories. It’s something that comes up always on our social media feeds and on TV. Is everyone’s obsession with calories well informed, or is it a misleading concept? Let’s look at calories in more detail.

A calorie is a unit of energy that the body uses for its’ various functions- like brain usage, liver function, digesting food etc. Every function in the body needs energy to perform the task at hand. If the required energy isn’t available, the body goes into survival mode. If we under-eat, the natural response of the body is to enter a famine or survival state. In this state we cannot perform daily activities at our peak energy levels, not to mind structured exercise. The body will use any available energy to protect the vital organs and store fat, incase the famine continues.

The BMR (basal metabolic rate) is a key indicator of the required calories you need each day. The BMR is the amount of calories you need just for the body to function. This is only relevant if you’re in a rested state all day. Most of us are active either during our daily work or exercise. For example if you BMR is 1000kcal, this means you need to consume 1000kcal just for your body to function. When you add exercise into the mix and daily life, the calories needed for optimum performance greatly increase. If you count your calories and you’re 500kcal under your recommened intake each day for a week, you will lose 1 pound. You will gain one pound if the 500kcal is in excess each day for a week. We’ve seen numerous articles online that state that any food, once consumed, can lead to weight loss. It is true that you can eat ‘bad’ or unhealthy food and still lose weight, as long as the calories are in deficit. The problem is, when you eat rubbish food, the body isn’t getting the required nutrients and nutrition value. Processed food has high levels of sodium and other chemical additives, which when eaten, will leave you feeling wanting more and more food. Processed foods are high in calories when compared to the natural alternatives. For example, let’s say a frozen battered fish filet is 80% fish and 20% processed batter, and the total calories are 600. Now, let’s say you choose the natural filet form, the fish is 100% fish, with no processing, and the calories are only 400. The more expensive choice might be the natural filet, but it’s by far the healthiest option.

All calories are not created equal, there is a good clean calorie and then there’s a processed, bad calorie. If you’re a regular exerciser, you will notice the difference in performance levels after a processed meal versus a naturally sourced meal. We like to use the metaphor “You wouldn’t put dirty fuel in a car, because it wouldn’t run as long, and will damage the engine”. Think of your body as a car!

TOP TIP: An average man’s recommended intake is 2500kcal, for women that figure is 2000kcal. To lose weight you can take in up to 500kcal less than overall recommended intake. However cutting more than 500kcal will result in the survival state, and potential weight gain.

Under-eating

If you’re consuming too few calories, your body will begin to burn muscle as energy instead of carbs and fats. Check your intake, eat until your satisfied and don’t leave the table hungry. Common symptoms can include high levels of fatigue, poor exercise performance, constantly feeling cold etc etc.

Over-eating

If you exercise and eat a natural and balanced diet, you should have no issue with over-eating. The easiest way to over-eat is by consuming processed foods and high calorie foods with little nutritional value, like ice cream, pastries, candies etc. The body doesn’t use this food efficiently. Common indications of over-eating are weight gain, weight gain despite exercising regularly, and a constant craving for food, etc etc.

Take home advice

  • Don’t fret about food quantity and counting calories, focus instead on satisfaction after each meal.
  • More quality foods (vegetables, lean meat, fruit etc), less processed foods (cakes, candies, microwave meals) will result in weight loss.
  • Keep a food diary for a 1 weekend day and 1 weekday, out of curiosity, not to count calories long term. From there, analyse and see if you’re under or over eating, adjust accordingly (rather than counting everyday).
  • A big breakfast is key to fending off evening cravings.
  • Feed your body clean fuel and you will see huge gains.
  • Make small changes each week to clean up your diet/increase calories/decrease calories, to suit your individual needs.
  • Use the calculator below to get an estimated idea, of what your caloric intake should be.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-many-calories-per-day

Consistency is king when it comes to nutrition, give your body what it enjoys and can use efficently…everyday. The sum of weeks and months of good nutrition will lead to a new body and a new state of mind.

There is no perfect diet but the diet should be as balanced, and as naturally sourced as possible and be MAINTAINABLE.

Thank you for reading this post. If you have any comments or questions, please get in touch.

Until next time,

Happy training and eating!

Stephen and Catherine,

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