Who should count calories, and why?
This is probably one of the most disputed questions in nutrition.
Should we count calories?
Well, I’m sorry to disappoint but there isn’t exactly a yes or no answer to this one.
You see, first and foremost it depends on your goals.
If your goal is simply to feel fitter, have more energy, perform better at sport – counting calories, in most cases, is not necessary.
The way we would work in this instance is through a simple process of trial and error.
Working out what food types, in what quantities, at what times make you feel awesome!
Strictly speaking, to perform optimally, we want to be eating as much great, nutritionally dense food as humanly possible, up to the point where we start gaining weight.
That’s when our bodies will work at their best!
If your goal however involves body composition (the percentage of fat, muscle and water in the human body),
In other words, if you want to look better / feel better about the way you look naked, counting calories MAY just be necessary.
As the simple diagram above shows, on a very basic level, our bodies work on a calories in, calories out basis.
It’s rarely disputed that if we consume more calories than we burn, we WILL gain weight, however, if we burn more calories that we consume we WILL lose weight.
And on this basic level, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re over eating chocolate and biscuits or chicken and broccoli.
If you’re calorie intake exceeds your calories expenditure you WILL gain weight.
I’m going to use Joe Wicks (AKA The Body Coach / AKA Lean in 15 guy) as an example for a moment.
Please don’t get me wrong, I think Joe is fantastic, he’s encouraging the consumption of natural, healthy, nutritionally dense whole foods, lots of protein and lots of other great practices.
I use his recipes myself, and recommend them to clients.
HOWEVER, in following this principle people are, whilst massively improving their quality of food, also massively increasing their calorie intake, and if calorie expenditure doesn’t go up, this could spell weight gain!
So please, carry on following Joe, or whoever else works for you, but remember if you’re a 5ft 5″ 60kg female office worker, you should NOT be following the same recipe as your 6ft 3″ 120kg factory worker husband.
Also remember that whilst to lose weight we need to be in a calorie deficit (Consuming less calories than we require) this can be achieved by decreased calories or increased activity.
I’m going to throw a quick spanner in the works, since it’s Monday, and we’re all starting our diets again.
Who has ever said the words “I eat well and don’t drink Monday – Thursday”
We’re going to do a little maths (not my strong suit so bare with me)
Lets say, for arguments sake, that your calorie requirement is 1500 (this makes a weekly requirement of 10,500) so Monday to Thursday you stick rigidly to this.
The food is healthy, we drink lots of water and there’s no alcohol.
Friday comes and you inhale a bottle of red. Nothing major, your diet hasn’t changed for the rest of the day. So it’s just an extra 570 calories.
Saturday morning, we’re a little blurry, and who wants scrambled egg on a hangover? Sausage and bacon bap (+250 calories)
And since I promised the kids a maccies for lunch after football training, I might as well have one too, after all, I’ve been really good all week (+540 calories)
Saturday night, kids are at grandparents, a couple of glasses of prosecco with the girls won’t do any harm (+ 120 calories, assuming just the 2 small glasses)
Sunday roast, I think so!! (+500 calories, assuming your usual evening meal would be 500 calories)
And a apple crumble for desert, well, it’s the kids favourite… (+400)
Have you been counting up as we went along?
We’ve now consumed a weekly total of 12,880 calories.
We’re now in a weekly surplus of 2,380 calories!
That’s an extra 340 calories per day, if we break it down.
I suppose we could just consume 340 calories less per day, and not worry about weekend, right?
A deficit like this would significantly effect our performance, both physically and mentally.
Are you beginning to see what a knock on effect this weekend binge is having?
In real terms, they say (and this is somewhat accurate) that 3500 calories is equivalent to 1lb in weight.
This means that in under two weeks of living like this we’ll gain 1lb of weight.
That’s about a stone within 6 months.
We have to enjoy our lives. There would be no point in doing all of this if we couldn’t live a little, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you have a drink with the girls, or a couple of pints in the pub after Sunday football.
But how about just the one night, hey?
This blog is meant as a guide, and should hopefully clear up some level of confusion, but we want to work with you to ENSURE you hit your goals!
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