The paradoxical situation that exists in the fitness industry is that, on the one hand, we have more information than ever before on nutrition and exercise. However, on the other hand, we have more mis-information than ever before. With this abundance of information, both good and bad, comes a form of paralysis – I mean, where do you start with all the articles, websites, blogs, magazine articles etc?
This is why at the Clean Health Fitness Institute we aim to provide valuable, free, unbiased content in order to help you live more informed, and healthier, lives. So, nutritionally speaking, I want to get to the very heart of the matter and talk about calories. What they are and whether we need to be paying attention to them.
So firstly, what the hell is a calorie anyway? A calorie is simply a way of measuring energy and is defined as “the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree celcius at the pressure of one atmosphere”. All food contains energy and the calorie content is simply a way of measuring how much energy there is in food.
Something that we can all agree on is the need to create a calorie deficit in order to elicit weight (fat) loss. Lyle McDonald puts this best: “the body will NOT have any need to tap into stored body fat unless the individual is burning more calories than they are taking in”. The size of the deficit will depend largely on someone’s body fat percentage. Someone who is morbidly obese can be given a far bigger deficit such as up to 50% in some cases, than someone much leaner, where a more conservative deficit will serve them better.
Now a deficit can be created by either increasing energy expenditure consisting of exercise & Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), or decreasing energy intake from the diet, or with a combination of both. I would recommend trying to incorporate both, but if I had to pick one method then decreasing energy intake is FAR more effective. People tend to grossly over-estimate how many calories can be burned exercising and oftentimes, people will end up simply consuming more food in response to their increased activity levels.
“Here head of Educational Development Stefan Ianev touches deeper into the topic of the three determing factors that create fat loss, with calories or diet being one as i have mentioned above”
So reducing intake is extremely important, so that means counting calories right? Well, not necessarily. Ad Libitum (‘at liberty’) dieting is an approach that involves eating until you are full, as opposed to tracking calories and macronutrients. It is absolutely possible to lose weight and arguably a far more sustainable way of eating this way, pn the proviso that you base your diet around highly satiating foods that are not too energy dense, think lean meat, fish, green vegetables, potatoes. Also having an adequate protein intake is also something that is absolutely vital when looking to lose fat on a diet.
However tracking calories, at least for a short period of time, can be an extremely valuable tool for people to assess their intake and to check they are eating the correct quantities of food for their goals.
Fortunately for our clients and memebers at Clean Health Fitness Institute, we utilise the software ‘INutrition Pro’ which makes life easier for clients by calculating calorie and macronutrient requirements, as well as food quantities to reach this target. This makes tracking calories a far less laborious process for clients & ensures staying on track is far easier.
The bottom line is, any weight loss diet in existence is trying to make you eat less, whether they tell you this or not. They may do this by limiting food choices through methods like low carb, paleo, low fat, Atkins or Ketogenic, or by restricting the times of day you can eat certain foods or by any number of methods. The aim of this article is not to assess the efficacy of any of these methods, but rather to give you some broad advice that should make the process of dieting a little easier:
- Eat enough protein – The literature is quite clear that 1.8g per Kg of body weight is an optimal amount of protein for the body. Therefore, for a 75kg person this amounts to 135g of protein per day. It is probably best to split the protein evenly across all meals of the day.
- Find Your Optimal Meal Frequency – some people feel more satiated on larger, less frequent meals, typically 3 square meals. Other people like smaller more frequent meals. My general recommendation is to find a frequency that works for you and stick to it, trying to eat meals at roughly the same time every day. There seems to be little benefit to going below 3 meals or above 6 meals.
- Eat Satiating, Nutrient Dense foods – Include lots of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit in your diet. Try to ensure 80% of your diet comes from these foods.
- Ensure you eat plenty of fibre – Fibre in your diet is extremely important, not just for optimal gut health, but also in slowing the transit time of food through your digestive system. Fibre also adds a lot of ‘bulk’ to food, increasing the overall volume of food, which increases the level of satiety experienced. Good sources of fibre come from green vegetables, fruit (especially the skin of fruit), and wholegrain sources.
- Complement your diet with an exercise regime that includes resistance training – This will help you retain and build lean muscle mass. Our Clean Health Fitness Institute personal trainers work day to day to provide our member with the most optimal training program, whether you want one-on-one or online training.
- Do not stay in a calorie deficit for longer than 12 weeks – Allow yourself a diet break every 3 months by spending a week or two at a maintenance level of calories. This will help not only psychologically give you a break from dieting, but will also allow certain hormones in the body, such as leptin, to re-set and help avoid weight loss plateaus.
So, to conclude, calories are certainly THE most important consideration when dieting, along with adherence and your ability to stick to the diet. This is not to suggest, however, that the source of calories are irrelevant. Whilst it is possible to lose weight on a diet consisting of junk food, provided there is a calorie deficit, this certainly is not likely to be a beneficial approach for the following reasons:
- General Health – You want to try and maximise the amount of micronutrients, both vitamins and minerals you get from your diet for optimal health.
- Appetite and Hunger – Due to the poor satiating effects of junk food, it is unlikely you will be able to control your calories on such a diet for very long
- Performance – Your ability to train hard in the gym and have optimal energy levels are going to be severely hampered unless your nutrition is optimal.
Therefore when dieting for weight loss, pay close attention to my recommendations above for optimal outcomes. CONTACT US today on how our industry leading personal trainers can set up your iNutrition Pro and personal training programs both online and at our Sydney CBD and Chatswood gym locations.