Calories Explained Once and For All

Before jumping into the nitty gritty things. Has this ever happened to you?

You wake up one morning and say it’s time!! I will lose this stubborn fat/gain muscle mass and look amazing for this upcoming event, summer or photoshoot. To help you on this journey you go out and purchase a training program, hire a personal trainer or ask your fit friend to help you out. Whichever method you chose, you now have a program to follow and a “diet plan” & you are on your way! You’re feeling absolutely amazing; you’re losing weight and getting stronger. A few weeks go by and of a sudden the weight isn’t going down as much as before, you are feeling beat up in the gym, mentally & physically exhausted and are really questioning this so called PLAN! So what do you do….? 

Well the obvious one is you seek help! You go back to your trainer/fit friend, the designer of the program you bought and discuss your issues and fatigued state. Most will; give you a cheat day or carb load day (reefed). Probably add some cardio and possibly take some more calories away or do both!! To which point the weight starts coming off again but your energy levels are still at an all time low. Now a few things happen here dependent on the type of person you are; 

  • You finish the program and achieve your goal with some metabolic issues
  • You finish the program achieve your goal but gain the weight back 
  • You quite because you could not handle the low energy 
  • Worst case you find your self-run down with total adrenal, hormonal and physical fatigue and have to take days, weeks, and months off due to overtraining 

Now the reason I am saying this is because I have suffered from each of the above throughout my fitness and athletic journey. Ever since I’ve learned the fundamental basics that I will be teaching you today. I have never suffered from any type of fatigue, overtraining and most of all I have actually enjoyed my weight loss periods and that’s EXACTLY HOW IT SHOULD BE!! The information on weight loss is very confusing for many individuals. Along with the vast amount of so called “athletes” that are in the fitness industry spreading incorrect information.

Which is why today is the day you will learn how to not make any more mistakes and;

  1. Have fun and eat what you want
  2. Not suffer
  3. Take control over your own body
  4. Save money and not pay a trainer to set your macro’s and calories
  5. Achieve your goal

Let’s break down a few things and then tie it all up together towards the end! 

What is a Calorie?

            A calorie is “the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1g of water through 1oC” (McArdle, William D., et al. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. Lea & Febiger, 2015. p.110).

            Now to get a value of measurement that we can actually use we count the sum of the 3 macronutrients; Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats. Each having a caloric value that is calculated by the means of a “Calorimeter” (McArdle, William D., et al. Exercise Physiology: Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance. Lea & Febiger, 2015. p.111)

Which takes each macronutrient and burns it to cause a combustion that will give off a caloric value;

  • Protein- 4 Cal per gram
  • Carbs- 4 Cal per gram
  • Fats- 9 Cal per gram 

Fundamental Breakdown of Each Macronutrient 

Fats

  • Are the building blocks of our cell membranes and allow for movement of molecules in and out of our cells! We need roughly 3-5% for men and 10-13% for women of essential fat within the body (which is in the form of cholesterol). Essential fat plays a major component in the cell membrane; it’s used to make essential molecules like hormones, help carry fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), produce bile acids to help digest foods and more… The healthy fats (walnuts, avocado’s, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil) we consume provide us of the essential Omega 3-6-9 (polyunsaturated) fats that we need. Mainly providing us with the omega 3’s in the form of DHA and EPA that play a vital part in reducing inflammation, help lubricate our nerves and myelin sheaths, provide us with energy are very underrated and an unused energy source in a day-to-day basis.  

Ex; Flaxseeds, chia seeds, all nuts, hemp seeds, nut butters, coconut (oil, butter), avocados, seaweed, Non-vegan (sardines, cod, salmon row, salmon, tuna, free ranged eggs, ghee etc) 

Protein

  • There are 20 amino acids in total; 11 are non-essential and 9 are essential which you need to consume through food. These amino acids are the building blocks for your body to build muscle, tendon’s/ligaments, recover from myofibril damage, used as enzymes to speed up chemical reactions, to regulate cell activity, allow for transport (heme-globin) and the list goes on. 

Ex: Beans (black, red, pinto, edemame), lentils (any color), chickpeas, mock meats, tofu, tempeh, Non-Vegan (nose to tail of any animal so liver, heart, brain muscle, ears, and the typically grass fed grass finished beef, steaks, free ranged organic eggs/chicken, and the list of fish I’ve listed in the fat section.  

Carbs

  • Which are not the enemy and do not make you fat!! On the other hand processed sugar and fat, are what cause the fat gain along with a numerous amount of other consequences (discussion for another time). Pure whole grain/legumes are rich in minerals & vitamins along with fiber, which keeps you satiated for longer (they feed your microbiome). They are stored in your liver (80-120g) as glycogen and are stored in the muscle as glycogen to be easily assessable when needed for intense bouts of exercise. The brain cannot function without it and utilizes roughly 20% of the glycogen stores you consume on a daily to keep all the metabolic processes going. Fruits can be put into this category as well to make things simple!!!! 

Ex: Brown rice, Sweet potato, Quinoa, White rice, White potato, Oats, banana’s, berries, kiwi’s, mango’s, dragon fruit, etc

Okay now you know what a calorie is, you know how many calories are in each macronutrient & you know a little bit more of the importance of each of these nutrients. We got one last thing that will make everything extremely clear, then you will know everything there is to know into structuring your own plan for your own goals!! 

The two things that we need to breakdown are the difference between BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) & TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). I find these two values get confused by many and they both have their place when calculating your caloric needs. 

  1. BMRThe amount of energy your body will use to make sure all your organs, metabolic processed, enzymatic reactions are running and functioning properly. This is the amount your body will burn if you were to be half a sleep doing absolutely (no walking, no going to the bathroom) NOTHING!!! 
  2. TDEENow this value not only encompasses the BMR within its value but it also takes in the energy you will be burning for ADL’s (activities of daily living) exercises & digestion. 

Now you may be thinking right now? All right cool but how do I even calculate this and what do I even due with the values after. Don’t worry that’s right up next!!!

How to calculate Your Energy Needs in 5 Easy Steps

  1. Calculate BMR 

For this we will use the Harrison Benedict Formula (link)

Men- 66.5 + (13.75 x weight in kg) + (5.003 x height in cm) – (6.755 x age in years) 

Women – 655.1 + (9.563 x weight in kg) + (1.850 x height in cm) – (4.676 x age in years) 

  • Multiply By your Level of activity
  • Little to no exercise BMR x 1.2
  • Light exercise (a few times a week) BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate Exercise (3-5 x a week) BMR x 1.55
  • Heavy Exercise (6-7 x a week) BMR x 1.725
  • Semi-Pro/Pro Athlete (7+ a week) BMR x 1.9

If you want an even easier way without doing all of this! You take your weight right now and multiple this by 10. So for example I am 215 pounds at the moment so my BMR would roughly be 2150 calories. I take this and multiple it by my lifestyle; 2150 x 1.725= 3708.75 calories

This Value is your TDEE 

  • Now to set your calories to your goal of either losing weight, gaining weight or maintenance.

You got 3 options here

  • Eat more than you burn to store some fat and gain muscle 
  • Eat less than you burn to lose fat 
  • Maintain an equilibrium and eat as much as you burn
  • Ratio for Macro’s (whatever you can stick to, keto, vegan, high carb, omnivore)

As I have learned myself from trial and error or have read in books throughout my education and read in multiple studies. There is no better way of saying it then as Ross Edgley has stated in his book “To re-quote the International Journal of Obesity regardless of assigned diet, 12-month weight change was greater in the most adherent” (Edgley, Ross. The World’s Fittest Book: How to Train for Anything and Everything, Anywhere and Everywhere. Sphere, 2018). 

So if you want to follow a fasting, keto, a traditional or a mix of fasting and other diets then by all means go for it. Whatever you can stick to and enjoy is going to make your plan into a lifestyle and not a diet. Which right away plays a huge psychological change into your mind to adhere to a lifestyle much more than a diet.

Helpful tips 

In the beginning it might be hard and super annoying but counting calories is going to be something you will have to do. I generally tell my clients to count for a one to two weeks. Within these weeks you will eat roughly the same foods that you will be eating from week to week with not much change. So having an idea of how many calories are in the foods you are eating will help you to not have to count in the future and you can go about your days and eat whatever you would like because you will have acquired the knowledge of how much is in your food and be able to stay within the calories you need for the goal you have set for yourself. 

I got two apps for you guys that I have used throughout my journey to help track my calories

  1. MyFitness Pal (android and IOS) 

This is a great app, where you can set your own calories, your own macro’s and your own goal like losing weight, gaining &/or maintaining. It allows you to put in the items by a simple search or even better by taking a picture of the label of the food item and there you go! 

Great app that pretty much does the exact same thing as MyFitness Pal BUT gives you so much more info. It breaks down all the nutrients you need to have in a day along with which foods you ate that day that contain those micro/macronutrients (check picture down below for examples) 

2. Cronometer (Computer or buy the IOS version) 

For all of you who are trying to put on muscle mass.

  1. Do not start with a massive increase in calories I would start with 100-200 calories and slowly increase this number as you see the weight plateau throughout the bulk you are doing. 
  2. Don’t be bummed out if you do gain fat when you are making these gains. Fat comes hand in hand whether you want to or not. A one-pound increase in muscle mass will come with one pound of fat. 
  3. Ladies – this is particularly for you. It is extremely hard for men to put on muscle especially more advanced lifters. Many lift for years to attain the physique they want so please do not think for a minute/second or a microsecond that if you lift something heavy you are going to become bulky and huge, THAT WILL PHYSICALLY NOT HAPPEN EVER!!! 
  4. If you are at a higher body fat % (15 or more) I wouldn’t bulk up. You will suffer in the end and on a health stand point going up to 20% or more comes with many health complications

Next tip are for those of you wanting to lose weight

  1. Start with a low caloric deficit, just like I stated in the bulk start with a 100 200 calorie deficit. Then as you see the number on the scale plateaus then bring it down even more. I personally wouldn’t go lower then 500-calories for a beginner-intermediate and no more then 1000 calories for an experienced and advanced person. I myself sometimes hit 1000-2000 calorie deficits for weight cuts or quick photo shoot that needs to be done. I wouldn’t tell anyone to do this ever. Unless you are extremely experienced and know how to play with numbers and you fully understand your own body!
  2. Once you have taken away some food, you should add in some LISS (Low intensity Steady-State Session) during the week and increase the number of sessions as you see a plateau on the scale (this will allow you to eat a bit more and gain the deficit from cardio). You may even alternate with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which I would say again if you weren’t experienced I wouldn’t do more than 2 session a week.
  3. Sticking to a ball park of 0.5-1% of body weight loss a week is fine. Yet taking it slow and steady is the best. Trying to lose weight quickly will cause metabolic issue if maintained for a long time, isn’t sustainable, weight tends to come back for most and isn’t suitable for the majority of the public.

Final Thoughts

I hope this puts everything out there for you guys so you can finally structure your own plans and create a lifestyle that works for you to achieve whatever goals you want! 

            Like I said in the beginning I have been through all the mistakes and have suffered through really sh*** weight cuts, have gotten super fat and bulked up and even suffered from overtraining in my earlier years and have been out for months because I taxed my body to the point of almost no return!!! 

            I want to end this by saying thank you all for reading this and taking the time to take control over your own life and want to expand your mind and learn ways to better yourself. If you liked this drop a comment down below with any questions you may have or just something you want to say to me so I can make these blog post better more fun and cover any topic that you want information on and want to learn about. 

            Hope you guys had as much fun learning as I did teaching until the next one. 

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