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Calories Explained

It’s no wonder we’re confused!

On one hand, we have more information than ever before on nutrition and exercise but on the other hand, we have more misinformation than ever before.

With this easy access to a wealth of information, both good and bad, we actually end up worse off than we ever were before.  Who do we trust, is there a quick fix, why does one article tell me to do the exact opposite of the other?!

I’ve always said that fitness isn’t rocket science, despite some ‘Advisors’ in the industry attempting to make it just as confusing, mainly for their own benefit.  I only have one objective today, to keep this age-old topic plain and simple to understand.

I can make you a promise that results will happen through 2 things:

  • Knowledge & understanding, and;
  • Application & action based on that knowledge

so here goes….

What is a calorie?

It’s simply a way of measuring energy.  Providing a formal definition is pointless; food contains energy and the calorie is a value determining just how much.

Want to reduce body fat? Then you need to create a calorie deficit (expend more energy through exercise, than consumed through food) in order to generate weight loss:

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” (Lyle McDonald - 2008)

If you are reading this, it’s likely that you’re interested in decreasing body fat percentage.  This next statement is crucial and leads to people failing to reach your objective 99% of the time:

You will grossly over-estimate how many calories can be burned through exercise. It takes significant continued effort over time to reduce the effects of overconsumption.  

All too often, people end up consuming more calories in response to increased activity!

Everyone wants success and here’s how to achieve it:

Increase energy expenditure AND decrease your energy intake from diet.

Does this mean counting calories?

Not necessarily. It’s absolutely possible to lose weight without strictly tracking, by being more aware and selective of the foods you eat.  It’s a far more sustainable way of eating this way, basing your diet around foods that keep you fuller for longer (a separate subject, watch our blog for future articles) but not too energy dense (lean meat, fish, green vegetables etc). Adequate protein intake is vital when looking to improve your body composition through diet and exercise.

Tracking calories, for a short period of time at least, is a valuable tool for you to assess intake and realise quantity required to reach your objectives.

There are many apps out there such as nutracheck, some are far better than others, but speak to a member of your Bannatyne fitness team who will support you in managing and tracking calorie intake.  The team can also assist you in measuring your start point and your results (no more than every 6 weeks) through our InBody composition analyser.  These tools make tracking calories far less laborious and keeps you on track.

The Bottom Line?

Avoid ‘Fad’ diets that advise not only eating less but also limiting food choices, restricting the time of day you can eat certain foods or any number of other control methods they advise will offer a miracle result - it won’t happen!

As I said at the start; there is plenty of misinformation available but calories are THE most important consideration when managing body weight.

This is by no means a definitive article on calories, far from it! The source of calories needs to be considered, but I doubt anyone investing time to read up to this point will be looking to lose weight on a diet of burgers and pizza!

Here are the only ‘takeaways’ you should be thinking about for the foreseeable future, use them wisely for a gradual reduction in body fat and balance of body composition:

  • Manage your energy intake with an exercise plan that includes strength training.  The bigger your ‘engine’ the more fuel you use….even at rest! It’s no secret, but the most ignored concept that generates the best return for your effort invested.

  • Eat enough protein. Again, huge area of misinformation to explore, but the optimal is 1.5g per Kg of body weight, split evenly across all meals for the day.  You need less protein to survive, but remember...you want to thrive!

  • Find what suits you: some feel satisfied with larger, less frequent meals, typically 3 square meals. Others prefer smaller, frequent meals. I recommend a frequency that works for you and stick to it, being consistent with mealtimes.

  • Eat nutrient dense foods that keep you fuller for longer i.e. lean meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit and yoghurt. Try to ensure 80% of your diet comes from these foods.

  • Eat fibre, it’s extremely important for gut health, but also reduces transit time of food through your digestive system.

  • DON’T retain a calorie deficit for longer than 12 weeks. Allow to balance and restore by having 2 weeks at a ‘maintenance level’ of calories. This will allow certain hormones in the body, such as leptin, to balance according to your new composition as well as providing a psychological break.

Contact your Bannatyne Health Club today if you want any advice or support related to leading a healthier and more active lifestyle.  As I’ve said……..it’s not rocket science and shouldn’t pretend to be!

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