by Brian Sweeney Raise the Bar

I’ll be the first to admit it. Calorie counting bites. I absolutely detest tracking the calorie content of every bite I eat. Unfortunately counting calories is a necessity if you want to master a healthy lifestyle. I’m not suggesting an insufferable death sentence of counting calories for life. More so a short term commitment to understand and control your nutritional intake versus your energy expenditure. You absolutely must have a fundamental understanding of your caloric requirements and how going above or below that number is going to affect your health. Most trainers apply the K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) model to nutrition; “Just tell the client what they need to eat”, "The client doesn’t want to hear about macronutrients", "You’ll confuse the client".  While I can see the simplicity in dictating a menu to a client that is struggling with weight, what good does that do them in the future? Unless keeping the client in the dark feeds a ulterior motive. Perhaps these nefarious trainers want to keep clientele ignorant. Keeps them coming back? Another discussion for another time.

“Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” 

Your body requires X amount of calories per day (based on height, weight, gender, and activity level) to operate. This can be calculated by determining your Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR Calculator ) and multiplying that number with your perceived activity level (Harris Benedict Equation).  The results of this equation will provide you with a better understanding of the calories you need to consume each day. Knowledge is power. Right?

Now that you know the calories you need to consume each day we can apply that number to your goals. If you want to put on weight / muscle, you need to ADD ~500 calories to the results from the Harris Benedict Equation. Conversely, if you want to lose weight, you will need to create a deficit in your daily calories which means you have to SUBTRACT ~500 calories per day. If you need to tweak these numbers apply them to your nutrition strategy in 100 +/- calorie increments.

Thinking strategically about your nutrition can make you more resilient to the yo-yo affects commonly associated with dieting. This information should also arm you with a better understanding of how closely tied unwanted weight gain is with eating above your BMR and activity level.

Quick calorie factoids:

  1. A calorie is a measurement of energy
  2. Proteins & carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram
  3. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram
  4. Fats have 9 calories per gram
  5. 3500 calories translates to 1 pound of body fat
  6. Inverse – you have to burn 3500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat

Calorie scenarios

  1. If you consume 400 calories above your BMR & activity level per day you will gain 1 pound every 9 days
  2. The holiday season is comprised of approximately 44 days. If you eat above your intake requirements throughout the holiday season (at 400 additional calories per day) you could gain up to 17.5 lbs by January 3
  3. To burn off the 17.5 lbs you will have to run 2 miles (at an 8.5 min pace) 122 times

Take the time to educate yourself and your family on the affects of overeating and how calories play into it. Education is the key to living a healthy lifestyle and critical if you want to positively impact the lives of those you care about.

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