It’s simple to lose weight BUT it’s not easy. Simple but not easy because of so much confusing information.
How many diets have you done? How many times have you started a new training regime only to fall off track. YET IT DOESN’T WORK
A HUGE point of confusion is around calories. Things I hear from my ladies and those applying to join StrongHer:
Should I count calories?
Should you go low calorie?
How many calories should I eat?
Are all calories the same?
Can I save calories for the weekend?
This blog is really to clear that up and help you get some clarity on your own weight loss and toning journey.
Let’s start at the Beginning – Where did Calories Come From?
Right then so there was a guy called Wilbur in America in the late 1800’s, a chemist. A very smart guy.
^^^^ You kinda have to be smart if you are called Wilbur AWESOME NAME. In pursuit of understanding food more, he invented something called the respiration calorimeter, to measure precisely the energy provided by food and created a system to measure that energy in units, known as food calories.
So what is a Calorie?
A calorie is a unit of heat energy, it is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (sound weird? Bear with me) Basically as most people know it. A calorie is used to measure food energy. How much energy we get from different types of food. Now let’s get into the really important stuff that’s really going to help you.
How Many Calories I Should Eat?
Right so I think it is important for you to understand how many calories you should eat. So grab a pad and a pen.
Women I speak to ALWAYS underestimate how many they should be eating. So this in itself is a useful exercise. And they’re often surprised at how high it is. NONE of our lovely ladies would every drop below 1,200 calories as that is leading the body into starvation mode. And that is NOT a way to lose weight and feel good long term.
Step 1: Finding your BMR First off, you need to find your BMR (basal metabolic rate), the number of calories your body would theoretically burn every day if you didn’t do anything. NOTHING at all. To keep things simple, just go here:
Step 2: Factoring in Activity You don’t just sit on your bum all day doing nothing, so we’ve got to factor in some activity too.
This is pretty straightforward, using the Harris Benedict formula. Take your BMR and multiply it by the appropriate factor, for example for me I’d use the below:
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Have a think about which category you fit into. Be sensible with this; if you’re a full time mum running after toddlers or you do a few fitness classes a week, give yourself at least a 1.55. If you’ve got an office job and only gym it once or twice a week, you probably won’t be above a 1.375. So for example for me my calories are 1,800. And in more active weeks I might take them up so I have more energy but not by more than a few hundred.
How Should I Count Calories?
The easiest way to track them is to count them on My Fitness Pal. An app you can download onto your phone. You can add friends so they can see, I can see my client’s food diaries. Oh and here’s how your macronutrients split out:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
That’s not 1 gram by weight, but by the macronutrient count within the food. So 100g potato isn’t 100g carbs/400 calories (don’t panic!) 100g potato (raw weight) has about 16g carbs (and 0.1g fat and 1.7g protein). OK so now we know what the macronutrients are, and how they contribute to the calories we eat, let’s look at why we should count calories.
Why Should I Count Calories?
This is where the debate can go either way BUT for me it’s all dependent on the lady we’re working with and their goals and progress.
1) To understand food content more So you know what you’re eating and how it breaks down between fats, carbs and protein. Each of the macronutrients has a different effect on your metabolism so knowing this can help you make better food choices.
2) Mindful eating If you’re just starting out on eating better and losing weight it can help you to consciously eat. Rather than the times you just grab something, you’ll see the impact of the late night snacks or mid morning muffin.
3) For consistency To be more consistent with what you’re eating and truly understand what is going into your body.
4) When you hit a plateau If you’re hitting a plateau and can’t shift the last few pounds it could be worth tracking calories to firstly understand where you are and to find that maintenance level and then dropping a little.
5) Stepping on stage When I stepped on stage in the world’s smallest bikini I had to count calories religiously. I did in all honesty become obsessed and it wasn’t pleasant. BUT that is extreme as you take your body down to between 12-15%. So you HAVE TO BE BANG on. ^^^ In a similar way for top athletes,
A Few Calorie Lies
1) Calories Don’t Matter Calories DO matter when it comes to it you lose weight by knowing and creating a calorie deficit. That is just science and the way your body works.
^^^ BUT you might not need that yet. Instead your first step might be to eat a better diet day to day of simple, whole food. Or it might be too much for you, just one more thing to do. It’s your choice.
2) All Calories are the Same Different food types generate different reactions in the body. Yes, different foods produce different hormone responses that will determine whether or not you will burn fat. Second, the amount of calories—known as the thermic effect of food— required for the body to break down different foods varies greatly.
For a simple example, your body burns significantly more calories digesting a meal of animal protein and fibrous leafy greens steak and broccoli rather than a meal of carbs such as pasta with tomato sauce. Even fewer calories are required to digest processed foods like cookies, white bread, or potato chips.
The effect of different sources of calories on blood sugar and hormones like insulin is really important and not always understood. If you eat a bar that is 100 calories of sugar. Within minutes your blood sugar levels jump through the roof.
In response to this your pancreas releases a big shot of insulin, whose job it is to bring your blood sugar back to normal levels. Unfortunately for some people this doesn’t work to well. They are now left with high blood sugar and now high insulin levels.
Both of which are enemies in the fight against fat storage.
3) Low Calories Will Help Me Lose Weight NO
….. before I get on my soap box let me geek it up for a moment here: A study in the New England Journal of medicine put the low calorie diet into perspective. For 8 weeks, participants were instructed to replace all three of their daily meals with a very-low-energy dietary formulation (Optifast VLCD, Nestlé) (another reason shake diets are not great) and 2 cups of low-starch vegetables, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, which provided 2.1 to 2.3 MJ (500 to 550 kcal) per day. During weeks 9 and 10, participants who had lost 10% or more of their initial body weight were gradually reintroduced to ordinary foods, and weight was stabilized to avoid the potential confounding effect of active weight loss on hormone profiles. Meal replacements were stopped at the end of week 10.
The weight loss from baseline to week – 10 was 13.5kg on average, not bad on paper. However due to severely altering their metabolic hormone responses they regained on average 5.5kg the following year. On average 9.8% of fat was lost in the first 10 weeks, then 4.5% of fat was gained. That’s half the amount of weight regained. Caloric restriction results in a rapid, profound reduction in circulating levels of leptin and energy expenditure and an increase in appetite.
What Do We Believe at StrongHer?
StrongHer has a 2 step to helping our lovely ladies fall in love with their food again, the StrongHer No Diet, Diet.
- To eat whole, healthy foods and improve on what you’re eating and consistency.
We don’t count calories at this point BUT give our ladies the No Diet, Diet shopping list of what to eat more of and what to avoid.
- To find your maintenance level of calories and slowly drop your calories over a long period.
At this point we’d encourage ladies to start counting calories. So we can be accurate and guide them through a steady weight loss.
Calories can be really beneficial in weight loss and toning that is TRUE. For those stepping on stage and in elite competition they need to know EXACTLY what is going into their bodies to get the results they need. For the lady just starting out they can help with understanding food more, more mindful and responsible eating. YES BUT for the lady just looking to lose weight then it might be too much too soon. And it can feel like too much to log food all the time. And take away from the joy and pleasure of food. When it comes to it. Do what works for YOU. Your weight loss journey is just that. YOUR journey. Eat in a way that has you eating food you LOVE first and having more energy. Then if you need to start to track and understand.
Ready to Get Started?
If you’re really struggling and need some help but don’t know where to start and feeling a little lost. You can book a FREE StrongHer Transformation Session, worth £97 here.
30 minutes with one of our amazing, expert coaches to find out why things haven’t worked for you before and get clarity on what you’re goals are.
We only run a limited number as we want to help YOU as much as possible.
Like what you’ve read and want to follow us:
Twitter: StrongHer Formula
Facebook: Nicola Buckley, StrongHer Health and Confidence Coaching and FREE coaching group here.
References: Sumithra, P., Prendergast, L., et al. Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss. The New England Journal of Medicine. October 2011. 356(17), 1597-1604.