Calorie Counting Can Be A Great Educational Exercise
In a similar vein to which we feel following a Meal Plan can be an effective tactic for getting your diet in check, so too can Calorie Counting. While having the same objective as following a Meal Plan, these two strategies don’t typically work in unison, in that if you’re following a meal plan you don’t usually have to count calories as well.
While a laborious chore to keep up long term, keeping track of your calorie intake for a brief period at the beginning of a journey to better health will serve as a great educational exercise. You will quickly come to appreciate the calorie content of different foods and portions, especially for those ‘food like’ products that are really taking toll on your body. As they say, “Knowledge is Power” – in this case it may give you the power to choose better.
A Great Tool For Breaking Through A Fitness Plateau
In the same way that following a Meal Plan for someone already living a healthy lifestyle may be useful for a bit of tweaking things and breaking through a plateau, Calorie Counting may serve the same purpose. You hear people all the time saying they diet and exercise but get no results – or can’t work off that last layer of ‘stubborn fat’. Well, chances are it’s the diet side of things that’s going awry. This is why we say; you can’t out train a bad diet!
If it’s a weight loss goal, the age-old strategy is diet & exercise. This is on the basis of calories in v calories out, where you control your calorie intake to ensure you are in calorie deficit - taking in less calories (energy) than you need to burn for energy. This ‘need’ includes your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the minimum amount of energy your body requires to maintain life; breathe, blink, pump blood etc. Plus, your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which is the energy you’ll burn, over and above your BMR for trivial physical activities; pretty much all the moving around you do during the course of a typical day - everything from moving about the house, going to work, doing what you do at work – even if it’s mainly just typing – all these small activities add up to extra energy burnt over what you would if you simply laid in bed all day.
Now, if you have a base line of your Daily Energy Burn from your BMR and your NEAT (these are arguably the two biggest factors contributing to your Total Daily Burn outside of calories burnt during exercise), you’ll have a number which represents how many calories you typically burn in a day. Other factors come into play, such as the calories you burn simply digesting your food (typically 10% of total consumed calories), plus theres a lot of variables; genetics, hormones, level of brain activity, type of food consumed and so on. However, let’s say that number is 2000 calories per day. Without any additional exercise, if you take in 2500 calories you’ll gain weight, if you take in 2000 you’ll maintain your weight. Take in 1500 and you’ll lose weight as your body looks to additional energy source to make up the difference, namely body fat (a.k.a. Stored Energy). Consume less calories than your number and you’ve created Calorie Deficit. A good measure is a 500 Calorie Deficit a day, which can equate to a pound of body fat burnt each week.
Now For the Exercise Part of the Equation
That covers the diet part of the equation, which leaves the exercise part. This can be the ‘cherry on top’ for boosting additional fat burn for energy – plus exercise is important for heart, muscle and bone health. Resistance training is especially important when in calorie deficit to preserve your lean muscle, maintain your hormone levels and metabolism. So, over and above the energy you burn with your BMR & NEAT, you may aim for burning an extra 500 calories a day from moderate to rigorous exercise. And this can result in an additional pound of fat burnt off each week.
So, back to Calorie Counting. If you’re stuck in a rut with your weight loss, counting calories for a while will reveal where you’re going wrong. With all the calculations referenced above, it’s easy to see where you can miscalculate something. And when you have better, more accurate knowledge of the calories you are consuming you can identify the issue(s), which can be as simple as just a few bites of the wrong food or few mouthfuls of the wrong beverage resulting in a blow out of your calorie deficit, or that can undo the burn from that gym session.