Nutrition and Calories
It is no secret that in order to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume. Cutting calories and “dieting” is more of an individual process than generic, preset approach. It is only through trial and error that you will be able to know what truly works for you and how many calories you need to consume in order to lose weight and gain lean muscle.
If you follow Fierce Miles, you have heard me say this time and time again—severe caloric restriction is not sustainable and extremely dangerous. Creating massive deficits will wreak havoc on your hormones and result in slowing down your metabolism even further which will lead to the inevitable weight gain.
Of course, there are general guidelines that can help you figure out your approximate optimal daily caloric intake. However, without good record keeping and a willingness to go through a certain period of trial and error, you will never be able to zero in on what truly works for you.
The general formula to calculate daily caloric intake with the emphasis on fat loss is the following:
Focus on getting 11-16 calories per pound of your target body weight.
So, if your goal weight is 140 lbs:
11 cal X 140 lbs = 1540 calories (this is your absolute lowest daily intake)
16 cal X 140 lbs = 2240 calories (this is your highest daily intake)
The general formula to calculate daily caloric intake with the emphases on muscle building and weight gain is the following:
Focus on getting 17-25 calories per pound of target body weight.
So, if your goal weight is 200 lbs:
17 cal X 200 lbs = 3400 calories (lowest daily intake)
25 cal X 200 lbs = 5000 calories (highest daily intake)
It is generally ill-advised to maintain a caloric deficit for prolonged periods of time. Your body will eventually get use to the deficit making fat loss more difficult. In order to maintain a healthy metabolism and a lean, strong, healthy body, periods of maintenance are essential. During maintenance periods your body rests and rebuilds.
There is no set formula to calculate your maintenance calories. I suggest starting slowly increasing your caloric intake by 15-20 % every week until you stop losing weight. A large increase in the daily caloric intake may result in an increase in body fat. If that happens just reduce the weekly caloric increase.
Maintenance periods can be tricky and it usually takes time to find the proper increase percentage. Good record keeping is essential for the maintenance phase.
Today, there are a number of tools that you can use to track your daily caloric intake. However, nothing beats good old math. Many food companies actually underestimate caloric values of their products on their labels due to the way they count calories in fiber. It has been a fitness myth for many years that calories from fiber do not count towards the total caloric value of a carbohydrate because fiber isn’t fully absorbed by the body. The key word here is fully. Some fiber does get absorbed and can’t be counted towards “free nutrients”. So, what does that mean?
That means that some food companies do not include the caloric value of fiber in the calorie total of the product. Although a difference of 10 calories here and there may not sound like much initially, an extra 100 calories a day can add up to 1 pound of body fat gain per month.
Here are the macro nutrient caloric values:
Protein = 4 cal/gram
Carbohydrates = 4 cal/gram
Fat = 9 cal/gram
Fiber = 4 cal/gram (fiber is a carbohydrate and there for is 4 calories per gram. When you take into account that only about ½ of the fiber gets absorbed by the body, it totals to roughly 2 calories per gram. When calculating total caloric value of fiber, divide by two).
Example of calculating calories based on food labels:
Let’s take Healthy Life High Fiber Bread, the label give the following information:
Total Fat: 0.5 gram
Total Carb: 16 grams
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 5 gram
Look at the total fiber number, divide by two. Subtract the number you are left with from the carbohydrate total and multiply by 4 to get the proper carbohydrate calories in the food you are looking at.
When you calculate it out:
0.5 x 9 = 4.5 (fat)
5 / 2 =2.5
16 – 2.5 = 13.5
13.5 x 4 = 54 (carbs)
5 x 4 = 20 (protein)
4.5+54+20= 78.5 (total calories)
So the total calorie count in the Healthy Life High Fiber Bread is 78.5.
What to do when a food doesn’t have a nutrition facts label:
There are a number of resources that you can turn to if you find yourself in a situation where nutrition facts are not readily available.
- USDA National Nutrient Database
- USDA Super Tracker (a more user friendly version of the Database)
- CRON-O-METER (although this does not come in a convenient app form, it is accurate)
In most cases a simple Internet search will answer all of your macro nutrient questions. However, make sure that you rely on trustworthy sources for your nutrient information. Some of the largest fitness and calorie tracking applications that are available today grossly underestimate calorie information and are laden with human error.
If you have been anywhere around a TV set, a radio, or a computer, you have noticed the great abundance of “get fit now”. It is that time of the year again. The time when supplement companies and larger than though trainers are pushing their miracle cure all product on the unsuspecting consumers with low self-esteem. Do these products work? Some of them. Do they work safely and for a prolonged period of time? No.
We live in a society that is largely driven by instant gratification and impulse. No one wants to work to be fit, but everyone wants to have a fit body of a fitness model. After all, it is much easier to pop a pill and eat a pizza while watching football, than working out and eating clean. Does anyone think about the consequences of taking these drugs? Does anyone stop to ask why they work so quickly and so effectively? No. Why? Because blissful ignorance with a skinny fat body is significantly safer than a challenging and at times difficult reality in which one has to find information, process it, and work to get the results that they want. In short, half-baked approaches breed half-baked results and a lot of disappointed, misinformed consumers. So, what can you do to get lasting weight loss results? Read on.
What I have to say right now may not be what you want to hear, but I am not in the business of cuddling and propagating fitness myths. I am here to give you the hard truth and save you the time you’ll spend doing research on your own. Here’s the deal. Most “magic” weight loss pills, shakes, and powders are unsafe. If you have to order your food premade, you’ll gain all of your weight back after you stop eating “out of the box”. There is no such thing as getting “toned and fit” without changing your daily lives.
The only way to get true and lasting results is by keeping a clean and sustainable diet, maintaining a healthy attitude, and exercising daily.
Keeping a Clean and Sustainable Diet:
Let’s face it, if you drastically cut calories, completely cut out certain food groups or expect perfect rigid compliance to a dietary plan, you will eventually slip. In fact, when you slip you will binge, feel guilty, get down on yourself, and try to maintain the same diet with even more restrictions than before to make up for your pitfall. Does that sound like a healthy relationship with food? No. To me, that sounds more like an eating disorder and we all know that eating disorders are very unhealthy.
A sustainable diet should revolve around a lifestyle. When you decide to get in shape, you have to realize that you are on a journey and just like any journey, this one will have peaks and valleys. The secret to sustainable, healthy weight loss is realizing that a valley isn’t going to undo everything you worked for. So, if you make it a priority to eat healthy 90% of the time, that one piece of cake on your birthday, a plate full of delicious food on Thanksgiving, and a bowl of macaroni and cheese every other month aren’t going to send you on an express train to fat town.
A clean sustainable diet should involve all of the major food groups (unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating certain things) in moderation. Eating for weight loss is an art form that will take time to master fully, there is no diet that perfectly fits all, and there are no shortcuts. A clean, healthy diet with proper caloric intake (you can’t starve yourself!!!) takes time to develop and perfect.
I encourage you to do your research, look at various food plans, study strategic eating, and custom design your own eating plan. It will take time, but in the end you will be rewarded with energy, better health, and a lean, strong body.
We briefly touched on this subject in the previous section when we discussed a healthy relationship with food. You can’t punish yourself for slip-ups and deviations of off the plan, but you also have to hold yourself accountable for what you do in daily basis. Having a support group helps, but at the end of the day it is between you and your refrigerator, or between you and your bed.
You have to make a plan and stick to it regardless of what the world around you wants. If you know that what you are doing is right for you, then no one else has the right to keep you away from your goals and your dreams. Not even you. You have to push yourself every day. I wish I could tell you that it gets to a point where going to the gym or out on a run is automatic. No. I still have days when I question why I am up at 5 am on a cold winter morning. There are days when the last thing that I want to do is drive to the gym and lift a bunch of weights when the laundry is piled up, dinner needs to be cooked, and I still have a mound of paperwork to get through. However, I don’t make excuses. I put on my big girl pants, lace up my shoes, and I tell myself that it is better that way. I can say with full confidence, I am yet to regret a workout that I did.
However, healthy attitude goes far beyond building a healthy relationship with food and regular, hard workouts. A healthy attitude also encompasses how you view the world. It is easy to be mad and sad about your circumstances, but when you make a decision to take control and change, you become empowered. Feeling strong and in control is what gets people in the gym initially, but most quickly get discouraged because the results didn’t come fast enough. Here’s the hard part: you have to remain positive and have faith in the fact that the results will come if you actually follow a program that you set for yourself. You have to force yourself to become an optimist on those days when you just want to quit because the pudgy feeling isn’t going away fast enough.
Again, I wish I could tell you that feeling discouraged goes away with time – it doesn’t. But if you keep at it long enough, you will learn that the voice inside your head that tells you “it’s not working”, “you don’t have the body for this”, “you are too old” etc. is a total liar. With time, you learn to ignore your own little critic and you learn that when the voice rears its ugly head, you are closer than you ever were before to achieving that one goal that you set for yourself.
A good diet and a great attitude aren’t going to get you far without exercise. Consistent, challenging, daily exercise paired with a great diet is a sure recipe for a fabulous body. Now, let me clarify, I am not telling you to go out and do Zumba (although it is a fun way to initially lose some extra weight). The exercise that I am talking about involves 3-4 heavy weight training sessions and 3 cardio sessions a week. You can’t be a cardio queen and expect a toned body of a fitness model. You have to lift HEAVY weights. Let me say this right now: there is no way that you are going to end up looking like a she Hulk unless you are SPECIFICALLY working to attain that aesthetic. So, no, don’t tell me that lifting heavy turns women into men. It is a total myths that is propagated by men who are scared of strong women, women who are scared of hard work, and skinny fat models who would be out of a job if the rest of us woke up and realized that having the ability to pick up more than 5 lbs at a time makes you more attractive and gives you the lean, toned look you actually want. Yes, I’m talking to you ladies.
Gentlemen, I have to caution you against trying to show off. Heavy training means lifting the weight you can ACTUALLY lift with PROPER form. Allow me to elaborate: that means that you shouldn’t be squirming under a barbell during your bench press like a deranged worm because you loaded the bar too heavy. You are not a hero if you get hurt, so why set yourself up for failure? Take it easy, maintain proper tension throughout your exercises and watch your body bulge with awesome rippliness faster than the guy who has been trying to “out lift” you all alone and has been doing it wrong.
I don’t know about you, but for me, a fit strong body is a status symbol. You can’t buy it, you can pay someone to surgically make it. You have to invest the time, the sweat, the tears and the doubts to achieve it. There are challenges to achieving your perfect physique at any age and in any circumstance, so don’t discount the efforts of the younger crowd just because of their age or the older crowd just because of their experience. We all face different struggles, have different body types, and respond to different things better than others. Building a body you want takes time, it takes trial and error and you have to be willing to invest in your journey fully in order to rip the perfect results.