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Easy Calorie Counting & Demystifying Weight Loss

Nutrition and Calories

l_a1d8c110-60e7-11e1-b1da-97b177c00001It 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.

 

Fat Loss:       

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)

Muscle Building:

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)

Weight Maintenance:

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.

Counting Calories:

fitness-inspiration-954-eaf80244-sz480x480-animateToday, 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:

Calories: 70
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.

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Fierce Gourmet: A Fit Foodie’s Cookbook

Cover1I discovered my passion for cooking right around the same time as I discovered my love for fitness. Nothing makes you feel more alive and in the moment as a new PR and an amazing meal. Quickly realizing that my love for gourmet food and my love for fitness can’t coexist, I had to do something.

For years I studied, read, and practiced various preparation methods and techniques, took cooking classes, and searched for places to procure clean, organic meat and produce. As a result of my obsession with flavor and the need to maintain a lean and strong physique, I have developed hundreds of recipes that were beneficial for my health and for my abs, not to mention supported a number of local farmers.

Last year, when I started Fierce Miles, I had a bright idea: why not write an actual cookbook? The majority of the work was already done, all I had to do was test, photograph, write, edit, format, market, and sell the book! Not a big deal, right? Right. After a few months of writing, re-writing, editing, and writing some more, I am just a few short months away from the big day. I am excited and yet a bit nervous.

When I first decided to do this, I had no idea how much work I am going to have to put into this project for it to be what I really want it to become — the absolute go to for every fit food lover. So far, we are right on track. Our Kickstarter page goes live next week, our graphic designer is working on a fabulous book cover that’ll be ready around the same time, and I am almost done organizing the content and the recipes into chapters.

I know, this is an unusual Monday post for me, but I’ve had this on my mind for so long, that it was time to share it with you guys. Stay tuned for more information on Fierce Gourmet: A Fit Foodie’s Cookbook.

Surviving the Holidays: Staying Fit While Traveling

holiday-fitnessHoliday season is right around the corner and with it comes a heavy travel schedule, stress, joy, pies, cookies, candy, guilt, and mounds of delicious, fattening food. So, how do you maintain all the progress you have made in the last few weeks and still enjoy your time with your family and friends?

First of all, I encourage everyone to take a look at the calendar. How many days are there between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year? 26! Even if you ate until you feel like popping on Thanksgiving and Christmas day, there are still 26 other days to stay on plan! Make it a point to stick to your diet and workout schedule during those 26 days. You will feel significantly better about yourself if are actually following through with a program that you have set for yourself. You might even feel more empowered by the progress that you are making despite the odds.

Travel

Some of us can’t have consistent access to the gym during the holidays due to travel and family obligations. Not to worry, you can still get a great workout that will burn calories even if you didn’t splurge on a fancy hotel that has a private gym.  Here’s how:

 TRX

TRX is a suspension system that will change your life. It is compact, fits in most carryon, and can be fastened to a door, a pull-up bar or any number of other surfaces. TRX allows you to perform a variety of moves that encompass practically every part of your body with just your body weight and angle variation.

 Take it outside

Even if you don’t have time for a full run, grab a few of your relatives and get outside. Be a kid again and play some football, tag, or even hide and seek. Think about it this way: your kids will be happy and worn out before the day ends and you’ll feel better because you had some cardio!

Go for a hike, or grab all the pets that need walking and go for a long walk. The pets will thank you and you will thank you! Seriously, no need to sit inside and be tempted by all the food. Go get some air, do something fun, be a kid again!

 Tension Bands

Much like the TRX, Tension Bands are a space saving travel must have! Tension bands can replace dumbbells for most exercises and are fun and easy to use. I find that they are best used together with a TRX.

 High Rep, High Intensity Exercises

Forgot to pack your TRX and your Tension Bands? No problem, a high rep, high intensity routine will get your heart rate high and your muscles working. Try exercises such as air squats, squat jumps, high knees, butt kicks, push-ups (of all varieties), crunches, triceps dips, and box jumps (you can use a park bench for these). There are endless possibilities and the amount of calories that you can burn is insane!

For more “no gym required” workouts, visit our workout page or our Facebook page!

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Eating While Traveling

Keeping a good diet is always difficult when you are traveling. Even if you usually pack your own food, traveling with it might present an issue. Believe it or not, if you are taking a road trip this holiday season, you’ll have an easier time staying on plan than those with long layovers. Most airports won’t let you go through security with a drink larger than three ounces and you can forget about bringing food! So what is one to do when stuck on a long flight or have a long layover? Here are some tips:

 Be Smart

Airports will usually have a number of restaurants that offer lighter dishes. If you are eating at the restaurant, go for a salad with a grilled protein, get your dressing on the side, and make sure to steer clear of anything that is candied, breaded, or contains large quantities of fat.

Not ready for a meal but would like a snack? Airport newsstands and coffee shops frequently carry nuts and occasionally some fresh fruit. If you can find some skim milk and a banana, you are basically set for a nice snack.

Some Starbucks locations still offer protein powder as an addition to their drinks. If you go for a nonfat, sugar free, nothing bad protein latter, you just might make it to your destination without deviating from your diet.

However, if you slip up, panic and make the wrong choice, don’t beat yourself up. One bad meal isn’t going to make you fat, a few bad meals might.

If you are traveling by car and wondering how to stay on plan, you are in for a treat! I LOVE road trips and at this point I am somewhat of a pro at making them nice, relaxing, and fun. Even before I began my fitness journey I would pack food for long trips. I found that it saved me money and helped me get to where I was going faster. What can I say, I hate stopping and LOVE driving! Here’s what I pack:

Get a large cooler and a bunch of ice or ice packs, fill it with the following:

 Short Trips (3-4 hr):

Protein Powder / Protein Drinks
Water
Nuts
Fruit or veggies (green apples, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cut and cleaned green peppers, radishes, celery sticks, grapes, pears)

Long Trips (5+ hr):

Water
Meal Replacement Shakes
Protein Drinks / Protein Powder
Salad (lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers) precut in a large Tupperware container
Lean protein (precut grilled chicken or individual packets of tuna)
Fruit and Veggies
Almond Butter
Nuts

 

I also find it useful to have a cooler with me at the hotel room. That way I can stop by the local grocery store and get everything I need for a healthy snack or mid-day meal. What can I say, the small fridges just don’t cut it for me anymore!

If you have any questions about keeping your progress through the Holidays, visit our Facebook page, send me an email, or comment below. I’m sure you can come up with a plan for you!