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.