Are all calories created equal?
Let’s start this conversation by identifying where calories come from. The primary sources we care most about are fat, protein and carbohydrates. The amount you consume of each of these determines how many calories you take in during the day (aka macros). Carbs and protein each contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram. Let’s assume you are trying to lose weight. You eat decent, not super healthy but not super bad either. You workout about 2-3 days a week so you’re burning around 2500 calories on those days and about 1800 on your off days. If you are consuming say, 3000 calories a day, one of two things must happen in order for fat loss to occur. You either 1) consume less calories so that your daily burn exceeds your daily consumption (Calories In vs Calories Out), or 2) you work out more so that you can burn more calories than you consume (again, CICO) OR combine the two, eat a little less, exercise a little more.
But can you still eat junk? I mean, all we care about are the numbers, right? Doesn’t matter where they come from. Eh, not so much. It matters. If you’re trying to stay within a certain number of calories, say 2000, wouldn’t you want to consume that without feeling like you’re starving yourself to death? If you can spread 3 meals and 2 snacks out over the course of the day and stay within your calorie range and NOT feel like you’re going to shrivel up and die, wouldn’t you rather take that route? Of course you would. So how do we do this? How does one accomplish such a daunting task? The hard part is not figuring out how. The hard part is implementing what you already know. We all know obvious sources of protein are red meat, poultry and fish. Some are higher than others and some are a tradeoff. You can eat a lean steak and get less fat or eat a ribeye and get probably twice or more the amount of fat. You can eat chicken thighs which are higher in fat or chicken breast which is lower in fat. There is an entire separate post about this, but what it boils down to is making subtle changes. If your usual choice is fatty red meat, opt for lean red meat. If you LOVE burgers but are trying to keep carbs low, toss half the bun, don’t order the fries, get the diet soda. Anyways, if you want to read more about my take on eating healthier, go check out that post, lets keep talking about calories.
Let’s talk about what it takes to lose fat. Not weight, because weight is made up of all the different parts of ours bodies, fat, muscle, bone mass, skin, organs, WATER, etc. We want to stay healthy and we know that having too much fat is unhealthy, so we are primarily focusing on fat loss. It takes approximately 3500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat. So, if you are working out 7 days a week and burning 500 calories per workout, shouldn’t that be yielding a fat loss of 1 pound per week? Maybe, if that is an overall DEFICIT of 3500 calories for the week. If not, then you may be still losing fat, just not 1 pound a week. Which by the way is a sustainable rate of loss. So we want to lose fat in a sustainable and healthy manner, but what else do we want? Well, we don’t want to sacrifice all of our free time getting there. Of course not! And the great thing is, you DON’T have to. There are 24 hours in a day. If you sleep 8, work 8 or even 10, that still leaves you with around 6-8 hours of time to break up however you see fit. Pick the time of day that works best for you and dedicate 1 hour, just 1, to doing activity that causes your body to burn up some energy (aka Calories) so you can start working toward this goal of yours.
Since we have been using fat loss as an example, I’ll keep going with that as our “goal”, although this might be different for some people. So again, if we are trying to stay at or below X number of calories and now, we are working out more to achieve this, what else can we do to make sure we are giving ourselves a fighting chance? CONSUME LESS CRAP. Why? Because shit food is full of calories that don’t keep you full. All it does is jack up the numbers which we are carefully trying to keep in check, right? We have to stop looking for the easy way out. Yes, there are countless numbers of diets out there. From the carnivore to paleo, atkins, keto, vegan, etc. Not a single one of them can cause fat loss if you’re not creating a calorie deficit.
So, to sort of bundle this all up and into one pretty basic summary. NO. All calories are not created equal. If they were, we could just eat w/e we would be able to eat 2000 calories in meat and 2000 calories in Reese’s peanut butter cups and get the exact same results from them. I, like many of you, know this and still sabotage myself constantly. Luckily, I work out enough to combat most of my bad eating habits. But I am no body builder or physique model. I’d have A LOT of work to get to either of those places. Look, we were all smaller and weighed less at one point in our lives. Maybe we were more active or more athletic. Stop chasing that old version of you. Set realistic goals and take active steps to meet them. I’d say at my most athletic (not healthiest) I was 5’8”, 175lbs with a 32” waist. Right now I am sitting around 192 with a 34” waist and I feel great. I am not as strong or fast as I was before, but I could go the rest of my life with these stats. I could also improve them. I could also screw them up. Gain a bunch of weight and become a health hazard that both me and my family have to worry about. My goal is not to be 175 again. It’s just not to be 250. Or even 220. Those are MY goals. I want to stay strong and I want to be able to keep up with my kids. I want to be able to bend over and tie my shoes and walk up a set of stairs without being out of breath. Those are REAL attainable goals. But just because I can do those things now, doesn’t mean I’ll be able to do them forever. But I am damn sure going to try!
What are your goals? Are they realistic? Are you chasing an older version of you? Shoot me a message and tell me what they are firstname.lastname@example.org. Write them down. Do something to make them real. Everyone has ideas. But without action, an idea just stays an idea and never manifests itself.