Do you know how many calories your body really needs on a daily basis?
I hate counting calories! My daily routine for what I eat, and how much I eat, is pretty simple. I start my morning with a smoothie, which consists of a hand full of green leafy vegetables, some healthy fat and a bit of cinnamon or cocoa nibs mixed in. I don’t measure, and I don’t weigh -- I just guesstimate. Obsessive calorie counting takes away from the enjoyment of eating and the art of food, and I don’t want to sit down to a meal that I just created and figure out how many calories are in it.
Of course most dietary advice will stress the importance of counting calories – especially if the objective is losing weight. Many diets call for counting every calorie to optimize energy, improve performance, and of course, to lose weight. My opinion is, you should know, in general, what you’re eating, as well as the overall micro- and macronutrient profile of your daily food intake. To that end, it’s also helpful to know the nutritional profiles of foods we eat regularly, for instance, an egg has 71 calories, zero carbs, six grams of protein, and five grams of fat. A three-ounce baked chicken breast is about the size of my iPhone and has about 140 calories, 26 grams of protein, zero carbs, and three grams of fat. This sort of knowledge makes assembling a nutritious meal quicker and easier.
Although it’s tedious, spending a week or so “measuring” your food is necessary to get an idea of where you are with total calories, carbs, proteins, and fats on a daily basis. We can fool ourselves into believing that we eat much less or much better than we actually do. Or we may know intuitively that we don’t eat well, or that we eat too much, but we’re surprised when we realize just how poorly or how much we actually consume. Writing it all down may be painful, but it’s important. Once you document what you eat (and I mean everything) every day for a week, you’ll be able to look at a plate of food and hazard a reasonable guess at what you are putting into your body. This information is the foundation for building the right eating plan that enables you to maintain (and even boost) your energy levels, lose weight, and increase performance.
When you have an idea of what you’re eating, you should also know how much you should be eating. To start, you need to find out how many calories you burn while at rest, without doing any exercise at all. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). There are several online calculators you can use to determine your BMR. (Because most of us want to know whether our BMR is “good or bad”, the average for men is 2700 to 2900 and the average for women is 2000-2100. ) Once you know your daily food intake and what your BMR is, you can begin to factor in activity level and intensity of training to map your way to achieving your fitness and performance goals.
For me, I need about 3200 calories per day to maintain my weight, feel the way I like to feel, and to be able to get through the type of workouts I like. I also know that I have about a 500-calorie swing both ways. If I drop down to 2700 calories per day, I start to lose weight and my energy level plummets quickly. My mood changes and I can’t perform workouts with the intensity I really want. Conversely, if I consume more than 3700 per day for a period of time, I start to gain weight, I feel full all day, I have trouble sleeping, and an extra layer of fat starts to form around my waist.
We're all different. Each of us has an ideal caloric intake range for our specific body. No two bodies will be the same, and no two people will respond the same way to variations in caloric intake. Knowing your particular caloric and nutritional needs is a critical step to becoming the strongest, healthiest and fittest person you can be.
See you in the gym!
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