Counting Calories

jrosto

Double-Digit Post Count
Al asked the following in one of the Kettlebell threads. I thought I'd give my answer here.

@beephsupreme exactly. I am curious as to what those individuals who track calories think that it means.
At my heaviest I was 289 lbs. Six years later, after several faddish attempts to lose weight, I was still 251 lbs. In May of 2014, at 251 lbs, I started following the Primal Blueprint (basically Paleo + milk and chocolate). At that point I started tracking macros, mainly carb intake. Once I got into a groove I just did the occasional spot check to make sure there were no leaks in my program.

I lost the weight, had major surgery (double lung transplant in January), and started my journey towards getting strong.

Now that I've lost the weight (today I weighed 156 lbs) I track everything I eat religiously. I will not become fat ever again.

I don't vary my food intake based on exercise, I shoot for an average daily cal intake and certain macro goals. When I first started with maintaining my weight, my avg cal goal was 1800/day. I have slowly increased that goal to between 24 and 2500 cals/day as of this week. I expect that goal to increase to 2800 cals/day when I'm swinging a 32 kg 'bell. More important than cals though is my macros. I try to get 140+ grams of protein/day and around 150 grams of carbs/day. I continue to make good progress with the S&S program (5 days/week) and have lots of energy.

To ensure I do not get fat again, I keep an eye on weight, BF %, energy levels, workout gains and pictures I take ever 6 to 8 weeks or so. Documenting what I eat is just a small part of my program.

Here is a weight chart for the last 6 months:



I do expect to gain weight as I progress towards reaching the Simple goal, just not fat.
 

krg

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Great work - and I think absolutely the right approach.

I only make progress with my own diet when I absolutely obsess on it, left to my own devices I would always make poor food choices. I have found recording what I eat to be very helpful - but a real chore. Are you using an app etc to make recording macros etc less painful?

In reply to Al's question - at some level calories in and out must be important - however I have no idea how to measure or estimate calories out with any confidence. My polar heart rate monitor will give me a figure that is just laughable and I suspect people's baselines vary dramatically. Hence - no real idea what calories in should be.
 

Al Ciampa

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
@jrosto I second the congratulations!

@krg yes, somewhere in between starving and the golden corral, the amount of energy intake does matter for body composition. If we'd to quantify energy and attach a numeral to it, calling it "calories", fine. I am against teaching calorie counting, but do not advise those that already do to stop. I am also curious of what the thoughts are of those who are interested in tracking calories. As a health educator, I like to keep up with people's opinions and ideas who are outside of my bubble, and facebook is not the place to do that ;]
 

Kettlebelephant

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
I am also curious of what the thoughts are of those who are interested in tracking calories. As a health educator, I like to keep up with people's opinions and ideas who are outside of my bubble, and facebook is not the place to do that ;]
Al, I used to track my cals for some time and think anyone should do it once in his/her life for 30-60days. You get a good feeling of how much food is too much, even healthy stuff. I had my parents do it for a month and they were surprised e.g. how many cals their usual breakfast muesli had. Although it was selfmade with fresh fruit and nuts, the portions just have been too big.

Counting cals helps with keeping your weight in check, but ultimately I think that we don't understand enough about the topic to make definite statements.
I think our body is "smarter" than just cals in vs. cals out.
I can't back up my following statement with any science, just my own experience:
If your daily caloric need is 3000cals and you eat that amount every day, but one day you go on a feeding frenzy that ends up being 10000cals (think of a day when you meet your friends to have a big barbeque, then decide to go partying with lots of alcohol mixed with sugary soda and a big junk food binge after all that alcohol). If you just look at the cals you can expect to weigh 1Kg/2,5lbs more the next day, because you created a surplus of 7000cals (which equals 1Kg of fat).
However that's never the case (at least for me).
I can't explain why it is like that, but it shows that there's more to it than just cals in vs. cals out.
 

jrosto

Double-Digit Post Count
Congrats on getting healthy and losing a bunch of body-fat!
Thanks, I appreciate it.

...Are you using an app etc to make recording macros etc less painful?
Yes, I use MFP. I've been doing it long enough now that most of my foods are in my "recent foods" or "recopies" databases so it has gotten very easy.

@jrosto I second the congratulations!

@krg yes, somewhere in between starving and the golden corral, the amount of energy intake does matter for body composition. If we'd to quantify energy and attach a numeral to it, calling it "calories", fine. I am against teaching calorie counting, but do not advise those that already do to stop. I am also curious of what the thoughts are of those who are interested in tracking calories. As a health educator, I like to keep up with people's opinions and ideas who are outside of my bubble, and facebook is not the place to do that ;]
Thanks Al. Kind of like keeping workout logs, food logs can provide some great information on what has worked, or not worked in the past.

...I think our body is "smarter" than just cals in vs. cals out.
I can't back up my following statement with any science, just my own experience:
If your daily caloric need is 3000cals and you eat that amount every day, but one day you go on a feeding frenzy that ends up being 10000cals (think of a day when you meet your friends to have a big barbeque, then decide to go partying with lots of alcohol mixed with sugary soda and a big junk food binge after all that alcohol). If you just look at the cals you can expect to weigh 1Kg/2,5lbs more the next day, because you created a surplus of 7000cals (which equals 1Kg of fat).
However that's never the case (at least for me).
I can't explain why it is like that, but it shows that there's more to it than just cals in vs. cals out.
I agree with that 100%, our bodies are smarter than we think. That's why my goals are daily averages over a week, and I change things slowly and wait to see what happens.
 

Kore

Still New to StrongFirst Forum
@krg yes, somewhere in between starving and the golden corral, the amount of energy intake does matter for body composition. If we'd to quantify energy and attach a numeral to it, calling it "calories", fine. I am against teaching calorie counting, but do not advise those that already do to stop. I am also curious of what the thoughts are of those who are interested in tracking calories. As a health educator, I like to keep up with people's opinions and ideas who are outside of my bubble, and facebook is not the place to do that ;][/QUOTE]

Absolutely agree. Kcal is just a measure of energy, and a very basic one at that.

My advice would be to focus less on the amount of energy you are taking in and look more closely at the quality and nutrition within the foods.

Ex.. 500 kcal of protein, carbs, fats are going to look very different but more importantly have different attribute eat one. Proteins will have the amino acids your body needs to do different functions. Carbs(vegetables) will have an assortment of vitamins and minerals. Fats will allow different hormone functions to occur.
 

Al Ciampa

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Certified Instructor
If your daily caloric need is 3000cals and you eat that amount every day, but one day you go on a feeding frenzy that ends up being 10000cals (think of a day when you meet your friends to have a big barbeque, then decide to go partying with lots of alcohol mixed with sugary soda and a big junk food binge after all that alcohol). If you just look at the cals you can expect to weigh 1Kg/2,5lbs more the next day, because you created a surplus of 7000cals (which equals 1Kg of fat).
However that's never the case (at least for me).
Correct. Because there are many ways the body can deal with excess energy. Adiposity is only one of them. And consider the alternative to your experiment: does a hypocaloric diet lead to the exact weight loss that the math predicts? I've never seen one case.

@Kore I like that you added the "K" where it belongs. It is because "calories" is actually K-calories, or 1000(calories). So a 3000/day limit is actually 3,000,000 calories. We removed the 1000 multiple for ease of communication. It provides a sharper perspective.
 
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