Everyone has their own idea about how many calories we should be eating, whether we should be eating low carbs or not, how much fat we should be eating and whether we should be having high or low protein.
My thoughts are that this doesn’t matter quite as much as many people have been led to believe. Not when you follow the ‘rules’ outlined above and eat only good quality, nutrient dense foods.
Take calories for example. Firstly, it’s highly unlikely that prehistoric man counted calories when going about hunting and gathering food. In fact, no wild animal weighs, counts or measures any aspect of their diet yet they will display better health and physiques than most humans who are obsessed with monitoring their calorie intake.
The truth is, the body doesn’t actually recognise calories.
A calorie is just a measure of how much energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. While a useful measure in the laboratory, it doesn’t have as much relevance in a living, breathing human body where there are an untold number of individual factors that alter the way your body uses food.
Age, gender, muscular size, endocrine efficiency and stress levels for example are just a few of the factors that alter the way your body uses calories. Your body is a whole lot more than a kind of storage facility, where if you don’t ‘burn’ the energy you take in, the excess is stored as fat. All calories are not created equal.
The real key to the way our body functions is our hormonal system. Without going into too much detail here, our levels of hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, oestrogen, thyroid and insulin among others will vary from person to person, depending on many different factors. If any of these are out of whack then they affect the way our body uses calories.
You can’t beat the hormonal system unfortunately. There’s no fooling your body by restricting calories until it does what it’s told. What’s the best way to eat to give yourself the best chance of balancing these hormones? Removing toxic foods and consuming nutrient dense foods, plain and simple.
Let’s give another illustration. Say you took two identical twins whose energy expenditure was identical. Twin 1 ingested 2500 calories per day of salmon, potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Twin 2 also ate 2500 calories per day, but their diet consisted of cereal bars, sandwiches and biscuits. If they (theoretically) ate like this for even a month, who do you think will display greater health, energy and body composition?
If they ate like this for a year (in this example we won’t worry about variety…) do you suppose that the difference could be quite profound, despite an identical calorie intake? I think it would.
However, like I tell my Bath personal training clients, I’m not saying calories are completely irrelevant. If you strived to eat as much as possible, even of clean foods you will likely gain weight (and the science also suggests such overeating results in you not living as long). Similarly if you deprive yourself of calories you will lose weight (however this will be mostly muscle, you won’t feel good and you most likely won’t achieve the physical appearance you ultimately desire).
No, what I’m recommending is that you simply focus on eating healthy foods until your body is satisfied. Believe it or not, this will happen quite naturally. You should feel satisfied after eating, not overly full but certainly not hungry either. Give your body what it needs to function, enjoy your food in the process and there’s no need to turn eating into a mathematical nightmare.
Bath Personal trainer
I'm opening up a personal training studio in Green Park station in January. Look out soon for info about our 'by-application' only programmes that are designed to help you drop a clothes size within thirty days.
Member since: 30th May 2012
My personal mission is to transform the lives of as many people in Bath as possible through personal training.
I run a personal training studio in Green Park Station, where I help people to drop a clothes...