Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Calorie Counting Confusion

Calories, calories, calories…how many should we eat? Which calculator should be utilized??

There are so many different calorie tracker devices on our smart phones and various websites to make our life of calorie tracking a little easier. Often times these calculators can also calculate the calories we burn in a specific exercise and don’t forget the helpful calorie counter on that treadmill or elyptical. So it should be as easy as calories consumed minus calories used to get our weight down; correct?

Sadly the answer is no. Life just is not that simple. :( . First of all not all calories are created equal. Food that has been ultra processed or is full of a variety of chemicals and preservatives do not break down as quickly as the wholesome natural food (our body is not a synthesized machine and enjoys breaking down resources that are familiar; remember the old chemistry term “like dissolves like”). So in theory we can consume a lot more calories of the all natural stuff then the convenient packaged foods.

Exercise calculators available online and on cardio equipment, are these viable sources of information? No, not really. These calculators forget to take into consideration the details of the person using them; such as rate of metabolism, highly controlled by amount of muscle mass and efficiency of the thyroid gland.

Yes, it would be nice if life was such a simple calculator but as we all know it gets a lot more complicated.

So when weight loss or maintenance is the goal; what should we do? Follow these steps:
  1. Keep a food journal: monitor what you are eating, when you are eating it, how much water you are drinking, and how you feel at the end of the day. Every individual metabolizes food differently; it is best to find what works personally works for you. Keeping a detailed journal will give you the answers to what works best for you.
  2. Eat as wholesome as possible: read nutrition labels; if you don’t know what the ingredients are don’t eat it. Stock your pantry and fridge with fruits, vegetables, and lots of whole grains.
  3. Eat balanced meals: protein, carbohydrates, and fats with each meal.
  4. Add raw fruits and vegetables to your diet: these contain natural enzymes; which help your body in the digestion process.
  5. Plenty of water: helps in the digestion and to keep you feeling full (sometimes that hungry feeling doesn’t actually mean you need food, you are actually thirsty)
  6. Exercise at least 4-5 days a week: 20-30 minutes of cardio and 20-30 minutes of strength training. The more muscle on your body; the faster the metabolism. Make your workouts challenging or ask a personal trainer to get you on an individualized program. Implement cross training and muscle confusion.
  7. Get plenty of rest: when we are sleeping is when the body begins to repair and restore, as well as absorb nutrients from the food we ingested during the day!

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