It is a phrase that is becoming much more popular. However, what does it actually mean?
A calorie is not something to fear. Just because one type of food, dish or sandwich at Pret is higher in calories than another, does not mean it is bad for you. All it means is that particular meal is providing you with more energy. It does not mean right at that moment, it will make you more likely to put on weight than the lower calorie and often less tasty option. More energy is never a bad thing (unless it becomes unbalanced with your activity which I discuss in my previous post). All living things need calories to survive. A calorie is just another term, or unit, used to describe this energy provided in food and drink. The basic definition of a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1g of water from 0 to 1 degree celsius.
Food and drink provide us with a source of these calories. Sources which are vital for life. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the main macronutrients. The break down of these products by the process of digestion are what form the building blocks of the human body. Namely amino acids (from proteins), glucose (from carbohydrates) and fatty acids (from fats). All 3 of these macronutrients have had their moments in the social media and fad diet spotlight. In next week’s post I will discuss macronutrients in more detail and explain why all 3 are important and necessary to consume.
Calories are seen to be “king”, in other words the most important focus above any so-called diet, because eating too much of anything (too many calories) will mean you put on weight. In the same manner, if you are looking to put on muscle and be the next Arnie, you won’t get there if you don’t eat enough calories to be in a surplus (see my last post on calorie surplus and energy balance).
To be very black and white, pizza is seen as “bad”, “unhealthy” or a “cheat” food. However, if all you ate was pizza but it was only 1000 calories of pizza, you would still lose weight. Cucumber is seen as a very “healthy” and “good” food and is indeed incredibly low in calories. Nevertheless, if you still managed to eat 3000 calories of it (goodness gracious please don’t try!) you would most certainly put on weight even if you were a relatively active being!
This is one of the reasons as to why the IIFYM diet trend was born (If It Fits Your Macros). It professes that as long as you eat the right amount of proteins, carbs and fats for your “gainz” or goals (and therefore the calories) then you could consume whatever foods and drinks you wanted. True, if you just look at calories alone. However, achieving healthy weight loss and a healthy lifestyle are not that simple.
What is required is a lot less sexy and unabbreivated. A balanced diet with plentiful colourful fruit and veg is vital for all the fibre and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that they provide. This is where the “calories are king” argument can start to lose its standing. It is true, as I stated previously. If you eat too much of ANYTHING you won’t lose weight, regardless if it’s pizza or cucumber. However, it is still important to be aware of what you eat, to ensure you nourish yourself with all the necessary micronutrients, as well as the macronutrients. You can be slim but still “unhealthy” if you don’t provide yourself with enough vitamins and minerals for your cells to function properly.
Unfortunately, there is no magic diet or perfect amount of calories to lose or gain weight. The beauty is that we are all unique. My ethos is to ensure all my training programs and nutrition coaching strategies are personalised to each and every client. I spend time finding out their “whys” and the reasons for pursuing their goals. I make sure their diet is something they can enjoy and do easily while still eating all the foods they love. If you would like to find out more and if you feel you need some help for motivation and accountability, visit my website www.fsandersfitness.com or email me directly at email@example.com