In order to determine how many Calories (or kilocalories) you should be eating, it's essential to take into consideration five parameters:
Once known, the values from above can be plugged into an Estimated Energy Requirement (EER) equation* (the lean body mass value is added to or subtracted from the EER relative to whether it's a training or non-training day, respectively). There are three basic body composition goals:
- Bodyweight (kg)
- Height (cm)
- Age (yrs)
- Lean body mass (kg)
- Physical activity factor (i.e., sedentary=1; moderately active=1.12; very active=1.27; extremely active=1.45).
If your goal is to maintain your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) is sufficient energy for bodyweight maintenance. If your goal is to decrease your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) should decrease about 250 kcals per day in order to lose about a half pound of fat per week (Note: never eat less than 1500 kcals daily if you're a man or less than 1200 kcals daily if you're a woman). If your goal is to increase your bodyweight, then the EER value (plus or minus your lean body mass (LBM) relative to training or non-training day, respectively) should increase about 250 kcals per day in order to gain about a half pound of muscle per week. After calculating your recommended caloric intake, the next step is to determine your recommended macronutrient ratio. This ratio is dependent on one of four basic fitness goals:
- Maintain bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- Decrease bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- Increase bodyweight while losing fat and gaining muscle mass
- To gain muscle mass and strength
- To get lean
- To maintain bodyweight
- To gain power
If your fitness goal is to gain muscle mass and strength, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 65:25:30 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to get lean, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 40:30:30 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to maintain your bodyweight, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 55:20:25 of carbs to protein to fat. If your fitness goal is to gain power, your recommended macronutrient ratio should be about 80:10:10 of carbs to protein to fat.
Finally, the last step is to determine how many grams of each macronutrient you should be eating daily. This can be calculated based on your recommended caloric intake value and keeping in mind that there are about 4 kcals per gram of carbs and protein and about 9 kcals per gram of fat. For instance, if your current recommended caloric intake is 2300 kcals and your fitness goal is to get lean (40:30:30), then your macronutrient grams should be about 230g of carbs (2300 * 0.40 / 4), 173g of protein (2300 * 0.30 / 4) and 77g of fat (2300 * 0.30 / 9).
I recommend using the MealLogger app
compatible with your iphone to track your goal Calories and carb and protein grams. This app allow you to log the foods you eat by taking a picture of the food with your iphone. You may also network with professionals within the fields of nutrition or personal training for guidance. * EER (males) = 662 - 9.53A + PA (15.91W + 539.6H) or EER (females) = 354 - 6.91A + PA(9.36W + 726H) whereA = agePA = physical activity factorW = bodyweight
H = height
Analysis on this topic is largely based on research which is observational in nature rather than cause-and-effect. Nevertheless, there does seem to be an observational relationship between metabolic rate, circadian rhythm and meal intake times. When you eat affects your appetite hormone levels (e.g., insulin) which may cause disturbances in your circadian rhythm and lead to metabolic syndrome (i.e., obesity, heart disease, diabetes, etc.). Eating your biggest meal before 3pm tends to cause greater bodyweight loss than eating later.
A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity provides support that eating more food earlier in the day is more effective for losing bodyweight. This study compared two groups of participants: those that ate most of their food before 3pm and those who ate most of their food after 3pm. In both groups, caloric intake, macronutrient composition, activity level, sleep quantity, and appetite hormone levels were similar. The group that ate their biggest meal before 3pm lost more bodyweight at a faster rate than those who ate their biggest meal after 3pm. Other studies support this finding when it was discovered that those people who tend to skip breakfast are more likely to become overweight or obese than those who regularly eat breakfast. The reason for this may be because those people who skip breakfast tend to eat more food later in the day when their metabolic rate is usually reduced, thus perpetuating bodyweight increase.
BOTTOM LINE: Eating most of your food before mid-afternoon when your metabolic rate is elevated may be an effective and healthy habit for you to lose bodyweight. Certainly, avoid eating large late-night meals when your activity level is low--this is a recipe for weight gain!
The benefits of eating nuts far outweigh the risks. Nuts are high in fiber, healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds which promote good health. Nuts improve cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and help keep arteries flexible which minimizes elevated systolic blood pressure. Eating nuts regularly can also reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. The risks of eating nuts is excessive consumption of calories since nuts are relatively high in calories. This should NOT be of concern since the cardiovascular benefits of nuts (i.e., reduced risk of heart disease) far outweigh the risk of weight gain. In fact, eating nuts may actually reduce your bodyweight due to their relatively high protein and fiber content which makes you feel fuller longer so that you're less likely to eat as much food later. So go ahead, eat nuts but do so in moderation--think one handful per day.
Very low-calorie and very low-carb diets consist of eating about 10 calories per pound bodyweight and 10 to 15% carb intake daily, respectively. Usually professional physique competitors eat this way in order to achieve single-digit bodyfat percentages or to lose bodyweight/bodyfat. The trick to eating this way is to do it for only a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to go into starvation mode in which bodyfat storage occurs. To avoid plateauing when eating very low calories and/or low carbs, you should cycle your caloric or carb intake up and down to keep your body guessing and to prevent stagnation. In other words, decrease caloric/carb intake for a relatively short duration before increasing caloric/carb intake to fool the body so that is doesn't go into starvation mode. If the person dieting is very disciplined, dietary re-feeding every 3 to 4 days (or one to two weeks) in which caloric/carb intake increases by a factor of 1.5 (or 3.5) may be beneficial in obtaining an optimum physique. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- decreased metabolic rate
- decreased bone mass
- decreased muscle tissue
- nutrient deficiencies
Very high-carb diets consist of eating about 3.5 to 5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight or more than 70% carb intake daily. Usually endurance competitors or ectomorphic athletes eat this way in order to increase performance in long-duration events (e.g., marathon). Just as for very low-carb diets, very high-carb diets should occur for a relatively brief period (i.e., no more than four months) so as to not allow the body to convert carbs to fat when an excess supply is available. The risks of eating this way for a relatively long duration is the following:
- chronic elevated insulin levels
- increased bodyfat storage
- decreased insulin sensitivity
Prepare yourself for the top foods that contribute to belly fat in our society. Most Americans love these foods but unless these foods are eaten occasionally (i.e., at most once per week), you can kiss your goal of acquiring six-pack abs goodbye.
Here are the worst foods
you should resist the urge to eat due to high-calorie content :
- Ice cream
- Hot dogs
- Fatty red meat
- Meat-topped pizza
- Giant burgers
- Super-size fries
- Caffeinated soda and "energy" drinks
- BBQ pork sandwich
- Buffalo wings
- Rack of ribs
- Breakfast danish
- Mega frozen dinners
- All-you-can-eat buffet
Here are better foods
you should eat to reduce belly fat:
- Frozen Greek yogurt
- Fat-free popcorn
- Lean meat (e.g., sirloin, tenderloin, flank steak)
- Veggie-topped pizza
- Single grilled burger with lean ground beef
- Lean grilled chicken or burger on whole-wheat buns
- Grilled chicken strips
- Low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt
- High-fiber foods (e.g., apples, peas, beans)
Also, be sure to exercise to lose bodyfat--emphasize compound, full-body weight training movements and cardio intervals. Bear in mind that spot-reduction is a myth.
Back in the seventies it used to be thought that low-fat dieting was the best way to lose bodyweight. Now we know that this is not necessarily the case. Fats can be healthy provided you eat more of the unsaturated variety and less of the saturated and trans fats (i.e., homogenated fats). Currently the trend is to go the low-carb route to weight loss. Is this the key to losing bodyweight and bodyfat?
Restricting your carb (i.e., sugar) intake is not magical in affecting weight loss. What really matters overall is your caloric intake relative to your activity level. In other words, burning more calories than you eat will cause weight loss. If you consume more calories than your burn as energy you will gain bodyweight in the form of bodyfat. So why all the attention to low-carb dieting? The truth is that there is no simple solution to losing weight (hence the existence of the multi-billion dollar diet industry). You should not think in absolute terms by categorizing fats or carbs or proteins as being the enemy in terms of losing bodyweight. But having said this, at least 130g of carbs are needed daily in order to meet the basic energy needs of your body to function. Remember, your brain is fueled entirely by glucose. If your carb intake is significantly reduced, your ability to think, remember and concentrate will be compromised. In this case, your body will resort to converting amino acids and glycerol into glucose to meet your brain's demand for sugar to function.
In order to eat a low-carb diet, you must eat more protein and fat to compensate for the calorie differential. Both carbs and protein consist of four calories per gram but protein is much more satiating (appetite-suppressing) than carbs. Thus, eating more protein may lessen your overall caloric intake and therefore allow you to lose bodyweight. Protein requires more energy than carbs for digestion to occur. Thus, you actually burn more calories (without exercising) by simply eating more protein than you do eating carbs. But protein is also important as a macronutrient that is needed by your body to spare your muscles from being catabolized for energy. In addition, protein also helps to maintain your resting metabolic rate which may enhance fat burning. Not eating adequate carbs does not endanger the survival of your body because your liver can readily covert lactate and glycerol from fats as well as amino acids from protein into a carbohydrate source (i.e., glucose) of fuel when it needs it.
So it's not really about eating less carbs but rather eating more protein and fat that may help you to lose bodyweight. Of course, excess protein and fat that is not used for energy in the absence of carbs can be stored as bodyfat if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Thus, be sure to exercise regularly in conjunction with bumping up your protein and fat intake to lose bodyweight and bodyfat the healthy way.
Sprinting is guaranteed to burn bodyfat, particularly when performed in the morning before eating breakfast. Sprinting is a superb fat-fighting exercise because it involves short bursts of energy, significantly elevating your metabolic rate. The recommended manner in which to perform sprints is in an interval fashion with progressive intensity levels as your body adapts to the training stimulus. Never jump right in to full-on sprints at maximum intensity (e.g., 100% HRR) until your body has adapted. Best to gradually work up to intensity levels which are at submaximal intensities (e.g., 70 to 90% HRR). Be sure to take it slow and work up to increased intensity levels. Besides intensity level, consider the frequency and duration of your sprints. Better to be conservative on these aspects as well. Twice per week at 30 to 45 minutes is adequate to achieve fat-burning results when sprinting. Only sprint on a cushioned surface such as a running track, artificial turf or grass--avoid pavement to spare your hip and knee joints. Lastly, be sure to wear a good pair of running shoes with a flat sole--minimus New Balance shoes are ideal.
It's drilled into our collective minds that eating less food is the best way to lose bodyweight. Makes sense. Eat less food and you'll lose weight. What can be wrong about this message? The problem is that eating less by following a diet plan may not be the best way to lose weight after all. The reason is that is that long-term compliance with sticking to stringent weight-loss diets is doomed to failure. Why? Because it makes eating foods seem like a guilty event rather than what eating food should really be about: pleasure.
The reality is that restraining your food intake may make you feel guilty about eating foods which inevitably encourages you to eat more food rather than less in order to provide comfort. Dieting is not the answer to losing weight. In fact, dieting may actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose it. Dieting tends to lead to unhealthy eating patterns which may cause binge eating.
So what is the better way to lose bodyweight? The answer is to listen to your body. It's that simple. Your body tells you when you should eat and how much. Purposely restraining food to the point where there is discomfort or intense hunger is no way to go about living your life. Ice cream and chips are not evil. Eating these foods in moderation while also eating foods such as fruits and vegetables is the key to healthy eating behaviors. The all-or-none attitude to eating has got to go! There is no need to severely restrict foods you may consider to be bad foods. This type of behavior inevitably leads to powerful urges to eat these foods in more amounts than we care to admit. Feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression, and reduced self-esteem from eating these "forbidden" foods can lead to an unhealthy eating pattern. Instead, eat some of these foods but also eat plenty of protein, vegetables, fruits, and slow-digesting, high-fiber carbs.
BOTTOM LINE: Eating should be a pleasurable experience and not a source of guilt. We eat food to nourish our bodies and to feel good. Dietary restrictions can easily lead to unhealthy eating patterns. Stop thinking there are "good" and "bad" foods. Instead, think of foods as sustenance. Eat slowly. Abide by your appetite and listen to the hunger signals your body is teling you. Trust these hunger cues and STOP RESTRICTING CERTAIN FOODS. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to lose weight and question any diet that has rigid rules and promotes the restriction of particular foods. Stop feeling guilty and eat what you like!
As a personal trainer, I sometimes ask my clients if they are aware of how much they are eating without even getting into caloric intake necessarily. In most cases, they usually underestimate
the amount of food they eat. This is where some psychology may come into play. We' d like to think
we're eating less food than we really are--just like we'd like to think
we're taller than we really are or weigh less than we really weigh. The reason for this way of thinking is essentially due to wishful thinking.
In other words, we subconsciously wish
we were taller or lighter than we really are. And so this may be the case with being aware of how much food we actually eat. If you were to track your caloric intake by reading food nutrition labels and sum up your overall daily caloric intake, you'd probably be surprised about how many calories you're actually eating--most likely more than you'd care to admit.
The reality is that most people eat more food than they think
they're eating and then they wonder why they find it difficult to lose body weight when exercising. Could the crux of the problem be that they're eating more food than they realize? The insidious part about eating food is that we may eat because we're bored and are not listening
to our bodies for hunger signals.
How can we avoid overeating? Here are ways to avoid the overconsumption of food:
- Eat your food from smaller bowls and plates. Studies have indicated that we tend to eat more food when the food comes in deep bowls or large plates. This supports the theory that we tend to rely on visual cues (eating until our plate is empty) rather than internal cues (hunger) when eating.
- Drink your fluids from tall, narrow glasses. Studies have indicated that we tend to pour more volumes of liquid in short, wide glasses rather than tall, narrow glasses. It's as if the mind plays tricks in perceiving there is less liquid in short, wide glasses when in reality this is not the case.
- Limit the consumption of processed foods which contain high sugar and salt. These foods tend to increase appetite due to the increase in blood insulin levels.
- Keep unhealthy foods out of sight or out of your house. As they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."
- Avoid eating when watching TV. Mindlessly eating while watching TV is a recipe for overeating because we're not aware of how much we're eating due to the distraction of TV.
- Be aware of social influences in public gatherings. The pressure to eat more food in order to please hosts, for instance, should be countered with a polite, "No thank you, I'm fine"
- Be aware of tantalizing images of foods. The mere act of seeing tempting images of foods in advertisements may stimulate blood levels of ghrelin, the hormone released that stimulates appetite.
- Avoid eating when you're stressed, depressed, upset, angry, lonely, or even happy and excited.
- Eat s-l-o-w-l-y and chew your food well. By eating this way, you're more likely to allow the feeling of satiety to reach your brain (it takes about 20 minutes) before you overeat.
- Eat with your non-dominant hand or use chopsticks. This allows you to avoid eating mindlessly and encourages you to eat more slowly.
- Go for a brisk walk when you feel a snack craving. The mere act of walking may boost your mood and lessen your desire for certain cravings for decadent foods like chocolate or chips.
- Keep a food diary. By recording the foods you eat, you become more aware of how you're really eating--consider it a wakeup call. Just be sure to be honest with yourself and be consistent in tracking the foods you eat. You'll become more accountable for what and how much food you eat.
It is highly recommended that you should continue to exercise if you haven't been doing so already unless you are experiencing acute abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and/or vomiting. Exercise may help to reduce cholesterol and tryglyceride levels and lessen body weight. Dyslipidemia (i.e., high cholesterol levels) and obesity are contributing factors in causing gallstone formation.
One's diet may or may not be a contributing factor to gallbladder problems leading to gallstones (i.e., excessive cholesterol and fat intake and low fiber intake) and the research seems to point the finger to hereditary causes being more of the culprit. Nevertheless, nutrition can be a contributing factor. The following foods are recommended:
Foods to avoid include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains (e.g., whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oats)
- Lean meat, poultry and fish
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lots of water
- Fried foods
- Highly-processed foods (e.g., doughnuts, pie, cookies)
- Whole-milk dairy products (e.g., cheese, ice cream, butter)
- Fatty red meat