Calories … the most delicious word in the dictionary.
Calories are an important factor in weight gain and weight loss. It all comes down to energy balance — or the number of calories you eat vs. the number of calories you expend. Although we don’t need to count calories to get shredded, it’s essential to know how it works.
Let’s dive in!
Counting Calories — What’s That?
As we all know, food consists of calories. This means that everything you eat and drink has caloric value (everything from pizza to salad). While it’s true that everything has calories, a calorie from a protein is not the same as a calorie from a carb. More on this later…
Counting calories is simply using technology to track how much food or energy you’re consuming. For instance, using an app like MyFitnessPal.
“Hey, App. Mr. App — you up?
“Of course, sir! How may I help?”
“I just ate an apple.”
“The poor doctor! That will equal 100 calories, of which 80% came from sugar, and 20 came from the fiber. You also consumed 13 mg of sodium and 20% of your daily Vitamin B6”
Why would you even want this? Well, to manage your weight…
Why Do We, Calorie Count?
Most people don’t understand that there’s a science behind weight loss and weight gain.
In terms of weight loss, people are most interested in decreasing body fat. On a molecular level, nearly all of the weight we lose is exhaled through our lungs. The rest comes out as water in the form of sweat or urine.
Contrary to what you may have been told, fat is not converted into muscle.
In terms of weight gain, people are most interested in gaining muscle mass. For this, you need ample amounts of protein as well as calories.
Exactly how much protein?
Well, when it comes down to gaining weight: 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.
When it comes down to losing weight: 1.2 grams per pound of body weight per day.
The Science Behind Calories
Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in organisms concerning our metabolisms and the heat that’s expended in direct response to the food we eat or the activities we participate in.
Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) gives you an estimate of how many calories you should be consuming per day.
It’s made up of several factors, such as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT), and the thermic effect of food (TEF).
Each of these factors accounts for different percentages of your TDEE:
- Your BMR accounts for roughly 60-75%
- NEAT accounts for about 15-30%
- EAT accounts for around 5%
- TEF accounts for some 10%
Remember when I said a calorie from protein isn’t the same as a calorie from a carb? The foods we eat each consist of macronutrients; these are proteins, carbs, and fats.
- Proteins have 4 kcals per gram
- Carbohydrates also have 4 kcals per gram
- Fats have 9 kcals per gram (more than double the other macros)
While energy balance is the main variable for weight loss and weight gain, we don’t have to count the energy we’re burning vs. consuming if the negatives outweigh the positives.
A calorie deficit is what leads to weight loss, and a calorie surplus is what leads to weight gain.
Eating fewer calories than you’re expending will lead to weight loss over time. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to stick to only drinking water and eating chicken breast, but it does mean you have to know what foods are higher in calories.
Those who are affected mentally by the numerics on the scale and find themselves obsessing over the outcomes in an unhealthy way could benefit from learning how to remain in a calorie surplus or deficit without tracking.
So how do we do it? Well, it’s along the lines of what Wiz Khalifa said…
“Work hard, play hard.”
Step 1 – Work Hard
In the beginning, you’ll fall into one of the following categories:
- If you have excess body fat, in order to lose fat, you need to recomp.
- If you don’t have enough muscle and fat, in order to increase muscle tissue, you need to recomp.
- If you don’t have enough muscle mass but have an excess amount of fat, even though you aren’t overweight, you need to recomp.
What does it mean to recomp?
Body recomposition is decreasing body fat percentage and increasing muscle mass within the same timeframe. This takes time, not just a few weeks.
Going from Buu to Goku, from Jabba the Hutt to a normal Hutt, from Carl to Johnny Bravo; hopefully, everyone from the 90s is still with me.
The average person thinks that losing fat and building muscle are mutually exclusive, although this isn’t the case. Both are important for longevity and overall health. But in order to do them at the same time requires two different strategies.
In order to gain weight and muscle. we need to be in a calorie surplus. In order to lose weight and fat, we need to be in a calorie deficit.
Losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously can be done by hitting our protein target while weight training with progressive overload and being in a calorie deficit. This isn’t as sustainable as building muscle in a calorie surplus and can’t be done forever, but it can be done.
In order to build muscle and stay lean, we need to lift weights with a progressive overload in mind. Progressive overload means lifting more weight gradually over time.
“Gradually” means exactly that. If you walk into the gym and attempt to follow CBum’s routine from the get-go, you’ll last in the gym as long as Andrew Tate remained relevant.
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Step 2 – Play a Little Less Hard
Eating is one of the greatest privileges we all have in life. There’s so much to be discovered with different tastes. We can learn so much about a culture through its food, and we can learn about individuals through what they eat as well.
Mindful eating doesn’t mean we don’t get to eat the things we want. It doesn’t mean we have to skip breakfast or only drink a protein shake for lunch. It’s none of those things.
Mindful eating is about making sure we listen to our hunger cues … but in a controlled fashion, without overindulging, which means listening to our satiety signals as well.
When you’re full, it’s better to rub your belly and smile than go in for thirds. Your digestive tract will thank you later, and so will your better half.
We don’t have to track calories or start “dieting,” per se, but we do have to know which ones to limit and which ones to eat more of.
- We can start by limiting processed foods, as they’re linked to weight gain and high blood sugar, and they also increase hunger. That’s not to say you can’t eat them, but rather limit them.
- Limit sweet and sugary drinks.
- Eat more whole foods and soluble fiber. Fiber has been shown to have a range of health benefits, so don’t be afraid of high-fiber vegetables. And because of their satiating nature and low caloric percentage, you rarely have to estimate portion sizes — just dig in.
- Increasing protein intake will help, too! Protein shakes are fine if you struggle to get your protein in. But if you can, eat lean protein and aim for the appropriate amount in order for your goals.
I hated math in high school, and if you’re anything like me, then these steps will help you eat fewer calories without actually having to count calories.
Step 3 – Rest Harder
Trying to achieve any goal while maintaining constant poor sleep patterns is like saying, “Hey, I’m going to work damn hard and go two extra steps forward, but I’m also going to mess around and go five steps backward.”
You can’t sleep?
Think about seeing someone about it, like a doctor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist. These professionals exist for a reason, and sleep is something that no one should take for granted. A lack of sleep is something people should take seriously.
You can take as many recovery supplements as you want, but the DOMS in your booty ain’t going away quicker if you aren’t sleeping like an adult. Poor sleep won’t get you very far, as sleep is one of the biggest recovery drugs we have access to… so use it.
Shredded Without Counting Calories Conclusion
The 80/20 rule works well for most people: 80% hard work and 80% whole foods and mindful eating, and 20% laid back and 20% eat what makes you happy.
- Do you want to gain weight? Eat more calories and protein.
- Do you want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories and more protein.
- Do you want to maintain your weight? Eat mindfully.
Always eat your fiber. A lot of us could benefit from the “mom consensus” and eat our damn veggies.
And remember, you don’t need to count calories in order to get shredded, just like you don’t need shoes to run, but using them and knowing they are there helps.
If you want to get shredded without counting calories, just remember these three steps:
- Work hard.
- Play a little less hard.
- Rest harder.
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