Monday, 3 December 2012

Figuring Out Your Caloric Intake For Weight Loss

Ahhh the dreaded "calorie" talk.

We've all heard it, haven't we.  It's almost as bad as the 'birds & the bees' talk we got when we were 12 eh.  Everyone groans when the topic comes up and pretends not to be listening.

We all know food has calories, and that taking in too many will make our asses look like marshmallow's on steroids.  And we all know that we should be keeping track of how many calories we're taking in on a daily basis. However, it just doesn't seem like a lot of fun.

So what should we be doing then?  And what do I think?

Well, here's the deal.  Years ago, when I tried to lose weight by counting calories, I went a bit overboard on the whole calorie restriction thing. I went from counting my calories to severely restricting my calories, to the point where I was only taking in about 1100 calories per day.  Needless to say I had hardly any energy to walk to the bathroom for a pee during the commercial breaks of my favorite tv show, much less do a decent workout.  In essence, I was starving myself, and although I lost weight, it wasn't a long term solution.  Who can keep that kind of nonsense up for any length of time? I sure couldn't.  While I was doing it, I'd give myself one cheat day (and that in itself is a topic for a whole blog post).  During the week when I was 'eating properly' I'd lay in bed at night and fantasize about all the delectable treats I was going to snarf down on my 'fun day.'  Cherry strudel, croissants, fries, chips, chocolate--you name it--I was going to eat it. And when the monumental day would arrive--I would do just that--inhale anything and everything I could get my greasy little fingers on--to the point where I'd eat myself into a sugar induced coma, and go to bed literally hating myself for such self-abuse.

Needless to say, it didn't work.  I couldn't maintain that kind of lifestyle, for one thing.  The cheat day behavior wasn't healthy in the least, and I had next to no energy to workout.

Eventually, however, I did find something that did work, and I'd like to share it with you.

It's called....wait for it....being realistic.

What? Being Realistic? That's it?

Well, let me explain.

If you want to be healthy (and yes, lose weight), you have to be realistic about how you want to live your life. Is starving yourself going to work in the long run? Absolutely not!  So get the notion of extreme calorie restriction out of your head.  It doesn't work, for many reasons.

Also, if you want to achieve long term health and success, you will have to wrap your head around the fact that you are going to have to exercise.  Plain and simple.  There are NO quick fixes here, and if you haven't already, it's time to build an effective workout program into your daily schedule.

So, you need to have enough calories to fuel your body for the day to day functions, and you also will need the energy to get some good workouts in.

When I started the Insanity program I really came to grips with the fact that food is fuel. And if I want that machine of a body I own to run properly, I was going to have to put good quality fuel into it.  And that means not only enough calories, but good quality calories as well.

The Insanity Nutrition Guide uses the Harris Benedict Equation to help you determine how many calories you're going to need each day. And to begin with, we're going to assume that you're working out on a regular basis.

(This is right from the guide.)

Step 1:

For Women:  655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)

For Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

Step 2:

Take that number from above and multiply by the level of exercise listed below:

1.2  = Sedentary: Little or no exercise
1.375 = Lightly Active: Light exercise (1 to 3 days/week)
1.55 = Moderately Active: Moderate exercise (3 to 5 days/week)
1.7 = Very Active: Hard exercise (6 to 7 days/week)
1.9 = Extremely Active: Hard daily exercise and/or a physical job

Step 3:

The number that you now have will tell you your calorie needs for weight maintenance. Now, you will adjust this number up or down, depending on your weight loss or gain goals:

See below:

~ For weight loss, subtract 500 calories per day from your number in step 2.
~ For weight maintenance, do nothing, just use the number from step 2.
~ For weight gain, add 250 to 300 calories per day to your number from step 2.

Now that you have figured out your calorie needs, you may see that you are currently either eating too much or too little.  It is also possible for people who want to lose weight to not be eating enough.  It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that 'less is better' and do what I did. 1100 calories is way to little to eat--especially since I was also trying to exercise.  As it stands, my caloric intake for weight loss is at about 1800.  I eat considerably more now than I did before, but I also have the energy I require to perform well during my workouts, and I never feel starved.

I also eat breakfast (always plain oatmeal and egg whites), and every 2 1/2 to 3 hours after that.  THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!  By eating breakfast and every few hours after that, you are kick starting your metabolism, keeping your blood sugar leveled out, and preventing your body from going into starvation mode (where it holds onto fat because it thinks you are starving it).

So, my friends, the lesson of the day is that YES, you do need to keep track of your calories, but not to starve yourself.  You want to ensure that you are taking in enough calories and enough of the good stuff.

If you haven't already, check out  It's a great website that will help you not only track your calories, but also help you determine if you're eating enough protein/carbs/fat, because, let's face it--your body needs both lean protein and good carbs to function.

Eat well, live well!!


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