Do You Need to Count Calories?
Wow isn’t this is a hotly debated area? It’s also an area that I have discussed before on the blog and all over social media as well.
Each of us have what is called a resting metabolic rate (RMR) meaning that in order to function exactly at the state we’re in now we need to consume x amount of calories per day.
For instance I currently weigh 60kg, have 45kg of lean muscle mass and my RMR sits at 1560 calories/day.
So that means in order to maintain my current state, I need to consume 1560 calories each day before taking into account my lifestyle and activity level.
Another example is Lisa* who currently weighs 52kg, has 27kg of lean muscle mass and an RMR of 1207 calories/day.
Also my husband Tippy who currently weighs 85kg, has 60kg of lean muscle mass and an RMR of 2100 calories/day.
This is a wonderful way to illustrate how powerful body composition is especially as it has to do with your day-to-day eating habits and health and fitness goals.
The old adage of men being able to eat more food is linked with their naturally higher muscle content than women and as you can see from the above 3 examples, more muscle means more calories and more muscle means more fat burnt.
In order to create and maintain muscle (get that bodybuilder image out of your head right now), our bodies require an individual approach to calorie distribution in the form of proteins, fats and carbohydrates AKA macronutrients.
Additionally in order to lose body fat, we need to consume less than we expend. To lose body fat and crucially not sacrifice muscle mass (you can see from the above how important it is), the science of calories in vs calories out as well as the type of those calories is the crunch point.
Science in practice
On a daily basis I run around like a headless chicken, train at the gym and am often standing on my feet.
My health and fitness goals at the moment include increased strength, recovery time and mobility as well as leaning out (post-Europe!) so on the training front this includes a specific weight lifting program 4-5 times/week, 2 high intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions and 3 yoga classes.
On the calories side (stay with me here) I will be expending between 200-600 additional calories on top of my RMR each day dependant on my training mode.
This is before taking into everyday activities like walking (as I do everywhere!), cleaning the house or digesting (yes eating burns calories too!)
My current health and fitness goals all fall under one main priority however, and that is enjoyable, sustainable and optimal health. So eating hundreds and hundreds of calories below my requirements each day won’t tick any of those boxes for me nor will it for you, that I can promise you.
In the past I, as have many others, found a great deal of success with sitting around a 250 calorie/day deficit and to understand the particulars you can read more about that here.
To be clear, a calorie deficit is the difference between what goes in and what goes out.
I found this deficit possible to sustain for months at a time whilst still having a life and achieving my goals however it is not a forever thing and at around the 6 month mark I increased my calories to no deficit whilst also changing my training style in order to pursue new goals.
At that time, my trainer asked me, “do you really want to be living like this forever?” Keep that in mind…
Count nutrients first and then calories
So in answer to the question that I have posed, “do you need to count calories,” my answer is here. Count nutrients first and then calories.
What we eat and the quality of that food is essential for our bodies to thrive no matter our goals. If losing body fat is a part of your goals, then what you eat has 80% of the input to that outcome. As for what to eat: consume foods as close to nature as possible and cut the crap, you know how it goes.
Getting the right combination of macronutrients and calorie deficit for your body type is what needs to happen on a more drilled down level. You’re clever enough to know that eating 1000 less calories per day and subsisting on lollies and coffee will only see one result, that you burn and crash; fast. You also need to know that your body is clever as well and when you treat it like that it will react in exactly the way you don’t want; holding on to fat not knowing when you may under-nourish and/or starve it again.
Just don’t do that is my advice to you.
Not because you shouldn’t though because you are worth more than that. Even with the perceived imperfections in your mind, your body is the incredible vehicle which takes you through life every single day, honour that for the best possible result.
Where to start
Please don’t Google your RMR and instead invest in a professional. It’s absolutely worth the money and no one gave me anything to say that, it is however a point that I am passionate about. These guys are who I visit though no doubt a holistic nutritionist or even your trainer could head you in the right direction. That way you have a starting point to work from and a safe way to approach your health and fitness goals.
Trawl through the recipes on this blog as well as my instagram and eBook for more inspiration if coming up with what to eat is a little overwhelming for you. Also know that as much as sometimes we all wished there was, there is no quick fix. That doesn’t need to mean however that the journey is hell, I can promise you that too.
Disclaimer: This post and all posts on this site are based on my personal journey, experience and research, which I am sharing for educational and informational purposes only.
*Lisa has been created for illustrative purposes from study data.