Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Be Kinder to Your Body. Calories Aren't the Enemy


I wish I had some fantastic new recipe to share on Tasty Tuesday. But, I don't. However, I thought we might talk a bit about calories. That's still food related right?

It's important to remember that food and calories are not the enemy. We need calories for energy, we need food to fuel our bodies. However, quite often, when people decide they want or need to lose weight, the first thing they tend to do is slash the calories. I mean, it makes sense right?

You hear it time and time again, to lose weight you need to cut x number of calories from your diet. But what you don't often hear is that not all calories are created equal. And that you can eat too few calories and actually undermine your weight loss goals. 

In fact, I'm going to suggest that it's not about losing weight so much as it is losing the fat. Losing the fat by increasing lean body mass to be more exact. And the only way this can be done is if you're eating properly along with resistance training.

When you slash your calories, your body is going to either lose fat or muscle. If you're body is not properly fueled, then it will go for the muscle rather than the fat. So rather than burning off the fat, you're tearing down muscle, muscles which are calorie-burning power houses. 

If you want to rev up the metabolism and burn more calories even at rest, increase your lean body mass. Christian Finn, fitness author, suggest that for every pound of muscle you have, your body burns approximately 6 calories per day. 

So, I hope you see the importance of building lean muscle mass when it comes to fat loss. And to do this, we must feed our bodies properly. We've all seen the suggestions for a 1500 calorie diet for women. Sometimes you see it as low as 1200 even. At this point, it's quite possible you're no longer getting in necessary vitamins and nutrients, let alone energy.

It's important to remember that everyone is different. Ever body is literally different. It's important to know your personal needs. 

To start, you need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the energy required to simply maintain your bodily functions day in and day out. If you dip lower than this minimum, your metabolism is going to slowly reset itself lower and lower. It's like, "Hey wait a minute. I need to store this apparently because I don't know when I can eat again." It stalls out. 

So, once you've figured out your BMR, from there you can figure out your actually daily caloric needs, the calories that you used in everyday living, work, exercise. You can use that to help you better understand your true caloric needs and how many calories you can safely cut for about a 1-2 lb per week loss. 

When calories are cut drastically, your body works hard to hang onto fat for energy and burns up muscle. Other than not losing weight, you might also experience some serious side effects like electrolyte imbalances, depression, anemia, fatigue. Also, you'll likely become very frustrated period.

I guess the take away from this is that to loose weight, the focus should be shifted on increasing lean body mass through resistance training and burning fat. But this can't be done effectively without proper nutrition and fueling of the body. This means eating breakfast, not skipping meals, being sure to eat consistently throughout the day, and being kinder to your body

Of course, this is a very high-level overview. Not even delving into nutritional breakdowns, body types, activity levels, etc. Just something to think about, and I think especially for women. Dieting is not the key. It's about changing your nutritional habits and how you see food. And also about adding in resistance training (and you won't bulk up!). 

And, as a note, this isn't about trying to start any arguments. This is based on what I've learned during my certification process as an ISSA Fitness Trainer and personal research.