I’m about to hit a 1000 days streak on MyFitnessPal, an app to track calorie intake and macros. So I thought it was time to write about this topic.
— Gijs Heerkens 👨🏻💻 (@gijsheerkens) June 14, 2019
People who want to lose weight tend to start working out rather than to stop eating too much. Although sports are good for health, it makes a marginal difference for weight loss. Running for 30 minutes burns 300 calories. That’s two beers, one avocado or four slices of bread.
That’s not effective.
If you really want to achieve something, you should probably focus on calorie intake. This applies whether you want to gain, lose or maintain weight.
Your maintenance is the amount of calories you use in one day. Your body uses energy to breathe, think and pump your blood. A calorie is the unit we use for energy.
You can calculate your maintenance calories with with this tool.
You should be in an energy surplus for that. If your calorie intake is above your maintenance calories, you will gain weight on that given day.
All the energy that’s not burned by your body will be stored as fat. That’s just a couple of grams, so it’s not visible. But over time, it’s visible.
1 kilo of body fat is 7700 calories. This means that if you are in an 500 calories surplus for 15 days, you will add 1 kilo of body fat (in theory).
When you have an unhealthy high BMI or if you are working out to get in better shape, you want to lose weight.
You should be in an energy deficit for that. If your calorie intake is below your maintenance calories, you will lose weight on that given day.
All the energy that you are short will be consumed from body fat. That’s just a couple of grams, so it’s not visible. But over time, it’s visible.
1 kilo of body fat is 7700 calories. This means that if you are in an 500 calories deficit for 15 days, you will lose 1 kilo of body fat (in theory).
To maintain weight your intake should be on maintenance level. If your calorie intake is equal to your maintenance calories, you will maintain the same weight on that given day.
Because there is no surplus or deficit, no body fat will be stored or consumed and your weight will remain stable (in theory).
Now that you know how much your body is using anyway, you can start adjusting your calories based on your goals. In the end, it’s easier to lower your intake than to increase your consumption.
I’m using MyFitnessPal to keep track of my calorie intake and macros. All foods contain macronutrients that deliver energy. There are three types:
- Carbohydrates: 1 gram has 4 calories. Good sources are vegetables, fruit, legumes and brown rice.
- Protein: 1 gram has 4 calories. Good sources are meat, poultry and quark.
- Fat: 1 gram has 9 calories. Good sources are avocado, nuts, olive oil, whole eggs and fatty fish.
And what about that one woman you know that can eat cake all day and without gaining weight? Well, that means she doesn’t eat a lot of calories besides those cakes.
Except that it’s not healthy, you can live on pizza, cake or McDonald’s without gaining weight as long as you take your maintenance calories in consideration.
Tips & tricks
Finally, I wanted to share some tips & tricks regarding calories and macros with you. I will keep adding new ones.
- Don’t follow a diet but change your lifestyle to improve your health. Diets aren’t sustainable.
- Plan your day ahead. If you are going out for dinner in the evening, eat less during the day.
- Try not to drink calories. Drink lots of water, sparkling water, black coffee and zero calorie soft drinks.
- Don’t buy high calorie snacks and sweets. You can’t eat what you don’t have at hand.
- Focus on protein first, at least 30% of your intake. Proteins are the building blocks of your body and they take longer to break down, so you’re longer saturated. Good sources are quark, chicken breast, steak and whole eggs.
- Try to eat particularly unprocessed food that doesn’t have a label with ingredients like whole eggs, steak, chicken breast, avocados, fruits and vegetables.
- Be careful with healthy foods that contain high amounts fats like avocados, nuts and olive oil. It can add up quickly because fat has more calories than carbs and protein.
- Try to cut on carbs, especially refined ones.
- Attempt to eat 500 grams of vegetables per day.
- Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll be much more likely to buy crappy food because of cravings.
- Keep moving, at least 30 to 60 minutes a day.
- Being hungry sometimes doesn’t kill you.