Calorie Counting : Why Do Smart Trainers Say Dumb Things?

The other night I was sitting on my couch scrolling through facebook as I tried to convince myself to go to bed.  I had a lot of work to do the next day and facebook had me flicking my thumb over and over, convinced the next big thing was one dopamine hit away.

Then I happened upon a article by a fellow personal trainer that claimed counting calories was “irrelevant”

“Interesting” I thought as I thumbed on in..

Here We Go

She said she decided to count her calories for one day only as members of her VIP forum were confused when it came to counting calories.  This was her little experiment on herself which she said she would never do again, as it was pointless.

She was doing this because she said she stayed the same weight and body fat percentage all year round and never counted calories so why should anyone else.

Her belief was the general public shouldn’t bother counting calories.  Instead they should keep things simple and focus on the hormonal response to food.

I’ve attended the same “hormone based” courses as her over the years and they were a very good education for a while.  I veered away from them as 9 times out of 10 it’s completely unnecessary to look at hormones when dealing with the general public.  Not until they’ve mastered the basics and adhered to simple approaches first. ..

After examining her food choices, macros, calories burned, and calories consumed for the day, here is a list of the nutritional laws she proved (possibly unbeknownst to her) by applying a little science.

1) Calories in vs Calories Out

She burned 1638 calories yet only consumed 1474 calories.

She was in a calorie deficit. This is quite honestly the most supported argument in the entire weight loss field and I hate to say it, until most people track their calories, they have no idea what calories are in their food choices.

2) When in a calorie deficit ensure your calorie deficit is only small

200-300 cals for women and 300-400 for men.  Bang on she was.  People go nuts with this and put themselves in 1000 calorie deficits which is a recipe for metabolism issues long term

3) Not all calories are created equal.

Eat the majority of your calories from nutrient dense, high fibre, non processed foods.  She certainly did.  Meats, fibrous veggies, fibrous veggies and even more fibrous veggies.  Well done!

4) Match your bodies primary fuel sources to your activity levels.  

She claimed to automatically add more energy from carbs if she decided to up the intensity & duration of her training, but as she spent most of her day sedentary, she didn’t consume many carbs or fat.  Excellent.

5) Allow yourself a treat if it fits your macros.

She had a dark chocolate treat that day.  Eating 30-50g of dark chocolate a day won’t harm your physique or weight if its in moderation.  Correct.

6) The 80/20 rule.

245 calories came from chocolate which represents exactly 16-17% percent of her calories from junk food.  The 80/20 rule when applied to food put plainly goes, choose to eat healthy foods 80 per cent of the time, which then allows you to indulge in your favourite treats 20 per cent of the time.  Fabulous.

7) Low G.I.

She ate protein at every meal, all carbs except the sugar in the chocolate were fibrous vegetables and fruits such as avocado.  All low G.I stuff.

8) Count calories and determine your own personal macro nutrient ratios that work best for you. 

Her macro split unbeknownst to her was P50/C30/F20 (protein/carbs/fat)
185g protein,
50g fat and
73 grams of carbs

for a 64kg female with visible abs.

She would appear to be high protein, low fat and very low carb.  IMO That amount of carb is fine if you’re sedentary and don’t exercise.  You wouldn’t want to add any decent amount of volume with strength training or attempt any serious aerobic activity though.  You might find your head spazzing out and your nervous system taking a hit.

Personally I’d change these numbers around a lot and add starch in there for the resistant starch factor, gut health angle and mood.  No one ever talks about mood when dieting.

The cross fit community got caught out removing starch for too long and saw the havoc it was reeking on the athletes guts.  But that’s just me and my experience with clients.  Every one has their own sweet spot and preferences.

9) Eat roughly 2 – 3g of protein per kilo of total body weight.

This would make most nutritionists lose their minds and but for a weight training female that carried a fair bit of muscle compared to the average woman, and lifted weights every day this is fine.  She’s definitely on the upper limit for protein though and may easily be able to lower the protein if she felt she wanted more quality carbs.  I would.  You know, cause carbs aren’t the devil and taste freakin awesome.  Plus they keep people calm and sane.

Personally I would suggest protein based on lean body mass and not go over 2.5g per kg of lean mass.

10) Eat protein at every meal

That she did.

I could keep going on and on but you get my drift.

All of this is solid, sound stuff.  Don’t get me wrong I am a fan of this trainer as she promotes healthy eating, weight training for women and wants to keep things simple.

Hormones however are not simple.

She claimed the whole calorie counting endeavor was pointless yet look at everything we learned about her by counting calories for one day.  We have discovered more than a few possible mechanism that might be playing a part in keeping her weight and body fat stable all year round.

Instead of being a keyboard warrior and shitting all over someone else’s thread, allow me to beg to differ.

There is clearly a great deal to be learned from counting calories, measuring macros and knowing what is in our food.

You know what would really be interesting? 

  • If we kept the calories the same and changed the macros to a 33/33/33 split then saw if anything changed in terms of bodyweight, bodyfat levels and distribution, mood, energy, sleep, strength and endurance.
  • She is frightfully afraid of oestrogen mimicking compounds in vegetables.  So I wonder if we kept the calories and macros the same, added non organic produce then saw if anything changed in terms of bodyweight, bodyfat, mood, energy, sleep, strength endurance AND HAMSTRING / QUADRICEPS FAT ( the primary site for fat storage in those with disproportionate oestrogen levels ).

The scientific method of question, experiment, reveal and analyse…

My advice to the general public is ;

9 times out of 10 calories will tell you just about everything you need to know about you,  your individual energy needs and what foods work best for you when it comes to weightloss.

Do it for short periods of time to find your sweet spot then get to know what your portions sizes look like and back off counting.

Don’t obsess, don’t get paralysis from over analysis but don’t be ignorant to what is in your food either and assume there is some magic hormone balance going on.

Brad Stocks
Personal Trainer
Bondi Junction

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