December 31st is a day where many people go YOLO in regards to their nutritional approach because they have one thing on their minds: “tomorrow is January 1st and that’s when I’ll start my diet.” Does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?
Dedicated gym goers or fitness enthusiasts know the struggles of “New Year’s Resolutioners” all too well. Gyms all across the globe will be inundated with people from all walks of life trying to better themselves in one way or another, most with the goal to lose weight in mind. This makes me ecstatic that people have the motivation to do so, but I am also saddened at the same time because I know it is short lived. Most people don’t have the first clue about how the human body truly functions, but they know that eating less and cardio is the answer, or so they think. These statements, while not completely false, have been forced down our throats by so-called “fitness experts” for years now. The truth is, in order to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit (that is, take in less calories than your body burns), and that deficit varies depending on many factors, including the percentage of weight loss desired and what your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is to start. Many people think that our metabolisms are just what they are, that they never fluctuate, and that they decrease over time as we age. Again, some of this is true. However, more and more studies are being done on this and the results are pointing towards the fact that our metabolisms aren’t stagnant, and can very much differ from day to day, month to month, and so on. Essentially, they are a moving target. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where you are metabolically at any given time. However, you can estimate where you are and adjust accordingly. To calculate such a number, the Harris-Benedict Equation (or Harris-Benedict Principle), is a standard formula used to give a good starting point in estimating your approximate calorie needs according to your goals. These numbers will need to be adjusted over time, but again, it’s a good starting point for anyone trying to determine an appropriate calorie allotment.
Of course, just counting calories is not always the best method, since all calories are not created equal. Total calorie counts are the sum of calories from the 3 macronutrients: Fat, Carbohydrate, and Protein. In order to figure up the total calories in a given food, remember the following:
- Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
- Carbohydrate: 1 gram = 4 calories
- Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
For example, you have a cheeseburger from a popular fast-food chain that you want to figure the total calorie content of. You know from their online nutrition information that the macronutrients (or macros for short) are 12F/33C/15P. In order to calculate the total calories, you would apply the information above as follows:
- Total fat calories: 12 x 9 = 108 calories
- Total carbohydrate calories: 33 x 4 = 132 calories
- Total protein calories: 15 x 4 = 90 calories
You would then take the calories from each individual macronutrient and add them together to obtain the total calories of the cheeseburger: 108 + 132 + 90 = 330 calories. I don’t suggest ever going off the calorie content alone that is listed for you since most companies actually round their calorie contents, which is acceptable by the USFDA, and can vary by as much as 5 to 30 calories in some instances.
As you can see from the above example, the best practice might be to not just track calories, but track macros as a more balanced way of hitting those calories. With tracking macros, you’ll still hit those calories you’re aiming for, while maintaining a balance of all three macronutrients, and making sure that you are fueling yourself with an adequate amount of each one. To learn more about this, you can visit some of the following websites:
- Avatar Nutrition
- US Department of Agriculture: Choose My Plate
- US Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines
Of course, not all resolutioners are looking to lose weight. Some people resolve to quit smoking while others resolve to be more spontaneous or be more kind. While any resolution is a great step in the right direction, you do not need a new year or a new month to start these types of positive changes. The point of this blog is to help you understand that a resolution can start anytime, and what better time than the present! Don’t wait for tomorrow to start something you can do today, right this very minute. Resolve to be better than you were yesterday, or even a minute ago. Resolve to stay consistent, to finish what you start. Yes, life can get in the way and derail you temporarily. But, as soon as you are on course again, pick back up and continue your journey. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. But, the successful never give up. We mail fail a thousand times at something before we ever succeed. The fact that you kept trying will be your legacy in the end. Trying to be better, not only for your wellbeing, but for that of other’s as well.
So, on January 1st, when you see 50 new faces in the gym, don’t take bets on who will fall off first or even last. Give them a smile, be supportive, and I promise, you’ll both be better than you were on December 31st :).