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Calories In Vs. Calories Out


Today I was asked an interesting question: "What happens if your calories are too high or too low?" The answer to this question is very important, because your calorie goal can make or break your fitness program. When it comes to weight loss, this is critical.

You may have already heard the phrase "calories in minus calories out."  This is a very simplified version of the calorie equation.  But there are many ways to adjust the number of calories going in, and even more ways to adjust the calories going out. 

First, let's talk about calories in:

  • Less is not always more.  There are many cases in which I have needed to up a client's calories to help her to lose more weight.  This has also happened to many users of the automated system on MyFitnessTrainer.com.  The well-designed database "knows" when you need to eat more calories to increase your results.  If you are accurately recording your daily calories, your online fitness trainer program will up your calories or lower them depending on your body's changing needs. The reason you may sometimes need more calories is that the body needs enough fuel to operate at optimum levels.
  • If you do need to reduce your calories to meet your calorie goal, that doesn't mean that you have to feel hungry.  This is where fiber comes in.  If you meet your fiber goal through natural fiber sources (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans,) you will feel much more full.  Because fiber has zero (0) calories, foods that are high in fiber tend to be lower calorie.  Also, fiber fills your stomach, making it seem like you ate a lot more than you did.
  • If you eat too many calories, your body will store the excess as fat. If you eat too few calories, your body will go into starvation mode, and will store as much fat as possible for "food storage."  It does this so that you will have fat to use as energy in case of times of famine.  This was a useful feature in primitive times, but not generally appreciated today.  This is why it is critical that you eat the exact number of calories that are perfect for you.  This number will change with your changing metabolism.  For example, as you gain muscle you will probably need a higher calorie goal to maintain that muscle.  If you are accurately recording your daily calories on MyFitnessTrainer.com, your program will automatically adjust your calorie goal as needed weekly.
  • It is important to try to eat foods that are filling without being high in calories.  Try fish, chicken, shrimp, lean beef, fat-free refried beans, lentils, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Be careful when reading nutrition labels to check how many servings are in a package. Sometimes it looks like a package would be one serving, but it ends up being two or more servings.  If there are two servings in a package and you eat the whole thing, you need to double the calories and fiber listed on the wrapper when you enter it in your food journal.
Now, let's talk about calories out:

  • One way to increase the number of calories you burn is to eat more often.  In order to do this, you'll need to reduce the size of your meals, but eat 5-6 times a day instead of 3.  The reason this works is because your body is accustomed to burning calories right after you eat.  Think of eating as turning on your metabolism.  Now the trick is to turn your metabolism on as often as possible by eating, but while still staying within your total calorie goal.
  • You can also burn more calories by getting more sleep.  That's right, studies have shown that many people lose weight just by sleeping more.  This is because it is during your sleep that your body heals from your workouts, and it uses fat as the fuel for healing.  Also, many people eat for energy when they're tired.  If you go to sleep when you're tired instead, you can avoid sugar binges.
  • A more obvious way to increase your calorie expenditure is to do cardiovascular exercise.  The more cardio you do, the more calories you burn (with a few extremely rare exceptions.)  Cardio includes any exercise that works your major muscles and gets your heart pumping harder.  This could be running, walking, swimming, cross country skiing, an elliptical trainer, aerobics or more. To make sure that you're working hard enough, try to work at a level where you'd have a little trouble keeping up a conversation, but you're still able to talk. If your weight loss ever plateaus, try doing a few more minutes of cardio per day, or try going at a harder level.  Interval training (alternating very hard cardio for a few minutes with lighter cardio for a few,) is also very effective for breaking plateaus.
  • My favorite way to burn more calories is strength training (weight lifting.)  Strength training burns extra calories while you're doing it, but the really cool thing is that it continues to burn extra calories for the next 2-3 days!  This is because strength training causes microscopic tears to the muscle, which rebuild during the following days.  They use fat stores for energy to heal, so you can be burning fat while you rest! It is very important when you're strength training to get enough sleep, because you need time to heal.  Otherwise all you'll have is damaged muscle, and what good is that?
  • Drinking enough water can also help you expend calories.  This is because water cleans your liver and your colon, both of which are needed to metabolize calories.  The cleaner they are, the smoother your system will be, and the better a job it will do at burning fat.  Also, water protects your cells so that you can safely lift weight.
  • In my opinion, a multivitamin is also a good way to boost your metabolism.  You can't expect your fat-burning machine to work at full capacity if it's missing important vitamins and minerals, can you?
  • Last but not least, stretching will help you use up your calorie stores.  This is because stretching helps your muscles heal faster, using fat as the fuel to do so.  Stretching also helps protect you from injury.  Injuries stall progress and make it so that you can't complete your workouts.
Are you ready to lose weight once and for all?  It's time for you to have a personalized calorie goal that changes every time your metabolism changes.  It's time for you to try MyFitnessTrainer.com.  Click here for your free two-week trial and discounted membership!

Have any questions about tracking calories for faster, more efficient weight loss?  Click on the "Contact" link at the top of the page, or click here to email a certified personal trainer. 
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