A question I received recently (paraphrasing):
I have been counting calories lately, with some success, as I have lost 6 pounds since the start of the month. However, the calorie tracking program I use has me targeted at 2700 calories per day. I am having troubles reaching that number. Any thoughts?
In a general sense, it is nice to track your calories from time to time so that you can gauge how far on/off your diet is. I have even tracked my own diet in the past
, and will do some at occasional times in the future.
Having said that, I personally find that counting calories all the time is not sustainable for my lifestyle. Some people, once they get hooked, absolutely have to know 'the numbers' on every single ounce of food that goes into their body. That is fine, and I am happy that that works for them, but it simply is not for me. I personally don't mind checking 'my numbers' every once in a while, but do not like the idea of being attached to them.
So, the next question then becomes, how do you know how much to eat? I find that gauging your food intake on how you feel works best for me. If your energy levels are good, you are sleeping well, you feel good/energetic during your workouts, then you are probably on track.
I feel the need to input a giant disclaimer here, however. This principle to "eat to feel good" should only be used by those who have a handle on what is proper nutrition. If you have weight to lose, or have lead a life of poor diet choices, then tracking calories may be for you.
On the other hand, if you already have a pretty good understanding of what is considered a 'healthy diet', combined with the fact that you understand your caloric needs, there can be some slack as to exactly what goes into your body.
This is the principle that I use. I am comforted by the notion that I can track my numbers from time to time to make sure that I am still on track with my current goals, but for the most part, I know what I need to consume to fuel my body to not only feel good, but to fuel my performance in exercise and competition.
A good example of this is when we consume fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables can be low-calorie, but they are very nutrient-dense, so you get more 'bang for your buck' if you know what i mean.
Oftentimes, healthy individuals who need to aim for a specific caloric intake may find that they struggle to reach their 'number'. It may be extremely difficult to reach a few thousand calories if you are primarily eating fruits and vegetables. However, by consuming a diet that is primarily made up of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies, chances are, you are feeling pretty dandy, and have lots of energy. If you are feeling fine with less calories, i say more power to ya!
Having said that, make sure you aren't dipping your calories too low because you may start to get those hunger pangs for something sugary.
As you get more and more fit, and you put on more muscle mass, your energy levels will go up and you will be able to 'do more', so you will probably need more and more carbs to keep your energy levels up.
Also known as your "Basal Metabolic Rate", the more lean mass you have (muscle) the more calories you will be burning on a daily basis, even at times of rest. This is why it is hard to initially judge someone's BMR because these websites base it off of height/weight/age/etc. An 'athletic' or muscular person who is 180lbs will have a higher BMR than a sedentary 'overweight' person at 180lbs.
Quote of the day:
"Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory." -Ghandi