Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Category: "Fats"

Day 339 - Calories

We live in a society that is constantly swayed by trends. Recently, one major trend that is taking over is counting calories. You would be pretty hard-pressed to go somewhere without seeing some sort of mention of calories. Restaurants print them on menus (not always accurate, only an estimation), food companies print them on packaging, diet and exercise claims on the radio, tv, and in advertisements all claim to "burn more calories". The problem with mostly all of this is that majority of the population never stops to think or understand what these numbers or claims mean. Unfortunately they just get caught up in the trends.

I have made a list of calorie claims, myths, truths, and partial-truths below to help my readers understand how to decipher what they see and read out in the world today.

1. Calories Fuel Our Bodies

The term "calorie" was first coined in the 19th century for steam engine heat conservation. Basically, a calorie is a unit of energy required for 1 gram of water to heat 1 degree Celsius. It was in 1890 that the USDA first brought this term over to the food industry. Scientists would literally take a piece of food and light it on fire to see how much it would heat water. Some of you may remember doing this in science class, I know I do. The term "calorie" in the food industry should actually be "kilocalorie" as the calorie count you see on food packaging refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, but everyone usually drops the "kilo" because we are all lazy...

There is also one problem here, our bodies do not have little fires raging in our cells to produce energy, we break down macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) to use their chemical energy. Also, instead of one enormous chemical plant, we have billions of little energy producers in our cells called mitochondria that are much more efficient. The problem that many people think and feel, is that all calories are created equal, when this simply is not the truth, which leads me to #2.

2. All Calories are Created Equal

When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?) To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly.

Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore has the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether. Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest.

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active.

3. You Are What You Eat

We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that! When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach break things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste.

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the walls quickly. Animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starchy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system. Not only that, but fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. An equivalent amount of broccoli compared to an equivalent piece of chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body. Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

4. "I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym"

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for a second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories in working out each day.

Most of our calories burned on a day to day basis come from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning a ton of calories even when watching tv! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person!

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your life that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often rather than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

5. "Big" People Have Slower Metabolisms

There are many studies that show that thin people may potentially absorb and burn dietary fats quicker than their "bigger" counterparts, but this topic is definitely false. When referring to the "resting metabolic rate" (RMR) discussed in #4, studies have shown that the average man requires 11 calories per pound of body weight for their RMR, even if they sat in front of the tv all day. If you do the math, you would quickly discover that the bigger you become, more calories are actually required to maintain your current weight.

6. Low Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

This seems to be a very hot-button issue as of late. Many people seem to think that eating "Low-Fat" or "Low-Calorie" food substitutes will help them lose weight. It looks and sounds good on paper! The problem here is that companies often remove fat from products, but replace with either sugar or artificial sweeteners or in high-sugary foods, they remove natural sugars and replace with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. The problem arises when those "zero-cal" sweeteners hit the bloodstream. A long story short, the body thinks its taking in sugar (and calories) when in fact the artificial sweeteners are useless which causes a blood-sugar dip causing you to crave guess what, more sugar!

More and more studies are coming out detailing how individuals who frequently consume things like "Diet" sodas and low-cal foods are actually gaining weight in the process, oh, the irony! The ideal situation here would be to remove soda from the diet and replace with another zero-cal beverage...water!


Quote of the day:

"It is not enough to take steps which may some day lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 237 - Fat


Simple title, straight and to the point. But what fat am I referring to, body fat or fat in our diet. Some of you may say, "What's the difference?" I say, "Sounds like you need to keep reading!"

Most often, when people begin an exercise program, their reasons for doing so almost always include the goal, 'to lose weight'. They aren't really wanting to lose weight though, they are wanting to lose body fat which is known as adipose tissue.

The human body needs a certain amount of body fat. It is packed in and around our bodies in specific areas (usually determined by genetics) for a myriad of reasons such as insulation, protection (shock absorption) and as a stored fuel source. Women tend to store their body fat in areas around their hips, buns and thighs, where guys tend to pack on the adipose around their midsections, although there are plenty of exceptions to this!

As I said previously, we need adipose tissue to survive and live healthy lives, as having too little body fat can be nearly as detrimental as having too much. In a general sense, men should aim for around 8-15% body fat percentage, wheras women should be closer to the 20-25% range. Anything above 25% for men, and 30% for women is deemed "obese".

It is important to try and stay in these body fat percentage ranges because research has shown that people that can maintain healthy body fat percentages have a decreased risk for things such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, etc. Oh, and I wouldn't worry too much about dropping too low on the body fat scale, as it is quite difficult to do unless you are an olympic athlete training for hours every day, or have an eating disorder that needs to be discussed with the proper medical authorities.

Back to the topic. I am going to discuss a few topics regarding 'fat' below that should help clear the air on some things that some people have either heard or wondered about.

1. How do I calculate my body fat percentage?

There are very expensive and complicated systems that will calculate your body fat based on xrays, and electrical impedance, etc. or you could try at-home methods, its up to you. Keep in mind that calculating your body by using one of those scales where you step on it and it registers your body fat percentage is quite inaccurate.

I recommend buying a simple body fat caliper and looking online for different websites that will calculate your body fat by using said caliper to pinch some skin folds at different spots on your body and plugging the numbers into a formula. Yes, these can also be somewhat inaccurate, but it should at least give you a rough idea and will do a good job ball-parking where your body fat percentage is so that you can aim to lower it if need be.

2. Muscle burns fat

Let me be perfectly clear here. When your body "loses weight", it loses not only body fat, but muscle mass as well. If it is starved for calories/energy, it will pull energy from any type of stored energy you have in your body, so don't think that your muscles won't be depleted as well. That is why it is critical to have a balanced exercise program consisting of cardiovascular and resistance training to not only improve your circulatory system, but to build your muscles as well. That way, as your muscles build, your 'resting metabolic rate' will increase as well.

Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of energy you require to survive at any time of the day. This includes thinking, breathing, digesting food, talking, etc. It also means that after a good resistance workout, your muscles are in "construction mode" rebuilding to be leaner, faster, stronger for next time which burns calories like crazy! Simple enough, the more muscle you have (men and women), the more calories you will be burning at all times, even when sleeping!

3. Dietary fat

Continuing on from #2, not only is muscle important, but the way you eat and strategize your diet is vital as well. Remember back to your high school days in science class when you learned about 'fat'. Fat is simply the term used for certain things based on their chemical makeup. Unfortunately the name 'fat' has been victimized over the years based on the notion that fat makes us fat, which is only partially true.

Dietary fat is 1 of 3 macronutrients that we consume in our diets. Fat has 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, and proteins have 4 calories per gram. There are certain individuals that think, "Well, makes sense, fat is the most calorie dense, if I don't eat fat, I won't get fat!" This is the furthest thing from the truth! Adipose tissue in our bodies is storage of excess calories, not excess fat, so if you consume too many carbohydrates or too much protein, guess what, that will become body fat too! Don't believe me? Go and drink a 6-pack of beer a night and watch how fast that "beer-belly" grows! There is not a drop of fat in beer whatsoever! Not only that, pops and soft drinks don't have fat either, but they are now being attributed to the growing obesity epidemic.

I could go on all day, but we have further matters to discuss, but simply remember that yes, fat is more calorie dense than carbohydrates or proteins, which means that you should eatless of it, but don't cut it from your diet completely, because chances are, it is being replaced by more useless things like sugar! Dieticians usually recommend that at least 20-30% of your daily caloric intake should come from healthy fat sources!

4. Can I spot-reduce my body fat?

We have all seen the commercials promising to do 10 minutes of crunches on the "ab-destroyer 2000" and you will get a perfect 6-pack, wrong! As much as we would like to think that doing squats will eliminate body fat from our legs more than the rest of our body, or doing crunches will reveal that 6-pack, we have to take a better approach.

Truth of the matter is, when our bodies burn calories, and therefore, stored body fat, it is taken from stores throughout our bodies quite evenly. Again, women tend to have more storage around hips, thighs and buns and guys tend to store around their midsections more (in a general sense) so these 'problem areas' will tend to take longer to deplete, but keep at it, and you can get there.

The secret is a combination of a healthy diet (healthy fats, lean proteins, whole-grain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables), and an exercise program that combines both cardiovascular and resistance exercise. Consistency with both of these variables and you will cut your body fat down to a healthy range!

5. I can never lose weight, I have a slow metabolism!

This may be hard for some of you to understand, or believe. Similar to when your body gains muscle mass, and your resting metabolic rate increases, research has shown that your resting metabolic rate actually increases the fatter you become. That means, the more body fat that you pack on, the more calories your body is actually burning at any given time...quickening your metabolism, not slowing it down!

Truth of the matter is, body fat increases when your caloric intake (the amount you eat) is more than your caloric expenditure, more or less. As people become heavier, they do in fact increase their resting metabolic rate, but tend to also eat more as well as they become hungrier and hungrier.

6. Weight gain/loss is a quick process

Truth is, losing weight and gaining weight are both actually a pretty slow process. It requires anywhere from 2500-3500 calories to gain a pound of body fat (and vice versa to lose). Many people who have a little dessert here or there make the comment, "Ugh, I feel fatter already!" Some may even weigh themselves after a big meal only to realize that they have gained a few pounds. Keep in mind that what we consume has weight to it as well and most of the 'quick weight' you put on after a meal is due to fluids.

Similarly, don't weight yourself immediately after a workout to think that you have lost a few pounds as that is almost entirely water weight that you lost through sweat that you will gain back as soon as you drink some water.

A consistent, healthy plan over an extended period of time is the best way to witness safe, healthy weight loss.
Quote of the day:
"Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."
~ Oprah Winfrey

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com






Day 206 - Health Myths Put to the Test


We have all heard of fad diets and exercise trends that come and go, all promising to "Lose 10 pounds in 10 days" or "THIS miracle food will help you lose 5 pounds instantly" etc. When it comes down to it, an active lifestyle with a balanced, healthy diet is the best and only sure-fire way to get and stay healthy. Below are some popular health myths that I will debunk!

Fat Makes Me Fat - People tend to confuse dietary fat with the body flub that surrounds their body known as adipose tissue. Truth is, dietary fats are an essential part of a balanced diet and should make up 25 to 30% of caloric intake. Dietary fat helps dissolve vital fat-soluble vitamins in the bloodstream such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. Your omega-3 fatty acids are also attributed to a healthy cardiovascular system. The problem people run into is consuming too many saturated and trans fats, the latter of which should be avoided at all costs due to its utter uselessness in the human body.

You see, back in the 1980's fat began to develop a very bad reputation from some medical experts who believed that people were getting fat because they were eating too much fat, which coincidentally has twice as many calories per gram compared to carbohydrates or proteins. This is only partially true, as it is not fat that makes us fat, it is the calories in the fat that makes us fat. You can cut fat out of your diet completely and still become a fat cow by eating too many carbohydrates and protein (which is very apparent in today's society).

One thing to note here, is that since companies all started to jump on this "low-fat" bandwagon, they realized that their food products don't taste as good without fat (humans inherently enjoy fatty foods) so they substitute fat for sugar. Unfortunately sugar and sugar substitutes can make you just as big or bigger!

There are many reasons for humans to consume fats, we just need to realize that since there is twice as many calories per gram in fat compared to protein or carbs, that we need to eat less fat, not eliminate it completely. Needless to say, most people need to eat a lot less of everything!

Ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet should include olive oil, avocados, nuts, fish, etc. Aim for about 60-70 grams per day (but everyone is different).

Cardio Training is Better for me Than Resistance Training - I see this all the time. Women especially head into a gym, hop on an elliptical or treadmill, etc and work away for an extended period of time, work up a slight sweat, then go home. What good is that? First of all, you are only working a specific portion of your body, not to mention not really burning a whole heck of a lot of calories. Yes, cardiovascular training is important. You need to get your heart rate up to clear the junk out of your arteries and veins to allow your heart to work more efficiently. Second, a longer, slow-burn type of cardio session can do wonders to burning fat, lowering your resting heart rate, and lowering blood pressure. EVERYONE needs to incorporate some sort of strength training into their balanced exercise plan a couple times a week, at least! Men and women a like should work all of the muscles in their body at least twice a week.

Strength training promotes stronger muscles, ligaments, bones, and tendons so that we are less prone to injury as we age. Not to mention working our core (notice I say core, not abs, as your core includes your upper thighs, hip flexors, back, etc.) helps to stabilize our bodies and prevent things like back injuries in everyday life. The biggest proponent to strength training though is the fact that a well-designed, hard-hitting resistance routine burns far more calories than a cardio routine ever will because you are using your muscles to exhaustion which burns tons of calories during and after the workout. Doing strength training properly causes micro tears in your muscle fibers which cause your body to move in a repair the damage afterward. This is what increases your resting metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after a good strength routine! That's right, after a good circuit-style strength routine, your body will be burning more calories at rest than usual...even when sleeping!

Women: "I don't want to lift weights, that's for bodybuilders!" - Related to the post above, many women are afraid of doing any serious weight lifting because they are afraid they will look like bodybuilders. No wonder women have such high incidence rates of osteoporosis, etc! The body basically follows the mentality, "Use it or lose it sister (or brother)." As we age, our bodies decay from inactivity, soooooo, if you are not using your muscles or creating a tactile load on your bones, they begin to decay away.

Truth is, majority of women don't have the necessary testosterone levels in their blood to pack on large amounts of muscle anyways! Women's bodies are built more for endurance so you get that long, sleek, toned look from weight training. Men's bodies are more built for power and speed. (In a general sense) Women should be aiming for timed circuit training or 15+ reps when training, but don't skimp on the weights, you want to push yourselves!

High Cholesterol - Cholesterol, like fat, has been victimized in the past. Cholesterol is now a household name for many as being "bad". Truth is, like fat, cholesterol is a vital part in the human body for regular cellular function as well as bile production to aid in the breakdown of foods. The confusion arises because some people have linked high cholesterol levels in our diets to dietary cholesterol which simply is not true. Studies are increasingly showing that high blood cholesterol comes from a diet high in saturated fats, while foods high in dietary cholesterol have a fairly negligible effect on high blood cholesterol. Foods high in dietary cholesterol but low in saturated fat, including eggs, shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, and other shellfish, can be safely eaten in moderation without having much effect on blood cholesterol levels.

The link between high blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol seems to have a mixed signal here because non-seafood foods with high cholesterol also have high levels of saturated fats, which is the true root cause of high blood cholesterol. I know, it sounds confusing, but its true. The more and more something like a double cheeseburger creeps into your diet, the higher your blood cholesterol is going to climb...but its because of the saturated fats that do it!

Snacking Makes Me Fat - Remember your mom used to say to you, "Don't eat that snack, it will ruin your appetite!" Well good, ruin that appetite! People may fend off some hunger pangs, especially in the afternoon because they know dinner is coming up. The only problem with that is you then tend to overeat, and overeat very quickly by the time you get to dinner. More and more studies are showing that eating consistently throughout the day helps stabilize blood sugar levels and feeds our bodies with a constant supply of fuel.

Think back to our early ancestors roaming the countryside from cave to cave. They probably did not sit down at a McDonald's at 6pm to grab dinner, they were foraging and snacking all day on fruit and veggies that they found as traveled. This should be the same for you. Snacking does not mean a handful of chocolate or chips though, aim for something with some sustenance to it. Healthy fats such as nuts, or something with protein, or even some fruits and vegetables with fiber. Anything that will digest slowly and keep that slow fire burning in your gut rather than an energy drink or chocolate bar that will be digested and burned off quickly (or stored as fat quickly) causing you to...crave more sugar.

"I exercise, so I can eat whatever I want!" - There is a saying in the fitness industry that's along the lines of, "You can't out-train a bad diet." To live a long, healthy life, you must lead an active life with a good, balanced diet....period! Yes, there are times when we all like to pig-out on a dessert, but that should be VERY rare. You may have some friends/family members that are lucky because they have "one of those metabolisms" that help them burn calories all the time, super for them. You often see that with teenage boys/girls. Boys/men especially generally have more muscle tissue which means that those muscles are needing calories all the time. That also allows them to eat more calories and not worry about gaining weight. If you are getting older and are already fat, with little to no muscle mass, guess what, your resting metabolic rate is going to be low. Yes, you can eat treatsmore often if you are fit and have good muscle tone, but not all the time. Even more reason to hit the weight room...men AND women!

Drinking Water Flushes Out Fat - I have to laugh at this one. Have you ever mixed water and oil together? What happens to that oil? It pools on top of the water in little droplets. When was the last time you went pee and noticed little oil slicks in the toilet? Water does a lot of good for the body, but flushing out fat it does not. Often times, we confuse hunger for thirst, so if you are ever feeling hungry, try a glass of water first. Secondly, a dehydrated person will notice a substantial energy drop which makes your workouts suffer. Some studies have even shown a boost in your metabolism if you start your day with a cold glass of water. If that works or not, it certainly could not hurt!


Quote of the day:
"Too many people are thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, when they ought to just water the grass they are standing on."
~ Amar Dave

Check out my new Website: tylerrobbinsfitness.com



Sponsored By:








Day 43 - Not all Calories are Created Equal

 
When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?)

To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly. Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore have the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether.

Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest. 

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. 

Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active. This is where a diet based on your lifestyle and activity level becomes most important. If you an extremely active person, you will want to take in more carbs so that you can sustain your energy levels.

On the other hand, if you are more sedentary, your primary fuel source for the day is going to mainly consist of fats, so carbs are not needed as much.

One of the biggest problems facing society today, is the overindulgence of carbs, with very little activity. The body stores extra "jet fuel" in the tank (body fat) for use later on...which never seems to happen.

Quote of the day:
"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."
-Robert Collier





Be Mindful of What You Are Eating!

I have always been an active person, playing sports year-round growing up. I have also been quite lucky *knock on wood* to have a slim build and never really need to worry about what I eat. Over the past few years, I have definitely put on a few pounds of "comfortable insulation" but nothing too serious.

After I graduated University in 2006 at the age of 21, I still had that lazy mindset that I could basically eat whatever I wanted and drink whatever I wanted because exercise and my metabolism would take care of the rest. Well, a few pounds crept up on me and I decided to nip my bad habits in the butt long before they took hold and overran my life.

In 2008 when I decided to really start to change my lifestyle by exercising more frequently and 'watching what I eat' I really only did one part of the equation. Again, I figured that since I was so active and that I was still young with a blazing metabolism, I could basically eat whatever I wanted to.

Fast forward a few years now, and I have had some pretty good success. I don't necessarily eat/exercise to "look good", because as I have told people in the past, I frankly don't really care what I look like on the beach. I exercise and try to lead a healthy life for a number of reasons including feeling better, being able to do the things that I like to do, be in a better mood, and hopefully all of these criteria for years to come (especially now with my son!).

I will say that in these past few years of exercising more, I have begun to change my dietary habits as well. Not only do I wish to maximize my results and how I feel from being active, but I have also come to learn of the numerous other health effects/benefits a proper diet has. You could say that my diet has been slowly evolving over the years and rather than an overnight resolution to overhaul everything, I have been making small changes over the years that are manageable to me and make sense based on what I learn/read about.

This brings us to November 2011. For my 27th birthday, my wonderful wife bought me an iPad for my birthday/Christmas/Anniversary gift. I played around with the idea of 'tracking calories' for years now but have never wanted to be a slave to what I eat.

Well, to start 2012, I finally decided to download a free app for my iPad that would help me track my calories in a fairly loose sort of way. Now I need to mention a few disclaimers here. One, I have only been doing this for a week. Two, I don't plan on doing this forever, I just wish to educate myself on how my diet is going based on how I currently living my life, etc. Three, I am not being 100% accurate about things, but I am doing my best and am probably 90-95% accurate (I am NOT using a food scale to weigh every single morsel of food).

Well, at the end of my first week with this new endeavor/hobby/goal/whatever you want to call it, I have made some pretty startling observations that I will list below.

First, about me; I am 27 years old, have a pretty fast metabolism, work a full-time job with a few part-time personal training jobs on the side. I am married, have an infant son at home and also exercise 6-7 times/week. I am very active and should be consuming well over 3000 calories/day!

I have done a bit of research and realize that I don't really wish to lose a whole lot of weight, plus I am active and try and keep my lean muscle mass in check so I have been aiming for about 40-50% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein and 25-30% dietary fat (healthy fat as much as possible). This plan seems to work best for me and seems to fit my lifestyle the most, but should still challenge me to meet certain criteria.

Things that I have learned so far:

1. Carbohydrates creep up on you FAST! Holy smokes has this ever been an eye opener for me. There is sugar in nearly EVERYTHING we eat! I cut soda out of my diet a long time ago, so the only beverages I consume is either water, green tea, the daily glass of chocolate milk (post-workout), and the occasional glass of white milk (1%) with dinner. I try and eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can and keep my grains to whole grain and I STILL have absolutely no problems blasting through my daily carbohydrate consumption...and that is even when I am aiming for 50% carbs on a 3000cal+ diet!!!!

This is scary for a few reasons. One, I know I am in a very small minority of people who actually consume this few of carbs. Two, there are many, many people out there who consume carbs with this thought in their heads that it is 'fat free' so it must be good for them...only to pack on more and more and more pounds! Three, as I said, I don't consume any sugary beverages and I still have no problems meeting my daily caloric counts, I struggle to keep my carbs down, and I am highly active. I find this downright scary and disturbing to think of some folks out there who down cans and cans of soda a day or eat carb-full meals then go sit on their butts and watch tv...holy smokes. To be honest, I knew it was bad, but never really knew it was THIS bad!

2. I really am trying to do my best to keep my protein levels up. I do quite well with this as I try and have protein with every meal, I have healthy snacks that I try and squeeze some protein in, as well as having protein shakes (low-cal) throughout the day. I guess this one will be tougher for me to keep my numbers up the more active I am because the higher my daily calorie count goes, the higher my recommended proteins go as well. This is probably my best category though.

3. Healthy fats are out there, you just have to look for them! I try and cook with olive oil, I take a fish-oil supplement and I try and squeeze some avacado into my diet whenever I can. The scary part is seeing the amount of fat in some packaged products at the grocery store. A little bit of fat is good, too much fat is bad, and especially stay away from trans fats. What may be even scarier than all of this however, is that when companies remove the fat from their products, they replace it with sugar...which makes most individuals in our society think its then guilt-free....wrong!

This is going to continue to be a learning curve for me. I have realized that I have actually been doing quite well in my daily caloric intake. I often wondered how far off/on I was before I started tracking, but have come to realize that I am pretty spot-on in that regard. The biggest learning curve for me will be to watch my carbohydrate calories as the higher that goes, the less room there is calorie-wise to get my required proteins and fats in. I will keep everyone updated!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. CSCS




Calories

We live in a society that is constantly swayed by trends. Recently, one major trend that is taking over is counting calories. You would be pretty hard-pressed to go somewhere without seeing some sort of mention of calories. Restaurants print them on menus (not always accurate, only an estimation), food companies print them on packaging, diet and exercise claims on the radio, tv, and in advertisements all claim to "burn more calories". The problem with mostly all of this is that majority of the population never stops to think or understand what these numbers or claims mean. Unfortunately they just get caught up in the trends.

I have made a list of calorie claims, myths, truths, and partial-truths below to help my readers understand how to decipher what they see and read out in the world today.

1. Calories Fuel Our Bodies

The term "calorie" was first coined in the 19th century for steam engine heat conservation. Basically, a calorie is a unit of energy required for 1 gram of water to heat 1 degree Celsius. It was in 1890 that the USDA first brought this term over to the food industry. Scientists would literally take a piece of food and light it on fire to see how much it would heat water. Some of you may remember doing this in science class, I know I do. The term "calorie" in the food industry should actually be "kilocalorie" as the calorie count you see on food packaging refers to the amount of energy required to heat 1kg of water by 1 degree Celsius, but everyone usually drops the "kilo" because we are all lazy...

There is also one problem here, our bodies do not have little fires raging in our cells to produce energy, we break down macronutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates) to use their chemical energy. Also, instead of one enormous chemical plant, we have billions of little energy producers in our cells called mitochondria that are much more efficient. The problem that many people think and feel, is that all calories are created equal, when this simply is not the truth, which leads me to #2.

2. All Calories are Created Equal

When we eat stuff, i.e. food, the chemical makeup of that stuff must be broken down into smaller chunks to be absorbed, transported and utilized by our bodies. This is not a passive process which means that we need energy to digest, or in other words, we require energy to produce energy. (Takes money to make money right?) To assume that all calories are created equal is just silly.

Carbohydrates are the easiest macronurtient to digest and therefore has the highest yield. Carbs, also known as sugar, is nature's form of jet fuel for our bodies. The problem is, our society seems to pack more and more and more sugar into everything, leading us to the point where we would never come close to burning off as much of that energy as we take in, leading to adipose tissue (body fat)...but that is a different blog topic altogether. Anyways, carbs return about a 90-95% energy yield per calorie. What I mean by that is, for example, every 100 calories of carbs you take in, it requires 5-10 calories of energy to digest.

Fats actually have a slightly higher energy yield than carbohydrates, ranging in the ballpark of 95-96%, but this should not be alarming as our diets require much less fat than carbs. What this means is that in 100 calories of fat, it takes about 4-5 calories to digest.

Protein has the lowest energy yield, which can actually be very beneficial for weight loss. Only about 70-80% of protein calories consumed are returned to the body when digesting proteins which isn't all that surprising as the body greatly prefers fats and carbs for energy whereas protein is mostly used for tissue repair. Regardless, proteins are highly recommended throughout the day for those looking to lose weight or are highly active.

3. You Are What You Eat

We have all heard this term before, but don't think that everything you put in your mouth stays in your body and is digested. Just keep in mind, there are things that come out the other end - and that will be as far as I go with that! When you eat your food, your teeth chew it up, then the juices in your stomach breaks things down further into a paste. This paste then travels through your intestines where the nutrients are absorbed through the spongy walls. For most people, however, 5-10% of this paste just keeps passing on through and is expelled as waste.

For the most part, fat digests easily and passes through the walls quickly. Animal protein sources are absorbed better than plant-based sources. Then we come to carbs. Glucose and starcy carbs (i.e. chocolate, potatoes) are absorbed rapidly, whereas high-fiber carbs like in fruits, vegetables and grains take their sweet time passing through your system. Not only that, by fiber seems to prevent your body from absorbing certain calories and can even lower cholesterol levels. A certain size of broccoli and chocolate may register as the same number of calories in a laboratory, but that does not mean that they act the same way in your body. Studies have shown that individuals with high-fiber diets have close to 20% of their daily ingested calories move through their digestive system without being absorbed. Less calories this way can lead to less body fat!

4. "I'll Just Burn it off at the Gym"

Many people grossly over-estimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout. Everybody has heard someone say (while reaching for a second helping of dessert), "Oh, I'll just burn it off later when I am (insert weak excuse for an exercise here)." Truth is, even the craziest of fitness nuts only burn, at most, 30% of their daily calories in working out each day.

Most of our calories burned on a day to day basis come from doing things like digesting food, thinking, breathing, repairing a cut to your leg/face from shaving, etc. This is known as our resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning a ton of calories even when watching tv! There are other daily activities can also contribute to our daily caloric expenditure that are known as non-exercise thermo-genesis (N.E.A.T.) such as walking up the stairs, walking your dog, having sex, etc.

I know what you may be thinking, "Hell, I don't need to exercise then!" Keep in mind that exercise causes a whole list of benefits too long to list in this blog, so I highly recommend you continue (or start) to exercise 5-6 days a week. Not only that, but a properly designed strength and conditioning program consisting of cardio and resistance training will raise your resting metabolic rate, mentioned earlier, so that the rest of the day when you are not exercising, you will burn more calories than the average person!

The best scenario in this case would be to exercise often, but to also make small changes in your life that can result in bigger changes over the long-haul. For example, if you live or work in a multi-storey building, take the stairs more often rather than the elevator. Park at the back of the parking lot when shopping to force you to walk a bit further, etc.

5. "Big" People Have Slower Metabolisms

There are many studies that show that thin people may potentially absorb and burn dietary fats quicker than their "bigger" counterparts, but this topic is definitely false. When referring to the "resting metabolic rate" (RMR) discussed in #4, studies have shown that the average man requires 11 calories per pound of body weight for their RMR, even if they sat in front of the tv all day. If you do the math, you would quickly discover that the bigger you become, more calories are actually required to maintain your current weight.

6. Low Calorie Foods Help You Lose Weight

This seems to be a very hot-button issue as of late. Many people seem to think that eating "Low-Fat" or "Low-Calorie" food substitutes will help them lose weight. It looks and sounds good on paper! The problem here is that companies often remove fat from products, but replace with either sugar or artificial sweeteners or in high-sugary foods, they remove natural sugars and replace with zero-calorie artificial sweeteners. The problem arises when those "zero-cal" sweeteners hit the bloodstream. A long story short, the body thinks its taking in sugar (and calories) when in fact the artificial sweeteners are useless which causes a blood-sugar dip causing you to crave guess what, more sugar!

More and more studies are coming out detailing how individuals who frequently consume things like "Diet" sodas and low-cal foods are actually gaining weight in the process, oh, the irony! The ideal situation here would be to remove soda from the diet and replace with another zero-cal beverage...water!

-Tyler Robbins
B.Sc. PTS