Despite of your goals or what you have been told, or seen on the internet or TV, the single most important factor to take into consideration when choosing to bulk (weight gain), cut (weight loss), or maintain (stay the same weight), is your total daily calorie intake. Forget about the most ‘superlative’ macronutrient split, for now anyway.
Everything we consume contains calories, except water. The food and drink that we consume are calories in.
Calories are made up of macronutrients which are:
- Fats (9 calories per gram)
- Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
- Proteins (4 calories per gram)
- Alcohol (7 calories per gram) and I know what you might be thinking, ‘alcohol isn’t really a macronutrient’, but for the sake of tracking calories we will add it to the list
- Fiber actually doesn’t have a set caloric value. The exact number is hard to distinguish, since it all depends on the type of fiber and research shows that it’s less than 4 calories per gram, but more than zero.
These are the calories that we expend. Everything we do burns calories, from walking up the stairs, to even now while I’m writing this article! Calories out, are made up of 4 main outputs of energy:
1. Basal Metabolic Rate/Resting Metabolic Rate– Most of the time these are used interchangeably but are slightly different.
- Resting Metabolic rate is a measure of the body’s metabolic rate in a relaxed state, with a far less strict set of criteria to measure
- BMR usually requires a strict set of criteria in place. It’s normally done at a testing facility in a dark room, beginning with waking after 8 hours of sleep and 12 hours of fasting to make sure that the digestive system is inactive.
2.Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis – These are the calories you don’t realize you are burning. They are burned through subconscious movement for example, walking to the bathroom, making dinner, and even texting.
3. Thermic Effect of Activity – This encompasses energy used throughout your daily activity .
4. Thermic Effect of Food – This refers to the increase in metabolic rate after ingesting food.
Now that we have a basic understanding, lets see how it affects our change in body stores and body composition.
- Caloric surplus– If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight (whether it’s muscle or fat, an excess of calories = weight gain). To build muscle you have to eat in a caloric surplus. Sorry to say but this is a long process, so there is no point rushing into it, this will only lead to gaining more fat than necessary, which you will massively regret when it comes time to cut. Building muscle is a slow process and if you keep the surplus small, you can minimize fat gain, also know as a ‘lean bulk’.
- Caloric deficit– If your burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. If your goal is to lose fat, you have to be in a caloric deficit. This deficit can be created through training and activity (increasing energy expenditure), your diet (restricting calories), or a combination of both.
Maintenance– If both your calories in and calories out are equal, you will stay the same weight. When your body is at maintenance your are not in a caloric surplus or deficit. You are just meeting your energy demands. You will likely fluctuate a few pounds in scale weight, since maintenance is never 100% static, but for the most part, you will not gain or lose any significant amount of weight. When you are looking to start a diet, whether its losing fat or gaining muscle, you need a starting point. When you figure out your general maintenance calories, you can then create your surplus or deficit depending on your goals!
Be consistent and track, and you’ll be successful whatever your goal is. I highly recommend that you keep records and tracking your journey, its so easy to track, now that there’s an app for everything. When It comes to tracking your food, I suggest using ‘my fitness pal’ its a free app you can down load or even use on your laptop, and makes tracking your food simple and easy. Also record your weigh-ins, take photos track measurements and following a solid training program you will have all the data you need. Remember- Trial, Error, Adjust, Repeat and you’ll be fine.
I wish you the best of luck in whatever your goal is!
Feel free to contact me for more information.