We caught up with our athlete Tony Pang, Scottish bodybuilder and coach and spoke about everything CALORIES, it’s a must read…
So I remember back in the day before I really knew what I was talking about or had a real clue about nutrition and training I use to listen to how people dieted to get in shape.
There were the type of people who went to diet clubs and we all know who I’m talking about where it was all about calories. The calories you consumed could come from anything as long as you stay within you limit.
Now looking at this before I thought it was a load of BS as I saw men and more so woman eating junk and sweets but staying within their guideline but were still ultimately losing weight. I didn’t make much sense to me back then but I knew that most of those people often only done it for a short term fix and then rebounded to where they were before they started if not becoming more and more over weight.
So I looked to the guys at the other end of the scale, the hardcore body builders who were in shape. They ate clean and most of them didn’t even count calories to be totally honest.
So I knew what I wanted to look like and so all I done was to replicate the bodybuilders and stuck to a clean eating approach. My diet consisted of real whole natural food groups whilst staying away from processed junk food. I followed this plan for around 5-6 years with only a very few small slip ups, on conclusion I felt it was pretty easy to follow.
So I went on to trained 5 days a week and ate clean and stayed pretty lean all year round and didn’t really find it that hard a lifestyle to stick with.
It wasn’t until I started to compete that I had to take a step back and realise that there was more to this eating clean and training hard. I was never a great learner at school as most subjects just bored me and I lacked the interest in those topics. But when it came to health and fitness I had this urge to be better and learn as much as possible to achieve the best physique I could.
So when I started educating myself on nutrition it was more apparent that calories ultimately do matter and that the thermodynamic equation of calories in vs calories out was the whole basics of this body composition game.
If you wanted to lose body fat you needed to be in a calorific deficit. Simple. No complicated approaches just the basics.
You can be in a calorie deficit by either burning more calories than you are consuming or you can reduce the calories you are consuming against the calories you are burning. Both will put you in a calorific deficit which will ultimately get you leaner. Or you could reduce your intake and increase your energy expenditure which I wouldn’t recommend as it cuts down your options for prolonging your fat loss results.
With every manipulation that you do to get leaner by either reducing your food or your increasing your training, your metabolism has the ability to re-adjust and create a new balance point. At this balance point your body will adjust and these new changes now become normal, therefore if you want to see further changes you will need to come up with more options to further reduce food or increase expenditure.
Remember that there will get to a point where you won’t be able to eat less or train more to keep seeing change. The cons will now outweigh the pros and your body will fight just to keep you alive rather than preserving muscle tissue to keep your performance in the gym.
The art of getting yourself into shape doesn’t just come down to losing weight but losing body fat whilst preserving muscle tissue. As your weight is made up of more than just fat, you have muscle tissue, organ, bones, fluid, etc and so it’s only one of those factors that you want to see change in.
To be honest if your doing this right then why can’t you put on some lean tissue even when dieting until calories reach a certain point. Focus on the basic principle of basic overload, get your nutrition on point and focus on your recovery and why not put on some lean tissue whilst reducing body fat?
So what we are looking for is the smallest change possible to give us the biggest result or change possible.
1lb of fat is around 3500 kcal. So work that out in terms of how much training that is or how much food your need to reduce.
To do this you need to be calculating calories. Even when I have speak to body builders who say they don’t count calories but do weigh there chicken breasts and weigh there rice your still counting calories or more specifically macronutrients which in turn are ultimately calories.
1g Protein = 4 Calories
1g Carb = 4 Calories
1g Fat = 9 Calories
Macronutrients are what calories are made from so Protein, Carbohydrates and Fats all make up this calorie equation.
So once you have attained how many calories you are consuming to either gain weight, maintain weight or lose weight you can now distribute those calories into macronutrients.
So the most important macronutrient is Protein so we need to assign how much protein do we need to maintain lean tissue and if not gain lean tissue. This will vary from person to person I personally like to go by lean mass and around 2.2-3.2g per kg but this could vary as I like to use these as a guideline to start and adjust for each person to find a sweet point.
(So if your focusing purely on protein per meal as an example I know a lot of people focus on 50g of protein per meal. This could be too much if your eating 6 meals a day and your 80kg or too little if your 3x meals a day at 80kg but in your head your still eating enough protein per meal but not thinking about the overall picture.)
Protein gets broken down within the body amino acids which your body can use for repairing lean tissue and so if your not consuming enough protein you will be hindering your muscle building properties and growth. On the other hand over consuming too much protein will use up calories that you could be using from other macronutrients like carbohydrates which will aid in your performance in the gym allowing for greater strength and recovery. So as much as protein being a very important macronutrient it’s not the best energy source for the body compared to carbohydrates.
Once we have set protein we are left with fats and carbs. Next I would assign a minimum of essential fats in the diet. This will look after your joint health, reduction of inflammation, production of hormones, improved cognitive function, etc. This amount will vary from person to person and can be very specific to the goal but most would benefit from no less than 15% of total calories coming from fat.
And last but not least carbohydrates would fill the remaining calories left over. Again there are so many different strategies that you could use but it will all come down to listening to your body and seeing what makes you feel and perform the best. I personally don’t like specific percentages but use them a guideline and then adjust my diet accordingly.
I like carb cycling from higher carbs days to medium carb days to low carb days seem to work best for me allowing me to stay leaner but also stay insulin sensitive throughout my off season when calories are high. The way I like to strategise my carbs from cutting to bulking do depend on the fibre intake. For example I usually only diet on white potatoes or sweet potato but when I bulk I stick to white rice. I only like oats on a cut but use cream of rice on a bulk. The amount of fibre will allow me to either easily digest the food or too much will block me up and bloat me. This is where more dense sources of carbs come into play like cereal or bagels depending on your tolerance.
Now that you have set calories to either lose weight or gain weight and your macronutrients are set. It all comes down to quality, adherence and enjoyment. Nutrient dense foods or cleaner foods will always give you the largest volume of food for the least amount of calories whilst giving you all the addition benefits from Fibre to help with digestion, vitamins, minerals and digestive enzymes to ensure your gut health is optimal.
I advise people to consume 10% of your daily calories from veg to hit a daily fibre minimum target. 70-80% of your food from whole food, natural real foods and 20-30% from other foods that you enjoy. People always assuming that this will just be specific to junk but for me this could be something simple as condiments with your meals or sauces or just anything that you fancy at that time. It’s more for me to make the food more enjoyable and sustainable and eases off the mind that if you wanted something that you have the flexibility to include it into your diet without feeling like your failing or guilty about doing it. Not what can I eat instead of my normal meal.
So all in all YES calories do matter and thermodynamics rulewhen it comes to body composition.
If your not tracking your intake then your missing a trick.
If your not tracking your training then your missing another trick.
There are no quick fixes. Magic or secrets to getting into shape. Just do some of the basics and for most this will take you into single digits. If your looking for a more extreme look to step on stage then things would be that much stricter but the same principles apply.
Plan your best physique today. And reep the benefits of this tomorrow.