By: Bryan Ball
Unlike Game of Thrones where it seems you are born a giant monster of muscle like The Mountain (yes that’s his name) or petit as a princess, we can now control the factors that make up our body composition. From our physical activity, to what food we eat, or even chemical balances when looking at supplementation, but no matter how you approach it you need to know how to use calories as a tool and not a deterrent.
Most people are aware of the idea of “caloric deficiency”, where someone eats fewer calories then the burned that day thusly resulting in weight loss due to your body drawing on your internal reserves for fuel as well as the absence of excess food that it needs to store. When you overfeed your body (also known as a “caloric surplus”) it takes all the extra nutrients that you didn’t use and stores it as fat to use for later. However, you can use a surplus in order to lose fat and gain muscle but not lose weight. If done right a surplus diet should help you get heavier while looking better because the aim is to put on healthy weight, which is usually just dense muscle. That’s why figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Hemsworth, or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have the ridiculous amount of mass that they do.
So how do you know which one is the type for you, and how many calories should I be taking away or adding? Well, that depends on your goals and body type, because everyone is different metabolically so what works for one will not work for all. The general average of adding or subtracting is the same 200-500 calories. The lower end is the standard for most diets, where 500 is more advanced and requires proper planning. The first step before you add or take away anything from your diet is find out how many calories you actually need during the day. While there is a long calculation to discover this, we now have access to online calculators that help with this. By following this link you can put in your height, weight, and activity level in order to get a general idea of how many calories you need along with suggested additions and subtractions in calories.
Let’s take a moment and focus a bit on the extremes of both scenarios. It is not uncommon for someone to take away almost half if not all of his or her calories in order to get rapid weight loss. Not only is this incredibly dangerous for one’s health but it could also initially lead to weight gain, causing the persons perceptions of themselves to be fatter and may potentially take all calories away. This is not sound nutrition, food is fuel and your body is a Ferrari that can’t run on fumes. Your body needs calories and nutrients to function, as well as sustain muscle fibers, good skin, and a healthy brain. Leaving it on empty for days at a time could lead to long-term health issues if not treated quickly.
On the flip side, when people here that they are allowed to eat more in a caloric surplus they start filling their body with bad or empty calories. Essentially this means just because you can eat more calories, doesn’t mean it should be 5 Happy Meals for dinner. The key to a good surplus is the food you put in and making sure it is of a higher quality. For this, we look at the macronutrients of the body; proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. These are the key components in everything we eat and essentially everything we are, and while you will find all of these in a Happy Meal you will also find processed sugars, saturated/trans fats, and many other chemicals not found in whole foods. “Bro-science” has dubbed the method of a caloric surplus with junk food as a dirty bulk. Not caring what type of food is going into your body, just getting as many calories as possible to try and stimulate muscle growth. Ideally, you would instead go to whole foods like chicken, rice, avocados, and any other whole food.
No matter what diet plan you are on, or how many calories you need to eat, the most important thing will always be the quality of your food. Whole foods (fruits vegetables and meats) should make up the majority of your diet, not only are they more nutritious but they will have a lower caloric value then multi-ingredient products (Ex. Chips, candy, or anything that comes in a package essentially). So by making whole foods your food source, you will actually be able to eat much more food with fewer calories than you would on a standard American diet. To help you out you will find a short list of a few whole foods for each of the macronutrient categories if you are looking for guidance on what each type of food is.
Protein: (The most important part with the proteins is their preparation. No deep frying or covering with excess sauces.
- Nut Butters
- Coconut/Olive Oil
- Milks (nut and soy milks included)
Carbs: (Carbohydrates are not just bread but also encompass fruits and vegetables as well)
- Whole Grain Bread
- Brussel Sprouts