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When Counting Calories Kills You


How many times have you heard someone complain that no matter how perfectly they log their calories and stick to their number (1200, argh!!) every single day, they can't seem to lose weight?

Maybe, unless you're also a personal trainer or you just have friends who complain a lot, you haven't heard that very much.

Or perhaps, you're someone who has complained of that very thing!

Never fear, today I'm going to tell you why that happens so your caloric complaints will come to an end, or at least become very informed complaints.


If you're counting calories with measuring tape, however, I'm probably not qualified to help you.

Most people get their daily calorie suggestions derived from their metabolic rate from either a magazine (1200!! Argh!!), book, smartphone app, or a diet program. Because these diligent dieters are so obedient and great at taking directions, they take this prescribed calorie number as the undeniable word of God and follow it perfectly.

However, unless you visit a science lab with very particular restrictions and undergo careful measurements, the number you get for your metabolic rate, and therefore how many calories you should eat daily, is going to be at best a rough estimate.

Even for personal trainers, it's impractical to have people go to labs for testing regularly, so instead we use certain equations to get ballpark estimates for caloric suggestions. And by "ballpark," I mean it's considered good if an estimate falls within 10% of your actual metabolic rate.

So if your estimate comes to a clean 2000 calories a day you could actually be anywhere between 1800 and 2200.

Complicating matters even further is the fact that food labels aren't as exact as you'd think either. In fact, Federal Regulations allow for up to a 20% excess margin of error when listing nutrients such as calories on a food label.

So you can see now how stressfully counting calories can be like hitting a bullseye while you're on a BOSU and your target is on a speedboat driven by circus clowns.

Not to worry though! Because if you're the diligent exerciser I know you are, you understand that improving your fitness can take time as well as a little bit of trial and error, so don't ignore every label and figure you've been using.

In the case of calorie counting, use your estimates and labels as guidelines while monitoring your progress every few weeks, and making slight tweaks to your plan if you aren't seeing results.

Usually, tweaking will mean you either increase your exericise volume or reduce your estimated calorie intake. I wrote about how to take these steps in much more detail here.

I hope this helps with the amount of complaints in your life ;)

As always, feel free to share this if you found it helpful and reach out to me if you have a question you'd like me to cover!

#fitness #calories #plateau #diet