09 February 2011 ~ Comments Off on Screw Calories

Screw Calories

No, they're not chocolate donuts.

Apologies for the long pause. Down to work:

Stop counting calories.

That’s right. Ignore the calories you’re eating. Screw ’em. Have they ever done anything for you? If you’re still looking for answers, probably not.

What is a calorie?

Let’s start by defining the calorie: a “food calorie” is the amount of energy it takes to heat one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

If you’re wondering what that has to do with the price of tea in China, know that people don’t even agree on how much energy that is. But let’s go with the rough equivalent of 1.84 joules. What’s a joule? You sure you wanna know?

So even after we get a rough consensus on what a calorie represents, how do we know how many calories are in that cupcake? Well, in an exact world, scientists would burn that cupcake in a special device and measure the results. But you can’t burn every food item in the world, that would be silly. What they do instead is chemically test (or just add the ingredients) to determine the fat/carb/protein makeup of the cupcake, then use a simple table of values: fats are 9.4 calories per gram, proteins and carbs 4.1.

But wait: there are a lot of kinds of fats and proteins. Do lard, margarine and flaxseed oil all really have the same calories per gram? Beef and fish proteins are identical? Cane sugar and molasses?

Hell if I know.

Exercise Does What?

But let’s back up again and assume fats are fats and everything averages out in the end. After all, if it didn’t someone would have stood up and corrected it, right? (Riiiiight.)

So now you know that cupcake is 350 calories, what does that mean to you?

Will you need to burn it off? Well, first you need to know how many calories you should be eating in the first place. They say 2000 calories are required by the average person, but like most things “they” say, that number is so general it’s practically useless. Are you short? Tall? Sedentary? Active? If your exercise consists of switching the remote, you may gain weight from 2000 calories. If you’re an athlete, 2000 calories would be a starvation diet.

Let’s assume those 350 calories are “extra.” So you go hop on the treadmill for a nice run. Now you’re burning about 10 calories per minute. One episode of How I Met Your Mother and the cupcake is gone, right?

Wrong. Your body burns two calories a minute just watching TV. So if you want to burn off “extra” calories, subtract those from the total. Now you’ll need to run for 20% longer. That’s about a five-mile run you’ll need, to burn off those two minutes of enjoyment. Maybe more.

But wait, what if that cupcake is just part of those 2000 calories? No problem, right?

That too depends on a lot of other factors. If your daily diet is otherwise veggies, lean, clean meats and good vitamin and mineral supplements, it’s not such a problem. But if your breakfast was a big bowl of breakfast cereal, lunch was Chinese takeout and dinner was courtesy of the guy with an antenna ball for a head…you should watch Super Size Me for a visual.

Counting calories is a lot harder than you thought, huh?

Diet Without Calories

Listen, if you’re trying to lose weight, calories aren’t what you should be paying attention to. The mere fact that you feel you have to add together the raw calorie value in the foods you’re eating tells me you need to make a change in your diet.

People count calories because they don’t want to pay attention to exactly what they eat. If you pay attention, you’ll never have to add another calorie again.

You know what you should be eating. (If you really don’t, I can help you.) What you have to do is eat it. Fresh (or frozen or canned or even home-juiced!) vegetables. Lean meats, fish and pasture-raised (grass-fed) beef. Good oils and nuts. And for dessert, a serving of whole fruit.

Keep it simple. Throw away the cookies and chips. Have no temptation in your house. Stop buying bread (veggies, fruit and legumes are plenty of fiber) and milk products besides plain yogurt (broccoli does a body much, much better). Get a good multivitamin.

Learning to prepare fresh foods is a skill you need. Buy spices, salsa and marinara to liven up eggs or a chicken breast. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef, just find a few simple meals you like.

Once you’re doing that, you’ll have half the equation to a leaner, happier lifestyle. If you’re eating crap and you switch to good food, you’ll lose weight. If you’re eating too many carbs and you switch to protein, you’ll find it easier to gain lean muscle.

It’s so simple a caveman could do it…and he did!

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