Saturday, 21 May 2016

Post 5: From Sluggish to Six Pack (plus: should you count calories?)

Hello reader, long time no see… again! I've taken another characteristic year off from the blog and I'm back with some more takeaways (having had less takeaways…).



But first here’s a catchup: in the past year I have: lost over 60 pounds, revealed my six pack, improved my overall health, improved my energy, feel smarter, improved the quality of my hair, skin and nails, became more ambitious, feel more charismatic, and (dum dum dum!) started in full time work.


I did all of this while enjoying a diet of grass fed steak, organic nuts, extra virgin coconut oil, grass fed butter and other delicious, natural, and healthy high-fat foods.


For more information, keep your eyes peeled: more information coming very soon.  


But it wasn’t the mention of the word “six pack” that drew you here surely!? We’re here to address the question of whether you should be counting your calories. I’ve set out the below to make finding the answer a heck of alot easier, which requires a minimal amount of thought on your part. Here goes!

Get your thinking caps on for a sec...

Should you count calories?


This can be a tricky one. One, I'm afraid, that can't be answered by just myself, you'll need to put in a tiny amount of thought too.


Firstly, the act of calorie counting is actually a very quick process - wait for it - once you've done it for a week. You get to know the caloric density of your major foodstuffs so it only takes entering the data into an app, calculator or note. For those whose excuse might be “I haven't got the time”: my friend, unfortunately, the gig is up.


The next choice you'll need to make is whether you fit into either of two broad categories:


  • The Mathematician
  • The Free Spirit


Now of course, there's so much cross over here it would be silly to say a person isn't any combination of both or neither, but the generalisation provides a useful starting point without which we would be lost.



The Mathematician


No one can stop me now!... woof!
To the Mathematician, eating and burning calories is simply a part of a formula. Calories in, calories out - weight gain, and weight loss. Get your caloric deficit and enjoy the party! This person would live in a state of eternal bliss if they could everyday eat the same macronutrient balanced sludge with a side of micronutrient mush.


I've used calorie counting as a method before for tremendous results. In fact, I was using it as a tool for the whole of H2 2015, in which I lost over 35 pounds. It gives you great freedom to vary your diet (have a look at “If It Fits Your Macros”, or IIFYM, to learn more), and you always stay accountable. Each gain and loss can be attributed to a certain surplus or deficit. Also, once you hit a plateau, expand your caloric deficit or add in more cardio. Simples!


It's also the simplest concept to grasp and explain. Who can honestly argue with your detailed addition and subtraction!?


The Free Spirit


The free spirit sees food, health, and fitness, as one holistic entity. They see how a type of food affects their well-being and adjusts accordingly. They notice how a fasted sprint session can rev up their metabolism. They are more concerned with their overall happiness over long periods. They are the modern day foodie equivalent of the hippie. Peace and love brother!


Being in the free spirit camp is in itself a state of happiness, and allows you to fully realise the best version of yourself. It's also incredibly freeing (hawhaw…), means that the person can go with the flow, and actually “let go”.


It's also so easy to explain to others: you eat when you’re hungry, you reward your body with good food, and you exercise in fun and effective ways. The free spirit knows how and when to let loose, choosing to swap Friday night bicep curls, chicken breast, and broccoli, for social nourishment and good relationships with the outside world.
The Free Spirit is able to let go focus on their health holistically


The Ugly



Yes that's right I introduced a secret third category: someone who picks a camp then poo-poos the opposing side. Don’t allow yourself to be here. The trick is to reconcile the two within yourself and in doing so you are capable of so much more!


If you don't pay attention to your body and mind you're going to have to start amending the calorie counting formula as hormonal imbalances take effect.


If you don't pay attention to the amount of calories you eat you're going to start to put on weight which can lead to a whole host of issues. Or you might even start undereating, and helping yourself to a plateful of new problems.



Takeaway



Should you count calories: the answer is yes, at some point you should. It doesn't need to be right away, but it's an important part of the journey to becoming an expert fat burner.


Treat it as a learning experience: a time where you get to know exactly how much your body can take before tipping the scales. Get an appreciation for the caloric density of food. Then once you learn the right amount you can stop counting and instead take the odd day out here and there to calculate how much you ate. Try and make this decision at the end of an average day rather than the beginning so you're not doctoring your results to hit a certain number - but stay accurate and honest in your calculation (you’re only lying to yourself anyway).


To conclude, here’s the 21st century easily digestible takeaway:
  • Are you more of The Mathematician? Yes: then count calories
  • Are you more of like The Free Spirit? Yes: then don’t count calories


There is no one set strategy to lose fat, you need to decide for yourself what type of person you are and personalise your approach.



Cowlean

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