Calories & Exercise
Quantity always matters.
Calories and exercise.
A calorie is a unit of energy. 1 calorie (1Cal or 1kcal) is the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius. As a guide for weight control, in the UK it is generalised that the average man needs to consume 2500 calories daily to maintain his body weight whilst the average woman needs 2000 calories daily to maintain hers. These figures may vary slightly from country to country around the world. But that doesn't really matter as they are a general guideline rather than an exact science. The exact figures will differ slightly for everyone. The logic behind the usefulness of these guidelines, however, remains the same.
Exercise will increase your metabolic rate. That is it will increase the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your body's size. It does this by both actively burning calories, and by naturally increasing your body's metabolic rate by making your body a more efficient machine, influencing hormonal release, and adding more muscle mass to your body. It's hard to accurately gauge the amount of calories exercise will add to your daily calorie maintenance level as there are so many factors that can determine how many calories a person will actually burn during exercise.
How many calories do you burn?
Daily high intensity interval training can add anything from 300 to 500 calories after half an hour, or after an hour, 600 to 1000 calories. This will vary from person to person according to the intensity they put in, their completion rate, their weight, and also from their workouts focus. Generally speaking, routines that utilise the entire body and speed, strength, and power combined will burn the most calories, followed by pure cardio workouts, followed by pure strength training workouts in the same space of time. Likewise, in the same space of time, HIIT will burn much more calories than steady state cardio, which in turn will burn more calories than strength training. But again, these general rules are subject to the time, and intensity a person puts into them as to their total calorie burn. HIIT also has an additional after burn effect over the following 24 hours that is thought can burn up to an additional 200 calories, but that again will also vary from person to person, and from intensity and duration of exercise performed. So when it comes to exercise and activity levels, in practical reality you can see there are several factors that will make the actual calorie maintenance figures different for everyone. It's not an exact science. However, as a general guide for a starting point towards good health, the calorie intake figures are still very useful.
I eat clean so calories don't matter...Right?
Wrong. When it comes to exercise, some people say don't worry about calories, just eat clean is all that matters. Not true. Whilst it is true that it is much harder to over eat if you only eat clean, it is also true that you can absolutely over eat on good food. Calories do matter. Energy is energy. And all food, health or junk food, is broken down into the same relevant basic arrays of building blocks from what they consist of, before being reassembled for what your body needs. If you consume more energy than your body can use, that is you are in caloric surplus, your body will store the unusuable extra energy as potential energy in the form of body fat. And that is no matter what foods you have consumed. Even taking into account the extra calories used for accelerated protein synthesis after intensive stength training, your body has a nutritional threshold after which all extra calories consumed will be stored as body fat. This is why you don't need to overdo your calorie surplus when aiming to accelerate muscle gains. You'll just accelerate getting fat. Past a certain point, it won't build you muscle any faster.
Energy is never destroyed or created, only transferred.
Energy is never destroyed or created, only ever transferred. To lose this body fat again, and importantly, not have it refilled, you must be in a sustained caloric deficit. This will force your body to break apart fat cells to release energy and reduce it's size in order to adapt to the lack of energy entering the body. Only by being in a caloric deficit can you ensure these fat cells are not simply refilled again. This is important. This is why weight loss is a result of the balance of daily expenditure over time, not the fuel (fat / blood sugar) used to power a workout. When it comes to losing weight, worrying about how much fat is 'burnt' during the workout itself is as academic as worrying about how much muscle is built during the workout. The fuel used to power a workout is more to do with whether that fuel will enable improved performance or maximum intensity, and how long it will last for - all of which increase the calorie burn as they require more energy. Eating clean doesn't change these facts, although it does make them easier to manage in practice, which in turn, makes it easier for you to get the results you are after without counting calories. Although it is harder to do, if you over eat eating clean, then you will still put on body fat and prevent yourself from losing it. When it comes to losing weight, the best thing about exercise is that it actively burns calories, and naturally increases your body's metabolic rate by making your body a more efficient machine, influencing hormonal release, and adding more muscle mass to your body. Along with a good diet, over time, exercise is of significant benifit to both losing weight and improving your body's composition. It allows you to eat more and not gain weight as you are more likely to still remain inside your caloric limit for your size. Eating clean helps because it means you will likely be consuming no added sugar or added salt, preservatives, flavourings, colourings, and less chemicals, whislt taking in a great many more vitamins and minerals and a considerably lower amount of saturated fat.
If calories are so accurate ... why the variance in results amongst different people then?
The caloric theory remains sound. Energy is never destroyed or created, only ever transferred. The food labeling and exact knowledge of what happens to that food in your body, however, not necessarily. People react differently to different food types, have different metabolic rates, and exercise at varying intensities.
We're all a little bit different.Different people digest foods at different rates depending on the ripeness, storage and cooking methods of the food, what else the food is consumed with, and the amount and type of bacteria in their gut. So the energy (calories) used to break down the food itself (thermic effect) will actually differ for everyone. As such so will the exact caloric value for the food item differ for everyone.
Calorie labeling does not necessarily mean calories used by the body.Whilst calorie labeling accounts for the energy created by burning the entire food, it does not necessarily account for the energy that makes it to the body (ie with the indigestible fat in some nuts and fibre in some foods). Some parts of foods are indegiestble and pass through as waste. The registered calorie counts of these foods, dervied from burning them, cannot show this. So this is why adding high calorie foods such as nuts, has been shown to actually assist weight loss for some people as not all of that energy is actually digested, and the fuller feeling as a result of this, means you consume less calories elsewhere in your diet.
Insulin resistance and percentage muscle mass.And then there's insulin resistance, and the difference in people's muscle mass, and the macro nutrients inside their calorie intake consumed. All of which also differ for everyone and effect the amount of consumed calories that are ultimately stored as glycogen and body fat, or used to build more muscle.
So whilst, in in theory, a formula is presented and all is solved, in practical reality, what's ideal for one may not be for another. So this is why you need to use calorie theory as a starting point and then listen to your body's feedback and adjust your diet for improved results over time.
So exactly how many calories should you consume when exercising?
Your ideal calorie intake is derived by putting your weight, height, age, sex, and duration and continuous intensity of exercise into a formula. Your ideal caloric intake also depends on your goal too. But even then, the truth is, that's something you will ultimately have to find out yourself over time. As said, people react differently to different food types, have different metabolic rates, and exercise at varying intensities. In theory a formula is presented and all is solved. In practical reality, what's ideal for one may not be for another. However, that said, starting with a rough formulaic guide will take you most of the way there. People are different, but not that different. Then it's a case of listening to your body's feedback and adjusting for improved results over time.
For a very basic guide to begin with, considering how much different peoples size and intensity levels can vary, and working on the side of prudence (in reality they could easily equate to more depending on the persons size and ability), for around 30 minutes, on top of the 2000 calories for women or 2500 calories for men, you could assume adding, 150 for women / 200 for men, calories for weight lifting or pure strength training. Adding 250 for women / 300 for men, calories for running. And adding 300 for women / 400 for men, calories for HIIT. When your overall workout schedule includes combinations of these exercise types, just assume the highest calorie option.
Heart rate monitors.
A current popular way to measure calories burned from exercise, is by using a heart rate monitor of some kind that will use your personal credentials and heart rate during exercise to determine how many calories you burn whilst exercising. There are also countless wearable tech devices and 'fitness' apps that will churn out all sorts of graphs based on these findings. Don't take them too religiously however. You'll find that the accuracy of these devices will differ vastly from make to make and while useful for comparative calorie burns from tracking things like jogging steps, for instance, they struggle to track high speed activities or activities that involve full body movements. So for absolute values, and in many cases, even relative values, it is again hard to verify their accuracy. As long as you always do the best that you can do, you know you are burning the most calories that you can in the time that you workout. You don't actually need all these graphs and trackers. Completion times, rep counts, the weight being lifted, and listening to your body's feedback in terms of weight, waste size, and muscular size and visible definition will always supersede them.
The main philosophy behind The 4 Minute Max Outs is that you don't actually need anything other than your own body to get and stay in the best shape of your life. This holds true with heart rate tracker equipment too. Using two fingers to find your pulse on your opposing wrist, counting the beats in 15 seconds, and then multiplying that value by 4 will be sufficient in most cases to get an accurate heart rate reading. You can do this in any of your structured breaks whilst doing The 4 Minute Max Outs. Read the heart rate section for more on this. You don't need a smartphone or a monitoring device to measure your heart rate. On the other hand, if you find they motivate you to work harder, however, it's still all good.
The calorie calculator and exercise.
Alternatively you could use the calorie calculator that works out the above for you. Selecting the 'day to day' setting on the calorie calculator, which uses your weight, height, age and sex, will determine slightly more accurately how many calories your body needs daily. However, the same issue applies, that calories burned during exercise are dependant on so many variables that they will actually be different for everyone. This is why with the calorie calculator it's recommended to start with the 'mid' activity setting and then adjust as required according to your body's feedback over time. Any calorie calculations should always serve as a guide that will need to be adapted to you. By paying attention to your own body's feedback and the results you receive from your diet and exercise, you can find the caloric balance that works best for you.
Eat for your exercise goal.
If you are exercising for general maintenance eat at your caloric limit for your size or just under.
Caloric intake for maintenance = Maintenance calories (inclusive of exercise) x (0.9 to 1)
If you want to burn fat, to either tone up, get ripped, or simply to lose weight in general, you need to be in a sustained caloric deficit. The different approaches of aggressiveness towards weight loss can be summed up as follows.
Caloric intake for slow weight loss = Maintenance calories (inclusive of exercise) x (0.95 or 0.9)
Caloric intake for fast weight loss = Maintenance calories (inclusive of exercise) x (0.8 or 0.75)
Caloric intake for maximum weight loss = Maintenance calories (inclusive of exercise) - 1000 calories
Be mindfull that while the maximum wieght loss approach can kickstart fast weight loss, the greater your calorie deficit and the longer you are in it, the harder you will find it to build muscle and the more your body will try to preserve body fat as you lose weight. Weight loss is a marathon ranging from a few weeks to several months depending on your goal. Take a break from it back to maintenance levels from time to time to reset your system.
If your main goal is to accelerate an increase in muscle mass it is benificial(faster although not compulsory) to be in slight caloric surplus. You will put on weight in this scenario gradually over time.
Caloric intake for weight gain = Maintenance calories (inclusive of exercise) x (1 to 1.1)
You must be stength training in some way and eating enough protein for your activity levels as part of a balanced diet if you want a greater gain in muscle than fat in a calorie surplus. 2lbs a month gain is a good target gain although be wary of only using the scales. Be sure to use the mirror and tape measure not just the scales. If it wobbles, it's fat!
Notes on eating for your goal:
You can burn fat fast doing daily HIIT. It is not uncommon for those adhering to a healthy calorie deficit to lose up to 5lbs a week, or sometimes even more. But don't be disheartened if you dont. People respond at different rates to weight loss and exercise and of course the rate also depends on how much fat you have to lose in the first place. Great inspiring results like this are always hard earned. They can also give the additional effect of very fast muscle growth too as definition is gained. However, although you will see actual growth, the 'rapid growth' is largely a very desirable optical illusion created from the layer of fat rapidly lessening above your newly strengthened muscles. In terms of actually increasing muscle mass naturally, with the exception of the genetically fortunate, the young, the beginner, and those that have been there before (muscle memory) that can see a fast initial growth spurt, increasing muscle mass is always eventually a much slower process than burning fat. Even for those that religiously lift heavy weights optimally. And it's these huge differences in the rates to your goal why it's often optimal to separate the goals of burning fat and increasing muscle mass in order to get to your end goal faster than trying to do both at the same time and seeing little change at all.
In all instances of the above, whether wishing to lose or gain weight, remember they are just guides. It is important to listen to your body's feedback to ensure you are on the right track and make adjustments to your food intake accordingly.
So many options! Where do I begin??
On the path to health and fitness, unless you are already in great shape, although after your first full 28 minutes session of The 4 Minute Max Outs, you will realise that you were not as fit as you thought you were, it's recommended that you always start on the calorie deficit approach for a month or two, or as long as you need. Make the focus of your workouts primarily full body cardio and strength training, or if you struggle with the strength moves, just cardio. This will burn your excess body fat, whilst building functional and dynamic muscles, fitness, and strength, and improving your insulin resistance, circulation, blood pressure and overall cardio capacity at the same time. It'll also make you look and feel fantastic. Remeber you can't turn fat into muscle. So at some point you are going to have to go into a sustained calorie deficit if you want to ever lose that body fat. It's best to totally condition your body before you even consider eating more to get bigger, and possibly accumulating even more fat, for health reasons. Think of it like laying solid foundations before you build a house. Once you have done this, you can up your calorie intake back to maintenance levels for day to day working out to maintain and slowly improve your new healthy body. Then, if you feel you want to try to accelerate muscle growth, you can raise your calorie intake slightly further and add more focused strength training to your workouts. Then anytime you want to trim down a bit of fat again, start the above process over with a calorie deficit for as long as you need.
Exercising for weight loss.
If your goal is to lose weight and or gain muscle definition then, in both instances, you have to burn excess body fat in order to achieve these goals. And to burn excess body fat, you have to be in a sustained calorie deficit or it simply won't happen. Reduce your calorie intake, inclusive of your approximate exercise activity levels, by 20% to 25% (multiply it by 0.8 to 0.75) and ensure full body HIIT routines with strength training are the main focus of your schedule. From this starting point, you can then adjust your calories over time by listening to your body's feedback and the results you are receiving from your diet and exercise. For a larger deficit, deduct up to 1000 calories from your calorie intake inclusive of your approximate exercise activity levels. Alternatively, if you would rather a much slower gradual rate of weight loss so you can eat more, selecting the 'day to day' setting on the calorie calculator will have you eating at your day to day maintenance levels (that is before taking into consideration your exercise). Then you can just use your exercise to create your calorie deficit. The longer and more intensive your exercise is, the greater your calorie deficit will be, and vise versa. Always ensure you are eating enough protein for your size and activity levels as part of a well balanced diet .
Exercising for maintenance and gradual gains.
Your caloric value, inclusive of your approximate exercise activity levels, is the calorie intake required to maintain your current body mass. If you are just exercising for improvements in health and strength and for maintaining your current size, then that's it, you are ready to go. Your health will improve in leaps and bounds. You will shape up, strengthen and gain some muscle, and possibly even lose some weight, as you will no doubt be overshooting the estimates on some occasions whilst continuously improving your heart rate, circulation, insulin resistance, and ability to store and utilise glycogen every time you workout. HIIT also has an additional afterburn effect, not accounted for here, that will vary from person to person, and will continue burning calories for up to 24 hours after a workout. If you find you are losing weight eating your theoretical maintenance calories to maintain your weight, then this is a sure sign that you can comfortably raise your calorie intake, and eat more without putting on fat, if you want to. Likewise, if you find you are gaining weight, and it's fat and not muscle, you can lower your calorie intake slightly to find your balance. But, as muscle weighs much more in the same space than fat, it should be noted that weight gain does not necessarily mean fat gain. You can very easily lose body fat and put on weight from muscle gains. This is a good thing. Always listen to your body's feedback. Sometimes the mirror and tape measure are much more useful than the weighing scales. A 5% to 10% calorie deficit after exercise is often employed for slow gradual gains in the goal of losing fat and building muscle at the same time. Fat loss is obviously much slower over time than under a larger calorie deficit and muscle growth is slower than when in a calorie surplus. For many it's much more efficient to separate your goals into either burning fat or building muscle mass to reach your end goal more efficiently. Always ensure you are eating enough protein for your size and activity levels as part of a well balanced diet .
Exercising for building muscle mass.
If your goal is to gain weight and you want to promote faster building of muscle mass, add up to 10% of your calorie intake, inclusive of your approximate exercise activity levels, (so multiply by 1.1) and ensure strength training is the main focus of your schedule. Not because you can't build muscle in a calorie deficit, but because you can build muscle faster in a calorie surplus. But that's up to 10%. Your maintenance calorie levels, inclusive of your approximate exercise activity levels, is a good place to start and then you can add more calories every month if gains are too slow. If you want to create a calorie surplus to gain weight, the surplus should not be too large to avoid gaining unnecessary body fat. From whatever starting point you decide on, you can then adjust your calories over time by listening to your body's feedback and the results you are receiving from your diet and exercise. Some people may choose to each much more than that to increase muscle gains. This may improve results, but only up to a point as your body has a nutrition threshold. Be aware that if you want to accelerate muscle mass by eating more, you will also gain much more fat too. When the time comes to gain definition, you will have to switch goals and exercise for weight loss to burn off that excess body fat. Not only is fat gain more detrimental to your health and insulin resistance, the more fat you accumulate, the harder you will make it for yourself down the line to lose it. Although you should expect to put on a small amount of fat in a small calorie surplus, always listen to your body's feedback to check weight gain is primarily muscle over fat. It's not recommended you make yourself obese in the pursuit of muscles. If you already are obese, you should be exercising for weight loss before you even consider this approach. Always ensure you are eating enough protein for your size and activity levels as part of a well balanced diet .