Losing body fat boils down to a simple equation; burn more calories than you consume.
There are important nuances, though, such as controlling the impact of hormones and the fact that not all calories are created equal. And, let’s not forget, measuring every serving of food can be a pain in the neck.
Regardless, the fact remains that when there is an overconsumption of calories they will be stored and you will gain weight, most of which will be in the form of fat.
We also live in an age of food abundance, while fast food chains and restaurants have also driven the ‘super-sized’ culture as modern consumers equate value with bigger meal sizes.
The combination of these factors means most people no longer know what the correct portion size of a healthful, calorie-controlled meal should be. We’re also notoriously bad at estimating the calorie content of meals, as demonstrated in numerous studies. It’s therefore vital to our success in the gym that we learn to control our calorie intake, but to do that we need to make it as simple as possible. These calorie-counting hacks will help you do just that:
1. Know your portion sizes
Instead of neurotically measuring everything you cook and eat, rather rely on visual queues to estimate the ideal portions of your meals.
Firstly, always dish up on smaller plate. Half of your plate or half the volume of a meal should consist of colourful natural whole foods.
- Aim to eat 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day, but eat more veg.
- The protein portion of a meal shouldn’t be bigger than the palm of your hand.
- The starch or carbohydrate portion of a meal shouldn’t be bigger than the fist of your hand.
- The rest can be healthy fats, including saturated fat, which should not be more than a third of your total daily fat intake.
- In terms of snacks, buy bars and other healthful snack options that deliver no more than 500kJ per serving. If it contains more, break it in half and eat the rest the following day.
2. Choose nutrient density over calorie density
Manufactured and fast foods are generally less nutrient dense and are generally more calorie dense than whole foods. To better illustrate this point, if two people eat a snack of the same serving size, but one has raw vegetables while the other eats chips, the person eating vegetables will consume the least amount of calories. They’ll also get more healthy nutrients from the snack. This is because chips have a lot of calories per gram (calorie dense), while most vegetables have very few (nutrient dense). They also fibre and water than unhealthy foods, and all of these components add weight to a food, but don’t add calories.
Nutrient density is a critical component of healthful eating, especially as nutrients are essential for the proper functioning of the human body. A lack of nutrients will drive hunger, so it’s therefore recommend that 60% of a healthful meal consist of nutrient-rich colourful plant foods.
3. Fill up on fibre
Maintaining a calorie deficit can leave you feeling hungry, which can often lead to binge eating and an overconsumption of calories. Eating fibre-rich foods, which are more filling, can therefore be an intelligent approach to managing hunger and controlling your calorie intake. Extensive research has shown that people with fibre-rich diets tend to carry less fat and have a lower body mass index, because fibrous foods generally take longer to chew, digest slower and take up more space in the stomach, which makes you feel full for longer.
Fibre is also typically found in natural nutrient-dense foods and therefore offer excellent nutritional value without the excess kilojoules.
Fibre can also act like a sponge in your digestive tract, absorbing other molecules like carbs, fats and sugars, along with all their calories, which can reduce the amount of calories that could be stored as fat. Scientists in one study determined that for every gram of fibre ingested, your body excretes an average of seven calories.
4. Eat mindfully
A mindful approach to eating is less about calorie counting and more about increasing your awareness of what you’re eating and how you are feeling. Too many people today have lost touch with their natural feelings of hunger and satiety, which means a return to a more intuitive way of eating can help our bodies better self-regulate our calorie intake. There are also multiple mechanisms that ‘tell’ you when you are full.
You just need to learn to listen to these signals, and react in the correct way to ensure you find a healthy balance between your physiological need for food, and your psychological need.
The key to this strategy is ensuring that you’re aware of what you are eating and why you are eating it. Obviously this way of eating requires that adherents equip themselves with the requisite knowledge needed to make informed decisions come meal time, but thanks to technology there is