Out Training A Bad Diet
Look, realistically, at some point, the calories may potentially even themselves out but the biggest issue is more about the types of foods that you ate. You may have excessively consumed saturated fats and cholesterol, all of which is extremely bad for your heart and other organs, or you may have indulged in highly refined carbohydrates and sugars, all of which can negatively affect your insulin function and energy levels.
Eating a large calorie meal in one sitting can be difficult for the body to handle, especially if it contains little to no nutritional value and a pile of 'bad stuff'. Eating large amounts of food with poor nutritional value can also send you into a food coma, quick-smart! This is the body's way of slowing your activity level down so it can catch a break and deal with what you have just bombarded it with. Excessive exercise after a big meal cannot remove the unhealthy and poor nutritional content, nor the damaging effects on insulin levels and other organs. Not all calories are equal!
Calories In Vs Calories Out
Let's just start by first saying, there is no simple accurate way to measure calories - every single calorie tracking app is not going to give you the same results. Say you eat a burger and chips at your favourite burger joint, how do you know how much oil, what type of oil or even how old the oil is that the chef cooked your food with? How do you know exactly how many chips you have without weighing them? How do you know how much sauce and cheese is on your burger compared to the person sitting next to you. These factors make a HUGE difference in your calorie intake.
Another issue is, you log your hot chips into your app and your app gives you 6 different versions of hot chips to choose from. Which do you choose? The one with the lowest calories because this makes you feel less guilty?
Yes, there are some foods that you can log more accurately such as prepackaged foods, especially those that are weighed and packaged by machinery but then we need to address the next issue of energy expenditure is different in each individual, even if 2 people were to eat the exact same foods.
Some foods also use up energy or calories during digestion, other foods take next to no energy to digest. Broccoli takes more work to metabolise than a handful of skittles and every time the body has to 'do work', it gets its energy from burning calories.
It's not as black and white as you make like it to be and it might also send you insane in the meantime, although, we do recommend our clients use calorie-tracking apps for the purpose of an eye-opener to see the value and nutrient content of foods - not as an ongoing daily thing they must do. If you can't do it forever, then it will never work forever.
You Need To Take Supplements
First of all, supplements have their purpose in the market, they are a great aid for those who have deficiencies or have difficultly making or absorbing nutrients from natural sources, but to just take a multi-vitamin containing 80 different vitamins and minerals every day, ain't going to give you no superpowers!
There are 2 categories of vitamins, water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble is not retained in the body and this is evident when you take a multi-vitamin and your urination is fluro yellow a few hours later, this is your body ridding the excess B-vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins can be retained in the body, sometimes for a number of years before stores are depleted and some fat-soluble vitamins can be dangerous if you consume too many.
In doubt? Go see your local GP and have a blood test taken. Your doctor can inform you if you have any nutrient deficiencies and can advise you of any further actions you may need to take, but most people want to cure their low energy levels caused by poor diet, physical inactivity and lack of sleep with vitamin supplementation. Some people may also experience a placebo effect during vitamin supplementation and 'feel better' whilst taking them but unless you're severely deficient, there aren't any notable differences.
Big Calorie Cuts For Weight Loss
So yes, science has proven that negative calories can reduce body weight, but are you losing fat and only fat, not necessarily. Again, as we mentioned earlier, not all calories are equal and it can be difficult to determine exactly how many calories you are eating and how many calories you are expending, especially during digestion and metabolism, at least without the use of expensive machinery and a team of scientists and health professionals.
The biggest issue with this type of weight-loss approach is that most people who are overweight, to begin with, are overweight because they ate calories in excess, sometimes 3000-4000 calories or more per day or they ate more calories than they expended via metabolism and physical activity. It is important to consider that reducing calories from 3000 to 2500 or even 2000 is a calorie deficit for that individual and there is no need to go from 3000 to 1200, this will most simply not work for you, especially in the long run and it will most likely cause detrimental effects to your internal systems and mental state.
Without enough calories to sustain your daily nutrient intake, your metabolism and organs involved cannot work at optimal capacity.
Ditching The Carbs In Hopes For Miracles
Carbohydrates are the body's largest required macronutrient and whilst you can still sustain yourself living off protein and fats, these other 2 macronutrients are metabolised and work quite differently in the body. Protein is not stored for energy but instead, we use protein to build muscles, make hormones and a whole series of other tasks, its primary purpose is not to supply energy. The body will use protein as an emergency source of energy when all other sources are exhausted and the body is entering a do or die situation.
Fat storage can be your best friend when carbs are low, your body can store an unlimited amount of fat and if fat cells fill up, well guess what, that's right, they'll just duplicate themselves and make some new ones. You can reduce the fat inside a fat cell but the cell itself doesn't go away. This is also why it can be easier for someone who has been overweight before to regain their weight because the fat cell is just hanging around ready to welcome new fat with open arms! Fat provides the most energy of all of the macronutrients and from your body's point of view, starvation and death are much further away if you have plentiful fat in storage. This is another reason why your body doesn't like crash diets or fast weight loss, think about throwing all of your savings away in a few weeks, then what do you live off?
Low carbohydrate diets can reduce glycogen stores (back up glucose supply) and leave you more reliant on fat, this may sound great, but being more reliant on utilising fat for energy also means the body wants to store more of it. Fat is also a slower energy source, you physically cannot do high-intensity training on a fat and protein only diet and then when you finally slip up and indulge in that chocolate cake you've been dreaming of all week, your body is going to be super excited to hold on to all of it, every single crumb!
Your body needs carbohydrates, not only as a source of energy but there are many necessary nutrients in carbohydrates, not to mention a great source of fibre. The trick here is to eat whole grain varieties including bread, pasta, cereal, fruits and vegetables and skip on the white bread, pastries, cakes and other refined carbohydrates.
Smoothies = Weight Loss
If it goes into a blender or juicer it must be healthy, right? Most foods that do go into a smoothie are generally healthy and if you're aiming to make a healthy meal, then you're going to use healthy ingredients.
The problem here is not the choice of foods, but instead, the number of calories you can consume in such a short amount of time, especially when it's in liquid form. See how long it takes you to eat a whole raw carrot and how much it fills you up, compared to when it's liquified and other ingredients like apple, orange and pineapple are added to sweeten it up, down the hatch it goes! Another issue with juice is that it now becomes a sugary drink and its even worse if the skin and pulp is left behind as this where all of the roughage or fibre is.
The second issue is how quickly you speed up the digestion and metabolism of these foods. You need to remember that digestion and metabolism make up around 10% of your daily calorie expenditure, this means for most people around 200-250 calories and if the blender is doing most of the digesting, then your body doesn't have to work all that hard. So in theory, you could be drinking twice as many calories and expending fewer calories in digestion and metabolism, therefore having a higher net count of calories.
Now all things mentioned above aside, as always, there is always a place for everything and if making smoothies is your thing and it is a way for you to eat nutritious things that you wouldn't normally eat such as seeds or leafy greens, then we are all pro smoothies! But if you're going out of your way to prepare smoothies for the simple fact that you think you will get skinnier, then we absolutely recommend that you just chomp up that apple and eat your carrots for dinner!
And let's close here by saying, there is no substitution for a balanced healthy nutrient-dense diet. Fill your plate with wholesome nutritious foods grown from the earth and always ensure you enjoy your meals!
Head Trainer & Nutritionist
BcS Human Nutrition & Physiology