Calorie counting tools are becoming increasingly popular. They are available as part of many fitness apps, on heart rate monitors, and most commonly, they are attached to cardio machines that adorn our basement as well as the gyms we frequent. But, how accurate are they?
In two words: not very. Do not be completely disheartened, though, as there is more to the story.
The accuracy of your calorie counter is impacted in part by how much information you make available to it. The more info you provide, the more accurate the results will be. Data like height, weight, age, gender, and heart rate can all improve the accuracy of your calorie measuring tool of choice. If your elliptical does not ask you for the aforementioned data, or if you choose not to provide it, it will make some assumptions for you. The equations that these devices use vary somewhat depending on the manufacturer, but most use statistical averages (often based on a 150 pound young male). Therefore we recommend that you provide as much data as you can.
Unfortunately, even if you provide all the data your particular device asks for there will be some critical gaps that will impact its ability to accurately estimate your caloric expenditure. Metabolism is a very unique and individual thing; as such it is hard to estimate accurately. In addition to the variance caused by questions that are answered easily (age, gender, height, and weight), variables like body composition, the time and structure of your last meal, as well as even your stress level can have a dramatic impact on your metabolism.
Also it is worth mentioning that some companies have been known to intentionally provide positively-skewed data, assuming that the more calories you perceive to burn, the more you will enjoy (and recommend) their product… just something to consider.
Ultimately, you cannot really trust the calorie readings on your cardiovascular equipment. However that does not render the data is useless; rather it implies that you should be careful how you use the readout to make decisions. Since the estimates are largely inaccurate and vary from machine to machine, it is probably not a good idea to compare what you burn on the treadmill with what you burn on a stationary bike in order to decide which machine is more effective. The same goes for creating comparison between individuals – what a machine tells you and what it tells your friend may not be the same, and that says nothing about you or your friend’s level of fitness. Above all, do not estimate your weight loss expectations, or reward yourself with calorie-dense foods based on the readings provided by your calorie measurement device (not that using food or food-like substances as a reward is a good idea anyway).
What you can use these devices for is a measurement of relative intensity and/or performance. If you are using the same piece of cardiovascular equipment every time you work out, the calorie’s burned readout can help you compare your performance from day to day. This will allow you to set goals relative to your previous workouts, and can be a good way to push yourself to work longer and harder.
Above all, remember that cardiovascular exercise is aptly named, as it primarily impacts the function of your cardiovascular system. The road to body composition improvement rolls through the kitchen and the weight room. The low intensity, long duration work you put in on the elliptical is mainly for your heart, blood, blood vessels, and lungs. If you are headed to the treadmill with the idea of burning calories on your mind, you are missing the point.
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Protein requirements depend upon factors including body weight, body composition, rate of growth, physical activity level, type of physical activity, adequacy of energy and carbohydrate intake, and illness or injury.
Research indicates that protein needs for athletes are greater than 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight recommended for sedentary people.
Endurance exercise alters protein metabolism and increases amino acid oxidation leading to increased protein needs. The increase in need is dependent upon the intensity and duration of the exercise, with higher intensity and longer bouts of exercise associated with increased protein needs. Research supports a range in protein needs from 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for endurance athletes such as marathoners.
Individuals such as body builders, who are using resistance training to increase muscle mass, require 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This increased need for protein, however, is much less than what most of these athletes assume it to be. In addition, these increased needs are easily met through traditional food sources.
Adolescent athletes involved in high-intensity physical activity must meet the nutrition needs of growth combined with physical activity. Their protein needs vary from 1.8-2.0 grams per kilogram body weight.
Protein supplements consist of either whole protein, such as egg, milk or soy protein, or individual amino acids or combinations of individual amino acids. Whole protein supplements do not offer an advantage over food sources of protein, but may be more convenient. Powders tend to be more concentrated protein sources than pills. Energy bars are most convenient and can offer a significant amount of protein. Instant breakfast type powder mixes offer a cheaper alternative to specially marketed protein powders.
Most athletes are meeting or exceeding their protein requirements through diet. There are, however, some athletes at risk for inadequate protein. These individuals are typically restricting caloric intake in order to achieve a low body weight and generally include wrestlers, gymnasts, dancers, and runners. Inadequate protein intake increases an athlete’s risk for injury and chronic fatigue.
Many Americans — athletes and nonathletes — are meeting or exceeding their protein needs.
Research does not support protein intake greater than 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight. High levels of protein can lead to increased water loss because the body excretes water to dispose of urea, a substance formed in the breakdown of protein. Water loss coupled with the fact that most athletes loose a great amount of water through sweat, can lead to dehydration. An excess of protein can also take calcium away from bones, thus predisposing one for osteoporosis.
Example of Protein Needs
Person/Activity Protein Needed
120 pound sedentary female 44 grams protein per day
120 pound female marathoner 65-76 grams protein per day
120 pound female body builder 76-98 grams protein per day
180 pound sedentary male 65 grams protein per day
180 pound male marathoner 98-114 grams protein per day
180 pound male body builder 114-147 grams protein per day
Meat, Fish, Poultry
Lean beef, chicken, turkey breast: 1 oz, 8 Grams of Protein
Beef 3 oz. hamburger, roast beef, 21 Grams of Protein
Poultry:3 oz. grilled chicken sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Fish: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Fish: 3 oz. tuna sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Lunch meat:1 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Eggs: 1, 6 Grams of Protein
Kidney beans: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Navy beans: 1/2 cup, 7 Grams of Protein
Garbanzo beans (chick peas): 1/2 cup, 6 Grams of Protein
Tofu (soybeans): 2 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Peanuts: 1/4 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Peanut Butter: 2 tbsp, 8 Grams of Protein
Nuts: 1 oz (handful), 5-7 Grams of Protein
Low-fat cottage cheese: 1/2 cup, 13 Grams of Protein
Milk (whole, skim): 1 cup (8 ounce glass), 8 Grams of Protein
Yogurt (whole, skim): 1 cup (1 8 ounce container), 8 Grams of Protein
Cheddar cheese: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Ice cream, frozen yogurt: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Processed cheese (American): 2 oz, 13 Grams of Protein
Breads, cereals, grains
Macaroni and cheese: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Pasta : 1 cup cooked, 8 Grams of Protein
Bagel: 2 oz, 6 Grams of Protein
Raisin bran: 1 oz (2/3 cup), 3 Grams of Protein
Rice: 1 cup cooked, 3 Grams of Protein
Bread 1 slice: 2 Grams of Protein
Baked potato: 1 large, 4 Grams of Protein
Peas, green: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Corn: 1/2 cup, 2 Grams of Protein
Lettuce: 1/4 head, 1 Gram of Protein
Carrot: 1 large, 1 Gram of Protein
Banana, orange, apple: 1 medium, 1 Gram of Protein
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We are all familiar with the common effects that alcohol has on our body. Many people enjoy its sedating influence and it’s hard to deny that it does play a vital role in many of society’s traditions and practices. One effect alcohol has, which is not widely discussed, is its impact on body composition. In its purest form, supplies seven calories per gram, almost twice as many as proteins and carbohydrates, bumping up ones total energy balance whenever it is consumed. Although, unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, alcohol supplies what nutritionists often refer to as empty calories: calories without nutrition. To make matters worse, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.
In general, alcohol consumption affects rational thought, emotions, mood, judgment, speech and muscle coordination. Alcohol is specifically detrimental to athletes and can inhibit recovery, protein synthesis, hydration, motivation, and nutrient intake. It interferes with many of the processes so important to success: focus, performance, recovery and rebuilding. Although alcohol is absorbed rapidly, it is metabolized very slowly and its effects may still impact performance up to 48 hours after the last drink.
As little as 2-3 standard drinks can directly:
- Decrease strength, limiting workout intensity and muscle growth and development
- Impair reaction time
- Impair balance and hand/eye coordination
- Increase fatigue
- Interfere with body temperature regulation
- Cause dehydration
- Deplete aerobic capacity and negatively impact endurance for up to 48 hrs after the last drink
- Impact cellular repair, lowers testosterone and increases estrogen
- Impact fat oxidation, meaning fat burning stops all together. The Kreb cycle which normally involves burning fat will instead be burning the alcohol off to detoxify your body. So not only will you not be burning fat but you’ll be consuming extra calories which lead you to put on more fat
- Impact cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure.
- Disrupt sleep
- Cause vitamin and mineral depletion
- Impair digestion
- Cause cognitive impairment and lessened inhibitions
As you can see a simple drink has far reaching consequences especially if you are attempting to improve your physique. Your performance in the gym and your recovery and nourishment from food are severely impacted. Try not to negate all of the discipline and hard work you devote to improving your health and reaching your goal. Keep a clear head, and a properly functioning body, by refraining from alcohol when looking to improve your physical fitness, or in other cases, at least be aware of the trade off you are making!
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It is safe to say that a majority of our population today is looking to lose weight, but most are unsure of how to go about doing so. Whether it may be a few pounds or 30, most are striving to get to a place where they are comfortable, confident and healthy. Unfortunately, this leaves many turning to fad diets and/or extreme exercise measures to drop the pounds quick. While you may lose weight initially, you are actually doing yourself more harm than good. There is no supplement, no magical device and no “fad diet” to help you lose weight. The safest and best way is tried and true…through nutrition and caloric expenditure.
Many gym goers believe that weight loss is 80% what you do in the gym and 20% of what you put in your mouth. This is the first mistake many people make. If you would like to see any substantial change in your physique, nutrition is one of the most important factors to the equation. Getting your nutrition under control should be your top priority, followed by your daily exercise.
Weight loss is an equation, we burn a certain number of calories per day based on our metabolic rates. Calories come in through the fuel we feed ourselves and calories are expended either through exercise or everyday functions and daily living. The goal in this equation is to consistently make a big enough deficit in our caloric intake/output to then yield a lower number on your scale. Sound confusing? Well by numbers it is actually much easier than you think!
The first thing we need to find is your RMR* (resting metabolic rate) or how many calories your body burns in a day. You also have to determine what rate you would like to lose weight, I would recommend to achieve safe and permanent weight loss stick to .5-2lbs per week, meaning you need to create a deficit in calories through diet, exercise or both and consistently stick to that deficit.
So, since 1lb=3500 calories…
- To lose .5lbs/wk you must make a deficit of 250 cals/day
- To lose 1lb/wk you must make a deficit of 500 cals/day
- To lose 2lbs/wk you must make a deficit of 1000 cals/day
Take and utilize the following example to jump start your own weight loss!
So let’s say I want to lose 2lbs per week and my RMR=2300 cals/day. I would need to make a 1000 calorie deficit per day in order to stay consistent with my weight loss. Cutting 1000 calories out of our diet would be a bold task, the safest way to make this deficit is to cut back on food intake while also supplementing with exercise.
On days that I exercise I will strive to burn at least 400 calories (which is equal to about 40 minutes of moderate intensity exercise) this will allow me to only have to cut 600 calories out of my diet.
After taking my RMR I have found that I expend approximately 2300 calories per day.
Our equation would look something like this…
- RMR=2300 cals so to create a 1000 calorie deficit I must subtract 400 cals(from exercise)-600 cals(through diet) to equal 1000 calories expended.
- So now that we have our deficit we can determine how many calories we should eat per day. We do this by taking our RMR and subtracting our 600 calories we will cut out of our diet to contribute to the deficit.
- RMR=2300 cals-600 cals(through diet)=1700 calories total to consume/day.
On days that I do not exercise I have to be cautious to still maintain a deficit making it a little more difficult if I wanted to stick to my 1000 calorie deficit. This would mean I would have to limit my intake to 1300 calories on those days; although you may choose to consume slightly more as long as you stay within a deficit you should not gain weight.
Getting a grip on your nutrition will not only help yield promising results but will also give yourself a sense of empowerment knowing that you are in control of your results. You might find that the simple act of being aware of how much is going in and what effort is being expended will make you feel better in its own. Now granted there are a number of other factors that can go into weight loss, this is one of the safest tools you can use when it comes to planning out your weight loss safely and remember it is always a good idea to speak to a physician first before you begin any weight loss program! If you have any questions on how to set up an RMR test or how to get started on your weight loss program please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Christine Moore at 206-443-1111 x292.
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