– Pushkraj Shirke
“People counting calories to stay fit is like a child calculating his riches by counting the number of notes in a mixed currency stack. The child doesn’t understand that each note can have a different denomination. Not just that, but even the fact that each currency has a different value of its own.”
A dollar is equal to approximately Rs 75. Not just that, but each currency has a different exchange rate and acceptability value of its own. The same goes for Calories and Nutrients.
Just as in currency, the value of each calorie depends on its source macronutrient. The calories that come from fat have certain values, the calories that come from protein have certain benefits to the body, and the calories that come from carbohydrates are like the currency of a third world country — acceptable everywhere, but at a price. Unlike proteins that build and repair tissues and build up our immune system, and fats that preserve muscle and enhance brain function, carbs have almost no other function that to be used up for energy. In the event where they are not used as energy they are converted into fat and stored as a future energy source.
This is why people who follow simplistic calorie restrictive diets often fail to reach their fitness goals. One of the most unhealthy fad diets that had gained much popularity due to certain celebrities was the 500 calorie diet. Which is nothing but a starvation diet — especially when all your sources of even those measly 500 calories are carbohydrates. On such a diet, muscle loss is maximised, fat loss is stalled due to the body being in starvation mode, and the immune system and brain function hits an all time low.
When recommending a diet, a good nutritionist will always focus first on the macronutrient split than on the calories itself. The only case in which counting calories may be advisable is when you have your daily calorific intake set and then you need to re-engineer your macro nutrient ratios to match that requirement.
It is advisable that you do not try to mimic any diet just based on the calorific count. But even in case you are doing so, in a very simplistic way, it can be said that no matter what diet you are on, and how many calories you are counting, your diet must contain an absolute bare minimum weight equalling your body weight in grams of protein as an active man, and half your body weight in grams of protein as an active woman. For sporting individuals or those who work out, this ratio doubles, and for professional athletes, this ratio even triples.
READ MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED IN THE DNA here.
-Pushkaraj S Shirke
Director, Project Battlefit