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RYAN CAIRNS: Tracking calories makes a difference


It’s important not to overeat and to choose an approach that is sustainable

Last month I wrote about a nutrition talk I gave to members at my gym. Here is part two of that talk.

To recap the first article, the single biggest effect on you losing weight is consuming fewer calories than you need.

So, if you are serious about losing weight, I recommend figuring out how much food you should be eating and compare it to how much food you do eat. Try tracking calories for one or two weeks. One day of eating slightly higher calories doesn't mess you up. The week as a whole is more important. That is what I want to inform you about in this article.

So, how do you even figure out how many calories you need a day, let alone a week? You can easily Google something like "daily calories intake calculator" to find one. The app, MyFitnessPal, also helps do it for you. Is it absolutely perfect? No. It is going to give you a pretty good guide, though. Choose a calculator and put in your information it will give you your basal metabolic rate. That number is the basic number of calories you need each day to lay in bed and watch Netflix. If you never did anything but sit down all the time, you need to consume fewer calories than that number. If you are an active person, you will need more calories to support your activity.

You can then Google the Harris-Benedict equation. That will give you options for how active you are. If you are unsure, opt for less active than you think. If not, it may give you too many calories, which won't help you lose weight.

So, now you have two numbers, your basic caloric need and your activity caloric need. If you exercise every day, then choose the latter number. If not, average them out (add the two numbers and divide by two) to get your daily calories intake. Make sense? We are almost there. Take that number and multiply it by seven to give you your weekly calories. So, now you have to decide how to split those up.

If you are the sort of person who is strict during the week but likes more food on the weekends, then do five days of eating lower calorie eating during the week and two days of higher calorie on the weekend. A second option would be to eat higher calorie days on the days you exercise and eat less on days you don't. If you aren't really an exerciser, you could just eat the same calories every day.

It matters less how you decide to split up your weekly calories as long as you aren't overeating and it is sustainable for you.

Obviously eating healthier, nutrient-rich unprocessed foods should be a priority, but if you change your diet too drastically, you won’t stick with it. Tracking calories isn't very luxurious. However, it can, in my opinion, be what makes the difference in you actually losing weight if you have been struggling for a long time. Good luck.

Yours in fitness and wellness,

Ryan Cairns is a certified personal trainer from Charlottetown who currently resides in Sydney, Australia. His column, Fit Happens, is published monthly in The Guardian. You can reach Ryan at or on Instagram @tattooed_pt.

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