Long time no post, eh? I’ve been a bit of a world traveler with stories to tell about Central America. One of the things I didn’t get a lot of is calories while I was on vacation. Perhaps in line with Seth Robert’s Shangri-La Diet, the flavors of the food I was eating wasn’t what I was used to. They were novel and as a result I didn’t really crave them. I came home below 9% body fat, my lowest ever. A perfect time to bulk and test a recomp system…a report for later.
I digress…calories. I wasn’t getting many. How many should you be getting? How many ARE you getting? Well, that depends.This post is mostly inspired by a line I saw on another trainer’s Facebook wall. As a rule, trainers don’t hang out with other trainers unless they’re employed by the same company or work opposite ends of town. Perhaps like family, the closer trainers are to one another, the less they get along. I wish this person well in their business efforts, but I took special notice of this statement, regarding a new resting metabolic rate calculator:
Everyone that has had their RMR tested here thus far has found out that they should be eating more.
The first question you should be asking is: More than what? Specifically, concerns with such a statement are the following:
1. People don’t know what they’re eating
In my decade’s long love affair with this business, I can count on 2 hands the number of people who have stepped into my door for advice knowing EXACTLY what they were eating on a daily basis. Without a food journal, people tend not to count little handfuls of whatever they find at the office as “food” and caloric drinks tend not to be included in this mental storehouse.
2. People underestimate how much they’re eating
The fact is that not only do most people not know, they frequently and drastically underestimate their intake. I appreciate a handful of studies that take people to task, locking them in a metabolic ward and feeding them exactly how much they claimed to have been eating. The shocker? They lose weight. Of course they did.
3. Considering the former, how can knowing RMR give you anything but noise?
Since people don’t know how much they eat, RMR is one bit of noisy data. It is also a fluctuating number, depending on food intake, on the macronutrient split of your diet, on your activity, on changes in body mass and composition…this is not a Ronco product. It is NOT set it and forget it. To get an idea of how many steps are involved, take a look at John Berardi’s writeup on determining RMR here. Also, note that there is a multiplication factor involved; depending on who you ask, they either think office work is “strenuous work” or nap time.
So taking into account all of those factors, how is it possible to say for sure that a client needs more calories? It’s not. Depending on a person’s goals they might NEED more calories, but considering the vast majority of clients showing up for our services are looking to feel better or lose weight, recommending more calories is irrelevant for the former and the polar opposite of what is necessary for the latter.
Calories matter. However, what matters first is food quality (not bodybuilder “clean” foods but rather reducing processed food and increasing protein, fat, and fiber) and personal preference. From there, depending on the goals of the trainee, calories can be adjusted. But without all of the above, the RMR is just noise.