Calories, what do I do with them?

by 5 · August 19, 2013 4:09 PM

I'm not one to say I do "Paleo", but I do eat fairly healthy. Chicken, Beef, Eggs, Dairy, Avocados, Veggies, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Almonds. It's all very clean and I buy conventional, I can't afford organic. I eat very healthy.

I'm getting a lot of mixed answers so I thought I might come here.

I am one to do CrossFit most days of the week and I am about a 6ft Male. I'm actually trying to bounce back from getting a better body composition from an extreme dieting phase I went through where I lost way too much weight. I've been doing CrossFit for a couple years, but it seems that even when I was "thinner", I still could muscle weight around that I am CURRENTLY still muscling through even though I have gained some weight back.

My problem is I don't know how much I should weigh, how much I should consume. I have used many online calculators, I use MyFitnessPal currently to track calories, and it says I should be around 2500 calories if not more. I also work retail, so I walk around a lot. As one who does CrossFit almost on the daily, and isn't seeing strength gains and I feel I have reached a plateau, does bumping up to 2500+ cals/day sound right? People tell me that's too much, but I'm not sure and get so many mixed messages.

My abdomen used to be sucked in below my chest due to my extreme dieting from being obese and I lost weight (fat and muscle) quickly on severe calorie restriction, it still kinda is, but I'm left with trying to figure out HOW much I should intake to gain muscle.

I've tinkered with Paleo before, but could never commit myself to it.

What do I do? I'm kinda at a breaking point trying to figure this all out because I don't want to feel that I am dieting my whole life and fear getting fat again.

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5 Replies

3157 · August 19, 2013 6:43 AM

It can get very complex so I'd just put it in a few words and you can dig more into the topic: do whatever you can to optimize your hormonal status, that's what you need to get a decent body composition over time. With good hormonal balance you can eat junk and do nothing and still being lean, but if your hormonal profile sucks, you can exercise and eat healthy and still be a fat-ass. So focus on this and things should settle with time and don't be hasty because a body recomposition to look awesome might take plenty of time, even years. Also don't be so worried about your progress because this can also get into your way, take a more relaxed approach, stress is bad, try to avoid it at all costs!

To jack up your sex hormones and metabolism I'd say that more intense lifts with longer rest times and lower reps with high weight will work better for you than CrossFit. I know there's a lot of variants in CrossFit, if I were you I'd try to avoid the Metcons (at least not do more than one a week) and focus on heavy lifts and I'd not spend more than 45 min in the gym.

I don't think that calories in calories out it's all about body weight balancing (I prefer to look at the hormonal effects every type of food exert on the body) but to make things easier we can asume that calories still matter somehow, so I'd aim for a slightly caloric surplus (yep, being calorie restricted will raise a lot your cortisol, that's stress for the body, if you're exercising intensely you don't want this) with decent protein intake (I'd say about 1.5g per body kilo/weight should suffice, some others will tell you that you can go even 2 to 2.5 for solid gains, might be true but health-wise there's trouble with so much protein (mTOR pathway over stimulated SEEMS to shorten lifespam long term) so you decide what you prefer high performance vs longevity...

If its a rest day, that day is where maybe you can aim to restrict some calories, I'd maintain protein and just eat lower fat and lower carb through that day, maybe not that much, just a little... if you were to compete in a contest you could consider high restriction but as from what you told us it just does not seem like it's worth it, I'd focus on a more steady and relaxed strategy thinking long term... it's a possible strategy, there are a lot and everyone has to find what works better for him.

If you have dinner pretty early on the evening (let's say at 7 to 8PM) you can go out for a walk so you get to bed with more changes to be burning fat and benefit this during all night until you get up, that way you don't have that much of a need to do cardio (which could be overkill if you also do resistance exercise) so you can have both strenght and aerobic activity with a more gentle approach for the body.

Sleep A LOT (aim for 8h a day) and try to cheat almost never on junk food, but if you want a feast, you might abuse a little bit starchy carbs specially after workouts... I'm not right now a pro-starches person (I favour a ketogenic diet) but in your context I think it might just work, even like this I'd make protein and fat my stapple for overall weekly scheme and add some dense carbs at selected hard days of training, post workout, If you have to do a metcon then a carb meal 3h before or so can be ok I guess. I'd cut out alcohol 90% of time and have it just as an occasional treat in a party or special dinner very once in a while.. favour wine and try to avoid gluten containing beverages... alcohol in general is a testosterone killer although very small amounts can be OK.

And try to avoid stress as much as you can, that's a killer, always.

18794 · August 19, 2013 at 12:00 PM

This has been stated in the two answers above in a roundabout way, but I'd like to spell it out succinctly:

Strength is gained by both growing new muscle as well as changing current muscle composition - the catalyst for these changes is weighted resistance and the fuel is food.

When someone is trying to lose weight, I give them the general "eat less, but not too little..." speech. However, since you have already lost a lot of weight and are trying to grow, you need to make sure you eat more. You're a 6-foot tall male, doing Crossfit daily, and you eat less than 2500 Calories a day? That is not a recipe for strength gains -- this would barely quality as a recipe for maintenance.

Paleo or not, I would focus on eating more high quality foods. I'm a 5'9'' male, I lift heavy 7 times every two weeks, run once or twice in that period, and I eat 2500k for maintenance - I easily consume 3400 or more Calories when in phases where I'm gaining muscle and strength. I would focus on whole foods that are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and eat whatever fats come along with that or are needed for cooking.

Good luck!

7249 · August 19, 2013 1:18 PM

An active male participating in the crossfit like you are saying should probably be eating at least 3000 kcal per day, maybe much more. If you are wanting to build more muscle and change your body composition, then I would recommend backing off the crossfit to no more than 3 days per week, and add some medium rep heavy weight longer rest workouts to your schedule, but do not do more that about 4 days of crossfit/lifting combined. And make sure to rest, muscles build while resting.

As to the fat loss, there are two primary ways, one easy one hard. The hard way is to restrict calories, and it works for a little while until your body gets tired of losing and then slows your metabolism. The easy way is to do things that fix the hormonal problem that caused the fat gain in the first place. Eat real whole foods, no processed carbs whatsoever. Eat a wide variety of meats, vegetables, including starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts etc. Think of eating as fueling your body. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. Backing off the crossfit a little, and doing more heavy lifting will give you a better boost to your hormones for both appetite control and muscle building.

8497 · August 19, 2013 at 11:29 AM

I would say a better course of action is to look at the two things individually...

  1. An easy estimation for calories: 16 x lbs body weight. This would be the minimum you would want and includes an hours exercise and general activity. For protein I would simply aim for 150g (not lower than 100g), and since you CrossFit daily eat around 150g to 200g of carbohydrate after the workout. Fill in the rest of the calories with fats. Give this a go for 2 weeks and see how you do, then change something. But you need to do something consistently first and then make an outcome based decision.

  2. The strength issue if not resolved by the nutrition should be something you discuss with one of the trainers at the box. If they don't have answers then you are probably in the wrong box. I've never done CrossFit but I assume there has to be some level of programming and progression with training, not just clock chasing.

Take some measurements, note down and choose a bunch of daily meals that you know the calorie values of and repeat for month. Check yourself at the end of 2 weeks, 4 weeks... and make a single change as needed. i.e. increase calories by 10%.

40632 · August 19, 2013 at 11:49 AM

How much should you weigh? Let BMI be your guide: BMI of 20-25 (normal weights) for your height: 150-185 pounds. Get a trainer, get a nutritionist if you're really having issues with weight and performance.

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