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Archive | total daily energy expenditure

Why different foods (and drinks, hint hint) can burn fat more effectively

jack daniels

Calories in versus Calories out is a tricky topic that comes up a lot in the “Science Lab” private group and seminars that we offer free when you purchase Met Flex for Fat Loss.

(NOTE:  Click here to jump to a short summary of this article)

Everything you do with your body requires energy; from pulling a heavy snatch, to taking a nap afterwards, even the consumption and metabolism of food depends upon energy availability and it all adds up to influence your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).  This spontaneous generation of heat during catalytic reactions is called thermogenesis.  When you calculate your TDEE, you’re really asking yourself a series of questions:  “How much heat do I generate just to keep my organs functioning?”  This is what defines your basal metabolic rate (BMR).    Another factor in your daily energy expenditure comes from activity:  “How much heat do I generate to fuel my exercise?”  The third, most overlooked contributor to TDEE and thermogenesis is nutrition.  Ask yourself, “How much heat do I generate when I eat?”

About 10% of your energy expenditure each day can be attributed to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).  TEF describes the net loss of energy during the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  When someone has a “fast metabolism”, they really have an inefficient metabolism that wastes more energy than it holds onto.  Essentially, their enzymes work very hard, but they don’t get a lot done for all the fuss.  The “cost” of operation is greater, so there’s less “profit”; less energy is stored.  This can be good and bad, but the great thing is that you can manipulate your efficiency.  A major factor in successfully taking advantage of the human body’s metabolic flexibility is consuming the right food, at the right time.  Depending upon the composition, size and frequency of your meals, your body responds to your nutrition in markedly different ways.

The Thermic Effect of Different Macronutrients

Of all the macronutrients, alcohol produces the greatest thermic effect; that isn’t a good reason to chug a bottle of Jack, however, due to the fact that alcohol consumption puts the brakes on fat oxidation for a little while (Anne Raben).  You’re actually more prone to store fat while you’ve got alcohol in your system, especially if you eat high-fat foods and drink at the same time (I’m looking at you, chicken wings!)  Many people do report waking up “tighter” the morning after a night out drinking, but this has more to do with water loss than anything.  Proper hydration is of the utmost importance to performing well and building muscle, so I would suggest taking it easy, but as they say: “To each his/her own.”

Protein

As far as everyday nutrition goes, protein is the most thermogenic of the three macros (carbs, protein and fat).  This explains, in part, why people see improved body composition on high protein weight loss diets; you waste a lot of energy just breaking protein down.  In addition, since you’ll feel more satisfied after eating a high protein meal, your drive to eat will be diminished (Halton).  We recommend that protein consumption act as a base for the rest of your nutrition, and this is just one of many reasons.  Not only are you providing your body with the material it needs to function and repair itself, but you’re keeping yourself lean.

Carbohydrate & Fat

Under normal circumstances, carbohydrate and fat are easier to break down and absorb.  The TEF associated with these two macros is less than that of protein.  Fat is the least thermogenic of the three.  It may be interesting to note that when comparing obese and lean populations, the thermic effect of food is smaller regardless of the macros, but carbohydrate displays a greater thermic effect than fat; fat is even less thermogenic in obese individuals (R Swaminathan).  Thus, consuming carbohydrates can contribute to increased net energy expenditure (K R Segal).  We write about this all the time, but this sort of explains the concept: avoiding carbohydrates when you’re trying to lose weight really does slow down your metabolism.  Conversely, if you’re trying to maintain muscle mass and conserve energy, eating low carb/high fat is a viable strategy.

Training and Post-Workout Carbs

Since you’re probably CrossFitting or weightlifting a few times a week, you’ll be glad to know that the thermic effect of food is more pronounced in active people than it is in sedentary individuals.  This may be due to increased responsiveness to adrenaline signaling brought on by regular bouts of exercise (Nicole R. Stob).  As I stated earlier, training creates a thermic effect too (exercise-associated thermogenesis).  It’s more difficult to store energy after a workout, and that can be a good thing if you’re trying to maintain a lean body composition.  It can also make it more difficult to build muscle mass, and that’s where carbs come in.

Carbs are normally pretty easy to break down and either utilize as an energy substrate, or to store as glycogen/fat.  This changes after training.  The thermic effect of carbohydrate consumption after a single bout of exercise can be over 70% greater than before training (Charlene M. Denzer).  That’s a difference of hundreds of calories every day, and thousands of calories every month, of food that you essentially get for free.  Eating carbs post-workout kicks your metabolism into high gear, you burn up like a space shuttle during re-entry, and your body does whatever it can to cool down.

What this ultimately means, in practice, is that you can get away with eating large amounts of carbs to generate a significant insulin response and jam as much water, protein and other nutrients into your muscles as you can…Without worrying about getting fat.  You get all of the hormonal and metabolic advantages of eating carbs without the bad.  This is the basis of back-loading, and it’s a great strategy to optimize recovery, performance and body composition all at once.  This goes for both men and women, as well as lean and not-so-lean individuals.

Special Considerations:  Intermittent Fasting, Yohimbine and Caffeine

The size of a meal seems to play a role in thermogenesis.  While smaller meals eaten at a greater frequency create a more sustained thermic effect, larger meals produce an overall greater effect.  Though the difference is small (somewhere around 50 calories a day), it does support the idea that eating more, less frequently, can make a positive impact on weight loss (M M Tai).  If you follow an intermittent fasting protocol like LeanGains, The Warrior Diet, Eat Stop Eat or even Carb Back-Loading, you’re probably already taking advantage of this concept; if you aren’t, it’s yet another reason to delay breakfast and eat more at the end of the day.

In addition, certain substances can increase thermogenesis and help you mobilize fat.  A common dietary supplement to consider, which you may already partake of, is good ol’ caffeine.  One or two (or three, or four) cups of coffee can really get your metabolism humming and help you burn fat (K J Acheson).  For leaner folks, Yohimbine (an herbal supplement) can augment the production of the catecholamines epinephrine and dopamine (Ostojica).  More catecholamines can translate to increased thermogenesis, fat oxidation, and (potentially) an increased sense of well-being.  Take caution though; it is not useful for everybody.  You should be pretty lean before you consider supplementation.  When adding anything atypical to your nutrition, be careful and start off very slow.  If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, or there’s any question in your mind whether or not you’ll react well to a specific modification, you owe it to yourself to talk to a doctor.

In conclusion, you don’t really need to worry about any of this thermogenesis stuff.  By simply eating protein and fat throughout the day, training hard, and having a nice carb-dense meal in the evening, you’re already taking advantage of these concepts.  I hope that by attaining deeper insight into the concepts we teach on Eat To Perform, you’ll understand how to dial things in a bit better and do what you need to get out of your own way.  Knowledge is power, but I don’t want you to get side-tracked.  I want you to focus on what really matters:  eating well, training your ass off, and enjoying your accomplishments.  Until next time!

Summary

  • TDEE is influenced by basal metabolic rate and activity, but also metabolism of food
  • “TEF” or the Thermic Effect of Food describes the net loss of energy during the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  It normally contributes makes up about 10% of your TDEE.
  • Protein has the greatest TEF and fat has the lowest TEF.  Carbs are in the middle.
  • By eating carbohydrates after training, the TEF goes up drastically and more of the energy is lost as heat
  • Eating larger meals less frequently contributes to a slightly greater thermic effect
  • Caffeine and Yohimbine can help lean people increase thermogenesis and burn more fat

Works Cited

Anne Raben, Lisa Agerholm-Larsen, Anne Flint, Jens J Holst, and Arne Astrup. Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake1,2,3. January 2003. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/1/91.full>.

Charlene M. Denzer, John C. Young. The Effect of Resistance Exercise on the Thermic Effect of Food. n.d. 29 March 2013 <http://journals.humankinetics.com/ijsnem-back-issues/IJSNEMVolume13Issue3September/TheEffectofResistanceExerciseontheThermicEffectofFood>.

Halton, Thomas L., Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. October 2004. 31 March 2013 <http://www.jacn.org/content/23/5/373.full>.

K J Acheson, B Zahorska-Markiewicz, P Pittet, K Anantharaman, and E Jéquier. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. May 1980. 31 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/33/5/989.full.pdf+html>.

K R Segal, B Gutin, A M Nyman, and F X Pi-Sunyer. Thermic effect of food at rest, during exercise, and after exercise in lean and obese men of similar body weight. September 1985. 29 March 2013 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC424000/>.

K. J. Acheson, Y. Schutz, T. Bessard, E. Ravussin, E. Jequier, and J. P. Flatt. Nutritional influences on lipogenesis and thermogenesis after a carbohydrate meal. 1 January 1984. 29 March 2013 <http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/246/1/E62.short>.

M M Tai, P Castillo, and F X Pi-Sunyer. Meal size and frequency: effect on the thermic effect of food. November 1991. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/54/5/783.full.pdf+html>.

Nicole R. Stob, Christopher Bell, Marleen A. van Baak, and Douglas R. Seals. Thermic effect of food and β-adrenergic thermogenic responsiveness in habitually exercising and sedentary healthy adult humans. 18 December 2006. 29 March 2013 <http://jap.physiology.org/content/103/2/616.full>.

Ostojica, Sergej M. Yohimbine: The Effects on Body Composition and Exercise Performance in Soccer Players. 21 December 2006. 29 March 2013 <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15438620600987106>.

R Swaminathan, R F King, J Holmfield, R A Siwek, M Baker, and J K Wales. Thermic effect of feeding carbohydrate, fat, protein and mixed meal in lean and obese subjects. August 1985. 31 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/42/2/177.full.pdf+html>.

S M Robinson, C Jaccard, C Persaud, A A Jackson, E Jequier, and Y Schutz. Protein turnover and thermogenesis in response to high-protein and high-carbohydrate feeding in men. July 1990. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/52/1/72.full.pdf+html>.

Five ways to adjust for the Paleo Diet

scale

This video is so good and shows EXACTLY why “just eat more” is bad advice.  It will always amaze me that we know our numbers for everything and we ignore numbers for the scale, body fat or whatever else it is.  I get it, knowing what you are doing isn’t working sucks but if you want to get better you need to have data.  That’s why the calculator is so helpful for so many people and that’s why everyone should be a Science Lab member.

Also I did talk John from Simply Pure Nutrients to keep the “free shipping” thing going until tomorrow night.  Click this link for info.

FITR.tv’s Barbell Shrugged podcast (You definitely want to check out FITR.tv!) mentioned Eat To Perform in a recent episode.  It’s an extremely entertaining video full of a lot of useful information on adjusting your diet to improve your performance, and it really makes us happy that we’re getting through to people!  You can check out episode #54 “5 Ways to Adjust Paleo for High Volume CrossFit Training” below.  We’ve also provided a short excerpt of the section where they talk about Eat To Perform and “the lightbulb moment”.

Laura:  So I started researching on the internet and I ran across a couple of different blogs that were interesting, like Eat To Perform.  I think that’s Paul Nobles; have y’all heard of him?

Michael:  Nuh uh.

Laura:  He’s one of the guys that does the LeanGains/Carb Back-Loading thing.  I can’t remember the LeanGains guy…John somebody.

Michael:  I remember his name, I remember you were talking about him.

Chris:  There’s like 800 carb loading guys so…

Laura:  I know.  He’s one of the ones that works with a lot of powerlifters.  Anyway, his blog is actually really informative.  It’s called Eat To Perform.  When I started reading about it, I was like, “Ah, Eat To Perform.  I never actually thought of it like that…”  I know Michael told me a thousand times.

Michael:  He wants to like grab you and shake you like a baby.

Laura:  Again, I guess maybe I wasn’t ready to hear it…Maybe I just wasn’t getting in the way you were saying it.

Chris:  Maybe you’re just…A dummie…

Laura:  I know, I’m sorry!

Michael:  I’m a terrible communicator.

Laura:  Doug’s just like, “God I hate you!”

Doug:  I just have this vision of Mike shaking you.

(laughter)

Laura:  Like a ragdoll…But on his blog, he was talking about your metabolic function and how your muscles obviously can’t grow if you’re not eating enough calories.  I was like, “Holy shit!  I might not be eating enough calories!”

Chris:  The mind blown moment.

Laura:  I know right?  And I’m a brunette; I promise I’m not a blonde!  I was like, “Holy shit!” So I started researching metabolic function.  He has this crazy calculator on his website.  It’s like a BMR calculator; it calculates your total number of energy expenditures you give in a day.  I was like, through the roof.  I was like 1,500 calories short of what I should be taking in.

Chris:  That’s a lot to be short by.

Laura:  That’s a lot!

Michael:  And where’s the calculator at?
Laura:  On EatToPerform.com.  It’s just a simple BMR calculator:  height, weight, age, your level of activity.  He does this for CrossFitters; this is a CrossFit thing.

Michael:  Something like that is gonna give you good general information.  It’s a starting point.

Laura:  It’s a starting point.  Exactly.

Chris:  If you’re way off, you’re probably way off.

Laura:  Exactly; 1,500 calories…I mean, that’s quite a bit to be off.

Chris:  That’s a lot.  The standard error around that…You can probably safely assume you could eat more food.

Laura:  Exactly.  I can safely assume I need to be ingesting 2000-2400 calories a day.  I mean, I wake up at 5 a.m., I go all day long at work, then I train.  I have a kid at home.  There’s a lot going on.  I need a lot of calories to keep going, and to keep building muscle.

So anyway, I found that on his blog and I was like, “Well, what the hell.  I’m already feeling like shit, I might as well just give it a shot.  I know Mike and Doug have preached this forever…”

Michael:  Let me give this food a chance!

(laughter)

Laura:  I know!  I texted your wife, and I told her.  She’s like, “How many times have I told you this!?”  I was like, “I’m sorry.”

(laughter)

Laura:  I know, I’m fired as a CrossFitter.

Chris:  But most people listening to this, I can guarantee you.  You are doing something right now…

Laura:  Lightbulbs are going off!

Chris:  That’s super simple to overlook and it’s undermining your performance.  You can fix it easily.  You’ve gotta look at the obvious things.  Don’t look towards radical programming shifts and manipulations.  Don’t look towards fancy supplements.  Until you know you’ve addressed every key thing, it’s right here in front of your face.  It’s so close it’s hard to miss it!

Laura:  But it’s so close you do miss it.

Chris:  “I need a fancy supplement!”  How much do you sleep?  “About two hours a night.”

Michael:  that’s an excellent point.  I think people are quick to take a supplement, because it’s easy.  Changing your lifestyle is NOT easy, so people want the supplement to be the answer.  But more than likely, it’s not the supplement.

Chris:  It’s just you and your screwed up life.

Laura:  I changed just a hair of my supplement…It wasn’t enough to make a big difference.  My diet has completely changed though.  It was like literally 24 hours later; I came in like bouncing in the gym.  Mike was like, “Oh my gosh.  What is wrong with you!?  What’re you on!?

Michael:  I remember.
Chris:  My body works!

Mike:  I wasn’t nearly as excited about it as she was.

Chris:  It’s like when you go through school your whole life, and you’ve been squinting at the board for years and years.  Somebody says, “You should go to the fucking eye doctor dude.”  You can’t see.  You put on glasses and you go, “Oh my god, I can see what leaves look like!  What’s that!?  A word!?”  Your whole life just changes ‘cause you did something obvious to everybody else.

Laura:  The angels come out and play their harps.  The clouds open up.  It’s amazing.  But women don’t think that they need to eat more to feel good.

Doug:  You’re gonna be afraid of getting fat right?

Laura:  YES.  And I’ll tell you this: every single day, I eat twice as much as I was eating.  And it’s a struggle.  I will not lie.  Mentally, I’m like, “OK.  I’m not gonna get fat because I’m eating this!”  It’s funny how you have to reprogram your mind.  I don’t want people to think I’m shoving McDonalds down my throat.  It’s still very clean, Paleo-esque food.

It’s Getting Hot In Here: Thermogenesis & The Thermic Effect of Food

jack daniels

Calories in versus Calories out is a tricky topic that comes up a lot in the “Science Lab” private group and seminars that we offer free when you purchase Met Flex for Fat Loss.

(NOTE:  Click here to jump to a short summary of this article)

Everything you do with your body requires energy; from pulling a heavy snatch, to taking a nap afterwards, even the consumption and metabolism of food depends upon energy availability and it all adds up to influence your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).  This spontaneous generation of heat during catalytic reactions is called thermogenesis.  When you calculate your TDEE, you’re really asking yourself a series of questions:  “How much heat do I generate just to keep my organs functioning?”  This is what defines your basal metabolic rate (BMR).    Another factor in your daily energy expenditure comes from activity:  “How much heat do I generate to fuel my exercise?”  The third, most overlooked contributor to TDEE and thermogenesis is nutrition.  Ask yourself, “How much heat do I generate when I eat?”

About 10% of your energy expenditure each day can be attributed to the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).  TEF describes the net loss of energy during the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  When someone has a “fast metabolism”, they really have an inefficient metabolism that wastes more energy than it holds onto.  Essentially, their enzymes work very hard, but they don’t get a lot done for all the fuss.  The “cost” of operation is greater, so there’s less “profit”; less energy is stored.  This can be good and bad, but the great thing is that you can manipulate your efficiency.  A major factor in successfully taking advantage of the human body’s metabolic flexibility is consuming the right food, at the right time.  Depending upon the composition, size and frequency of your meals, your body responds to your nutrition in markedly different ways.

The Thermic Effect of Different Macronutrients

Of all the macronutrients, alcohol produces the greatest thermic effect; that isn’t a good reason to chug a bottle of Jack, however, due to the fact that alcohol consumption puts the brakes on fat oxidation for a little while (Anne Raben).  You’re actually more prone to store fat while you’ve got alcohol in your system, especially if you eat high-fat foods and drink at the same time (I’m looking at you, chicken wings!)  Many people do report waking up “tighter” the morning after a night out drinking, but this has more to do with water loss than anything.  Proper hydration is of the utmost importance to performing well and building muscle, so I would suggest taking it easy, but as they say: “To each his/her own.”

Protein

As far as everyday nutrition goes, protein is the most thermogenic of the three macros (carbs, protein and fat).  This explains, in part, why people see improved body composition on high protein weight loss diets; you waste a lot of energy just breaking protein down.  In addition, since you’ll feel more satisfied after eating a high protein meal, your drive to eat will be diminished (Halton).  We recommend that protein consumption act as a base for the rest of your nutrition, and this is just one of many reasons.  Not only are you providing your body with the material it needs to function and repair itself, but you’re keeping yourself lean.

Carbohydrate & Fat

Under normal circumstances, carbohydrate and fat are easier to break down and absorb.  The TEF associated with these two macros is less than that of protein.  Fat is the least thermogenic of the three.  It may be interesting to note that when comparing obese and lean populations, the thermic effect of food is smaller regardless of the macros, but carbohydrate displays a greater thermic effect than fat; fat is even less thermogenic in obese individuals (R Swaminathan).  Thus, consuming carbohydrates can contribute to increased net energy expenditure (K R Segal).  We write about this all the time, but this sort of explains the concept: avoiding carbohydrates when you’re trying to lose weight really does slow down your metabolism.  Conversely, if you’re trying to maintain muscle mass and conserve energy, eating low carb/high fat is a viable strategy.

Training and Post-Workout Carbs

Since you’re probably CrossFitting or weightlifting a few times a week, you’ll be glad to know that the thermic effect of food is more pronounced in active people than it is in sedentary individuals.  This may be due to increased responsiveness to adrenaline signaling brought on by regular bouts of exercise (Nicole R. Stob).  As I stated earlier, training creates a thermic effect too (exercise-associated thermogenesis).  It’s more difficult to store energy after a workout, and that can be a good thing if you’re trying to maintain a lean body composition.  It can also make it more difficult to build muscle mass, and that’s where carbs come in.

Carbs are normally pretty easy to break down and either utilize as an energy substrate, or to store as glycogen/fat.  This changes after training.  The thermic effect of carbohydrate consumption after a single bout of exercise can be over 70% greater than before training (Charlene M. Denzer).  That’s a difference of hundreds of calories every day, and thousands of calories every month, of food that you essentially get for free.  Eating carbs post-workout kicks your metabolism into high gear, you burn up like a space shuttle during re-entry, and your body does whatever it can to cool down.

What this ultimately means, in practice, is that you can get away with eating large amounts of carbs to generate a significant insulin response and jam as much water, protein and other nutrients into your muscles as you can…Without worrying about getting fat.  You get all of the hormonal and metabolic advantages of eating carbs without the bad.  This is the basis of back-loading, and it’s a great strategy to optimize recovery, performance and body composition all at once.  This goes for both men and women, as well as lean and not-so-lean individuals.

Special Considerations:  Intermittent Fasting, Yohimbine and Caffeine

The size of a meal seems to play a role in thermogenesis.  While smaller meals eaten at a greater frequency create a more sustained thermic effect, larger meals produce an overall greater effect.  Though the difference is small (somewhere around 50 calories a day), it does support the idea that eating more, less frequently, can make a positive impact on weight loss (M M Tai).  If you follow an intermittent fasting protocol like LeanGains, The Warrior Diet, Eat Stop Eat or even Carb Back-Loading, you’re probably already taking advantage of this concept; if you aren’t, it’s yet another reason to delay breakfast and eat more at the end of the day.

In addition, certain substances can increase thermogenesis and help you mobilize fat.  A common dietary supplement to consider, which you may already partake of, is good ol’ caffeine.  One or two (or three, or four) cups of coffee can really get your metabolism humming and help you burn fat (K J Acheson).  For leaner folks, Yohimbine (an herbal supplement) can augment the production of the catecholamines epinephrine and dopamine (Ostojica).  More catecholamines can translate to increased thermogenesis, fat oxidation, and (potentially) an increased sense of well-being.  Take caution though; it is not useful for everybody.  You should be pretty lean before you consider supplementation.  When adding anything atypical to your nutrition, be careful and start off very slow.  If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, or there’s any question in your mind whether or not you’ll react well to a specific modification, you owe it to yourself to talk to a doctor.

In conclusion, you don’t really need to worry about any of this thermogenesis stuff.  By simply eating protein and fat throughout the day, training hard, and having a nice carb-dense meal in the evening, you’re already taking advantage of these concepts.  I hope that by attaining deeper insight into the concepts we teach on Eat To Perform, you’ll understand how to dial things in a bit better and do what you need to get out of your own way.  Knowledge is power, but I don’t want you to get side-tracked.  I want you to focus on what really matters:  eating well, training your ass off, and enjoying your accomplishments.  Until next time!

Summary

  • TDEE is influenced by basal metabolic rate and activity, but also metabolism of food
  • “TEF” or the Thermic Effect of Food describes the net loss of energy during the digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  It normally contributes makes up about 10% of your TDEE.
  • Protein has the greatest TEF and fat has the lowest TEF.  Carbs are in the middle.
  • By eating carbohydrates after training, the TEF goes up drastically and more of the energy is lost as heat
  • Eating larger meals less frequently contributes to a slightly greater thermic effect
  • Caffeine and Yohimbine can help lean people increase thermogenesis and burn more fat

Works Cited

Anne Raben, Lisa Agerholm-Larsen, Anne Flint, Jens J Holst, and Arne Astrup. Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake1,2,3. January 2003. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/1/91.full>.

Charlene M. Denzer, John C. Young. The Effect of Resistance Exercise on the Thermic Effect of Food. n.d. 29 March 2013 <http://journals.humankinetics.com/ijsnem-back-issues/IJSNEMVolume13Issue3September/TheEffectofResistanceExerciseontheThermicEffectofFood>.

Halton, Thomas L., Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. October 2004. 31 March 2013 <http://www.jacn.org/content/23/5/373.full>.

K J Acheson, B Zahorska-Markiewicz, P Pittet, K Anantharaman, and E Jéquier. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals. May 1980. 31 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/33/5/989.full.pdf+html>.

K R Segal, B Gutin, A M Nyman, and F X Pi-Sunyer. Thermic effect of food at rest, during exercise, and after exercise in lean and obese men of similar body weight. September 1985. 29 March 2013 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC424000/>.

K. J. Acheson, Y. Schutz, T. Bessard, E. Ravussin, E. Jequier, and J. P. Flatt. Nutritional influences on lipogenesis and thermogenesis after a carbohydrate meal. 1 January 1984. 29 March 2013 <http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/246/1/E62.short>.

M M Tai, P Castillo, and F X Pi-Sunyer. Meal size and frequency: effect on the thermic effect of food. November 1991. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/54/5/783.full.pdf+html>.

Nicole R. Stob, Christopher Bell, Marleen A. van Baak, and Douglas R. Seals. Thermic effect of food and β-adrenergic thermogenic responsiveness in habitually exercising and sedentary healthy adult humans. 18 December 2006. 29 March 2013 <http://jap.physiology.org/content/103/2/616.full>.

Ostojica, Sergej M. Yohimbine: The Effects on Body Composition and Exercise Performance in Soccer Players. 21 December 2006. 29 March 2013 <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15438620600987106>.

R Swaminathan, R F King, J Holmfield, R A Siwek, M Baker, and J K Wales. Thermic effect of feeding carbohydrate, fat, protein and mixed meal in lean and obese subjects. August 1985. 31 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/42/2/177.full.pdf+html>.

S M Robinson, C Jaccard, C Persaud, A A Jackson, E Jequier, and Y Schutz. Protein turnover and thermogenesis in response to high-protein and high-carbohydrate feeding in men. July 1990. 29 March 2013 <http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/52/1/72.full.pdf+html>.

BMR Calculator with TDEE (total daily energy expenditure)

One question I am getting a lot related to this calculator is how to use the information.  Currently we offer a Q&A series when you buy the book Carb Back Loading and soon that series will be expanding.  Some of the topics will include meal planning, using supplements as well as a weekly guest speaker that will be focused on what Eating to Perform looks like in real life.

Get a Free Widget

How Do I Know How Much I Should Be Eating? (w/ dead-simple calculator)

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article)

Ok, it’s time to get serious.  I talk a lot about eating “enough food” to support your activity level.  I realize that up until this point, that recommendation has remained relatively vague.  You’ve asked me, “How do I know how much I should be eating?” and I’m going to do my best to provide you with a succinct answer.  The problem with giving a one-size-fits-all recommendation, or setting up basic guidelines, is that they’re never right for everyone; each of us is a biochemically unique, adaptive organism living through its own personal challenges.  Even when a suggestion comes close, it needs to be tweaked as time wears on, or progression will wane.  Nevertheless, I’m going to do my best to explain what I mean by “enough food” and how to determine what that actually means.

Our new TDEE Calculator with activity multiplier

Here is the calculator for you guys to play with, but first, a few words of caution.  This isn’t a calorie counting exercise where you need to be all obsessive; running this calculator will simply enlighten you, show you what eating for performance looks like in a quantitative measurement, so you can make more educated decisions in regards to your food intake.  Before you start punching in your data, I want to ask you to look at this as a tool and nothing more.  Use this calculator as a means to establish a general idea of how much energy you expend during your average rest/training day, and go from there, always listening to your body and doing what feels right.

Without further ado, here is our new TDEE Calculator (remember almost everyone who Crossfit’s is considered “Very Active” and that is the calorie number we are looking at as your total)

Determining Activity Levels

Once you load the calculator, it should be pretty straight-forward.  You can ignore the bits about body fat percentage, waist circumference and such if you don’t have those data, but the “Activity” drown-down menu on the left beneath “Age” needs some special attention.  Half of knowing whether you’re eating enough comes from understanding how to define your level of activity.  The menu gives you several options; here’s how I’d suggest you match the categories available to your lifestyle:

  • Sedentary:  People who work a desk job and engage in very little (if any) structured exercise.  Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, this does not describe you, so you’ll probably avoid this option.
  • Very Active:  If you CrossFit or lift heavy a couple times a week, or if you work a physically demanding job, your activity level can probably be described as “very active”.
  • Extra Active:  For those of us who CrossFit 5-6 times a week.  Serious weightlifters and athletes, as well as folks who work jobs requiring hours of heavy llifting, fall into this category.

Again, because we’re all different and lead different lives, the TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculation that we arrive at is naught but a guideline; a person who lifts hay bales for 12 hours days will do well to classify their activity levels as “extra active” even if they’ve never touched a barbell in their lives.  A person who trains hard a few times a week but does little in the way of physical labor at work will err on the lower side of things.  Once you’ve got your numbers plugged in and your activity level selected, you’ll move onto the next page of the calculator: the macronutrient breakdown.

Macros:  What Are They and Why Are They Important?

Macronutrients are major components of your diet that are broken down into constituents to provide energy, build tissue and create hormones.  The ones we’re concerned with are protein (which provides 4 calories per gram), Carbs (4 calories per gram) and Fats (9 awesome calories per gram).  Just to clarify, micronutrients are vitamins that play an important role in how your body metabolizes the macronutrients that you make available.  A body without essential vitamins and minerals is like a car with a full tank of gas but no spark plugs.  This is why eating wholesome, nutrient-dense food is so important.

At the top left-hand corner, under “Presets”, you’re given several self-explanatory options.  I would recommend setting this to “Maintain” first and then to make adjustments with the sliders beneath the pie charts.  Here are some general guidelines for achieving different goals by manipulation your macronutrient ratios:

  • Improving performance/gaining muscle:  Increase your protein and fat on both days and increase your carbs on workout days.  Adding on an extra 3-500 calories for training days should help you put on some muscle and make some gains.  There are a lot of people out there looking to bulk up or get stronger with an all or nothing approach, but believe it or not, constant overeating may not be helping their progress.  Eating a little less carbohydrate on rest days can keep your body sensitive to insulin so that it can function properly when it needs the extra energy (around training).
  • Losing fat:  Simply eating at “Maintenance” calories and engaging in vigorous exercise a few times a week will help you lose body fat.  It’s important to eat when you’re active.  I write about it all the time because it’s true and I can’t stress it enough; you must eat enough or your workouts will suck and your long-term physique goals will be compromised.  To that end, a minor reduction in your carbohydrate intake on rest days that results in a 2-400 calorie deficit should do the trick and mobilize more fat, especially since you’re active.  Again, start small and work your way up.  Always pay attention to what your body’s trying to tell you.

 

A Real-World Example

I’m going to use Lindsey Valenzuela as my example, mostly because she is awesome.  Here are her stats that she tweeted the other day, with some minor adjustments to simplify the math.

  • Height:  5’6″
  • Weight:  150 pounds
  • Age:  26
  • Activity level:  Extra Active
  • BMR:  1572 kcal’s (basic calories you need to live)
  • Total Daily Energy Expenditure:  3000 (no wonder she’s so awesome)
  • Protein:  150g=600 calories from protein
  • Carbs:  300g (she is Lindsey after all)=1200 calories from carbs

That leaves 1200 calories to come from fat, so you divide by 9 which will leave us at 133.3 fat grams for the day.

Now let’s do a male example, but in this case he wants to put on 10lbs of muscle:

  • Height:  6’0″
  • Body fat %:  12%, 22.8lbs of fat
  • Lean Mass:  167lbs
  • Weight:  190
  • Age:  25
  • BMR:  2012 kcals
  •  TDEE:  3470

To get him there, we’re going to have him eat about 4,000 calories on training days, broken down into 187g of protein, 407g of carbohydrate and 181g of fat.  Now, let’s assume that several months have passed by and our male example’s training and diet were spot-on.  He gained 10lbs of muscle mass while adding only 2lbs of fat to his frame.  This is a great accomplishment, and his numbers look like this now:

  • Body fat %:  12%, 24.3lbs of fat
  • Lean Mass:  177.8lbs
  • Weight:  202lbs
  • BMR:  2115 kcals
  • TDEE:  3649

Compare the two sets of numbers:  A man at 190lbs and 202lbs, retaining the same body fat percentage burns only 100 more calories at rest, and only about 200 more throughout a day.  That equates to an extra hour of light activity or sleep…A sweet potato here or there.  First and foremost, it takes a lot of time, hard work and perseverance, but only a modest alteration of energy expenditure and intake to lose or gain weight.  The precise numbers are generally unimportant; as long as you’re within the ballpark everything is okay.  There are special circumstances where your unique biology and lifestyle require you to eat more or less but I’ll touch on that and explain why this is all so fuzzy in an upcoming article.  For now, what I want you to take away is this:  After you’re eating enough good food to end up in the general area according to the numbers, how you feel, how you perform, and how you look should always be the first indicators you assess when determining the effectiveness of your training and nutrition.

Summary

  • Everyone is unique, so there is no “one-size” diet prescription.  We all need different amounts of food based upon our height, weight, body composition and activity levels.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you would theoretically spend at rest.
  • Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the amount of calories you burn in a day.  This is based upon your BMR and then multiplied by an activity multiplier.
  • We recommend eating at or just slightly below your estimated TDEE to ensure proper recovery from training
  • Using our calculator, you can determine your expenditure without doing any math.
  • Macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) provide the bulk of the energy in your diet.  By eating more or less of each, you can manipulate your weight, body composition and performance without restricting calories.
  • How you look, how you feel, and how you perform are more important than any number on a scale or a calculator.  

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