There is no more sure way to induce a cringe and recoil reaction in fitness circles than to put calories and fitness together. Unfortunately, for some reason, calories have become so anathema that general avoidance is preferred. Consequently, such a state leaves an uncomfortable bubble where caloric importance and their necessity is hotly debated. Yet, such a reaction is borne of a general lack of proper information and misunderstandings. Therefore, to achieve your fitness goals and gain optimum results, it is important to investigate and understand calories, including how they work.
What are calories?
The most basic definition of a calorie is a unit of measurement. Calories refer to the energy you gain from food in terms of heat. This energy is vital for your body’s normal function. Every action- from lounging on the couch to running around on a hectic day at the office or taking part in a marathon- requires some amount of calories to execute.
Your body needs a minimum amount of calories just to work properly daily. However, if you take in too many calories daily, you are likely to gain weight. Hence, fitness enthusiasts believe that there is no more significant threat to your gains than calories.
Now that we have established how crucial it is to have calories in your body to burn, just for basic survival, you may be wondering how to reconcile that need with your desire to build muscle - while also avoiding weight gain.
The Balancing Act
First, you must understand the balance between calories and weight. As mentioned above, if you consume more calories than you burn, the excess will create a net weight gain. However, if you don’t take in enough calories, your body will not have enough energy to function as expected and maintain proper outputs during your workouts.
Achieving your right balance will mean that your body’s energy stores will remain sufficient between caloric intake and the intensity of your workouts. This leads you to achieve or surpass your goals.
Sourcing Your Calories
Now that you understand the basics of balance and its role in your fitness journey, it is time to address the more complicated aspect of finding your calories.
Like most things, not all sources of calories are made equal. Just because you need the energy from calories to get through a workout does not mean that every edible product is fair game. Nutritional value is an essential variable that separates the ideal from the inadequate—making the wrong nutrition choices may have a significant adverse effect on the success of your training.
Without a doubt, the best source of essential calories is healthy food. Fruits, vegetables and meats have far more nutritional advantages than other options. A well-balanced diet will contain everything you need to work on your muscles before, during and after the session. Furthermore, healthy foods are more likely to be nutrient-dense. This designation means that, in most cases, it takes less to meet your needs. Take, for example, a candy bar containing 150 calories. This one bit of indulgence is equivalent to 30 cups of lettuce or about 2 cups of edamame in the pod. Both healthier options have more benefits in the long run than what you get from the alternatives.
Returning to ‘good’ calories, you must also consider that different types of food have different calories because of the balance of the three macronutrients- proteins, carbohydrates and fats- within each selection. While carbohydrates and proteins have about four calories per gram, fats contain more than double that number at 9 grams. Such a discrepancy leads to the misconception that fats must be avoided, if not severely limited in the diet. However, the body requires some healthy fats for proper function. For a more definitive guideline, it is recommended that you aim to get between 15% and 30% of your calories from fat - just remain vigilant and make adjustments as needed.
Conversely, despite having fewer calories, carbohydrates can also fall into the better, more nutrient-dense category in the form of complex carbs. On the other hand, refined carbs are energy-dense, so they have fewer nutrients and are less beneficial. Some foods that are excellent sources of complex carbs include:
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice and farro.
- Grain-like foods, for example, buckwheat and quinoa.
- Starchy vegetables, including sweet potatoes, potatoes and corn.
Therefore, to ensure that you are only consuming carbs that are good for you, avoid foods like white rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, white bread, sweets, and other processed foods.
There is a lot of information to take in, weigh and digest, so to speak. Therefore, it is not out of the ordinary to have a difficult time finding a proper balance between your caloric intake and the process of building muscle. In addition, it can be daunting to think about which foods to buy and the quantities to measure for proper ratios. In this case, it may be worth your while to consider nutritional supplements.
There is a wide variety of supplements marketed toward those looking to build muscle. The best types are protein powder, caffeine, mass gainers and creatine. Mass gainer supplements are the most popular. Those like Serious Mass from Optimum Nutrition and Muscle Pharm- COMBAT XL MASS GAINER are formulated to provide you with more functional calories for increased energy levels during your workout. Additionally, you get the best nutritional balance for sustained muscle growth. Each product has up to 50 grams of protein and 250 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Therefore, whichever formula you select will help you build muscle without jeopardising your weight.
Calories are not the boogeyman they are so widely depicted to be. In fact, they can be just the thing to guarantee that you meet your muscle-building goals. Additionally, mass gainer supplements can help you source your calories more responsibly. All it takes is a little more understanding and the appropriate adjustments to set you firmly on the path to success.