Category Archives: calories

Burpee Equivalents: Understanding Junk Food in terms of Your Favorite Exercise

Occasionally we slip up with our diets and sneak in some junk calories. When we do, we have to pay the price…In Burpees!  At Spartan Coaching HQ we have been conducting research to quantify energy expenditure during the Burpee exercise.  Here is what we found:
Calories (kcals)
burpees for 130lb individual
burpees for 180lb individual
1 large French Fries
1 IPA beer
1 Slice of Dominos Peperoni Pizza
1 8 ounce Ted’s Bison Cheesburger
1 scoop of Ben Jerry’s Cookie Dough ice cream
1 12” Roast beef sub from Subway
1 Cola soft drink
1 Fried Calamari Appetizer
1 Plain Bagel
1 Slice of Cheescake
1 Egg McMuffin Sandwich
1 Cadbury Creme Egg
First we calculated the amount of work being performed during the Burpee. We calculated work as:
–  Work (w) = force (f) x distance (d)
–  f = weight of the individual in kilograms
–  d = distance from the floor to the maximal height of the head during the jump in meters.
Male Athlete A:
–  Height: 71 inches (1.80 meters)
–  Weight:  180 lbs ( 81.8 kg)
–  Average Vertical jump during 5 minute Burpee test:   5 in. ( .12 m)
–  Total vertical displacement from the floor to maximal jump height:  1.92 m (height plus jump height)
–  work = 81.8 x 1.92
–  work  = 157 kg/m
–  Given:  1kcal = 426.4 kg/m
–  Thus, 0.368 kcals of mechanical work per Burpee
External mechanical work or the work that is being performed does not equal the amount of work that is being produce internally, humans aren’t 100% efficient.  Efficiency during running and cycling is about 25%, thus for the body to perform 25 kcals of external work, it must produces 100 kcals of energy internally. That means that the body has to produce 1.47 kcals of internal energy to produce 0.368 kcals of external mechanical work per Burpee repetition.
We can also calculate energy production during the Burpee exercise by measuring oxygen consumption with metabolic cart.  We had several athletes perform the Burpee exercise at a constant rate for 3 minutes while wearing a portable metabolic measuring system that continuously measured oxygen consumption.  The average Burpee rate was 10 Burpee repetitions per minute and average oxygen consumption during the last minute of exercise was 35 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml O2/kg/min). We found the measured oxygen cost of a single Burpee repetition to be 3.5 ml O2/kg/Burpee.
To convert oxygen cost to energy expenditure we did the following:
Example same athlete as above:
–  Total oxygen consumed during a single Burpee is calculated as the product of body weight (kg) and O2 cost in ml/kg/.min
–  81.8 kg X 3.5 ml O2/kg/Burpee =  286 mlO2/Burpee or .286 liters (l) of O2/Burpee.
–  One liter of oxygen is equivalent to about 5 kcals.
–  0.286 l O2 X 5 kcals/l  = 1.43 kcals/Burpee.
As you can see , there is good agreement between the 2 methods (1.47 and 1.43 kcals/Burpee respectively).
Founders Breakfast Stout is one of my favorite beers. If this athlete had 2 beers at 250 kcals per beer he would need to perform 349 Burpees to burn off those calories.
2 slices of Domino’s pizza = 600 kcals or 419 burpees
Pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough = 980 kcals or 685 burpees.
Use the chart below to figure out your Burpee equivalent of junk food calories.
Energy Expenditure During the Burpee Exercise (kcals/Burpee)
Body Weight (lbs.)
kcals per Burpee
Example –  for a 140 lb person:
2 slices of Domino’s pizza = 600 kcals
600kcals/ 1.11 kcal per Burpee = 540 burpees
You can have your cake and eat it too, but be ready to pay in Burpees!

5 Reasons Why Calories Don’t Count

Why calories don't count don't count calories

Calories (cal-o-rie, noun): Tiny creatures who live in one’s closet and sew one’s clothes a little bit tighter ever night.

Tiny creatures aside, the common use of the term “calorie” refers to a kilocalorie. Kilocalorie (we’ll just use the common terminology and call it calorie from now on) is a measure of the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree C (Campbell et al, 2009).

This unit of heat measurement, originally developed in the early 19th century by a French engineer, was harnessed as a simple and universal method to measure the energy content of food. Eventually, processed foods began carrying a label with the total energy content, as well as the gram measurements of fats, carbohydrates and protein (Hargrove, 2006).

 With the help of FDA caloric suggestions, consumers ran into an alarming dietary deception. The use and obsession of food calories presents a greater danger than small creatures making our jeans tight… it corrupts the whole concept of healthy eating.

Calories Distort Focus to Quantity, not Quality

Common story: a shopper starts by scouring the snack isle, searching for a product to satiate their potato chip craving with the least amount of calories per ounce. After careful deliberation and calculation, he or she settles on a bag of air-popped popcorn laden with artificial butter flavor and toxic vegetable oils.

 As the result of compelling media, marketing and labeling, many consumers focus more attention on quantity, not quality. Instead of shopping the nutritional label, shop the ingredient list. That deserves your time and attention.

Calories Falsely Simplify “Healthy Eating”

Healthy eating is complicated, no doubt about it. First you hear butter is bad, then it prevents cancer. First carbs kill you, then they make you lose weight. Even spinach is confusing… should one eat it raw or is that dangerous?  Nutrition labels, however, deceptively simplify healthy eating. Few calories = good, high calories = bad. Simple. Yet dangerous.

That mindset leads to eating disorders, infertility, disease, and depression since it encourages the consumption of processed foods instead of nourishing foods. I believe that healthy eating is simple, but not simple in terms of calories. Make healthy easy by finding calorie-free food (yes, I’m going to explain that in a second).

Calories Prevent a Genuine Relationship with Food

Why Calories Don't Count!Calorie-conciousness shifts emphasis from how you eat to how much you eat. Counting calories ultimately prevents a harmonious relationship with food. Instead of welcoming food as life-giving nourishment, calorie counting produces apprehension of food.

Most importantly, calorie-concsiousness drowns the body’s communication. I believe our bodies knows what, when and how to eat and–if we listen to that quiet voice–we can heal ourselves. It is hard to change habits and blindly trust our bodies, however. So if you need help, try visiting a naturopath or energy practitioner to get tested for food allergies and dis-ease in the digestive system.

In the same way, calorie-counting de-personalizes one’s relationship with food. A common practice is determine one’s ideal daily calories or even calories burned while exercising. Sadly, that creates a mechanical, stressful relationship with food.

It also doesn’t take into consideration one’s food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, autoimmune/adrenal/hormonal/thyroid issues, or body type. And those things are *really* important to reaching one’s ideal weight.

Weight loss begins with whole, nourishing foods prepared at home. It means eating mindfully, chewing thoroughly, and releasing gratitude and joy for each bite you raise to your lips. Finally, when it comes to weight loss, forget the calories and remember this:

why calories don't count

Calories Promote Stress, Not Satiety

As I mentioned above, paying attention to calories establishes a stress-based relationship with food. Stressing out while eating is a bad idea because it interrupts the entire digestive process.

The sympathetic nervous system triggers the flight-or-flight response in the body. Arousing this reaction shuts down the digestive system so the body can focus on the dangerous situation at hand.  Of course, considering calories doesn’t induce a flight-or-flight response, but even less severe stress works in a similar manner to slow digestion (Suarez, 2010).

Additionally, an article from a 2010 volume of Psychosomatic Medicine explains how stress affects the vagus nerve, a key piece in the digestive process:

Because the vagus nerve innervates tissues involved in the digestion, absorption, and metabolism of nutrients, including the stomach, pancreas, and liver, vagal activation directly and profoundly influences metabolic responses to food… Both depression and stress have well-documented negative effects on vagal activation as indexed by heart rate variability (Kiecolt-Glasser, 2010).

Calories Don’t Deserve Your Attention

End of story.

If calories are out of the picture, what does healthy eating mean?

Healthy Eating Means Finding Calorie-Free Food

No, I’m certainly not suggesting one should subsist on toxic sugar substitutes or even bizarrezero-calorie noodles. Look for food that doesn’t come with a nutrition label. Real food–Mother Nature’s nourishing bounty–does not list calories.

why calories don't count Scouting calorie-free foods may mean shifting your grocery shopping trips from the supermarket to the farmer’s market, joining a CSA, finding a cow share program (for access to raw milk) and/or starting a garden. Pastured eggs, local produce, rendered lard/tallow, wild caught seafood, local honey, grassfed beef and butter, and unprocessed grains (if you do grains)… that is what I mean by calorie-free food!

  Real, unprocessed food is nurturing, majestic, gratifying, and sublime. Forget the calories, have fun in the kitchen, and eat with joy!

 Eat well and heal!™

Manquer de sommeil donne faim

Lorsque vous manquez de sommeil, vous mangez presque 300 calories de plus par jour que lorsque vous êtes reposé, selon une étude de l’Université de Columbia (Etats-Unis). (1)

L’effet est particulièrement dévastateur pour les femmes. Ce sont elles qui augmentent le plus leur consommation de nourriture lorsqu’elles manquent de sommeil : plus 329 calories, contre 263 pour les hommes. Or, les femmes ont en principe moins besoin de calories que les hommes.

Dans le cadre d’une vie active dans un bureau, une femme a besoin de 1800 à 2200 calories par jour, alors qu’un homme a besoin de 2500 à 3500 calories par jour. 329 calories, c’est l’équivalent pour elles d’un demi-repas en plus sur la journée.

Bonnes calories, mauvaises calories

Et ce n’est pas tout : compter les calories sans tenir compte du type de nourriture consommée n’a pas beaucoup de sens. Il existe des bonnes calories, et de mauvaises calories. Les mauvaises calories sont, essentiellement, celles qui se trouvent dans l’amidon et les céréales raffinées, car elles provoquent des pics d’insuline dans le sang, surtout quand elles sont grillées (biscottes, chips, céréales du petit-déjeuner, viennoiseries, frites). Les bonnes calories sont celles qu’on trouve dans les huiles crues, les légumes et fruits frais, les oléagineux (noix, amandes, noix du Brésil…), les produits animaux non transformés et cuits à basse température.

Or, justement, les femmes qui manquent de sommeil, plus encore que les hommes, ont tendance à consommer leurs calories supplémentaires sous forme de snacks, pizzas, frites, bonbons et glaces.

« La glace est ressortie comme l’aliment préféré durant l’état de manque de sommeil », a déclaré Marie-Pierre Saint-Onge, assistant-professeur de nutrition à l’Université de Columbia, et principale auteur de l’étude. « Le manque de sommeil vous rend plus susceptible de trop manger, et c’est une chose qui peut être prise en compte lorsque vous essayez de perdre du poids. »

Un combat contre votre propre corps

De précédentes études avaient montré que le manque de sommeil pourrait :

  • augmenter les niveaux de ghréline, une hormone qui stimule l’appétit ;
  • diminuer les niveaux de leptine, une hormone qui supprime la faim, et qui augmente le taux de métabolisme, c’est-à-dire la production d’énergie par le corps.

Autrement dit, lutter contre la faim et surtout contre le grignotage lorsque vous n’avez pas assez dormi revient à lutter contre votre corps lui-même, qui vous envoie dans tous les sens des signaux pour vous donner envie de manger plus.

Ce qui nous ramène, une nouvelle fois, à l’importance de bien dormir.

Difficile de bien dormir

Il est juste de dire que nous sommes « plus occupés » que nos parents ou grands-parents ne l’étaient à notre âge. Non que nous ne travaillions plus. Mais la télévision, jusque tard dans la nuit, Internet (24h/24), les jeux en ligne, les smartphones (qui sont devenus pour beaucoup d’indispensables compagnons de vie, et pour certains, malheureusement, leur meilleur, voire leur unique « ami » dans l’existence), tous ces appareils nous stimulent au point que les périodes d’inactivité, de calme, de repos et d’ennui se sont considérablement réduites. Beaucoup d’entre nous vivent dans des environnements où dormir assez est un défi. Car lorsque vous avez beaucoup à faire, le temps de sommeil est généralement le premier sur lequel on empiète.

Comme il n’est en général pas possible de rattraper le matin le temps de sommeil perdu, pour cause d’horaires de travail ou d’enfants à préparer pour l’école, la seule solution est de se coucher plus tôt.

Solution (souvent) miraculeuse

Une solution souvent miraculeuse pour cela est de supprimer la télévision. C’est difficile, mais ce que nous pouvons tous faire est de sortir la télévision de notre chambre à coucher, sauf bien sûr si vous habitez en studio. Si vous remplacez la télévision au lit par de la lecture au lit, vous sentirez vos paupières s’alourdir bien plus vite, et la qualité de votre sommeil s’améliorera.

De nombreux spécialistes recommandent d’établir une routine, qui consiste essentiellement à se coucher et à se lever à la même heure tous les jours. On comprend bien que cela convienne mieux à notre « horloge biologique » mais la réalité est qu’une telle règle est difficile à suivre : trop de contraintes, trop d’imprévus bousculent nos vies pour que nous puissions, tels des paysans d’autrefois, nous coucher le soir avec le soleil et nous lever au chant du coq.

En revanche, nous pouvons parvenir à nous mettre régulièrement au lit un peu plus tôt. En prévoyant de dîner vers 19h30, cela nous laisse du temps ensuite pour ranger puis lire, parler, voire faire quelque travail important. Même s’il se produit un événement inattendu, il sera en principe possible de se coucher vers 22h30, ce qui laisse amplement le temps pour une bonne nuit réparatrice.

Bien reposé, vous grignoterez moins le lendemain, et vos artères vous diront merci.

A votre santé !

Jean-Marc Dupuis

Reasons You’re Not Gaining Muscle

4 Reasons You're Not Gaining Muscle
You hit the gym on a regular basis and you train hard – really hard – but for some reason you’re just not making the gains that you should. All that sweat and effort, and without much to show for it.
If this sounds familiar, chances are you’re making at least one of the four critical mistakes outlined below. The good news is, with just a few simple tweaks to your program you can once again be packing on some serious muscle. Here’s how.

Mistake #1: You’re not varying your rep range.

The optimal number of repetitions for hypertrophy-oriented training is a source of ongoing debate in the fitness field. Although the research is by no means conclusive, evidence indicates that a moderate rep range (approximately 6-12 reps per set) is generally best for maximizing muscle growth.(1)
This is often referred to as “bodybuilding-style training” as it seems to provide the ideal combination of mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress – the three primary factors involved in hypertrophic gains.(2) The problem is, most lifters seem to think this means all training should be carried out in this rep range and thus they rigidly adhere to the same loading patterns. Wrong assumption.
Understand that maximal muscular development is built on a foundation of strength. 
Stronger muscles allow you to use heavier weights, and thus generate greater muscular tension in the moderate repetition ranges that optimally stimulate hypertrophy. By increasing muscle tension without compromising metabolic stress, you’re setting the stage for enhanced growth.
Provided that training is carried out at or near your sub-rep max, lower intensity sets help to increase your lactate threshold, the point at which lactic acid rapidly begins to accumulate in working muscles.
The problem with lactic acid is that beyond a certain point its accumulation interferes with muscle contraction, reducing the number of reps you can perform.(3) (Technical note: it’s actually the H+ component of lactic acid that hastens the onset of muscular fatigue.)
Here’s the good news: Higher rep training increases capillary density and improves muscle buffering capacity, both of which help to delay lactic buildup. The upshot is, you’re able to maintain a greater time under tension at a given hypertrophy-oriented workload. In addition, you develop a greater tolerance for higher volumes of work–an important component for maximizing hypertrophy (see Mistake #2).
Take home message:  This is best carried out in a structured, periodized program. Both undulating and linear periodized approaches can work, depending on your goals. Whatever scheme you employ, though, make sure you include the full spectrum of loading ranges.
Sure, hypertrophy training is probably best achieved with moderate rep sets, but higher and lower intensities are nevertheless important for optimizing muscular development.

Mistake #2: You’re not using sufficient volume.

4 Reasons You're Not Gaining Muscle
Back in the 1970’s, Arthur Jones popularized the so-called high-intensity training (HIT) approach to building muscle. HIT is based on the premise that only a single set of an exercise is necessary to stimulate growth, provided you train to the point of momentary concentric muscular failure.
According to HIT dogma, performing additional sets beyond this first set is superfluous and perhaps even counterproductive to muscle development. Other prominent industry leaders such as Mike Mentzer and Ellington Darden subsequently followed Jones’s lead and embraced the HIT philosophy, resulting in a surge in its popularity. To this day, HIT continues to enjoy an ardent following.
Now before I get accused of being anti-HIT, I’ll readily admit that it’s a viable training strategy. There’s no denying that it can help build appreciable muscle. And if you’re time-pressed, it can provide an efficient and effective workout. That said, if your goal is to maximize muscle development, HIT simply doesn’t do the trick. You need a higher training volume. Substantially higher.
The prevailing body of research consistently shows that multiple set protocols are superior to single set protocols for increasing strength and size. Recent meta-analyses published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that multiple set training results in 46% greater increases in strength and 40% greater increases in muscle growth when compared to single-set protocols.(4, 5)
Whether the hypertrophic superiority of multiple sets is due to greater total muscle tension, muscle damage, metabolic stress, or some combination of these factors isn’t clear. What’s readily apparent is that multiple sets are a must if you want to maximize your muscular potential. Problem is, even if you employ multiple sets it’s very possible you’re still not training with sufficient volume.
The optimal number of sets needed to elicit superior growth will vary from person to person and depend on a host of individual factors such as genetics, recuperative ability, training experience, and nutritional status.
But individual response is only part of the equation. The size of a given muscle also has relevance. Larger muscle groups such as the back and thighs need a higher volume than the smaller muscles of the arms and calves (which, by the way, also get significant ancillary work during multi-joint exercises).
Another important consideration here is the structure of your program. All things being equal, training with a split routine allows for a greater daily training volume per muscle group versus a total body routine.
And if you do indeed follow a training split, the composition of your split will influence training daily volume (i.e., a 3-day split allows for a greater volume per muscle group compared with a 2-day split). Accordingly, training volume is best determined on a weekly basis as opposed to a single session.
Whatever your target weekly volume, optimal results are achieved by taking a periodized approach where the number of sets are strategically manipulated over the course of a training cycle. Understand that repeatedly training with high volumes will inevitably lead to overtraining.
In fact, evidence shows that volume has an even greater correlation with overtraining than intensity.(6) Only by embracing periodization can you reap the benefits of a high training volume while avoiding the dreaded overtrained state.
Here’s a periodized strategy that I’ve found to be highly effective. Let’s say you’ve determined that your maximum weekly volume should entail performing 18-20 sets per muscle group. 
Follow this with a brief period of unloading or active recovery to facilitate restoration and rejuvenation. Given that it generally takes one to two weeks for the full effects of supercompensation to manifest after completion of an overreaching cycle, you should realize optimal muscular gains sometime during the restorative period.

Mistake #3: You’re not adhering to the principle of specificity.

4 Reasons You're Not Gaining Muscle
Most lifters don’t just want to get big, they also want to get leaner in the process. During the initial stages of training, this is a viable goal. Beginners can pack on serious muscle while simultaneously losing body fat without much of a problem.
The same applies for those with significant weight to lose (more than 30 pounds or so), as well as regular lifters who’ve taken an extended break from the gym. And yes, pharmacologic enhancement also will enable you to get huge and shredded in a hurry.
But if you’ve been training for more than a year or so, are fairly lean, and not “anabolically enhanced,” the quest to gain muscle while shedding fat becomes exceedingly difficult. At a certain point, you ultimately need to choose between one or the other.
If your choice is to bulk up, then this needs to be your training focus; otherwise results will be compromised. And this entails reevaluating how much aerobic exercise you perform.
The issue with concurrent training (i.e., combining resistance exercise and aerobics) is that it can interfere with the processes that drive anabolism. This is consistent with the AMPK-PKB switch hypothesis, which postulates that endurance and strength-related exercise activate and suppress distinct genes and signaling pathways, and these pathways have conflicting actions.(7)
Specifically, aerobic exercise regulates AMPK (adenosine monophosphate kinase), which is associated with pathways involved in carbohydrate and fatty acid metabolism. This of course has beneficial effects on fat loss.
Problem is, AMPK also inhibits activation of PKB-mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), an anabolic pathway that’s critical to protein synthesis and thus muscle building.
Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you should refrain from performing any cardio. While evidence supports the concept of an AMPK-PKB switch, recent research shows that it’s overly simplistic. Instead of a “switch,” adaptations between aerobic endurance exercise and resistance training appear to take place along a continuum, whereby substantial overlap exists between pathways.(8)
So while frequent, lengthy cardio sessions are bound to compromise muscle development, a more moderate aerobic routine likely won’t. And if nothing else, cardio is certainly good for your health and well being.
How much cardio is too much? Impossible to say. As with all aspects of exercise, individual response will vary based upon numerous genetic and lifestyle factors. Remember, too, that everyone has an upper limit to how much exercise they can tolerate before overtraining sets in.
Add in a cardio component to your routine and you increase the total amount of exercise-related stress placed on your body. At some point, these stresses can interfere with your recuperative abilities and bring about an overtrained state.
So for those looking to maximize muscle growth, the best advice is to err on the side of caution and limit the frequency, intensity, and duration of your aerobic sessions.  but again this will vary from person to person. Monitor your progress, stay in tune with any signs of overtraining, and tweak your program as needed.

Mistake #4: You’re not taking in enough calories.

This mistake goes hand in hand with Mistake #3. In an attempt to get shredded while packing on mass, lifters will frequently restrict caloric intake while continuing to lift hard and heavy. Bad idea.
As previously noted, losing fat while gaining muscle is improbable for well-trained, natural lifters. If you fall into this category, it’s imperative that you consume a surplus of calories in order to support muscle growth.
This is consistent with the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; only changed from one form to another. Simply stated, take in more calories than you expend and the excess energy will be stored in the form of body mass.
All-too-often lifters will take this to mean that it’s okay to eat everything in sight. This is consistent with the old-school “bulking” and “cutting” cycles where bodybuilders would scarf down massive quantities of food to get as big as possible and then go on an extreme diet with calories cut to starvation levels.
. Sure, you do gain muscle, too, but much of that is catabolized during the subsequent dieting process.
When all’s said and done, you’re lucky to retain half of your muscular gains. Worse, repeated cycles of bulking and cutting can reset your biological “set point,” leading to higher body fat levels in future cycles.(9) Bottom line, it’s simply not a smart nutritional strategy.
So what is an ideal caloric consumption for building muscle without porking up like a Sumo wrestler?  If you’re a 200-pound guy, this equates to a target caloric intake of about 3600 to 4000 calories a day.
Those who are endomorphs typically do better with slightly lower calories, while those who are ectomorphic usually need a higher energy intake; as much as 25 calories per pound for extreme hard-gainers.
Once you settle on a given caloric intake, monitor results over time and adjust consumption according to your individual response. If you’ve been lifting for a while, a realistic goal is to gain 1-2 pounds per month when focusing on mass-building.


If your muscular development has stagnated, it’s likely you’re making one of the aforementioned mistakes – perhaps you’re even a multiple offender. Fortunately, you’re not doomed to remain in a training rut. Identify the errors of your ways and then employ the solutions discussed above; you’ll soon be back on track to getting the most out of your muscular potential.


1. Wernbom M, Augustsson J, Thomee R. The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Med. 2007;37(3):225-64.
2. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72.
3. Debold EP. Recent insights into the molecular basis of muscular fatigue. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Feb 9.
4. Krieger JW. Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: A meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1150-9.
5. Krieger JW. Single versus multiple sets of resistance exercise: A meta-regression. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Sep;23(6):1890-901.
6. Kreider RB, Fry AC, O’Toole ML, editors. Overtraining in sport.
. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 1998.
7. Atherton PJ, Babraj J, Smith K, Singh J, Rennie MJ, Wackerhage H. Selective activation of AMPK-PGC-1alpha or PKB-TSC2-mTOR signaling can explain specific adaptive responses to endurance or resistance training-like electrical muscle stimulation. FASEB J. 2005 May;19(7):786-8.
8. Gibala M. Molecular responses to high-intensity interval exercise. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2009 Jun;34(3):428-32.
9. Nagaoka D, Mitsuhashi Y, Angell R, Bigley KE, Bauer JE. Re-induction of obese body weight occurs more rapidly and at lower caloric intake in beagles. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2010 Jun;94(3):287-92.

Knowing how many calories you need is what count

Do you know your number?
Not your cellphone number or cholesterol, but the number of calories you should be eating daily to maintain a healthy weight?
A recent poll showed that about two-thirds of people can’t accurately estimate how many calories they need. But if you want to lose a few pounds this year, it’s important to have a grasp of how much you should be eating.
“There is no magic to weight loss — the key is to decrease your calories without feeling hungry or deprived,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian in Chicago and author of The Flexitarian Diet. She’s a nutrition blogger at
Your specific caloric needs are determined by several factors, including your muscle mass, current weight, height, age and activity level, Blatner says. As a general rule, a sedentary woman can lose weight on about 1,500 calories a day; a sedentary man can consume about 1,800 calories a day, she says.
Some people may have to go a few hundred calories lower to lose weight, and some will be able to go higher, she says.
Jessie Price, food editor of EatingWell magazine and co-author of EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners, says another way to get a rough estimate of how many calories you should be eating to maintain your weight is to take your current weight times 12. So if you weigh 165 pounds, you need about 1,980 calories.
To lose a pound a week, you need a deficit of 500 calories a day, which you can get by eating less or exercising more. To lose 2 pounds a week, you need a deficit of 1,000 calories a day.
But, Price says, “don’t eat less than 1,200 calories a day. It’s hard to get all the nutrients you need if you eat less than that.”
She recommends keeping a journal of everything you eat and the calories in those foods. That will keep you honest.
“If you eat a large fries at McDonald’s, that’s 500 calories, which is how many calories your entire dinner should be,” she says.
You don’t need to be calorie-obsessed, just calorie-conscious, Blatner says. Many people are afraid that if they limit calories, they’ll be hungry, but to avoid that, she recommends eating three meals and two healthful snacks a day.
About 25% of your plate at meals should be whole grains such as whole-grain pasta or brown rice; 25% of your plate, lean proteins such as fish or chicken; and 50% of your plate, colorful fruits and vegetables, Blatner says. “This ratio keeps the volume high, so you aren’t hungry, but calories low, so you lose weight.”
It’s also important to recognize the difference between snacks and treats, she says. “Snacks are nutritious and filling, whereas treats are neither.”
The best snacks combine produce and protein, such as a pear and string cheese, an apple and almonds or celery and peanut butter, she says.
It’s easier to have control over your calories if you cook for yourself, Price says. If you do a little planning and keep your pantry and refrigerator stocked with healthful ingredients, it’s not that hard to whip up some nutritious meals.
From Jessie Price:
Change your oil habits. Instead of pouring oil into the bottom of a pan before cooking, put a teaspoon or tablespoon into a non-stick pan.
Measure out portions. Do so before you serve them so you know the exact amount you’re eating.
Keep your spice pantry well-stocked. Spices add lots of flavor without fat or calories, she says. “Fresh herbs can punch up the flavor of a dish like nothing else.”
Try mushrooms. Cut calories in recipes that use ground beef by replacing some of the beef with chopped mushrooms. The mushrooms’ flavor complements the meat, but the dish will have far fewer calories.
From Dawn Jackson Blatner:
Try healthful cooking techniques such as roasting or grilling vegetables to bring out their naturally sweet flavors.
Use low-fat yogurt. Try it instead of cream in soups and casseroles and instead of sour cream on potatoes and in baked goods.
Squeeze a lemon. Brighten the flavor of foods by adding a little vinegar or citrus. Add a touch of balsamic vinegar to your lentil soup or pasta dishes, lime to your fajitas or lemon to your salad.


10 Meals That Are Proven to Make You Happier

1: Chocolate Anything

Eat truffles, load up on antioxidants. Dessert never sounded so sweet.

Don’t beat yourself up about indulging in a brownie or two when feeling down in the dumps. Multiple studies have revealed that chocolate (gasp!) is actually healthy in moderation. Although it’s still high in calories, chocolate contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients that help regulate mood. The sugar that gives chocolate its rich taste helps increase serotonin levels, while the fat content releases mood-elevating endorphins . Top it off with the stimulating effects of caffeine and antioxidant levels higher than even berries, and chocolate becomes a heavyweight mood-influencer. To avoid paying the price in the waistline area, however, indulge in just one or two pieces each day of the dark variety, which is more heart-healthy than milk chocolate.

2: Beef Stew with Veggies and Potatoes

When it’s cold outside, nothing feels quite as good in your belly as piping-hot soup. But the comfort factor doesn’t stop there. Lean red meat is an excellent source of tryptophan and protein, both of which are critical to mood regulation. Dial down the unhealthiness quotient by trimming any excess fat before putting the meat in the Dutch oven or slow cooker. It’s also a health-conscious move to prepare the dish with stewed tomatoes or a beef broth rather than fat-laden gravy. Toss in a few serotonin-enhancing potatoes and some vitamin-rich vegetables to create an all-around satisfying meal for your taste buds and body.

3: Sweet Potato Souffle

sweet potatoes
Yams yield good moods.

Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, are packed full of energy and mood-boosting vitamins and minerals. Like many other mood-influencing foods, sweet potatoes boost serotonin production. Sweet potatoes act as a referee of sorts because they contain carotenoids, which are responsible for insulin regulation. Correctly managing insulin helps us avoid sugar crashes that cause irritability. The miracle food also contains potassium, which has been shown to reduce mood swings, increase energy levels and lessen tension . Although many dieters malign carbs of all shapes and sizes, low-carbohydrate diets have been linked with a reduced desire to exercise and increased fatigue in overweight adults . The health quotient for this popular holiday dish can be amped up by cutting back the amount of butter used in preparation and by including walnuts, which are an excellent source of tryptophan.

4: Chili and Cornbread

Whether you get your protein from animal or plant sources, your body just can’t function without it. For meat-lovers out there, chili is a great source of protein, especially when it’s prepared with lean ground beef. Lean beef contains high levels of B6 and tryptophan, the proven mood-regulator. An even healthier option for your chili recipe is ground turkey.

Pack your chili full of beans: black, red, pinto and other types you like. Beans are a terrific vehicle for ingesting selenium and increasing levels of magnesium, a deficiency of which has been linked to depression [sources: Magee, Melone].

The perfect complement to this wintertime favorite is cornbread, which contains gluten, known for its ability to stimulate endorphin production .

5: Banana Split

banana split
You don’t have to pass up ice cream. Just load up the low-fat version with fruit toppings.

This ice cream parlor favorite can easily be modified into a less fattening and more nutritious version. The two main components — ice cream and bananas — are both rich in B vitamins, which are effective depression-thwarters . Bananas also contain high levels of tryptophan. This amino acid aids the body in the production of niacin, which in turn produces serotonin .

Obviously, the ice cream portion of the banana split is the biggest culprit when it comes to sugar and fat content, but ice cream enthusiasts need not forego this popular comfort treat entirely. Modifying your choice makes it easy to include ice cream in the occasional menu. Numerous light or reduced-fat and low-sugar ice creams abound in your grocer’s freezer section. And thanks to major strides in the ice cream industry in recent years, low-fat ice cream tastes surprisingly close to its full-fat brethren .

6: Mashed Potatoes and Turkey

Turkey and mashed potatoes need not be reserved for Thanksgiving, thanks to the mood-boosting vitamins and minerals this main dish and savory starch contain. Potatoes are complex carbohydrates, and eating them actually increases production of serotonin. That’s why ingesting complex carbs helps people calm down, even when they’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed (as many of us do during the holidays) . Turkey is also credited with being one of the top feel-good foods because it contains many nutrients that stave off depression and maintain good moods. Because turkey can make people feel sleepy (it packs a might wallop of tryptophan), try serving iron-rich spinach or other leafy greens on the side to provide a much-needed energy boost.

7: Spaghetti and Lean Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs
Make that spaghetti even healthier by using whole-grain pasta instead of white.

We’ve already spelled out the benefits of whole-wheat pasta: It’s high in folic acid and helps increase serotonin levels. Ambitious chefs don’t have to let the nutritional gains end there, however. Meatballs or sauce made with lean beef are great sources of protein, selenium and B6, the vitamin that facilitates serotonin production . Try serving this Italian favorite alongside vitamin-packed spinach, broccoli or a leafy green salad. All are believed to be powerful mood-enhancing foods. When done right, spaghetti and meatballs can be transformed from a guilty pleasure into a healthy meal. (No word yet on any beneficial effects of that classic Italian dessert, tiramisu.)

8: Scrambled Eggs and Oatmeal

For good reason, breakfast is widely touted as the most important meal of the day. Studies have shown repeatedly that eating a healthy, balanced breakfast results in a good mood, increased energy and improved memory skills. Remember those helpful B vitamins found in dairy products? Eggs are also rife with the critical substance. Serve a couple of eggs on the side of folate-rich oatmeal for a filling and nutritious breakfast. The folic acid found in oatmeal is powerful because it produces a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which many studies have linked with increased pleasure. Whole-wheat toast or whole-wheat pancakes are other grain options with high amounts of folate .

9: Salmon and Brown Rice

Experts consider salmon a superfood. Are you eating enough oily fish?

Although most of us wouldn’t consider salmon a comfort food, it’s certainly one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods available. Experts agree that the numerous vitamins and minerals present in salmon qualify the fish as a superfood; furthermore, they recommend that everyone strive to consume two or three servings of salmon or other fish per week.

Multiple studies have linked depression to imbalances in omega-3 fatty acids, found abundantly in fish . Scientists believe omega-3s are responsible for managing brain signals that regulate mood. In fact, studies have revealed that people in cultures who consume more omega-3 rich fatty fish suffer from depression less frequently than populations that eat fewer servings of fish. Because omega-3 can’t be produced by the body, it’s critical to incorporate fish, eggs or cod liver oil into your diet . Brown rice is an ideal dish to serve with salmon because it contains high amounts of selenium, low levels of which have been linked to poor moods .

10: Macaroni and Cheese

Although the boxed variety of macaroni and cheese is a childhood favorite, the homemade kind is really the best way to go when indulging in this comfort food. The dairy products standard in this recipe (milk and cheese) contain high levels of vitamin B, which has been shown to heavily impact the brain. In fact, studies indicate that depression can often be lessened when a deficiency of folic acid (a type of B vitamin) is corrected. Similarly, normal levels of riboflavin (B2), B6 and thiamine (B1) have been proven to boost mood in multiple studies . Coupling the mood-enhancing effects of dairy with multigrain macaroni helps the meal pack a powerful punch.

If you’ve sworn off pasta, consider this: Carbohydrates increase serotonin and endorphin levels, cranking up good mood vibes and energy levels simultaneously. Experts recommend switching from regular pasta to the multigrain variety because it counts toward recommended daily servings of whole grains .


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