Calorie Counting Alternatives | Erin Stern

Posted on August 30, 2018 at 12:00 AM

If you're just starting out, calorie counting can be an effective way to familiarize yourself with portions and to keep yourself in check. But logging in each meal and fretting over a few calories here and there can cause unnecessary stress after a while. Plus, all calories are not created equally! Calories are absorbed differently depending on the source of the calorie and have different metabolic effects. Some studies have shown cooked foods like meat and vegetables have more calories than raw foods. This may be because our bodies can more easily digest cooked food, which means we spend fewer calories digesting the food. Here are my favorite alternatives to counting calories.

1. Focus on the two most important meals.

Your pre and post-workout meals are key to focus on. Your pre-workout meal will fuel your body for intense training, while your post-workout meal helps with recovery and rebuilding muscle. I like to eat a 50/50 meal of complex carbs and protein about 1-2 hours before training. After training, I have a shake with some fast digesting carbs because this is perfect for replenishing my energy stores. Keep in mind that your largest meal of the day can be post-workout. If your workout was especially intense, you can almost double your normal carb intake for the post-workout meal. I think that this not only helps with cravings, but it can help prevent plateaus as the body continues to adapt to varying meal sizes. For the other meals, I like to go by some easy guidelines - if I'm active, I have a meal with protein/carbs. If I'm sedentary, I have a meal of protein/healthy fats. 

2. Opt for simple, one-ingredient foods.

You can eat an unlimited amount of vegetables and an almost unlimited amount of lower sugar fruits like berries or melon. It's tough to overeat on grilled chicken, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, or egg whites. Simple ingredients will fill up your plate, fill your belly, but aren't calorically dense, especially if you're still counting those little buggers in your head!

3. Eat more when you're active, less when you're not.

This tags along with the first guideline, but it's an important one. Before you eat, think about what you're eating for. If it's your first meal and you're going to be out and about, eat a larger breakfast. If it's dinner and you're going to be going to sleep soon, there's no need for carbs or sugars. You don't need to fuel yourself for bed. As you decrease your carb intake, you increase your intake of healthy fats. This will help with satiety and will also insure you're getting a good balance of foods.

4. Practice simple intermittent fasting.

Try to eat your last meal at least a couple of hours before going to bed. This will help your body focus on recovery and can help you get a better night's sleep. Upon waking, drink a tall glass of water with lemon and wait a little while before eating breakfast. The fast ends up being 12 hours, which is not too bad - considering that you're sleeping for most of the time. I'll fast from 8pm to 8am. Feel free to adjust the eating window to fit your schedule best.

Supplementation is also important. I love PEAK ATP for helping me train hard through times of maintenance, leaning down, or gaining muscle. It's awesome!

Thanks for reading! Until next time, train hard, y'all!

  Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Figure Olympia

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