11 June 2007

Dieting - eating more with less calories - how to manage it

Climbers who are trying to lower their weight to climb better are rightly always on the lookout or strategies that actually work to make the process any more achievable. The appetite is a powerful adversary against will to get to a low body fat percentage, and for most they’ll never win the battle. A lot of the weapons in the dieters armoury focus on the fat and carbohydrate composition of food and how best to manipulate total calorie intake.

Some new research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month has underlined the fact that there is another dimension to winning over appetite; the calorie density of food. Basically, there are some foods that are more calorie dense, meaning that you end up eating a lot of calories before you feel full. Foods that have a high water content allow you to eat what feels and looks like a lot of volume, making you feel full with less calorie intake than ‘drier’ food. Fruit and vegetables are obvious foods with high water content. I’ll make up some more ideas for ‘calorie poor’ foods soon.

This study found that a group of volunteers eating foods higher in water and lower in calorie density lost more weight than another group eating normally, and that they ate 25 percent more food (by weight) at the same time as feeling less hungry.

In practice – you’d have to eat about 4 apples to get the equivalent calories of one Snickers bar. I know which would make me feel more full!


Anonymous said...

Interesting post. The study you mentioned was on obese individuals whose BMI was over 30 (for a 6ft person that is over 225lbs). I have always wondered how dieting and calorie restriction meshes with the high physical activity and power/strength required for hard climbing in someone who is already fit. I have notices a severe loss in performance when I am not eating properly and would be interested in your thoughts on how to balance the calorie requirements needed for hard climbing/training along with weight loss for optimal body composition.


Dave MacLeod said...

That is indeed the rub for any athlete trying to lose weight at the same time as train. I've already been asked in an earlier post about how to manage this and I'm writing an article on it now...

But the bottom line is to time your eating well - You MUST eat carbohydrate before and imediately after your sessions in order to maintain performance and recover quickly. outside of these crucial times you can restrict calories a little more. The main pitfalls are trying to lose weight too fast by agressive calorie restriction leading to exhaustion and bingeing, eating too much fat and not enough CHO and restricting calories when you need them most.

Most climbers will restrict calories at times when it's not appropriate, then ruin it all by drinking 4 pints of lager just as its time to think about applying the calorie restriction!

Phil Wilson said...

Surely to achieve a good balance you need to accurately know your calorie intake (online food diarys such as FitDay help) and calorie expenditure.

Without wearing a heart rate monitor all day it is hard to know your exact calorie expenditure. It is very common for people to under-estimate intake and over-estimate expenditure, hence the problem with losing weight.

Dave MacLeod said...

No, there's rarely a need to keep track of numbers, but it helps a few people psychologically. All I've ever noted is a rough mental picture of whether my weight was stable at a given food intake and activity level. Make a sustained adjustment in either and change in weight is inevitable.

Calorie counting is only for the few - those who feel a psycholocial benifit to counting numbers or those squeezing the last few percent of body fat out. For everyone else - stick to focusing on the behaivoural tactics.

Dax said...

I don't know how different people steer their way through weight loss but i found a number of things relevant to me:

1. By counting calories accurately for a couple of weeks (using fitday) I had to face up to and acknowledge what I was actually eating and the energy values associated with that food.

2. By being on a strict diet for a couple of weeks (a bowl of cereal for each of two meals and then a normal other meal per day) I came to understand that:
a. I was snacking much more than I consciously realised, reinforcing what I'd learned from point 1, and
b. Breaking the diet rules made me understand that a lot of the time the reason for wanting the snack where physiological rather than actual hunger.

Perhaps more serious athletes have seen and understood all of the above years ago but for me it's been an important step to understand my own actions and their effect on my weight.

There where times however, I guess esp. when I was training too, when any kind of food other than something with energy just did not hit the spot. I could eat as many bloody carrots as I liked but some dried fruit were always much more effective at taking the edge off the desire for food. It felt like my body had a craving for something with some kind of sugar in it. It felt like a craving but I was never sure if it was psychological, an actual energy deficiency or just my body doing cold turkey from a lifetime of sugar based products.

P.s. can't wait for your article .. knowledge is power and anything which helps our understanding of how our bodies work and how we can adjust our behaivour to effect change has got to be a good thing. I'd be interested to learn more about quantities of carbs before/after training too.

Dave MacLeod said...

Good post Dax

Dax said...


BTW congratulations on the Gore Tex deal. Also I like your business plan .. works for me :)

Sam said...

The Weight Watchers Core Plan focuses on these 'core foods' that fill you up per calorie than other foods.

Lesley-Ann said...

My friend has been using the abs diet which seems to be working for him but after looking into it myself I don't really agree with the use of Whey powder.
I think you can get caught up in calorie counting which causes you to miss out on other foods which you body needs.
Is they use of whey powder not jusy a cheat on building muscel?

lexy said...

Personally I don't believe in any 'fad' diets. Sure they may initially help in weight loss but they don't help in keeping your weight off, or for any long-term eating habits. The best thing i found is to totally change your lifestyle and eating behaviour. Small things like if you're prone to snacking then do it with some nuts (takes only a few to fill you up), a friend of mine swears by popcorn, not the butter stuff you microwave but popping it from seed. It's high in fibre, very low in calories and best of all it tastes nice and fills you up.

Also I definitely agree with Dave that it all depends on your behaviour - what to eat when, especially if you're training hard. Mind you saying all that i've still got a few kilos that just won't shift... well, I am training quite a bit right now, always wondered just how much heavier muscle is compared to fat?

Dave MacLeod said...

Hi Lexy, I don't think the difference between the weight of muscle and fat is so important. Carrying excess of either is bad for climbing! Training and diet activities geared towards climbing should be aimed at being lean and having only what is functionally needed of both tissue types.

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Tyler King said...

1st time on the Blog. There's a lot of great stuff here, thanks a bunch.

I found this post very interesting. Unfortunately for me there are a few other very compelling factors. Money and time. I'm out of the house very early to climb/train before being to work at 9. It is hard to put together a good lunch while in a hurry and eat a healthy breakfast (cereal requires little money, time, or thought!). Piece 2 is money. It seems like eating healthy is "generally" more expensive, although there are ways around this. I guess I need to be creative. So, in summary, for me it comes down to: filling up with less calories as described in this post, overcoming psysiological cravings, and finding cheap easy solutions.

My question revolves around cheap easy solutions. Anyone have any bright ideas for healthy and low calorie per volume lunches that are easy, quick and inexpensive to throw together?

Anonymous said...

Number one best way to lose weight is a raw diet. You can eat as much food as you like as long as it is raw.

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