What role does counting calories have in the Parrillo Nutrition Program? Is it necessary? Do I need bother counting calories if I get enough quality protein and carbohydrates and keep my fat intake low? The answer is unequivocal and absolute: yes, you need to count calories . Calorie counting, in its own way, is as important as knowing how much weight you have on a barbell during a set. Is it really necessary to pay attention to sets, reps and inten-sity? Of course it is, and counting calories is a definitive nutritional benchmark and an important guide for the serious body-builder. Caloric miscalculation is prob-ably the single most common nutritional mistake that people make. I talk every day with aspiring bodybuilders who train hard and correctly yet struggle to put on a few pounds of muscle.
After a few questions regarding their diet habits, typically I dis-cover that they are underfed. Food has an anabolic effect and underfed bodybuilders often make great gains when they wise up and eat a little more . Weight training is the stimulus that causes muscle growth and the raw material to build new tissue comes from food. If you’re eating barely enough to sustain your present bodyweight and ac-tivity level you’ll have very little left over to build new tissue. And that is the great dilemma of leaning out. On the other side of the coin, if your goal is to lose body fat you need to burn more calories than you consume in order to achieve a net energy (calorie) deficit. How can you strike the delicate balance and lose fat while retaining hard-earned muscle? Consistently, day in and day out, you must pay attention to how many calo-ries you consume . Calories matter . There are three general principles behind the Par-rillo Program: consistency, dedication and hard work. That is what we ask you to sup-ply. We provide the rest. We provide the program, the formula and the road map for your success. If you follow our program you will see fantastic results.
How can I say that with such unflinching confidence? Our program is not based on guesswork or random chance or happy, wishful thinking, but rather on refined scientific principles and careful control. Our approach is a rig-orous, structured, controlled approach and has been proven to work, over and over again. You might wonder how one pro-gram could work successfully for every-one. There are huge differences between people’s physiques and varying degrees of fitness, and common sense would indicate that everyone needs a different game plan. This is true. We teach you how to modify and adjust the basic elements of the Par-rillo Performance Program to suit your individual goals and body type. Exactly how many calories you should ingest depends upon your basal (baseline) metabolic rate and the amount of calories you expend in daily activities. Muscular people have a high metabolic rate in terms of their rate of energy expenditure. Why? Muscle is an active tissue that requires a lot of energy (calories) to fuel and sustain its activity. Active people require a lot more calories than their inactive contemporaries do. I bet you didn’t need Colombo to figure that one out! Serious athletes need a lot more calories than the average couch potato.
A shortcoming of many current caloric calculation methods is that they fail to distinguish between the caloric re-quirements of men and women, who differ drastically due to differences in lean body mass. A 250-pound bodybuilder will have a greater caloric requirement than a 250-pound obese individual, even though they weigh the same. A pound of muscle burns a lot more calories than a pound of fat. A more precise and sophisticated method is known as the Harris-Benedict equation, the exact details of which are not necessary to discuss because I’m about to teach you a better way. The HB equation takes into account gender differences and takes into consideration body fat percentage, though crudely in my opinion . Harris-Benedict is routinely used to estimate energy needs of hospital patients. There is another hi-tech technique that can actually measure a person’s rate of energy expenditure: calo-rimetry. This is a fairly accurate method for determining a person’s resting energy expenditure.
However, it fails to take into account differences in activity level and caloric expenditure during exercise and therefore calorimetry is not especially use-ful for our purposes. The best approach for our purposes is a homespun method that depends on some trial and error. To determine your rate of to-tal daily energy expenditure you will need a food scale and a nutrition composition guide, both of which are included in the Parrillo Performance Nutrition Program™. Here’s how it works: Stay on your usual diet and continue your usual activity level and exercise pattern for one week. Count every calorie you eat everyday for a full week while maintaining your normal life-style. Check your bodyweight first thing in the morning. If you gain weight from one day to the next, you are in a caloric surplus. If you lose weight you are in a calorie deficit. Liquid intake needs to re-main stable during our experimental period as fluid excess or deprivation can radically influence bodyweight from one day to the next.
Women should not try our seven-day experiment when menstruating. If your weight remains constant the number of calories you are consuming equals the number of calories you are burning. This allows you to determine baseline energy requirements – calories needed to maintain your current body weight. This is an incredibly useful number to know. Calories occupy a central planing position in our nutrition program. If you don’t know how many calories you con-sume you won’t know what to do. If you don’t know how many calories you’re eating you’re working in the dark, guess-ing, hoping to gain or lose, but having no scientific basis to control the outcome. Calorie counting takes considerable ef-fort, especially at the beginning. After a few weeks it will become second nature and you will find that you have memo-rized the nutritional composition of your favorite foods. Soon you will be able to prepare precisely constructed meals with carefully controlled nutrient composition. You will find building muscle and stripping fat works far better when you use natural, whole, unrefined foods. These foods are healthier and easier to control .
When you eat out, ask that your food be prepared without oil, grease or butter. Once you have determined your base-line caloric requirement it becomes much easier to control what happens to your physique. The fast track way to determine your calories needed to gain or lose at your desired rate is to pick a number (an educated guess) as to how many calories you think you need per day and just adjust your calories until your desired goals (either gaining a pound per week or loosing a pound per week) are met. To gain quality bodyweight increase your caloric intake by 300-500 calories a day above your baseline require-ment . This should add to a weight gain of one pound per week, if not adjust your calories accordingly. This will provide the extra nutrients and energy that your body needs to build new muscle tissue. If you eat according to the Parrillo Nutrition Program and train hard and do aerobics, little of the weight you gain will be fat.
Your body can only build muscle so fast and if you increase calories too quickly the excess will be stored as fat. To lose weight (fat) we want to aim for a loss of around one pound of fat per week. It is certainly possibly to lose fat faster but the faster you lose the greater the risk of losing muscle at the same time. The fastest I would advise is two pounds per week. A pound of body fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose a pound a week we need to cre-ate a net calorie deficit of 3,500 calories a week or 500 (7 x 500 = 3,500) calories a day. Time and again, I have seen that the most effective stimulus for fat loss is a combination of a modest energy reduction (food intake) combined with an increased level of high intensity aerobic exercise. I would suggest you reduce caloric intake by 250 calories per day (below your baseline requirement) and perform aerobic exercise that burns 250 calories. I find this approach is twice as effec-tive as classical caloric restriction. You could achieve the target net energy deficit by simply reducing your caloric intake by 500 calories a day below your maintenance requirement – but this has drawbacks. De-spite its mathematical equivalency, de-pleting 500 calories a day will eventually lower your baseline metabolic rate and de-crease your rate of energy expenditure. You will lose fat much more slowly. Better to reduce by only 250 and increase your exercise activity to expend the additional calories. Experience has proven over and over that this approach stimulates rapid fat loss while retaining gym muscle.
Ca-loric consumption is extremely important and a key determinant in weight gain or weight loss. To ignore the calorie factor is to throw away one of your most important control elements. Conversely, by using this information intelligently you can control with great exactitude the whole process of muscle gain and fat loss. This is the same methodology used by top professional bodybuilders to dial in their physiques. For additional reading and more detailed information on the specifics of diet con-struction refer to the Parrillo Performance Nutrition Program™ and purchase the Par-rillo BodyStat Kit™. The book describes in detail which foods to eat, which foods to avoid, how to construct a diet, how to structure a meal and how to adjust things to keep your body composition moving in the right direction. The BodyStat Kit is the report card tool, able to tell you your percentage of fat-to-muscle. Good luck and don’t forget to count those calories!