One Week of Nutritional Rigor

June 13, 2016

I wrote previously that as an experiment, I’m engaging in a Calorie counting exercise. Here’s my one week update.

I weigh 176 lbs. and was trying for an aggressive loss of 2 lbs. per week. Based on these parameters, my fitness tracker suggested a goal of 1,200 net Calories a day (i.e. consumed minus burnt by exercise). The results:

Day Food Exercise Net Relative to 1,200 Cal Goal
June 06 3,225 303 +1,722
June 07 1,451 2,060 -1,809
June 08 2,213 2,464 -1,451
June 09 3,923 1,257 +1,466
June 10 3,531 1,614 +717
June 11 3,244 303 +1,741
June 12 1,025 1,829 -2,004
Total +382

I log about a base level of about an hour of fast walking every day (my commute and transportation around town) which is rated at ~300 Cal. Other (more serious) exercise comes from an hour on a stationary bike (~800 Cal), runs of 6 to 13 km on varying terrain (600 to 1,300 Cal), or the occasional tennis match (~60 minutes at 400 to 650 Cal depending on doubles or singles). On any given day I’ll usually do one or two of these activities, and logged a total of nine for the week.

Overall, I came out short of my goal, but not overwhelmingly so. My weight did drop three pounds to 173 lbs., but given its frequent fluctuations, I’m not convinced of the finality of the number. I’m going to continue the experiment for a few more weeks to see if I can hit my Calorie target.

Some other observations:

  • A 1,200 Calorie target is, shall we say, optimistic. Without offset from daily exercise, even a single large but not-totally-unhealthy meal can bring you brushing up against it. Given no exercise, it may get you three meals as long as they’re on the very lean side (i.e. garden salads with a little protein in them).
  • Days with major overruns are perfectly correlated with days that I go out for brunch or to the bar. Once the drinks are flowing and given some baseline of peer pressure, I don’t want to stop no matter how careful I’d been about diet earlier in the day.
  • The nicest part about counting caloric intake from food is that it keeps me honest. An uncomfortable amount of my total consumption was coming from snacking and drinks which I normally justify to myself in isolation throughout the day in a series of tyrannical small decisions that was having a profound impact on my diet.
  • Water and coffee, at zero Calories each, are my best friends. The instinct to snack often has nothing to do with hunger and can be satiated with one of these two drinks.
  • When I’m thirsty I crave for any drink under the sun that isn’t water (soda, juices, Gatorade, etc.), but given some discipline, water quenches my thirst every time.
  • Alcoholic beverages have a terribly disproportionate energy content. One ounce of common liquors like vodka or rum averages somewhere on the order of 65 to 100 Calories, so even a drink with good energy economy like a 1.5 oz. vodka soda still nets you 100+. From there, things get much, much worse (say in your typical sugar-centric cocktail or large portion of beer for example).

One Week of Nutritional Rigor was published on June 13, 2016.

Find me on Twitter at @brandur.

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