If I told you I ate nearly 5000 calories a day would you believe me? What about if I was eating dessert most nights of the week? Or I ate more than 150g of sugars a day?
To be honest, I wouldn't have believed myself two weeks ago if I told you this!
But it's true.
Recently, I decided to track my food. Yes this mean pulling out the kitchen scales and jotting down every gram of food that went into my mouth.
Something I haven't done since I was a body builder, and something that I now believe no one should do int he name of health.
Heck I even wrote an article titled 'Are You A Calorie Counting Fool?' But in my defence, that article was more geared towards people who still believe in the flawed calories in / calories out equation.
Anyway, back to what I was saying... I tracked my diet for 7 days and the findings are quite surprising.
Before I share all the nitty gritty results, you're probably wanting to know why I tracked my diet if I think it's such a silly thing to do?
No I'm not trying to lose weight, or put on weight. I'm not training for any big sports events and I'm not experimenting with any fad diet.
I was simply curious.
I was curious to see what the breakdown of my diet was these days. Not necessarily from a macronutrient point of view (carbs, protein, fats etc), but more from a micronutrient perspective (vitamins and minerals).
And I figured a few of you may also be curious as to what a guy like me eats - someone who's extremely passionate about health, wellness and quality (nutritious) food.
Typical for 2018 anyway. I'm sure my typical diet will change in a few years time.
But here's a quick overview for how I eat (before I show you all the data).
Ok enough of the background here's what I ate for 7 days (by the way, I recommended a few short videos showing some of my meals during this period, you can see it in the video above).
(note - all the data is logged in Cronometer.com - please note that they didn't always offer 'homemade' options of some meals so I had to go with branded goods. Also, the following labels don't reflect the organic/free range food I consume)
Note - Did a lot of farm and orchard work this day, was rather hungry!
Note - went out for dinner to celebrate my mothers birthday. Dinner therefore is a 'best estimate'. We had share plates with various cuts of meat and side dishes. Only had a small lunch.
Before I dive into the data, I need to make a few things clear:
Below I have shared my 7 day 'daily average' from the Cronometer data.
If you want to see the full report, including detailed analysis of each days intake, you can download the PDF for free HERE.
Where do I start...
Though to be fair, this wasn't really a lesson, as I have written about this topic extensively in my article 'The Problem With Counting Calories For Fat Loss'.
Seriously, look at the numbers. I'm eating A LOT of food.
Now I'm sure you're thinking 'yeah but Alex you train hard and frequently'. That was true 5 years ago. But not today.
In the past few years I have trained once a week, in brief workouts (sometimes only lasting 15 minutes). Don't believe me? Watch my #AuthenticAlex VLOG and have a read of this article - Super Slow High Intensity Training: Is 15 minutes of Strength Training A Week Enough?
And to make matters worse (or better depending on how you view calories), at the time of writing I haven't trained for over 3 months. Zilch, nothing, nadda.
How do I know this? We recently moved houses. Since I have moved I haven't touched my home gym once. There are cobwebs growing on the barbells.
Saying that, I have been doing a lot of physical activity in the garden and orchard. But even then the energy option is still much lower than the food I was consuming.
I use my Oura Ring 24/7. And this tracks calorie expenditure based on various factors. I know it's not perfectly accurate (but neither is the cronometer diet data above) but here are a few caloric expenditure days from this 7 day trial:
Oura Ring data showing my total caloric burn - combing my resting metabolic rate with the days activity
There's four days worth of Oura Data which includes the highest activity dat (saturday day 4). I have tabulated all the data to find the daily average and shared this below:
So we see the daily average of calories burnt is 3356 calories.
And the daily average of calories consumed is 4794 calories.
That leaves a huge 1437 caloric excess. Which is over 10,000 calories in a week.
Now they say an excess of 3500 calories leads to one pound in body fat accumulation. Based on this (flawed) belief, I should have gained 3 pounds of pure body fat in the week.
Unfortunatley I didn't track my body weight during the week (1 we don't own any scales, and 2, it wasn't my goal to dive this deep into calories with this experiment) but as someone who spent many years tweaking his body composition (and I am pretty tuned into to my body - including body fat levels and pure size) I can tell you now that I didn't change at all during the week.
In fact, I'm pretty certain my body has remained rather the same in the past few months, maybe years.
If you find all this hard to believe, and you're imagining some chubby guy with saggy arms and belly fat, then I have to tell you this isn't the case. In hindsight I would have quantified all of this in more detail (body fat % before and after, before and after photos etc). But I didn't do this.
You just have to take my word. However I did quickly whip at the camera and take a shirtless photo to show that I'm not some overweight computer geek:
I know it's not the best photo - but it was the best of 4 shots, and I'm not the biggest fan of taking shirt less selfies!
Anyway, I'd be around 95 kg sitting between 10-13% body fat perhaps? Pretty standard condition for yours truely.
SO - long story short, this is simply more proof that an excess (or deficiency) in calories doesn't mean your body will change body fat levels.
Now I didn't plan on spending this much time on the calories side of the data - it was not why I set out to do this experiment - but I felt like it needed the attention I have given it.
If you are left wondering 'how is this possible? How can one eat so much - including fat and sugar - and train so little and not put on weight?' then my answer is simple. Hormones.
It's why members on my Hormone Reset Program have such great results losing weight.
If you want to know more about this, I recommend tuning in to this weeks presentation I'll be giving on the subject. You can register for that HERE.
Now back to the lessons learnt from this experiment.
In my article What You Need To Know About Supplements I explain how the food we eat is lower in nutrient quality of previous generations.
I explain how today's diet is full of foods that are low in nutrient quality and or block absorption of vital nutrients (like soy).
And I explain how many of us are malnourished, despite being overweight.
As a result, I make a strong case for the need to supplement.
Personally, I take a few supplements on a frequent and infrequent basis (you can see a bit more about what I take in THIS video).
Some of these supplements were for performance (creatine etc), some were for protection against modern day dangers (pollutants, nnEMF etc) and some are purely a 'top up' for potential low points in my diet (magnesium, and the thorne multi vitamin).
But after tracking my diet for 7 days and seeing that I smashed all the RDA vitamin and mineral recommendations, I'm seriously thinking of cutting out the 'top up' supplements.
I know my food is top quality, I know I'm eating a lot of it, I know I'm in good health, and to round things off, Cronometer shows that my diet is nutrient rich...
As a result of this, I'm going to save some money and reduce the intake of things like multi-vitamins. I will still have them on hand - perhaps for times when my diet is sub par (when travelling, when eating out a lot etc) but given the data I saw above, and given the fact that I eat so well and don't have any gut problems, I don't see much reason why I need to take a multi-vitamin.
I will however continue taking specific supplements such as iodine, vitamin d (in the deep dark winter months), creatine and even vitamin c.
Honestly, I nearly gave up on this experiment a few days in. I just wanted to enjoy my food, not have to worry about getting out the scales and taking notes of everything I ate.
Worst - I was actually filming what I was eating (watch the video above to see that), but after a few meals I decided to stop that (Plus I don't think it made good viewing!)
The crazy thing is I was doing this purely out of curiosity, and I still found it hard to do.
Now imagine all those people that do this out of (what they believe to be) necessity. Who believe that they have ti count calories or points to lose weight. Who feel guilty if they miss a days tracking, or even a meal.
Worse, add to the mix that they are trying to stay within a budget, or within certain 'macros'. I was just tracking my usual diet, no restrictions whatsoever and it was tough, and it was only for 7 days...
I've said it before and i'll say it again. Don't bother counting calories if you want to lose weight. There are more effective, and easier ways to achieve that goal of yours!
Otherwise, at least simplify matters by using photos instead of food logs.
How do I know this?
Simple - my wife eats the same food as me. Sure not as much, but we sit down together at night and have the same meal.
When she's not working we also eat together at home.
She made the lasagne, the cookies, the quiche.
She has ice cream when I have some. She snacks on dates, and nuts. She drinks orange juice. She has cream on her apple crumble.
Sure she's not eating the same volume of food as I (though some meals she will out eat me!) but she is only half my size.
Oh and she doesn't go to the gym (she has probably done 2 workouts in the past 12 months, and that's despite having a home gym and a ex personal trainer as a partner!)
She's not fat, she's healthy and she doesn't stress about food. She knows - like me - that the food we eat is quality, nutrient dense food, so what harm can be done by it.
And I know others can eat this way without issues as well. In fact, my 'diet' would be a perfect diet in the later stages of my Hormone Reset Program.
If one of my members was eating the above food after working through the foundation stages of the Program, I would be very impressed. It's also why I'm happy sharing all this data. I'm not one of these coaches who tells people to avoid sugar and ice cream yet binges out on a tub of ice cream each night.
I practice what I preach, and preach what I practice.
The message is simple - quality food irrespective of quantity trumps low quality food in low quantites.
That and also having good sleep and lifestyle habits - but that's all covered in other blogs.
If you don't believe me (that you can eat like this and still be healthy and in shape) then I dare you try it. Cut out all the crap in your diet. Eat organic. Eat wild caught, grass fed. Cook 97% of your own meals, eat when you're hungry, listen to your cravings, stop eating when you're full and don't eat if you're not hungry.
Do all this and see what happens. I'm certain your health will improve, but best of all, your enjoyment in life will skyrocket!
Who can be sad when they're having home baked cookies and apple crumble on a regular basis!
Of course, it has take me a few years to get to this point, and not everyone can make such a drastic change over night.
If that is true for you, then the Hormone Reset Program has your name on it. That program walks you through the changes you need (diet wise, lifestyle wise and also mindset wise) to reach a goal of health and happiness... with a choc-chip cookie on top!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and that it opened your eyes to what a well rounded quality diet may look like.
Maybe I inspired you to make your own gluten free organic cookies tonight - and eat them without guilt.
Or maybe I inspired you to cook more of your food.
Or maybe you simply want to track your diet through Cronometer and see what you are doing from a nutrient point of view.
Either way, please share your thoughts, findings and feedback below. I would love to hear from you.
This blog post was written by Alex Fergus. Alex is a ISSN Sports Nutrition Specialist, Fitness Professional and certified Superhuman Coach who continues to expand his knowledge base and help people across the world with their health and wellness. Alex is recognized as the National Record Holder in Powerlifting and Indoor Rowing and has earned the title of the Australian National Natural Bodybuilding Champion. Having worked as a health coach and personal trainer for over a decade, Alex now researches all things health and wellness and shares his findings on this blog. Learn more about Alex's Credentials HERE.
Join Over 30,000+ Subscribers!