What you need to know about Macro/Calorie calculators and templates.

In the past few years, I’ve been observing a rapid growth of automatization within the nutrition field. This quick methodology benefits the providers of such services, it allows them to cater to more people and sell templates at a much faster pace without their intervention, it’s a good cost-effective business overall.

But what happens to those clients that utilize this methodology?

Are they being served properly? Are they getting their money’s worth, even if it is cheap or free?

The simple answer is NO. Not even close, not getting proper personalized numbers and lacking sufficient instruction that often sends them into ED (eating disorder) territory without their knowledge. Be very careful when utilizing these methods. Please. 

These Macro/Calorie calculators are the catch, they are often free of charge, while others offer templates to purchase at a very low cost. But if you think that’s all you need to get results, think again, because they are not personalized, nor accurate, and more often than not, clients are left wondering what to do with those numbers, they start wondering (and with good reason) if those calculations are correct for them, if the automated system knows their history, eating patterns, if the activity levels they have chosen is accurate, how to track them properly, what to do when they feel hungry, how to stop binges when the calories are that low, for how long to follow those numbers and when to tweak them, and/or why they are following those numbers but they don’t seem to be working, what are THEY doing wrong, is their system broken? They may even start looking for other issues that could be possibly wrong with them, when in reality, what’s wrong is the use of a simple cookie-cutter methodology for a very complex human being.

And when you need answers, you either need to get more help (pay for services which may or may not help since these companies are so large that don’t have enough qualified people to properly serve their clients) or you keep bouncing around taking more free advice from the internet and spinning your wheels while wondering what else to do. 

Common problems with these systems:

1) Weight Watchers: 

Most people try to consume foods with “free points”, the problem is that all the foods with free points are also fat-free, and we do need a certain amount of fatty acids for proper hormonal function and fat-soluble vitamin absorption. Most people following these diet templates end up having serious vitamin deficiencies and a lack of energy availability which can be a serious problem, especially for women if done for a long period of time. 

2) Macro/Calorie calculators:

Input your stats, and get your numbers, almost like a magic ball, but worst, because these numbers when somewhat guessed can do a lot of harm to the human body and mind. 

I often see these coaches say things like: “What did the calculator say?” or “If you aren’t losing you have to adjust for metabolic adaptations and lower your calories more”, or “If you aren’t losing you are eating too much”. Hmm… maybe but it is worth exploring other options like how long has the person been attempting a caloric deficit, when was the last time they had a diet break, and how to mitigate metabolic adaptations as best as possible before attempting a caloric deficit again. If you keep lowering your calories you risk eating disorder behaviors and a non-sustainable approach that will eventually backfire regaining most of the weight if any was lost. 

Reducing your caloric intake to unnecessarily low levels will end up in binge episodes, it’s not your fault, it is human physiology. Low leptin levels are the root cause of most of the negative effects of dieting, including increased hunger and decreased metabolic rate and energy levels.

Binges will often sabotage your efforts and risk the development of an ED. If this is you and you can’t stop the never-ending binge/restriction cycles, you may need professional help from a specialized dietitian or therapist, not a calculator. 

Lowering calories too much for long periods of time will also decrease your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which means, all movement that is not-exercise-induced such as fidgeting, pacing, etc. With the end result of your body burning fewer calories for preservation. 

3) Any diet that restricts arbitrary foods:

Again, it is the restriction that causes binges, if your diet is preventing you from enjoying life, social gatherings, and family events, and does not allow for flexibility on special occasions, it will probably end up in binges or not being sustainable in the long run. There are strategies for problematic foods and how to deal with binges and/or overeating them. It is through the reduction of calories that these diets may work, not by eliminating specific foods.

More often than not, it is recommended to add more of the foods you need nutritionally speaking and that alone will allow for less desire and room for other not-so-nutritious or calorie-dense foods. Again, strategies will depend on the individual but templates, automatic calculations, and arbitrary restrictions are not a permanent solution. 

And last but not least, the method that will work for you can only be determined by evaluating your own personal needs, dieting history, monitoring, and reevaluating according to your own lifestyle, personal life history, preferences, activities, sleep patterns, energy level, sustainability, time, and commitment. These and other factors should be evaluated with your coach if you have simple performance or fat loss goals, and with a dietitian or therapist when out of the scope of a sports nutritionist coach. And in any case, not with a template, a calculator, or a regular trainer without formal nutrition education. 

As usual, if it is cheap or free, be skeptical, my strong friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *