As you can see, this is showing that I have under eaten by approx. 1,409 calories over the past 7 days. This has to be viewed with a fair amount of scepticism. Now that my shoulders are improving week on week, I have been pushing up the poundage on my weight training with a view to adding some muscle. To this end I had initially increased the calories to give me a surplus of around 3,000 – 5,000 per week. Thinking this would allow me to add 1 – 2 pounds of muscle each week. The trouble was although I was adding muscle, I was worried I was also adding too much fat, so I scaled this back.
I’ve been working towards adding some muscle bulk now for around 6 weeks and so far have added approx 9 lb of muscles and 1 lb of fat. Which I am very happy with. The trouble is that I know that this is technically not possible to do this while under eating so what’s going on?
How do I measure lean muscle vs fat gain? Well to be honest not very scientifically as I use a set of home Tanita body composition scales. These are OK, but they are known not to be very accurate. What I do is I always weigh myself at the same time (as soon as I wake up, before I eat or drink anything). In this way, I might not get an accurate reading (the scales say 13% body fat, but it might be 11% or 15%). But I think the error is consistent, so I might not know exactly what the correct reading is, but I can see over time if it goes up or down.
The bigger problem is keeping an accurate food diary. I use the “Tap and Track” App on my iPhone. – I’ve tried a few of these and this definitely seems to be the best). Regardless of what method I use, it is very hard to tell if someone else has cooked for you exactly how much food has been eaten, or what was in it.
The other problem is estimating calorie expenditure. There are lots of sports to choose from in the menu, but none that match my particular martial art. And then the amount of effort (and so calories) can change massively from one session to the next. So what do I do?
Well I know that the software tells me that a 1 hour game of squash is 1,121 calories, so I use base my training sessions on this. If I think that my training was about half the intensity of a game of squash then I assume 500 calories per hour x the number of hours. Simple. I know that it’s only a guide, but I used to play a lot of squash so it’s the best guide I have.
I try really hard to:
a) over estimate the food eaten, and
b) underestimate the exercise taken.
But I still end up with a read out that says over the past month I’ve eaten 1,582 calories less than I need and scales that tell me I’ve added 8 lb of muscle! They can’t both be right. Now the one thing I do have on my side is that I am rehabilitating muscle, not growing “new” muscle, which many studies have shown is much easier (most famously the Colorado Experiment). Even so, building l lb of muscle requires at least 3,000 extra calories (usually a lot more), so a gain of 8 lb would mean 24,000 extra calories (that’s over 10 days whole days more food than I seem to have eaten in the last month). In other words even though I am being as accurate as I can be, I am still only accounting for two thirds of the food I’m eating!