Counting calories has been a really volatile topic over the years. Some experts swear by it, and others scoff at the thought. But what are the advantages of counting calories? And are there any negatives? We’re putting our foot down today – let’s break it down!
What is Calorie Counting?
When it comes to results, diet is where most people struggle and ultimately fail. Diet will make or break your fitness goals and calorie counting is one way of staying on top of eating habits. It is important to note that when we say diet, we are talking about what you eat regularly, not a diet(like Atkins) as something you do temporarily. We strongly believe that counting calories is a great tool to use in your health arsenal – whether you are new to the game, or a hardened veteran. By creating a habit of tracking what you put into your body, you can set realistic goals for yourself, and you can find your weak points. Your goal should be to get an idea of the portion sizes that are right for your needs. There will always be a situation where you can’t whip out your phone and do a calorie lookup.
Blackburn Tip: Weigh your portions on a scale before you eat. This is a great metric to keep track of so you can make right decisions the next time you eat out. Although there are more calorie dense foods when you go out, an educated guess is better than a free for all.
So how do you start counting calories?
First use calculators such as the one found on CalorieKing.com. Determine the amount of calories you need to sustain your current weight – then figure out your macronutreint goals – the amounts of Carbs, Fat, and Protein you should have. Once you know this you can then start formulating a diet plan. Though it may get tiring, the best approach is to eat the same or similar foods on most days. This will keep dieting simple and promote adherence – statistically speaking, the smaller the change you make, the more likely you are to keep it up. Start by planning out your 3 main meals – Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. Assuming they are they same most days, you can then log these meals and figure out how many calories you have left. Think of it as budgeting, you budget certain amounts to different expenses which in this case are Carbs, Fats, and Proteins. Spend too much in one area, and you must take away from another. STICK TO THE BUDGET. To be successful you have to be strict with yourself.
In theory, calorie counting sounds amazing and pretty simple to do, but it does have its drawbacks. Firstly, some will begin to obsess and be unable to eat or enjoy foods if not measured and logged. This creates a dependency to whatever method you are using to track your calories. Don’t go number crazy. Like we said earlier, there will always be times where you just can’t be 100% accurate, and that’s ok. Use your experience to make a good judgement.
Second, most fail to actually hit their macronutrient goals but still hit their calories. For example, let’s say a 29 year old male has the following goals:
Total Calories – 2808
Fat – 71.4g
Carb – 398.4g
Protein – 142.9g
The mistake will be staying under 2808 calories, but missing the actual composition of those calories – maybe eating too little protein and too much carbs. Generally, if you are just starting off this is fine, but one should make an effort to hit their macronutrient goals and then make adjustments as needed.
Thirdly, just like with workout programs, most people jump from one diet to another. So using the same example as before, the person may recalculate their dietary needs weekly instead of consistently hitting his goal, and then waiting to see how it affects his body. It is surprising how many people do this. If after 6-8 weeks of sticking to your diet nothing happens then you can readjust but only in 100 calorie increments each way. If you want to lose weight and it is not working then recalculate, so for the same male he may take away 100 calories and then his goals would look like this:
Total Calories – 2708
Fat – 71.4g
Carb – 373.4g
Protein – 142.9g
Since most people eat too many carbs, that is what we took away first. Then repeat as necessary until you get a desired result.
The fourth big mistake is not taking breaks. Calorie counting can make you feel imprisoned. It is ok to not log every once in a while and in fact will help you keep the habit up for a longer time. Periods of just eyeballing and guess-timating calories will help you apply what you learned and teach decrease dependency. Just don’t forget about the process in the long term. You want to make sure that you are sticking to your plan.
So after all that, it begs the questions, should you count calories? Yes! Is it right for everyone? Not always – but that’s why we’re here to support you along your fitness journey. We’re there for you, so you can make healthy habits possible. We know how difficult it can be to transition to something completely new. But you can do it!