Calorie Counting: Be in the Know and Eat Your Way to Fitness
With so much misinformation available on the internet, finding the right diet can be like navigating your way out of a complex labyrinth. But never fear! Dieting help is here to summarize the calorie counting strategy.
By far the most widespread (and also most tedious) way to diet is to keep track everything you eat. Just as an inch is a unit of length, a calorie is a unit of energy found in food. You consume calories, and in return, you get energy, energy which you then expend throughout your day by running, breathing, or eating. The idea behind counting calories is that if you compare the amount of calorie you eat with the amount of calories you burn in a day, you can adjust what you eat and how much exercise you perform to meet your fitness goals. If you want to loose weight, you should be burning more calories than you are eating. If you want to gain muscle, you should be eating more calories than you use. Its all about calories in verses calories out.
As a subcategory of calories, there are 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbs and proteins both contain 4 calories per gram while fats contain 9 calories per gram. Each macronutrient is treated differently by your body:
Carbohydrates: Carbs are your primary source of energy. They are important for fueling both successful workouts and a well functioning mind. However, many people consume too many carbs which can negatively impact your health. Eat lots of carbs before and after you exercise to give you the energy you need to have an effective workout and to refuel your glycogen storage (energy storage). Outside of this, you should be eating carbs in moderation.
Proteins: You may have heard lunks at your local gyms talking about protein, protein, protein. This is because proteins are used to build and repair things in your body, such as muscle. Most physicians agree that a diet high in protein has several health benefits, such as healthy hair, nails, and muscles. However most foods that are high in protein are also high in either carbs or fats (or both like pizza!), so make sure you are eating foods that bring you closer to your macronutrient goals.
Fats: Contray to common belief, fats are NOT the enemy. In fact, healthy fats are very important to regulating hormones in your body. You should be eating a healthy amount of fats every day to maintain a well functioning body.
In summary, your body digests carbs, proteins, and then fats. If you are consuming more calories than you are using, your body will store the left over fat for energy later. If you are trying to lose weight, make sure this doesn't happen by eating in a calorie deficit. If you are trying to gain muscle or put on weight, eat in a caloric surplus and hit the gym so that your body will put on muscle and not fat!
All this information is great but only if we can put it to use in the real world. Here's how to get started counting calories:
1. Get a fitness journal. For this to work, you are going to have to keep track of everything you eat. Write down your calories and macro ratios after every meal.
2. Do a little research. Most people don't know how many calories are in the egg you had for breakfast (78 cal), but a quick google search can give you that information. Although not mandatory, I recommend cooking your own food so you know exactly what you are putting into your body. If you are eating out, ask for nutritional information. Most places will be happy to accommodate. Who knows... maybe you'll inspire others to take a vested interest in their health too!
3. Weigh yourself first thing every morning ( after you go to the bathroom but before you eat anything!). Keep track of your weight in your fitness journal and record an average of your results from week to week. Weighing yourself in this way will give you a consistent and accurate idea of your progress. This step is important so that we can make adjustments later on.
3. Adjust your diet to help you reach your goals. I recommend tracking your diet and weight and making adjustments every 2-3 week. Every few weeks ask yourself: is your weight moving in the desired direction? If so awesome! You don't have to change a thing. However more likely than not, you'll have to make some adjustments. Start with calories. Adjust your caloric intake by about 250-500 calories, and track your progress for another 2-3 weeks. Continue to do so until you are happy with the progress you are making.
4. Start planning ahead! Most of us are used to eating whatever we want whenever we feel hungry. Once you start tracking your calories, things change. Plan what you are going to eat throughout the day. A lot of people have found success in meal prepping, or preparing all their meals for the day ahead of time. Others track their calories throughout the day and make small adjustments at the end of the day to meet their goals. It all depends on what works well for you. Remember consistency is key. Find something you like and stick to it!
5. Once you are eating the right amount of calories, now is the time to adjust your macronutrients. Look at your average macronutrient ratio per day. There are several ways to eat to meet your fitness goals. In general high protein, high carb diets are good for building muscle while high protein, low carb diets are better for losing weight. I personally like to eat about 1.5 times as much protein as carbs while including a small amount of healthy fats with every meal. On average are you eating too many carbs? Too few proteins? Adjust your diet accordingly but never sacrifice the number of calories you are consuming.
5. Continue to adjust your diet. A lot of people think there is a single diet that will make them fit, and this is not true. It is important to keep a growth mindset about your diet. You may never find a perfect diet, but thats okay! As long as you are striving for improvement, you will find that you will be looking and feeling fitter in no time!
What do you think?
Do you use Calorie Counting as an effective dieting strategy?
1. It is important to make healthy lifestyle choices a habit. To do this, I recommend working out around the same time everyday. It is a lot easier to get yourself to the gym if it is already built into your schedule rather that trying to fit it in.
2. The body loves variety, so be sure to vary your diet. For example, while eggs are an extremely healthy breakfast option, I would recommend varying eggs with other healthy breakfast foods such as oatmeal, greek yogurt, and/or fruits.
3. Calorie counting isn't the only effective dieting strategy. It is more important to consistently follow a diet than it is to find one that is "best." Find something that works for you and stick with it!
- Calorie Counting is about comparing calories consumed and calories used.
- Macronutrients can be eaten in different ratios to help you meet your fitness goals.
- Start by getting a fitness journal to keep track out your diet and weight.
- Adjust your diet as needed.
- Enjoy a healthier you. Always strive for improvement, and find a better version of yourself!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2017 S Joshua Sheppard