Calorie Counting 101
Counting calories is one way to track changes in your body wether it is for weight loss or muscle gain. It becomes a numbers game of calories in vs calories out. If you’re serious about losing weight or gaining muscle counting calories can help you understand the changes in your body because it gives you data.
Generally speaking 1500 calories a day is a standard starting point for weight loss and then increasing or decreasing by 150 calories (or 5-10% of a 2000 calorie diet) based on the results you’re looking for. Counting your calories would show you if and how the incremental changes your making to your diet are moving you in the right direction. It helps professionals narrow down other factors that are contributing to your weight loss or weight gain.
Counting calories do matter but what you do with the information is up to you. At the bare minimum counting calories forces us to take note of everything we eat, be it good or bad. This alone can greatly effect our results. Knowing that you have to log an iced Frappuccino that’s 500 calories is a deterrent.
What is a Calorie?
Calories are a measure of energy, normally used to measure the energy content of foods and beverages. In science, a dietary calorie is defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.
The calories you eat on a daily basis are used for essential functions like breathing, thinking, talking etc. Excess calories will be stored as fat, and consistently eating more than you burn causes weight gain over time.
How do I track my calories?
Before apps, people would track their foods in journals by writing down the calories, micro and macronutrient content. Now a days the most popular apps are:
- My Fitness Pal
- Lose It!
Personally I am a big fan of My Fitness Pal because it has such a robust data base. This makes scanning and inputting foods so much easier because it’s already in there! It is also one of the more popular digital programs, which gives the user a bigger community to find support from. When it comes to choosing an app I’d recommend one that makes your lifestyle easier but also choosing the same one your friends are using.
Not sure how many calories to eat? Try our calorie calculator to get a detailed description for you.Results are difficult to read on Safari and other apple products don’t fully support the program
Calorie counting isn’t an exact science but trying to measure your foods as accurately as you can makes the biggest difference.
Measure your food portions with:
- Scales: This is the most accurate way to measure your food but can be time consuming and impractical depending on your lifestyle.
- Measuring cups: Standard volume measures are quicker and easier to use than a scale but less accurate. Make sure to measure properly buy removing the top part of your measurements so it isn’t over flowing. A “heaping” tablespoon of peanut butter could easily add an extra 100 calories.
- Comparisons: Comparing common items is quick and easy, especially if you’re out and about with your day. Although it is much less accurate than the other methods.
Tips for calorie counting
Being successful at calorie counting can be a long an tedious process of trial and error. It can be a frustrating and discouraging process, but if you’re able to look at it objectively calorie counting can help you make great strides towards your goals.
- Be patient with yourself. You’re learning a lot about your eating habits, how to change them and probably also learning how to use a new app too. It is definitely a learning curve you have to give yourself time to get used to.
- Meal Prep. Having an idea of what you’re going to eat takes a tremendous amount of stress off of logging and can stream line your day. There are also features that let you import your own recipes a head of time too.
- Pre log your food. If you’re going to be eating the same thing for breakfast for two days in a row, you can save a lot of time by importing it for the next day with a click of a button.
- Food quality matters. Yes 500 calories worth of oreos has a different effect on your body (organ health etc) than 500 calories of chicken breast. You still have to choose healthy options more often.
Calorie counting can be incredibly beneficial but also challenging. You can see tremendous results by counting calories but it is not the only factor towards weight loss/gain. Remember to eat quality foods rich in nutrients. The hardest part about counting calories is being faced with the reality of how often we choose proceed foods and refined sugars. Counting calories is hard so don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling. Consult professionals if you’re stuck and find friends who are struggling with you too. A supportive community makes the biggest difference.