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To lose weight we’re told we need to be in a calorie deficit. To build muscle its optimal to be in a calorie surplus. But how do you know how many calories you are actually taking in?
In theory this might sound simple – calories in vs out. However, managing your food intake can be tricky. Calorie counting is one way to tackle this problem and is commonly used for weight loss and muscle gain. Most people don’t count calories because they think it’s too complicated.
In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know so you can realise its not actually difficult at all.
Why Calorie Counting IS IMportant
When it comes to toning up (weight loss) or building muscle, calorie counting is important. If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
Therefore, its important to know how many calories you’re actually eating to ensure you’re on the right track for your specific goal. Studies have shown that people who keep a food diary consistently lose more weight than those who do not. This can be done through an app such as MyFitnessPal, using an excel sheet or getting out a pen and paper and writing down everything you eat and drink (and this includes the snacks that we commonly forgot about!).
Note: If you’re unsure how many calories you should be eating for your specific weight and activity levels, click here and follow the instructions given.
The most important step in calorie counting is weighing out your food & having the knowledge and understanding of what foods you should measure and which one's you should estimate.
Weighing Your Food
Portion sizes have increased and we are all more accustomed to having bigger portions than the norm. In general, people aren’t very good at estimating how much you eat. Having a good understanding of calorie counting can help combat this – and that starts with weighing and measuring your food.
A kitchen scales is the most accurate way to do this. You would be surprised how light 100g of Pasta is! Or on the opposite end, you’d be amazed how much 100g of strawberries is! While other metrics such as cups or glasses (e.g. one cup of oats) can also be used – this isn’t as accurate as all cups and glasses etc. are different sizes. My recommendation would be to start off using a kitchen scales to get an accurate reading. Once you’ve got an accurate reading, its time to find out the number of calories in the food you just weighed out.
For example: You measured out 100g of oats. To find out the number of calories that are in 100g of oats, you can either Google search this (using a credible source) or to make it easier, download an app and let it do it for you. My preference would be to use an app such as MyFitnessPal.
When you search on the app, it is common to get a number of different readings. E.g. One source might suggest 100g of oats has 350 calories, another might state it has 390. My recommendation would be to use the most common calorie count for that particular food and add it to your diary. Continue this same format for all other foods you eat.
What to Measure
It’s important to note that while you should calculate your calories, you shouldn’t obsess over having the exact count right. It is not necessary to be absolutely spot on with your measurements. I would suggest you weigh out the following categories of foods:
What To Estimate
Nutrient dense and lower calorie foods are not as important to track with a kitchen scales. These include:
We eat food everyday and will be until the day we die! It is a worthwhile investment of your time to become more aware of the amount of calories certain foods contain. No, you don’t have to do it for every food nor do you have to obsess over it. I track my food some days while other days I don’t. But on the days I don’t track, I still have a pretty decent idea of the total intake. You can only develop this skill if you the practice from doing it consistently to go with it.
My advice would be to measure your food using a kitchen scales for at least a week until you have a good visual of what 100g of oats, of cereal, of bread etc. looks like. Once you have that baseline education, then you could transition into estimating by eye.
Thanks for reading.
If you have any questions about calorie counting or anything health and fitness related in general, I'd love to hear them.
P.S. If you're looking for more advice - nutrition, training and lifestyle, why not join my free Facebook group? Click here to join.
Adrian McDonnell -
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