Should I count calories?
I have heard this question many times and it leaves people feeling very confused as to whether they should or shouldn’t count calories.
I think it depends on your goal and the type of person you are. Let me explain.
First of all, what is a calorie?
A calorie is measurement of energy from food. Food is made up of macronutrients called fat, protein and carbohydrate. 1 gram of fat contains 9 kcals (calories), 1 gram of protein contains 4 kcal and 1 gram of carbohydrate contains 4kcal. You should be making up your calories allowance from a mixture of fat, proteins and carbohydrates.
So how many calories do you need?
The average man needs around 2400 and the average woman needs 2000 kcal a day. But depending on many factors such as actively level, body composition/ lean body mass (muscles use more energy than fat), age, hormones, metabolism your requirements may me 1000kcal above or below this level. (A 1000kcal is a lot of food to be either under eating or over eating!) As a rough guide you can use the calories per pound equations so people typically need between 12 and 15 calories per pound if they're sedentary, 14 to 17 calories per pound if they're moderately active, and 16 to 18 calories per pound if they're very active. So if you weigh 60kg the equation will be 60 x 2.2 = 132lb x 15 (if you are not very active or want to lose weight) = 1980kcal per day.
So should you count calories?
If you are at a weight that is healthy, you are eating a varied diet, you are happy with your shape and you are neither hungry or over full after a meal then I would suggest your intuitive eating habits are in tune with your requires and you do not need to count calories. But if you are struggling to lose or gain weight then finding out what you are eating is a good start point to reaching your goal.
How do you count calories?
The easiest way is with a food app such as my fitness pal or fat secrets. These apps will work out your calories requirements and set up some targets to work towards. You then input your activity and food that you eat, you can scan a label and it puts the food straight into your food diary and these apps learn your foods so that they are always at the top of the list to choice so you don’t spend ages searching for your favour food. It can also save your favourite meals and recipes. If like me you like to cook from scratch this tool is fantastic as I can input all the ingredients and how many servings I have made and then I save it for next time. If you are eating a whole food then I’m afraid you need to weigh your portions and find the correct figures based on either raw or cooked ingredients so this can be a little fiddly to begin with but you soon learn that your large serving spoon can scoop up 80 grams of cooked rice and 150grams mash potato etc.
What if I am counting calories and still not losing weight?
Probably you are over estimating your portions sizes. But you need to be aware that even if you are eating food out a packet the best food company is never going to be 100 accurate at working out the calories in a meal and some can be 100kcal over or under what the label says. If you are endeavouring on a calorie counting meal plan then my advice is to use foods that are mono ingredients. So just eat mash potato not adding butter or milk, eat whole foods like brown rice and quinoa that are easy to weigh out dry and count the calories from this weight not the cooked weight.
Is it worth the effort?
That depends on your goal. For me personally when I have to stand on stage in a bikini for a bodybuilding competition then definitely I count calories but my food choices are vastly different then compared to when I am off diet plan and don’t’ have to worry about eating a low calorie diet. (Although I do still track but probably not as accurately) Only you can decide if it’s a tool that will help you. I find it really useful and I have become very aware of the calories in different foods and this helps me to make good food choices especially for the following meals. This is because some people may eat something that is considered naughty or high calorie and then they think they have blown the day whereas I just adjust what I eat later to compensate.
What do you think?
Are you a calorie counter? Or would it make you too obsessive with food?
Love to hear your thoughts