CALORIE COUNTING: THE BASICS
Many people, especially in the fitness world, insist that calorie counting has helped them achieve their weight loss goals. Others argue it’s an outdated concept that doesn’t really work in the first place. This article takes a look at what calories counting actually is, how to do it, and the potential benefits and drawbacks calorie counting can offer.
What is calorie counting?
We’ve all checked the label for how many calories are in certain foods, but did you ever think about what a calorie exactly is? A calorie is an important unit of measurement for energy and provide us with the power we need to carry out our daily activities. Balancing energy is crucial for healthy weight management and the basics are quite simple: if we eat more calories than we burn, we gain weight. Conversely, a calorie deficit leads to weight loss. Understanding calorie intake and calorie expenditure is therefore an essential aspect of calories counting.
How does calorie counting work?
Calorie counting is about keeping track of the number of calories we take in through our diet. In order to eat the right amount of calories for your goals, you can calculate calories for your individual needs. There are various approaches to this, such as the Harris-Benedict formula or an online calorie calculator based on factors such as age, gender, weight, height and activity level.
The benefits of calorie counting
When it comes to calories counting, you don’t need to stress about being 100% accurate. However, there are situations where it can be helpful, for example if you want to lose or gain weight or have a more accurate overview of your diet.
In general, calories counting can be a good way to keep track of your daily energy intake and better manage your weight by being able to adjust your daily calorie intake according to your goals.
In the fitness world, we often talk about bulking or cutting. This is where calorie counting can also help. Although, these practices are not just about body weight but building and maintaining muscle mass, too. If you want to learn more about bulking and cutting, check out our articles: what is a cutting diet? and a beginner’s guide to bulking.
Top picks for cutting calories
Smart Protein: this delicious protein shake delivers 18 grams of protein in just 90 kcal per serving. The perfect pick-me-up before and after your workout.
Low Calorie Meal Replacement: our best meal replacement shake with 22g of high quality protein, no added sugar and 30% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
Smart Bar Crunchy: at just 158 calories and a full 15+ grams of protein per bar, this delicious protein bar is the perfect snack for the gym or on the go.
Top picks for gaining calories
Massive Gainer delivers a whopping 51g of protein and 1087kcal per serving, making it ideal for anyone looking to increase their calorie intake quickly and easily. Enriched with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals and available in banana, chocolate or vanilla flavours.
Mass Perfection: contains 20g of whey protein isolate and concentrate, 29g carbohydrates and 235kcal per serving. The deliciously creamy shake is available in six tasty flavours, including Cookies & Cream.
Counting calories allows us to develop a deeper awareness of what we eat. By tracking the calories in our foods, we get a clear view of our eating habits. This helps us to identify potentially unhealthy habits and make positive changes.
A big advantage of calories counting is that it allows for individual customisation. Everyone has different needs when it comes to their diet. When we count and calculate calories, it allows us to identify our personal calorie needs and adjust our diet accordingly, whether it’s for weight loss, weight gain or simply eating healthier.
Control over our diet
Calorie counting gives us a certain element of control over our diet. By keeping track of the calories in food, we can make conscious choices and better manage our diet. We can reduce our intake of calories by controlling portion sizes or replacing high calorie foods with healthier alternatives. This control can help better our eating patterns and, in turn, our overall well-being.
The downside of calories counting
As with anything, there are some potential disadvantages to counting and calculating calories. These include:
Time and effort
Calorie counting takes time and effort, as you need to keep an accurate record of all meals and snacks. Especially when you’re out and about or eating with friends, it can sometimes feel like a chore.
For some people, calories counting can lead to increased stress levels, especially if it’s done compulsively. It’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with your diet. So, never forget that your food is more than just the sum of its calories. It’s about enjoyment, nutrients and your well-being. If counting and calculating calories stresses you out and takes the joy out of eating, it’s perhaps best to move on and give another method a try, like the ones featured in our quick guide to healthy weight loss.
When counting calories, there is a danger of slipping into restrictive behaviours. It’s important to eat a balanced diet that contains all the nutrients your body needs and is flexible enough to accommodate your individual needs.
If you focus too much on the number of calories you consume, you may neglect other important aspects of a balanced diet, such as the quality of the food and nutrient composition. Pay attention not only to how much you eat, but also to what you eat, and don’t forget to maintain a healthy balance of important macro- and micronutrients.
Note that the effect of calorie counting can vary from person to person. It’s always advisable to seek professional advice before starting a new diet or supplement routine.
Calorie counting vs. Intuitive Eating
As you can imagine, counting or calculating calories doesn’t suit everyone. An alternative approach to nutrition is Intuitive Eating, which is all about listening to your body’s hunger signals and feelings of fullness. You eat intuitively without counting your calories but rather by trusting our body and its needs.
The intuitive approach to eating has its own advantages. It allows us to build a healthy relationship with food and listen to our body’s needs. However, it can also be difficult to find the right balance and estimate portion sizes correctly. Calorie counting and Intuitive Eating can also be combined to reap the benefits of both methods.
Find out more in our quick guide to Intuitive and mindful eating.
Calories calculators, tools & apps
There are a variety of calorie counting apps that can help keep track of calories consumed, such as MyFitnessPal. These apps offer an extensive database of foods where we can record and document the calories and nutrients in our meals.
Functions and benefits
Calorie calculator apps offer various features to help us track our diet. We can enter our meals and snacks, adjust portion sizes and record sporting activities to account for calorie consumption. Some apps also offer charts and statistics to track our progress and offer motivation.
Tips for successful calorie counting
After weighing the pros and cons of calories counting, you can decide if it is something that suits you and your individual goals. If you decide to give it a try, here are some tips to help you get started.
Set realistic goals
When counting calories, it is important to set realistic goals. Healthy weight loss averages around 0.5 to 1 kilogram per week. It’s therefore not advisable to set extremely low calorie targets, as this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and a slow metabolism. It’s better to make your diet healthier overall and not just focus on calorie counts.
An effective strategy for calorie counting is meal planning and preparation. By planning in advance what meals we want to prepare and what snacks we want to take with us, we can ensure that we choose healthy and calorie-conscious options. It can also be helpful to portion meals in advance to keep control of portion sizes. To do this, there are handy containers, like our Body&Fit Food Container, that you can use to store your food and take it with you. For more tips on successful meal planning click here — how to meal prep: tips, ideas & recipes.
When counting calories, it’s important to eat mindfully. This means focusing on the taste, texture and your feeling of fullness when you eat. Eating slowly and mindfully helps us feel full faster and increases the feeling of satisfaction after a meal.
It’s important to celebrate our calorie counting successes. Even small progress and milestones are worth appreciating. Plus, recognising our progress motivates us to keep pursuing our goals. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. A day here and there where you don’t stick to your calorie goal is not the end of the world.
As we have seen, calorie counting can be an effective way to manage your weight, become more aware of your diet and achieve individual goals. However, it’s important not to let calorie counting become an obsessive or restrictive practice. It should be used as a tool to support a healthy and balanced diet. Moreover, calories are not the only important thing. The foods you eat, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are crucial for well-being. If you have more questions about counting calories, don’t hesitate to contact our team of Expert Nutritionists via our customer service or our Instagram.