Counting Calories: The Perks and How-To's of Tracking Your Intake
Beyond just numbers, tracking our caloric intake can unlock a plethora of benefits that might just surprise you
In today's world, with an overwhelming variety of foods at our fingertips, understanding our nutrition has never been more essential.
As we navigate this vast culinary landscape, one tool stands out in helping us make healthier, informed choices: calorie counting. Beyond just numbers, tracking our caloric intake can unlock a plethora of benefits that might just surprise you.
Ready to dive in? Let’s discuss.
The 2 Primary Benefits of Calorie Counting
1. Understanding Your Calorie Needs
Calorie counting teaches you to better understand your calorie needs for weight loss or weight gain, making it easier to know exactly how much food you should eat when pursuing either goal.
Instead of restricting yourself with diets, you can generally eat more food and enjoy more treats while staying on track.
2. Learn the Value of What You Eat
While the primary goal of calorie counting is to track your calorie intake, the practice teaches you the actual value behind the numbers. You learn about the quality of the calories you eat and how it all ties in with nutritional intake: proteins, carbs, fats, fiber, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
3 Common Myths Surrounding Calorie Counting
1. Myth: It's time-consuming.
While there is a learning curve (as with most things), calorie counting isn’t nearly as complex or time-consuming as most people think. Plus, apps like MyFitnessPal streamline the experience, allowing you to track your nutrition like a pro.
2. Myth: It's all about restriction and deprivation.
Quite the contrary, actually. The goal of calorie counting is to better understand your nutritional needs and move away from the mindset of, “I must eat clean all day, every day, to lose weight.”
3. Myth: All calories are equal.
Not all calories are created equal. Getting 200 calories from a candy bar is far different than getting the same energy from a bowl of oatmeal. Food quality still matters.
How to Effectively Start Counting Calories
1. Get the Right Tools
Download an effective app like MyFitnessPal or MacroFactor. Additionally, get a kitchen scale to weigh your food. This is pretty much everything you need to track your calories like a pro in no time.
2. Understand Your Calorie Needs
Use a TDEE calculator to estimate your daily calorie burn. Doing so will help you determine how many calories to consume.
For example, if your TDEE is 2100 calories, eating fewer (say, around 1700) would lead to weight loss, whereas eating more (say, 2200-2300) would lead to weight gain.
3. Be Honest and Detailed
Calorie tracking is effective when you honestly account for all foods and beverages you consume, even small and seemingly insignificant snacks.
Learn to track everything you consume to more accurately track your calories and efficiently reach goals.
Quick Tips for Successful Calorie Tracking
1. Be Consistent, Even on Cheat Days
Cheat days are generally not a good idea because they can set you back and hinder your dieting efforts. That said, if you do decide to have cheat days, continue tracking your calories.
Doing so can help you see just how big of an impact these ‘free’ days can have on your nutrition and goals, making you less likely to have whole cheat days in the future. Instead, you might decide to go for the occasional cheat meal.
2. Adjust Your Calorie Goals Over Time
Weight loss and weight gain naturally impact your body’s energy requirements. Because of that, it’s important to re-calculate your TDEE for every 4-5 kilograms of weight you lose or gain.
3. Remember That Calorie Quality Also Matters
Hitting your daily calorie goals is important and fulfilling, but don’t obsess over just that. Learn to track your nutrition and remember that the quality of the calories you consume also matters.
Calorie counting is more than just numbers—it's an empowering tool that puts you in the driver's seat of your nutrition.
By understanding and embracing it, you unlock the door to mindful eating and better health. So why wait? Grab that journal or download that app, and start your calorie-counting journey today.