Calorie counting can be extremely difficult at the beginning. Nowadays it’s made a lot easier using various health and fitness apps. However, there’s no need to overload your smartphone with a load of apps. Throughout this article, I’m going to teach you the essential ways of calorie counting to make it as easy as possible.
What do you need to consider before you start?
The most important piece of information is the calorific value of each macronutrient. The three macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates and protein. Fat contains 9 calories per gram whilst carbs and protein both carry just 4 calories per gram. This is often why fat is demonised for causing obesity.
You may also notice that fibre is included on the back of your food products. Fibre is an indigestible form of carbohydrates which we can’t derive energy from. So, there’s no need to count its calorific value. However, fibre does have other important functions such as helping with digestion and keeping blood sugar down.
All the calories shown on food labels is the entirety on the packet. If you bake or boil a product and it becomes lighter, then the calories don’t change. Yet, when you do prepare your food, you need to include the calorific value from any oil, sugar, butter, milk etc. that you add.
How do I count calories?
When you start counting calories, you can use paper, computer software or a mobile phone app.
The issue with paper is that it can be bulky to carry around if you’re using a notebook and can be a bit of a hassle writing down every single thing you eat. Not only this, but keeping it organised can be a problem. If you want to find out what you had for dinner a week or two ago, then it’ll be hard to source. You’ll probably throw out the paper after each day, and if you use a notebook, then it’s bound to fill up quite quickly.
Computer software is the next best thing though you always have to have a laptop or computer handy which isn’t always helpful. Think about the times you’re out for lunch or in the supermarket; you can’t just whip out your laptop.
Smartphone apps are what most people use for monitoring their calorific intake. Apps such as MyFitnessPal allow you to keep all of your food data in a single place for reference at any time. We tend to carry our smartphones around everywhere we go so, there’s no hassle when it comes to tracking. Also, with a lot of apps, you can scan the barcode on products and it automatically inputs the data. If you don’t want to have the exact serving size on a packet, then working it out on paper can be a hassle. However, an app will do the calculations for you.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what you prefer as an individual. There’s no right or wrong way to track your calories but there are more efficient and accurate ways. Pick the one which best suits your lifestyle.
How to improve the effectiveness of your calorie counting
After a short time, you will notice that some products in a similar group can contain similar amounts of nutrients and calories. This means that you don’t have to count them strictly. For example, many grain products such as wholegrain bread, wheat pasta and porridge contain about 70g carbs, 10g protein and 3g of fat in an 100g serving. On average these products contain around 350kcal, too. Lean meat and cottage cheese contain 0g carbs, 20g protein and 3g fat per serving. After a while looking at the amount of macronutrients and calories in products, you can make comparisons and groups in order to make tracking easier.
Remember, calorie counting shouldn’t make your life harder. It’s designed to make living healthy easier and simpler. So, if you’re being too strict on yourself and stressing out, then you’re not using calorie counting for the right reasons or in the right way.
Examples of calorie counting
For a simple meal like boiled rice, chicken breast cooked in a tablespoon of oil with a side of salad you can track it like this.
Total Calories – 130
(fat 0.3×9 = 2.7 )+ (carbs 29×4=116 ) + (protein 2.7×4=10.8) = 130 calories
Total Fat – 0.3g
Total Carbohydrates – 29g
Total Protein – 2.7g
1 Chicken Breast (4 oz)
Total Calories – 124
Total Fat – 1.4g
Total Carbohydrates – 0g
Total Protein – 26.1g
1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
Total Calories – 119
Total Fat – 13.5g
Total Carbohydrates – 0g
Total Protein – 0g
Total Calories – 353kcal
Total Fat – 15.2g
Total Carbohydrates – 28g
Total Protein – 28.8g
You may notice that the salad is not included in this breakdown. This is because the calories in most vegetables are so little that many people don’t include them. Overall, they would probably total about 20kcal. The reason for including salad vegetables in your meals is for the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and the fibre.
It’s more important for athletes to count calories than it is for the general public. This is because they need to understand exactly how much energy is going in and out of their body. Moreover, they need to keep on top of the vitamins and minerals they’re consuming so they can keep their performance up.
However, if you’re just a regular gym goer, then counting calories can be a great idea. Some people struggle to become healthy if they’re not motivating themselves through tracking both their nutrition and workouts. For these people, calorie counting is a great motivational tool. Also, tracking your food intake can give you a good idea of exactly what you’re eating. There are numerous benefits to understanding exactly what goes into your body but you should never let it take over your life.