This might be the most important thing you’ve ever done… like really.
If there is one thing that drives long term body change– better than anything I’ve ever seen– it’s someone who counts and tracks their calories (accurately).
So what now?
I guess I would make sure you know what a calorie is first. A calorie is the energy that is in the food (and some of the drinks) we eat. It can be used up as energy or it can be stored. They can help us build muscle or they are the reason you gain fat. Calories can do many things,
Hopefully you have a goal in mind. It could be fat loss or maybe you want to build muscle. Or, are you doing this for general health? And also, wanting a better idea of what’s in the foods you’re eating.
If you don’t have a goal in mind you will need to figure that out before we go any farther.
STOP HERE TO FIGURE OUT A GOAL.
Great! Now you have a goal, but what do we do with it, does it even matter for the counting calorie part?
The answer is BIG TIME.
Based on what goal you’ve set, we’ll determine what direction to take your calories.
If your goal is to lose weight/body fat, you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you are burning more calories than you are taking in.
If your goal is build muscle, you’ll need to be in a calorie surplus, this is the opposite of the above. You’ll need to take in more calories than you are burning.
So to set up your calories, you’ll of course need some place to start. This will be an estimate, at best, based on some of your bodies stats.
The method I use is called the Katch McAardle Equation.
It’s the most accurate starting point equation because it adds your bodies’ lean mass in the process (this is what your body would weigh with NO FAT). FYI this number is impossible to get to.
There are a lot of great calculators out there too.
You will need
- Bodyfat percentage (BF%)
If you don’t know your BF% I would be happy to help you figure it out with a picture and some training history from you.
After all of this done, you will get a calorie total called your BMR. BMR is basically the calories your body needs to function.
With this number in hand, you can now apply your goals to this and get the total number of calories you should be eating daily.
Here’s a simple example:
- Your BMR comes out to 1950 calories.
- Your goal is fat loss at a rate of .75 lb to 1 lb a week.
- You would subtract 500* calories from 1950.
- 1950 – 500 = 1450 calories a day.
(500 calories a day for a week would equal 1 lb of fat)
Very simple here but this will be a great place to start for almost everyone.
Quick Note: these estimates are just that, nothing is perfect here. I would suggest you try hitting these calorie numbers for two to four weeks before making any adjustments. And please be honest with yourself.
None of this will work long term if you lie to yourself about what you eat.
Next, you will need a way to track those calories. My suggestion is to download an app to your phone so that it is with you always.
The two I throw out there all the time are
My Fitness Pal (MFP) looks great and is easy to use. It will interact with several of your other fitness apps as well. The issue with MFP is that it can oftentimes be inaccurate because a lot of people contribute to the apps food database. This can lead to crazy miscalculations in your daily calorie total.
Mike’s Macros is a very simple app that has a great database that is way more accurate because it doesn’t allow users to input their own calories for food options. If you can deal with this app not connecting to some of your other apps, this is the one I would use. Because if calories are the King over all body changes, then the accurate tracking of calories is its Queen.
The other option is just the old school pen and paper (or in the notes on your phone). If this is easiest for you then by all means crush it. It just adds a bit of back end work on calculating the calories for the food you are about to eat.
Which leads me to the next quick but important point. Track your food BEFORE you eat it. This will save you a lot! You decide what you’re going to eat, then track it only to see that it will put you outside of your goal for the day.
This guideline allows you to make a change to the food choice or the portion size.
Now that you have a way to track, it’s as easy as putting in the food you eat. Starting out, I would literally put everything I eat into the tracking. This not only gives the most accurate information, it’s also a great learning experience on what calories are in the things we eat everyday.
From here on out it’s all about consistency. Track daily, Monday-Sunday. Be aware that if you eat or drink it, it goes towards your goal. And, at the end of the day, tracking makes it a clear cut choice when you need to change something in your daily diet to help you get to your goal.
If you ever need any help, please let me know.
I’ll step in where I can. Put this information to use. Without action, all of this is just more words cluttering your world instead of changing it.