Calorie counting sucks. It’s boring, can be time consuming and quite often inaccurate.
But I believe you should do it, for a little while anyway. And here are 5 reasons why:
1. Most people don’t know where their calories come from. Yes, smartass, they come from food, but most folks don’t appreciate how they can “eat healthy” and still gain weight. Weight gain is simply a matter of more cals in than out, the excess is stored as fat. The issue is that even with some of the “healthier” options out there contain a lot more calories than you would think and tracking allows you to highlight this.
Fruit juice smoothies are a prime example, bright, fruit (juice) filled, tasty, these have to be great for you, right? Well yes they are, kinda. But if your goal is fat loss, some of the options I’ve looked at work out at around 600kcals and 90-100g sugar. A bottle of coke on the other hand has around 40g of sugar. Without the fibre you would get if you eat the fruit instead of squeezing the juice out and discarding the rest, your body breaks it down and treats it the same as the sugar from the coke.
2. If you track your food intake, it will automatically make you think about what you are eating. If you do it consistently, it will also make you adjust your portion sizes. Eating well is great, over eating good, nutritious food is still taking in too many cals though and the outcome is the same.
3. It helps you find both good and bad habits in your nutrition habits. Too much sugar, not enough protein, not enough fibre or fat are typical issues I see in food logs, on their own, each has associated issues but as most people have at least 3 of these at one time and there are plenty issues to tackle. Tracking allows you to highlight these and begin adjusting accordingly.
On the positive side, tracking allows you to see what you are already doing well with and maintain it whilst fixing the other issues.
4. You don’t need to do it forever. Once you get a handle on correct portion control, gain some insight into where your calories are coming from and start building some better nutritional habits, you can cut down how often you track and use it as a check-in to monitor progress and adjust as necessary. I “check in” using myfitnesspal every 2 or 3 weeks, or if I feel I’m slipping a little.
5. It will allow you to find what ratio of macronutrients are good for you. Depending on body type, activity level, body composition and a host of other factors, your body reacts to different ratios of protein, carbs and fat more positively than others. Ectomorphs with very high activity levels can handle up to 50% carbs and a lower fat %, whilst a sedentary endomorph may only need 25% carbs and up to 35-40% fat intake. Tracking allows you to adjust your intake as needed.
If you are having trouble dropping or increasing your weight (I’m looking at you “hard gainers” here), try tracking for a short while and see how you could adjust your eating habits to get more success.