Not sure if you should be counting calories or not?
No matter what anyone tells you, weight loss is simply a mathematical equation of calories in + calories out. If you are eating more calories than you are burning throughout the day, you WILL gain weight.
Therefore, understanding how many calories you are eating each day + how many you typically burn based on your movement habits matters. Especially if you are trying to gain, maintain, or lose weight.
In this blog post I am going break down:
- What are calories?
- Should you count calories every day?
- How can you calculate your calorie allowance?
- My calorie counting daily hack!
Unless you have an underlying health condition, losing weight is a simple math calculation of calories in – calories out. It is really not more complicated than that.
A calorie is just a unit of energy + fat on your body is simply stored energy [calories that have not been burned]. No matter what anyone tells you [because they want to sell you their diet/program], extra calories make you gain weight, not too many carbs, fat, protein, etc.
So, if you’re struggling to understand why you’re gaining weight when you don’t want to, it simply means you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning throughout the day. You either need to up your movement to burn those extra calories or you need to eat fewer calories. That’s where calorie counting comes in.
- Related: 100 LOW CARB SNACK IDEAS
WHEN TO COUNT CALORIES
I don’t recommend calorie counting every day of your life because that is no real way of living + is totally not sustainable [or good for you mentally]. The point of understanding your calorie intake is NOT to create feelings of obsession with food. But, it’s just supposed to act as a compass along the way.
So, instead I want you to reframe counting your daily intake of calories as a tool. Use it to get started on your journey for a bit + then count your calories only on days when you feel like you’re falling off-track with your goals.
The first few days might be very time consuming when calorie counting because you’ll need to track lots of ingredients/meals. But, we are creatures of habit. Many of us eat the same 3-5 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, + snacks. So, once we know how many calories each whole meal is, it gets much easier to track [especially since lots of apps save the foods you eat regularly in a library for you to quickly access].
This is what I recommend for calorie counting:
Track your calories for 2 weeks in a row:
The first day, eat as you normally would to see how many calories you really are taking in at once. Then, slowly shift your calorie intake as the days go on. Your goal should be to be at your recommended calorie intake by day 4-5. Then, keep tracking for at least 2 weeks, possibly 3-4 if you are motivated to stick to that.
Then, use it as a compass when needed:
After 2-4 weeks of counting calories, you can understand what real serving sizes should look like + how full you should feel throughout the day. If you are finding that you are either gaining/losing weight you don’t want to or you are at a standstill, start counting your calories again to see if your consumption is off. You might only need to do it for a day or two to understand what changes need to be made.
HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR CALORIE ALLOWANCE
There are 2 ways I am going to recommend you figure out how to know how many calories you should be eating every day. The first is how I personally went about it on my journey + it worked just fine. But, I also include a more scientific way for you to do it by hand quickly.
Both work just fine. Just know that this calculation changes over time as you lose/gain weight, so keep that in mind as you are on your journey. Each time you go to track again you should redo the calculation for the most accurate calorie total.
Download an app that can calculate it for you:
There are so many apps out there that not only count how many calories you should be eating every day based on your giving a bit of information about your body, age, + activity levels. But, they can also track your food intake + how much you’re exercising. That’s why I chose this method when I tracked calories for a few weeks!
I loved that it automatically shifted my calories when I moved extra or helped me understand to eat less on days I took off from workouts. You can put in how much weight you want to lose each week + it shifts your calorie allowance for you. For me, I see it as a one-stop-shop + it works just fine. Click HERE for my calorie counting app recommendations!
Do the math by hand:
You can calculate your BMR [basal metabolic rate] to figure out how many calories your body needs when it’s at rest. Then, you multiply it with your activity level to see how many calories you should be eating overall. You can shift the calories you get from the calculation to gain weight [add calories] or lose weight [take away some calories].
This method is best used if you plan on tracking your food/exercise by hand. Also, you might just want to do this to understand how the apps do it for you! Men have a higher BMR than women, so that’s why I provide both below. Here is what you do:
- MALES: 66 + (6.3 x weight in lbs) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) = BMR
- FOR FEMALES: Adult female: 655 + (4.3 x weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years) = BMR
- Then, multiply your BMR by the appropriate activity factor to calculate your daily calorie intake:
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) = BMR x 1.55
- If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) = BMR x 1.725
- If you are extremely active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) = BMR x 1.9
**You can also click HERE to calculate your calorie allowance quickly on this website.**
DAILY CALORIE INTAKE HACK
Like I mentioned above, I don’t recommend calorie counting + tracking every day of your life because #1 it’s boring/tedious + #2 it’s unrealistic. Whether you are doing it by hand or using a handy dandy app.
But, there are little daily hacks you can do to keep yourself on track with making good eating choices throughout the day! Download this FREE calorie tracker chart that you can keep on your fridge/inside a kitchen cabinet so you know how many calories are in each serving size of the foods/meals you love.
So, when you go to grab something to snack on or to make for a meal, you can remind yourself what the actual portion size is + how many calories are in it. This will help you make better food choices throughout each day [without obsessively counting]. You’ll just be more mindful of what you’re choosing to put in your mouth, knowing that calories do matter + add up!
Remember: we are creatures of habit + tend to eat the same 3-5 meals for breakfast, lunch, + dinner. So, it might take a little bit of leg work to fill this in. But, once you have it it’s there for you to see every day. Click HERE to download it now!