If you are looking to lose, gain or maintain weight, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I explain how to track your calories and achieve your fitness goals, no matter what they may be.
I want to start off by saying that I’m proud of you for even clicking on this article! You should give yourself a pat on the back. Tracking your calories is by no means an easy task and many people would never even think about doing such a thing.
But what I’ve learned throughout my fitness journey, if you want to fully achieve your fitness goals and achieve your dream body, counting calories is a MUST.
Why Count Your Calories?
They question you will undoubtedly receive from everyone and anyone when you start counting your calories will be, “why would you want to do that?” Well, let’s get that cleared up so you will know exactly how to respond.
Counting your calories will allow you to efficiently achieve your dream body and make your progress 100 times faster. Whether your goal is to bulk and build muscle, maintain your weight, or cut and get ripped, counting your calories will help you know if you are in a surplus or a deficit and if you are supposed to be gaining weight or losing it.
Putting yourself in a consistent calorie deficit is the only tried and proven way to lose weight. I know what you’re thinking, “what about that guy who said if I cut out carbs and only eat animal liver I will lose 8 pounds a week?” Sorry to break it to you, but that guy is lying to your face.
A calorie deficit is when you consume fewer calories than your body burns in a day. When you’re in this state, your body has no other choice but to get rid of its fat storage to make up for the lack of calories.
A calorie surplus on the other hand, is when you consume more calories than your body burns in a day. This will effectively help you gain weight. A calorie surplus is most ideal for those of you who are looking to bulk and/or build muscle. A surplus is a necessity if you want to see consistent muscle and strength gains.
Another question I get asked a lot is, “how do I know how many calories to consume?” Well let’s find out.
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How Many Calories Should You Consume?
The amount of calories you consume in a day is heavily influenced by what your goals are. Like I mentioned above, if you want to gain weight, you need to be in a surplus. If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a deficit.
To figure out if you are in a surplus or a deficit, you need to first calculate your maintenance calories. Your maintenance calories is the amount of calories you would consume every day to stay the same weight.
To calculate this number, you will need to answer some questions first:
- How many days a week do you workout?
- How much do you weigh?
- How intense are your workouts?
- Do you do cardio or just weight lift?
- Do you have a fast metabolism?
All of these questions will factor in to your maintenance calorie equation, but mainly the first two. If you are 150 pounds, lift 5-6 days a week, and have a fast metabolism, your maintenance calories will be different from another 150 pound person who only lifts 3 times a week.
To calculate your maintenance calories, you first take your weight and then multiply it by anywhere from 14-18. That’s it.
Now, the number you multiply your weight by is the variable factor that depends on the questions listed above. If you are extremely active, multiply your weight by 17 or 18. If you aren’t very active and only workout 2-3 times a week, multiply your weight by the lower end of the scale.
It’s not rocket science!
Then, once you figure out your maintenance calories, you either consume fewer calories to put yourself in a deficit or consume more calories to put yourself in a surplus.
If you’re not good with math or you’re just lazy, there are also websites like Calculator.net that will do the work for you.
5 Tips For Making Calorie Tracking Effortless
Like I said earlier, counting your calories is not easy and respect to you for wanting to do so. What I can tell you is that it GETS EASIER, you just have to get started. In the beginning, you are going to want to quit numerous times. It can get very frustrating, but as you get used to it, you will become a pro and counting your calories will become effortless.
To help you out in the beginning of your journey, I outlined 5 tips that will help you get the hang of counting your calories much faster:
- Buy a Scale – A food scale is absolutely CRUCIAL when counting your calories. By law, everything you buy from the grocery store has to give you its nutrition facts. This includes the ingredients, nutrients and serving sizes. The serving size on almost everything is listed as a weight (usually grams or ounces). To be able to accurately track your calories you will have to know how many servings you are consuming. You can buy a good scale for a low price on amazon.
- Keep a Log – In order to accurately track your calorie intake, you need to first calculate the amount of calories in your meal and then log it. I like to use the ‘notes’ app on my phone but you can go old school and use pen and paper or you can even set up a spreadsheet on google sheets, whatever works best for you.
- Download MyFitnessPal – MyFitnessPal has been extremely helpful to me in tracking my calorie intake. Not only will it automatically log the amount of calories you eat in a day, but you can basically look up any food product or even restaurant item and it will give you the amount of calories and nutrients in each serving! I highly recommend this app.
- Eat the Same Foods – I know this one sounds boring and borderline insane. But trust me, it is a HUGE help. I’m not saying to eat the same food every day. What I’m suggesting is to eat the same foods and meals throughout the week. For example, for dinner, I eat chicken quesadillas on Monday, ground turkey on Tuesdays and NY strip steaks on Fridays. Eating the same meals will save you a lot of time counting calories because you will already know how many calories are in each meal. Call me insane but I think it’s genius.
- Make Your Own Food – Like I said, if you’re lazy, counting your calories may not be for you. But if you are committed, I highly suggest staying in, saving money, and making your own food. This is the only way to ensure you know the exact calorie content of your food. You don’t have to cut out eating at restaurants completely though and, as a matter of fact, a lot of restaurants these days will tell you the calorie content of their food on their menu. If you have to eat out, try eating at one of these restaurants (chipotle is one of my favorites).
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How to Stay Committed
Keeping track of your calories can be very difficult as I’m sure you are aware. But you have to remember, if it was easy, everyone would do it and everyone would be in the exact physical shape that they want to be in. But that is just not the case.
When you first start to count your calories, it will be very easy to quit and second guess your decision to stay disciplined and achieve your dream body. But you can’t give in!!!
Like I said earlier, the more you do it, the better you get and the easier counting calories will become.
The best advice I can give to help you stay committed would be to allow yourself to mess up and fail. Allow yourself to eat whatever you want 2 days a week but for the other 5, try to stay as disciplined as possible. Let yourself accidentally eat 500 calories more than you were supposed to.
Nobody is perfect! Just make sure you bounce back and give your best effort the next day.
Starting slow and giving yourself time to adjust to the new diet is key to your long term success. Start by counting your calories one day a week, then two, then three all the way up to 7. It will take time!
Don’t beat yourself up when you mess up, especially in the beginning of your journey.
In conclusion, counting your calories will be difficult but VERY worth it in the end. Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle or maintain your weight, accurately counting your calories will speed up your progress tremendously and help you achieve goals you never thought were possible.
Sit down, ask yourself some questions, calculate your maintenance calories, align your calorie intake with your goals and stay committed to the process and you WILL see results!
If you made it this far, you are already showing great signs of staying committed and achieving the body of your dreams.
So what are you waiting for, click this link, buy a scale and start your journey today!
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to leave a comment below and share your experiences/opinions on counting calories!