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If you’ve ever embarked on a weight loss journey, you know that calories play a crucial role in achieving your goals. Understanding and tracking your calorie intake can be a game-changer if you’re looking to shed a few pounds or make a significant lifestyle change.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the basics of calorie tracking, its importance in weight loss, and how to get started on the right track.
It can be a bit tricky at first to adjust to the routine of tracking calories, but if you follow the tips covered, and stick to it for long enough, you will surely get the hang of it.
So, let’s dive in and unlock the power of calorie tracking for your weight loss success.
Calories also seen as (Cals) are simply a measure of energy, a value that is used to measure the energy present in our foods and beverages.
Nearly everything we consume has a calorie count, it is fascinating when you come to understand how to identify and estimate the calorie count of each food item you consume, and how to properly fit them into your diet.
The way you consume calories will have an effect on your body, fewer calories can lead to weight loss and too much can lead you to gain weight. In order to lose weight effectively and precisely, counting calories is a surefire approach to use.
When it comes to weight loss, tracking calories can be essential as it gives you a visual representation of what you eat and how much you eat, which helps hold you accountable to cut calories, a virtue that has been shown to result in weight loss time and time again.
Calorie tracking can work for some people, as long as it is used properly and without lying to oneself. I can personally attest to this, as it helped me lose 10kg in less than 3 months and has helped many others.
The fundamental principle of tracking calories ensures that you become aware of the calorie count in everything you eat, and outline and compare those values to your daily recommended calorie intake, a system that will surely lead to predictive weight loss.
The recommended daily calorie intake for individuals can vary based on factors such as age, gender, activity level, and overall health goals. Use this calculator to determine your calorie intake or follow this general guideline:
Sedentary (little to no exercise): 2,000-2,600 calories per day
Moderately active (exercise 3-5 times a week): 2,400-2,800 calories per day
Active (exercise 6-7 times a week): 2,800-3,200 calories per day
Sedentary (little to no exercise): 1,800-2,200 calories per day
Moderately active (exercise 3-5 times a week): 2,000-2,400 calories per day
Active (exercise 6-7 times a week): 2,400-2,800 calories per day
Subtracting about 300 calories initially from this value will reduce your daily calorie intake, which will lead to weight loss.
It’s important to note that these are general ranges and may not apply to everyone. Factors such as age, muscle mass, metabolism, and individual goals can influence calorie needs.
You can also use some calculations to get your own value using the following steps. It will take you less than a minute.
On a scale of 7 to 20 with 8 being extreme weight loss, and 20 being extreme weight gain, pick a number, this will determine your weight loss pace. A sweet spot to start from is between 13-15.
Get your weight in lbs and multiply by your selected number.
Let’s take me for example:
I weigh 172 lbs and I want to lose weight at a good pace, so I choose 13.
172 lbs X 13 = 2236 cals
This value will be my target daily calorie intake for weight loss.
Standard eating as we all know is eating whatever you want, when you want, and as much as you want without paying any attention to the nutritional value of the foods you eat. In some cases, people engage in disordered eating which tends to lead to the consumption of many calories.
You’ve tried to lose weight the traditional way of just reducing your food portions using just your head, and how long does it take before you start to indulge again, 1 week? or 2?
Tracked eating on the other hand keeps you restrained; it shows you when to stop. You get to see a numeric value of what you’ve eaten per meal, and as long as you’re being honest with yourself, sticking to those numbers will lead to weight loss.
Tracking calories for weight loss can offer several benefits, such as:
1. Increased Awareness
Calorie tracking helps you become more mindful of your food choices and portion sizes. It brings awareness to the number of calories you consume and enables you to make more informed decisions about your diet.
2. Portion Control
By tracking calories, you can better understand appropriate portion sizes and the number of calories per serving for weight loss. This helps reduce overeating and ensures you are consuming the right number of calories to achieve your desired body weight.
Counting calories can help hold you accountable for your food choices. It provides a clear picture of the type of foods you eat, their impact on your total calorie intake, and helps you stay on track with your weight loss plan.
4. Goal Setting
Tracking calories allows you to set realistic and achievable weight loss goals. By monitoring the number of calories you consume, you can make adjustments as needed to ensure you’re consistently working towards your desired outcome.
5. Identifying Problem Areas
Counting your calories helps you identify foods or behaviors that may be hindering your weight loss efforts. It enables you to pinpoint high-calorie or unhealthy choices and make necessary adjustments to create a more balanced and nutritious diet.
In order to start tracking calories efficiently, you will need the following resources:
A food tracking app – I suggest MyFitnessPal.
A food weighing scale.
It is possible to count calories without the use of a scale, but it makes it easy to track calories with a lot more accuracy.
The whole process of tracking calories may seem overwhelming and strenuous at first, but trust me, with a few tips and continuous practice you will get the hang of it, and the benefits it comes with for weight loss will be so worth it.
By this point, you should have calculated your required calorie intake for weight loss, so grab your food scale, set up your food tracking app, and let’s get into it.
Place your plate on the scale, then turn the scale on.
It’ll be reading zero, now pour an amount of food on your plate till you reach your desired weight. Could be 300g of rice or 200g of steak.
Now go through the food tracking app and search for the specific food you just weighed, make sure you specify if it’s boiled, fried, grilled, or raw, then select the matching option and adjust the weight section to the weight of your food.
Repeat the same process for all the foods you choose that will add up to not exceed your calorie intake.
By the end of the day, the total value should add up to your calculated calorie intake, if done correctly.
Eventually, this process will get easier the more you do it as you will start to have a solid idea of the weight of different foods you regularly consume, and a history of previously logged foods to choose from, reducing the stress of having to search for the exact food type every time.
Now that you have a solid understanding of what calories are and how to track them, here are some tips, best practices, and things to look out for that will certainly help in your tracking calories journey.
I can’t stress this point enough as this is the foundation for success when tracking calories. In order for you to see weight loss results, you must not lie to yourself.
Do not make it a habit to choose the lowest calorie option in the tracking app or consume extra snacks on the side and intentionally leave it out.
When you start tracking calories, you’re going to be confused initially, you will see different values for the same food item and it can be difficult to choose the correct option. With enough practice, it’ll get easier to make the right choices.
Tracking calories isn’t an exact math or science, there will be some errors due to the uniqueness of everyone’s food and the varying values. Accept this fact as part of the game and do your best to be as accurate as you can be.
A good practice that I used was to increase the calorie value of certain foods that I was not sure about. For example, if a slice of cake was shown to be 350 calories, I’d log in 400 calories just to make sure I’m not underestimating. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate.
Meal prepping can make this process so much easier. A good practice would be to plan out what you want to eat for the day, prepare, weigh, and log in each meal early in the day.
A good way to combat calorie underestimation is to eat less than your daily calorie deficit intake. Let’s say your daily calorie intake for weight loss is 2200, eating 2100 instead can help increase accuracy.
You may need to compare multiple sources for the nutritional value of some foods to reduce the margin of error.
Tracking calories can be very beneficial for people who can stick with the process long enough to lose weight. I would suggest using this method only for a specific time to achieve a specific goal.
It helps you create a calorie deficit by first showing you the number of calories you’re consuming, then it adjusts that number, so you know how many calories to eat each day to achieve weight loss.
The fundamental principles of tracking calories help increase food awareness, improves portion control, holds you accountable, and help you see trends and issues you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.
A combination of all these benefits is guaranteed to lead to predictable and controlled weight loss.