A huge issue that many people face when trying to lose weight is the effort it takes to track your calories.
Some folks believe it is simply too much or too difficult to begin tracking your daily caloric intake so they just guess.
If you’re one of these people and you’re losing weight and staying consistent then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing.
However, if you’re guessing on your caloric intake and you’re not losing weight at a slow steady pace, then I encourage you to just try tracking your calories.
Like most things in life, it might be difficult tracking your calories for the first week, a few weeks, or even the first month. But, as you learn what you’re doing and begin to understand the process better, you’ll be sure to start seeing results.
Not only will you begin seeing results, but tracking your calories will become easy for you.
In this article, we’re going to break down why you should track your calories and how you should track your calories.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
Should you count calories
The short answer is yes. If you’re a beginner to dieting, you will more likely than not struggle to try to figure out what it means to eat in a caloric deficit.
Let’s begin there. If you already know all you need to about counting calories check out my post on fasting for weight loss https://www.thesmartconsumer.com/intermittent-fasting
What is a caloric deficit?
A caloric deficit simply means taking in fewer calories than your body naturally uses in a day. By eating fewer calories than your body naturally needs in a day, you will be burning calories!
It’s definitely not rocket science to figure this out.
For example, if my body naturally burns around 2,000 calories in a day and I eat 2,200 calories, is this a calorie deficit?
Nope, your body only burned 2,000 calories, so I would have actually eaten in a caloric surplus of 200 calories.
What about if I eat 1,600 calories a day and my body’s natural rate of burning calories is 2,000 calories?
Then, you FINALLY DID IT! You ate in a caloric deficit and burned 400 extra calories.
Now add this up over a week, you will be burning fat and losing weight at a slow and steady pace! This is exactly what you want when dieting.
Do you have to track your calories to experience success on a diet?
No, but it will tell you in your meeting your calorie goals.
If you’re experienced enough to make educated guesses on how many calories are in the foods you’re eating, then you don’t have to track them. You’ll know if you’re being accurate based on weight loss or weight gain over time.
However, if you’re new to dieting, have a hard time losing weight or overeat, then track your calories. It’s not hard to do.
By tracking your calories you will be sure that you’re doing all that you can do help improve your physique.
What should my calorie deficit be
Before you begin tracking your calories you need to determine what your calorie needs are based on your body and activity level. The ideal calorie deficit is between 300-500 calories a day. A pound of fat requires a deficit of about 3500 calories. If you eat too little attempting to use too large of deficit then your body will slow down the fat burning, it will literally go into fat saving mode and your metabolism will drop significantly. Experts recommend that you should not go below 1200 calories a day in order to still maintain proper nutrients like calcium and magnesium. Some people are able to do 1000 calories deficits and be just fine others will only be able to handle 500 calories less than normal.
For those of you new to dieting slower is better and proven to have long term results. I would recommend always starting with 300-500 calories a day deficit and then adjust every few weeks based on how you feel and weight loss. As you lose weight your calorie needs change and this also need to change in your calculations every few weeks.
Keep in mind that your calorie deficit does not have to come from just cutting your calories. You can add exercise just as easy to create a deficit.
How much of a calorie deficit do you need to lose 2 pounds a week?
Using the 3500 calories in a pound rule. Then you need to create a deficit of 1000 calories a day. This can be a combination of exercise and cutting calories. 2 lbs a week is doable, but I would start with the goal of a pound a week. The harder you make it the more likely you are to burn out before you meet your goals.
What calorie deficit to lose 1 pound a week
Just 500 calories less a day through diet and exercise should result in about 1 pound of weight loss a week. A great way to add activity to create a calorie deficit is to just start walking every day. If your ready to do some serious cardio check out this post of rowing. https://www.thesmartconsumer.com/rowing-machine-buyers-guide
The reason I so often share personal mistakes I have made is that it allows you to learn from them without experiencing the mistake yourself.
Personally, I still track my calories to this day just to ensure that I’m doing getting close to my caloric goal. Sometimes it can be very tricky to guess exactly how much of a certain food you’re eating.
When I first started tracking my calories, I measured most foods but not all. I assumed that foods like ketchup, taco sauce, cheeses, etc. didn’t have to be tracked. Little did I know, over a weeks’ time of not tracking certain foods like this, I was not even close to hitting my goals.
Or, if I simply had a few chips multiple times a day and didn’t track it, this really added up over the week and didn’t help me reach my goals. Even if you’re just having half a cookie or a few chips, make it a habit to keep track of this.
By tracking your foods exactly, you will have an incredible amount of success on your weight loss journey. The best part; tracking your foods is NOT hard to do as long as you follow the tips below.
Best way to track calories
The most accurate way to track calories will be to keep a log. Tracking your calories carbs, fat, and protein is by far the best way to track your food intake. If all you care about is calories then keeping a running number in your text messages or notes would probably be the easiest. However, if your tracking all your macronutrients then a phone app is easier than any paper log.
The easiest way to count calories
There are literally dozens of calories counting apps. Some you have to pay for some are free. The ones you have to pay for offer more features and in my opinion are well worth it.
1) Use a Fitness App to track calories
My first tip is to download some type of fitness or calorie tracking app on your phone.
The app that I use is myfitness pal.
This is a free app that you can download right from your phones app store. You can buy the premium version and get more features. That’s what I do.
How will this app help you?
This app will help you meet your caloric goals in a few ways.
Calculate your calorie need with the app
First, if you’re unsure how to set the number of calories you need to eat in a day to lose weight, it has custom features that set your caloric intake for you. Or, you can read my article here to set your macros using a more accurate calculation.
Either way, you can enter a certain number of calories as your daily goal or let it calculate it for you.
How to use myfitnesspal
Myfitnesspal is also helpful because it has a bar code scanner to allow you to scan your foods before you eat them! All you have to do is measure the amount of the food you’re eating, then scan the food package and enter the correct amount that you want to eat!
You will find that this app is extremely helpful as you start to explore its features!
2) Measure Your Food!
I’ve mentioned a few times that it is important to measure your food, but I haven’t explained how yet.
When you pair an app like myfitness pal with the properly measured food, YOU CANNOT FAIL!
To start, I want you to go out and buy a food scale.
Food scales are cheap and you shouldn’t have a hard time finding one on Amazon or in-store (Find listings here)
Now, check your food packages and look at how many grams or ounces each serving of food comes out to be.
For example, let’s say 4 oz of chicken is 120 calories.
What do you do?
Directions to using your food scale: Put a plate or bowl on your food scale, zero out the scale (so you don’t accidentally measure the dish) and simply add your food!
It is as simple as this!
Then using your app, scan the food packages bar code and enter 4 oz (if you measured out 4 oz).
I use a food scale for every single thing that enters my stomach.
It seriously is SO EASY!
Some folks become very intimidated when they hear they have to use a food scale but it takes almost no effort at all.
One of the best parts about using an app like myfitness pal, is that after measuring your food accurately and entering your food into the app, it will count down how many calories you have left to eat for each day, and even show your protein, carbs, and fats intake.
If you track all of the food that you eat and hit your caloric deficit, you will see results.
How Do You Know If It’s Working?
If you’ve successfully set up a caloric deficit for yourself, if you’re measuring out your food on a food scale, and if you’re tracking your calories using a fitness app, you should be experiencing success.
How do you know if its working?
How do you know if you’re eating the right amount of a calories and losing fat?
There are three main ways to track your bodies fat loss.
First but not most important, is to weigh yourself on a scale.
In order to weigh yourself properly, make sure to weigh yourself multiple times a week at the same time of day, without consuming liquids or foods, and without a bulk of clothing on.
Naturally, your weight will fluctuate day to day but by taking the average of how much you weighed throughout the week, you should have a good idea of how much you weight.
**Things to consider**
However, do consider that just because your weight went up on the scale does not mean that you gained fat. Muscle weights more than fat and you could have either put on muscle weight, drank a lot of water the day before, or even consumed a lot of sodium the day before.
Each of these could account for a spike in weight so don’t take it too hard!
2) Measure Yourself!
Secondly, you can track your progress by measuring yourself!
This might be one of the most accurate ways of tracking fat loss and all you need is measuring tape.
By measuring yourself, I mean using the measuring tape to measure the circumference of your belly at your belly button and at 1 inch above your belly button. By taking accurate measurements at least once a week you will be able to track your progress quite effectively over time.
You can use your fitness app to enter your measurement information so you can keep track! You can also do this with your weight!
Not only can you measure your belly for fat loss, but you can measure your chest, biceps, thighs and more to track muscle growth or decline. Don't have soft flexible measureing tape? They are super cheap, here is one on Amazon
Lastly, taking photos of yourself regularly is a great way to track your progress.
Not everyone will be able to notice slight changes in your appearance over time but you know your body better than anyone else!
Take photos regularly and focus on the changes that you see. Hopefully, they will be positive results and you’ll see fat loss where you need it!
Photos can also be tracked in your fitness app as to measure progress over time.
If you’re not yet experiencing any results and you’ve been hitting your caloric goals for 2-4 weeks, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.
Perhaps you’re not tracking all of your foods, perhaps you didn’t set your caloric deficit properly.
If you’re not having any results, I recommend reaching out to me or a friend so you can talk through your strategy.
Need inspiration for protein shakes, try these that mix in the power of moringa
Get After It!
Why should I track calories?
There is no simple answer.
In fact, not everyone needs to track their calories. If you’re experienced in fitness and nutrition and you’re having great results, it might not be necessary at all.
However, for beginners, I highly recommend tracking your calories to ensure results.
By now, you should have the proper knowledge to get started on your goal to fat loss.
Let’s recap on how to get started.
1) Download a fitness app and track your caloric intake
2) Buy a food scale and measure your foods accurately
3) Track your results
The keys to burning fat and reaching your physique goals are paired with using this information correctly and getting proper exercise!
Do you track your calories?
Is it working? Are you seeing results?
Comment below and let us know!
Thanks for reading,
written by Russell