HOW TO CALCULATE & COUNT CALORIES
To be successful in any fat loss or a muscle building endeavor, It is very important that you keep track of your calories. There are a few ways to do this, you can write them down or you can you an app, or a program online. If you get an app, the one that I recommend is My Macros, if you have an iPhone, which was designed by a professional bodybuilder, so you know it will be accurate in tracking the food! You can add food, it is easy to access your frequently eaten foods, great reporting, you can track your weight, you can even share via Twitter or Facebook. I highly recommend it if you want to track your meals on your phone. Currently it is only available on iPhone/iPad. For Android I recommend Calorie Counter by MyFitnessPal.
If you will be tracking your calories on a computer, there are the following sites that will help you:
You can create a profile, and just log in and track your calories. They have food databases making it easy to find something that doesn’t have the nutritional value on it, like fruits or vegetables.
I tracked my calories with pen and paper until I purchased the My Macros app, and I now use that. Pen and paper is perfectly fine, just be prepared to either get a book such as The Complete Book of Food Counts or to run to the computer and Google some nutritional info. I can’t stress this enough, YOU MUST COUNT/TRACK YOUR CALORIES IN ORDER TO GET THE RESULTS YOU WANT. I know that it isn’t that fun, especially at first, and it can take a while, but you’ll get the hang of things and before long it won’t be adding hardly any extra time.
A way to speed it up is to eat about the same size meal every time you eat. So, for example, if you added up all your calories, and you figured that you needed 300 calories, 10 fat, 32 carbs, and 20 protein at each of your meals, then it is quite easy to just make sure for that meal you hit those calories and macros. As opposed to looking back at your log, and trying to figure out what you need to eat to stay on track for your calories for the day. This is my preferred method, and allows me to track in my head when needed. However, I highly, highly recommend you are logging it, either on the computer, or on your phone, or pen and paper, at least initially, sound good?
HOW TO READ A NUTRITION LABEL
To count calories, you will need to be able to read a food label. Here is a food label:
We will go down the label from top to bottom. First look under the heading NUTRITION FACTS, and you’ll see Serving Size 4oz. This is critical to know. So many foods that are prepackaged are sold in a way that makes you think they are one serving, and we eat the whole thing, well, guess what, they are 2, 3, or even 4 servings! It is extremely important that you purchase a nice digital food scale so you can measure your food. Amazon.com is one of the best places to purchase them.
Weighing your food is always more accurate than measuring your food. Just check out this video from Youtube showing the potential difference between the two. Go down just a bit, and we see a 4oz serving is 280 calories, pan down a bit more and we see that it has 14g of fat. You need to determine if you can fit 14g of fat into your macro goal of fats for the day. If you get 45g of fats in a day and eating this would be 14g of fat, then you would need to watch what eat the rest of the day so you stay within your goal. We go down the nutrition label a bit more and it has 13g of carbs (1 being fiber, some people subtract the fiber from the total carb amount because the body processes it differently, but I don’t think its enough of a difference and don’t think it’s worth the complexity it can potentially add), finally down further it has 24g of protein.
If this was my meal, and I was tracking in by hand, then I would write something like the following:
FOOD NAME: 280-14-13-24
Then I would track like that for all of my meals.
Tracking your calories is extremely important when trying to lose fat/gain muscle. If you do not, then you won’t know what exactly you are eating. If you don’t know exactly what you are eating, you won’t get the results that you are aiming for.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, or any questions you may have.