Is Calorie Counting Necessary To Lose Fat?
Anyone who searches the internet looking for fat loss advice or tips is likely to have come across the idea of counting calories. Some people will absolutely swear by counting every single calorie they ingest in an effort to shed the pounds. Others will argue that all you need is a sensible, healthy diet and the rest will take care of itself. So which do I think is the right way to go?
Actually, I believe that there is merit to both options. Again, like so many other fitness related topics, it boils down to the individual situation. I’ll explain more on that later. First i want to give a quick outline of what I mean by counting calories.
A calorie, as defined by the Oxford dictionary is:
‘The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water through 1 °C, equal to one thousand small calories and often used to measure the energy value of foods.’
Basically, it is a measurement of stored energy. The food that we ingest contains energy(calories) in varying amounts. Food then, after it has been processed by the body, gives us the energy for our daily tasks.
All foods are made up of what we call ‘macro-nutrients’. These nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, fats and alcohol. Each macro-nutrient contains a different number of calories per gram – Carbs and proteins contain 4 calories per gram. Fats contain 9 calories per gram and alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.
Each person requires a different amount of energy/calories to complete the various activities they do throughout each day. This amount is called your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE and is represented by a number of calories. TDEE can vary greatly from person to person depending on a whole number of factors. You can workout an estimate of your TDEE with the use of certain formulas.
In very basic terms, if you eat the same number of calories as your TDEE, you will maintain your current weight. If you eat below your total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) for a period of time, you lose weight. Eat above your TDEE and weight can be gained.
So then, what about counting calories? I said earlier that i think counting calories in some situations can be beneficial. However, I believe a person who wants to track their intake should actually concentrate more on counting macro-nutrients (carbs proteins and fats). Since each macro-nutrient makes up your total calorie intake anyway, and each is required by the body for different functions, it makes more sense to keep track of these while still eating below your TDEE to lose fat. There are guideline amounts for both protein and fats that should generally be stuck to. You can then adjust the amount of carbohydrates you eat in order ensure your calorie intake is below your TDEE. Here is a post from bodybuilding.com forum onhow to calculate your TDEE and macro-nutrient needs.
Now, tracking these macro-nutrients or ‘macros’ as i will call them from now on takes a certain degree of discipline. Once you have worked out your macro goal for each day, you need a way of tracking it. You could just look at every single label on the food you eat, weigh the food and then workout how much of each macro you are eating. You would then record this on a notepad. However, this is difficult because people should be eating whole, natural foods and many of these don’t have labels on. You would need to go to an online food database to find that info(a quick google search will find a few).
Nowadays though, there are apps such as ‘MyFitnesspal’ that make tracking macros extremely simple. You just find each food you eat on their built-in database and then add it to the in-app food diary. Even then, you do still need to weigh or measure every bit of food that you eat. This can take the joy out of eating and become a tedious task for some people. Some can become a bit obsessive over it. While other people do it happily and with great results. This is why i feel that tracking macros for some people may be a bad idea and is certainly not necessary for the average person who wants to get in good shape.
Situations when tracking macros is a good idea:
- Competitive physique athletes that want to be able to ‘fine tune’ their intake to get to the level they need.
- If you know you will be having a ‘cheat’ meal, it can be a good idea to track what you eat that day as you can try and fit that meal into your daily macro allowance.
- People that are serious about getting to a certain physique and want to be able to manipulate their macros in order to get there in the most optimal way for them.
- People that struggle with portion control. I actually do think it can be a good idea for most people at some point to track their intake for a little while at least. Tracking macros really can help people get a good idea of what their body responds to. It will also bring about an awareness of portion sizes, people will get to learn what sort of portions they should really be eating.
There are probably many more situations where tracking macros can be of benefit, I have just listed the main ones i could think of.
In summary to all of this then, no calorie counting is not necessary but tracking macros can be a useful tool in certain situations. For those that want to lose fat without tracking anything, download my free simple fat loss guide.
Apologies if this was slightly long winded, I wanted to get as much relevant info in as i could. Hopefully you will have learnt a few things from it. Let me know what you think, Leave a comment.