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Should you count calories?

Posted by: Patrick Catanzariti on May 31, 2016

Should you count calories?

Just like almost every question relating to health and fitness, the answer is almost always ‘it depends’. A lot of people will say counting calories is obsessive or something of that nature but counting calories can be a great tool to teach yourself about nutrition in way that is going to be beneficial to your health, as well as fast track you to any fitness goals you may have. What I encourage, is using it as a tool to educate yourself just like anything else so you can later apply what you have learnt.

Why do I recommend counting calories

*to ensure your diet matches your goals eg losing weight

*to ensure you are not over or under eating

*to ensure you are getting adequate nutrition from proteins, carbs, fats, micronutrients and fibre

*to educate yourself on the calories and nutrition of different foods

*It will encourage discipline

*You can fit in “unhealthier” type foods in moderation to your diet

If this ends up being something you enjoy and can sustain then by all means keep on doing it but for myself, I no longer count calories and do not need to.

Why not counting calories often fails

For an average person who has goals of losing weight you will usually find they will go from an unhealthy diet to restricting themselves to a list of foods that they have been told will help them lose weight fast. The problem is they can’t sustain this diet for more than a few weeks or months and even if they do lose weight, they will likely regain it all back once they return to their regular diet.

It doesn’t work in the long term because of the fact they have never educated themselves properly on nutrition and only have “diet mode” and “unhealthy mode” instead of finding a good balance of nutrition that is sustainable.

When not counting calories will work well

For some people, not counting calories works fine and this is usually someone that bases their diet around a lot of vegetables and lower calorie foods, which will leave much less room for error in estimating portions. For example whether you have 100g or 300g of celery the calorie difference is so small that it is insignificant. On the other hand 10g or 30g of peanut butter is going to be a big difference calorie wise. If higher calorie foods are something you would like to include in your diet in moderation, then counting calories will allow you to do this without over consuming as well as teaching you which foods you need to watch out for on over consuming and which you do not.

 

What I recommend

I recommend for someone new to health and fitness to count calories and track what they eat using either a diary or an app like myfitnesspal. This way you can see exactly what you are putting into your body on daily basis and figure out an average per day of what you are eating and then adjust accordingly. Pay attention to the different foods you regularly eat and the nutrition that comes with those foods.

Even if you do not want to count calories, try and stick with it for as long as possible as you will continue to learn the calories and macronutrients of more and more foods as well as getting a feel for portion sizes and their caloric value. I did this for a year or so and now do not count my calories as I feel I can ‘eye ball’ my portions pretty accurately because I have self-educated. Of course I do still eat out and indulge in moderation but what I have learnt has helped me a lot.

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