You must learn to count calories correctly if you’re serious about maintaining an ideal body weight or losing weight. It seems like a simple enough thing to do, but you will be surprised how many dieters miscount just how many calories they are consuming. These little errors add up eventually and become a huge blunder that usually stops their dieting progress.

It is therefore important to know how to count calories for effective weight loss.

What are calories?

Calories are the primary measure of energy, helping us to maintain essential life support functions, helping us to complete day to day tasks, and providing us with the necessary fuel for exercise.

We consume calories in the food that we eat and expend it in the form of physical activity.

There are three main sources of calories, and these are proteins, fats and carbohydrates and these three sources are known as macronutrients, with each macronutrient containing a different amount of energy per gram.

Why is it important to count calories?

It is important to count calories because the difference between the calories you consume and the calories you burn will either result in you losing, gaining or maintaining weight.

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn off, and if you are trying to gain weight, you must create a calorie surplus by eating more calories than you burn off.

If you are trying to maintain your weight, you must make sure that you are not consuming more calories than you are expending.

This ultimately is why it is important to know how to count calories properly.

Step 1 – The basics

The first step in learning how to count calories is to find out how just many calories you should eat, and this will depend on your age, gender, weight and activity level.

Here are the basic rules:

Men need more calories than women do, and people that are active need more calories than their more inactive counterparts. This is why a thirty-year-old male who exercises often will need more calories per day than a sixty-year-old woman who doesn’t get much physical activity.

A larger person will need more calories than the person with the average weight because they burn more calories.

The more active that you are, the higher your daily calorie needs. And the less active you are, the lower your daily calorie needs.

Your calorie needs also depends on your metabolic rate. Metabolism varies from individual to individual and it is affected by a host of factors such as your age, your height and weight, your gender and your physical activity habits.

Most women will require about 1,200 calories per day to maintain optimal weight while the majority of men will need between 1,500 and 1,800 calories per day to do the same.

A fitness expert recommends that everyone should eat his/her “bodyweight times 10” in calories.

These days, it is easy to determine how much calories you should be consuming per day based on your age, gender, weight and activity level. You can go online and use a calorie calculator to determine this.

Step 2 – Be prepared

Now that you know how much calories you should be consuming, you also need to know just how much calories are in each meal you consume.

Due to advances in technology, there are now thousands of apps and websites are available that help to simplify this process by providing fast and simple ways to log the food you eat. Recent research shows that people who track their food intake regularly tend to lose more weight and also maintain their weight loss better.

You can use free calorie-counting apps and websites such as My Fitness Pal, FatSecret and Cron-o-meter.

Step 3 – Weigh and measure your portions

Because we are generally not very good at estimating how much we eat, it is important to measure and record your food portions correctly. You may use scales, measuring cups or comparisons.

While scales can be time-consuming and isn’t always practical, it remains the most accurate way to determine how much you’re eating. Measuring cups are quicker and easier to use than a scale, but can still prove to be time-consuming as well.

Comparisons are much less accurate but are quick and easy, and works perfectly for the times you’re away from home.

The truth is calorie counting is not an exact science, even when you make use of weights and measure portions. But you don’t have to be exact with your measurements. You just need to ensure that you are recording your intake as accurately as possible.


Step 4 – Know the caloric content of most foods

As earlier mentioned, calories are found in proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. While one gram of protein contains 4 calories, one gram of carbohydrates also contains 4 calories, while one gram of fat is worth 9 calories.

If the food you’re eating contains 10g of protein, 20g of carbs, and 10g of fat, this means that are eating 10*4 plus 20*4 plus 10*9 calories. That equals 210 calories.

You need to be careful about recording items that have high fat and/or sugar content, such as pizza, ice cream, and oils. Never under-record these foods, as this can cause a big difference between your recorded and actual intake.

You, therefore, must understand that the quality of your diet matters a lot. For example, 50 calories of spinach will affect your body differently than 50 calories of pizza will.

Here is the caloric content of some popular foods:

  • A cup of orange juice: 112 calories
  • 1-ounce bag of chips: 117 calories
  • Full-fat ranch dressing: 128 calories
  • 1 cup of chocolate ice cream: 270 calories
  • One slice of pizza: 272 calories
  • One medium sized banana: 105 calories
  • 100 grams of strawberries: 33 calories
  • 100 grams of spinach: 23 calories
  • 100 grams of brown rice: 111 calories
  • One serving of lean beef: 250 calories

Now, go do your homework and find the caloric content of most foods that you consume.


Step 5 – Always record your snacks

A common mistake dieters make is to ignore the small snacks they eat, and these eventually add up. You, therefore, must make a habit of writing down everything.


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