Calories and their true importance

A calorie is the unit of measurement used to know the amount of energy provided by a food. This energy is necessary to sustain the functions of our organism.

And although the term calorie is a neutral term, calories are currently viewed with a certain negative connotation, since when we ingest more calories than we need to support a daily activity are stored as fat and... horror, we got fat!

how to count calories

Why count calories

First of all you should know that you don't need to count calories to be at your weight, to lose weight or gain muscle mass; but it is a very useful tool to achieve your goals.

However, if you are not reaching your goals by following the intuitive method or you are a very methodical person, counting what you eat will be the best way to achieve them, as many people underestimate the amount they eat. 

Keeping a diary helps them to be more aware of what they actually eat in total.

"Only what is measured can be improved."

To this benefit of objectivity is added another one where our subconscious acts.

Many times when we feel observed or evaluated, such as in the process of counting calories, we strive to behave better.

This can be an incentive not to deviate from the diet and consequently obtain better results.

how to count calories

How to count calories

Counting calories can be a bit overwhelming at the beginning, but you don't need a master's degree, with a few basic notions you will learn quickly.

You will find that at first it takes longer, but with practice you will soon reduce the time you need.

We will start by looking at food calories in general and then at the calories we need in particular.

Food calories

Thanks to the fear that the food industry has spread about fat, practically everyone knows that it is the macronutrient with the most calories.

Let's get to know all the macronutrients (nutrients that supply most of the body's metabolic energy).

Our body also needs micronutrients (vitamins and minerals among others) but in smaller quantities. You can read more about micronutrients at this article.

Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram

Carbohydrates are our body's preferred source of energy. 

High carbohydrate foods: sugar, cereals, legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables, sugar, cereals, legumes, fruits, starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, yucca, ...).

Protein: 4 calories per gram

The main function of proteins is tissue formation.

Foods high in protein: meat, fish and eggs.

Fats: 9 calories per gram

They are the most concentrated source of energy and are involved in vital processes in our body. 

Foods rich in fats: oils, nuts, avocado...

how to count calories

How many calories do I need?

To customize your diet this is the first thing we have to know, the number we want to reach according to your goal: lose or gain weight.

For this we need to know your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which are the calories your body needs daily at rest. It is the minimum to maintain the basic functions of the organism.

If you want to do the calculation yourself, follow these formulas. If you plan to use an app, as I recommend below, just enter your data and the app will do the calculations for you.

TMB

Male: 66.473 + (13.751 x weight in kg) + (5.0033 x height in cm) - (6.55 x age in years)

Woman: 665.51 + (9.463 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) - (4.6756 x age in years)

Once you have this minimum resting calorie figure you need to add your physical activity to this equation:

  • BMR x 1,375 if you have a sedentary lifestyle or light exercise up to 3 times per week.
  • BMR x 1.55 if you perform moderate exercise 3 to 5 times per week. 
  • BMR x 1,725 if you train intensively more than 5 times per week.

If you have analyzed the formulas you will have been able to appreciate that they give us more calories with greater weight, greater height and greater physical activity. But the older you get the calories decrease. 

Age and height we cannot change, but there are other factors that depend on us.

After calculating these two formulas, we will obtain the maintenance calories

  • If we want to increase the weight we should add a 10-15%. 
  • If we want to lose weight we should decrease by 15-20%.

How I distribute my macros

Once we have the target amount of calories we want to know how much should be from carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Both when it comes to gaining muscle mass (weight gain objective) and when we want to lose weight (maintaining muscle mass) it is very important to important to ensure protein intake.

From this point on, the rest of the calories are not so important whether they are distributed more or less in carbohydrates or fats. Lo The main goal will be to achieve this caloric deficit or surplus..

In the case of weight loss, it may be more beneficial to lean toward a higher fat percentage. The ketogenic diet (high fat consumption) has advantages for those who want to lose weight. Frequency of meals and supplements are even less relevant.

Calorie diary

Let's take an example:

Female: 665.51 + (9.463 x 60 kg) + (1.8 x 156.5 cm) - (4.6756 x 33) = 665.51 + 567.78 + 281.7 - 154.3 = 1360 Kcal

TMB x 1.55 = 1360 x 1.55= 2109

Weight loss target: 2109 x 0.80 = 1687 kcal.

Although any app can calculate this data, it seems that it is more reliable to do it this way, since some do not take into account all the variables.

However, it is still an approximation to work with. If the formula gives you the number 1600, but with those calories you gain weight, you will have to adjust to lower that number. 

The advantage is that since you have been measuring what you eat, you know the reality in a quantifiable way and can act to improve.

You will need:

  1. Scale

It is essential to have a scale to weigh the food you eat. I recommend this battery-free scale from prozis. You will save on refills and it is much more eco friendly. 

Foods are weighed raw before cooking.

Battery-free scale

calorie counting scale

*Use coupon ANABELPUMP for a -10% discount.

  1. App

Before these calculations were done by hand or with an excel, now it is much easier with any free app such as: MyFitnessPal or Fatsecret.

From here you will have to enter the weight of what you eat and see how you approach that objective figure. If you lack protein you know what type of food you need to increase and so on with the rest of the variables.

At first you may struggle to reach that goal, but you will soon see where you need to adjust your diet.

  1. Being methodical

If you are willing to count calories it will only make sense if you count them all. Many nutritionists agree that you can skip the green leafy vegetables, but everything else will be necessary. Otherwise, there will be no point in making this effort because you won't get a true picture of your diet.

When you are in this process it is usual that most meals are eaten at home or that even if you have to eat out you take your food prepared and, therefore, you have been able to weigh it and write it down. If you eat out one day, it will be enough to write down an approximation.

  1. If you need assistance

If you want help in preparing your food, I recommend Fitness Power Food.

Here you can order according to your macros customizing the quantities as you need. It is healthy food that is sent to your home in tuppers, ready to go directly to the microwave or to keep up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Why not count calories forever

Not all calories are equal

Many times focusing only on numbers misses the real goal of the diet, nutrition with food.

This is what happens with those who follow the IIFYM diet (if it fits your macros). In this diet any meal will do if like a puzzle you end up achieving the target figure regardless of the quality of the food.

Paleo diet followers, on the other hand, prioritize the nutritional value of food. Every food you choose to eat is an investment in how you feel today, and in your health tomorrow.

calories how to count

Example:

If within your macros you can consume a 400 kcal donut, the problem is that most of these are empty of nutrients so you are missing the opportunity to give your body what it really needs to maintain its functions.

And not only that, calories impact the functioning of our hormones.

A meal high in sugars such as a doughnut will trigger a different hormonal cascade than if you eat real food: insulin spike, sugar crash, low satiety, increased appetite...

It is worth remembering that the example does not apply to the consequences of eating a donut sporadically one day, but to eating it more or less routinely just because it fits into your macros.

You won't always be on a diet

After a period of weight or volume loss, it is advisable to return to maintenance calories. 

If our eating is based on real food we should be able to re-read the real hunger and satiety signals our body sends us.

Generate problems in relation to food

After some time weighing and entering food into the app, you gain awareness of what you eat and are able to determine at a glance what your portion of food is.

In the long run, it is more convenient not to have to constantly weigh food. In addition, it has been shown that certain people can be negatively affected in their relationship with food and develop eating disorders.

It is a simplistic view of health

Our weight and our health in general does not depend only on how much you eat, how much you spend, how much you gain or lose.

We live in a modern society far from everything our body expects from us. If you want to improve your overall health, you also have to take stress into account, circadian rhythmspersonal relationships...

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