Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
Tips for Counting Calories
I’M counting calories at the moment – I’ve got some weight and body composition goals for this year and exercise alone isn’t the answer – so this topic is in my head a lot. In fairness, it’s a good time to try. One reason why counting calories is a problem for a lot of people is having to estimate calories when eating out… but that isn’t a problem right now. I’d never recommend it long term but short to medium term it can be very educational. Several of my clients are trying too and our check ins this month have been full of, “I can’t believe how many calories there were in it!” and “that’s one hundred grams?! I’ve been way overdoing it!” Let’s talk about some of the pitfalls in more detail.
Don’t mow the lawn while the house is on fire
If all a person eats are large breakfast rolls for breakfast/lunch and takeaways for dinner almost every day of the week then counting calories wouldn’t be the first thing I’d recommend, nor would it be necessary to likely make some pretty meaningful changes in health markers or body composition. Worrying about small details when there are some obvious big wins that could be achieved first doesn’t make sense.
Snacking can ruin your dinner
But not in the way you’re thinking. If you only have so many calories for the day, and you snack, then those calories can’t be used elsewhere which means your dinner will need to be smaller. If you’re like me and prefer large meals then stopping snacking may help in this regard. It’s a case of: there’s only so much room in the budget so be careful what you spend it on. If you have limited calories due to fat loss goals: Think carefully about which you prefer, snacking or larger meals, because both may not be possible.
Eat more vegetables
We all know we should eat our vegetables. If you’re like me you actually don’t like them very much but finding ways to make them more appealing (tip: “Aromat” is amazing) can be hugely beneficial when counting calories for fat loss. Most vegetables have very low calories per serving so can be used to bulk up the volume of food in a meal… even if they aren’t exactly what you’d like to be eating. If you have limited calories due to fat loss goals: Veggie’s volume to calorie ratio is useful and they’re needed for health.
Drinks have to be counted
The reality is everything has to be counted but drinks sometimes get forgotten. A milky takeaway coffee can have a couple of hundred calories in it (and don’t get me started on the desserts in a cup some places serve). The calories from wine aren’t “empty” because they don’t count, they’re “empty” because they don’t have any real nutritional value. A full sugar 500ml bottle of coke has similar calories in it to a Mars bar. If you have limited calories due to fat loss goals: Think before you drink them.
If you go over you go over
There will be times when you go over budget or you consume something you don’t really want to log. This is ok as long as it doesn’t happen so often as to stall progress. But log it. If you don’t log it you can’t learn from it. It’s all a constant learning experience. Start adhering to the budget again from the very next meal.
It isn’t required for weight management
As with most things in the health and fitness industry: it’s not for everyone. The main driver behind losing or gaining weight is energy balance. Calories in vs calories out. And calorie counting is just one method that can help with creating the desired imbalance, there are many others. As I’ve stated calorie counting can be a very educational tool. However if counting calories would be detrimental to your health in some other way it isn’t worth harming one aspect of health (mental health for example) in order to improve another aspect. Mind yourself. Stay safe. Have a great week.