One of the simplest truths about fitness is if you want to lose weight, you need to be in a caloric deficit. So, you need to be burning off more calories than you are taking in.
Ergo, tracking calories can lose help you lose weight.
Still, simple truths sometimes need unpacking to help achieve actual results. So, what are the day-to-day steps for tracking calories that will help you lose weight?
The act of tracking your calories can go a long way towards achieving success. Tracking calories provides the sort of structure most people need to reach their goals. At the outset, it makes you accountable for your choices in a way that you can see, which has far more effect on your choices than just knowing what choices are “good” or “bad.”
Many of us are what is commonly referred to as emotional eaters; we often eat for reasons other than hunger, like stress, sadness, boredom or even habit. By tracking your calories, you will become more aware of your reasons for eating, and you may find it easier to curb them or make healthier choices.
In the same vein, tracking calories will help you realize where you can better spend them. For example, realizing how many calories you are drinking through flavoured lattés, juices or soft drinks can help you make the switch to black coffee, herbal tea or water. Such a switch can have you cutting 250 calories without even addressing your food choices.
It’s also important to note when you’re tracking calories that nutritional information found on the back of the package is for a specific serving size. This often trips people up as they think they’ve eaten a certain number of calories, but they’ve eaten more than two servings worth. So, be very attentive when you look at the nutritional information.
When counting calories and working out, some people are surprised to learn they aren’t eating enough calories to build muscle. To increase muscle mass, you must take in the proper amount of nutrients, so muscles can grow. Counting calories is necessary for both fat loss and muscle gain. Never forget, building muscle mass raises metabolism and burns fat.
On that note, be aware that as you continue your fitness journey – whether losing fat or gaining muscle – your caloric requirements will change along with your body. As you track your calories, you will eventually notice you’ve hit a plateau. By reviewing your calorie tracking and your results, you’ll be able to zero in on the adjustments you need to make to keep moving towards your goal.
Okay, so you’re committed. You’re going to count calories as a means towards achieving your fitness goals. What’s the best way to go about it?
The best answer is likely sitting in your pocket. Your smartphone can connect you to plenty of apps that can help you keep track. For example, MyFitnessPal will let you choose a goal and keep a running total throughout the day of how many calories are going in and how many calories are going out. There are also websites, like SuperTraker, which will do the same things.
As with anything fitness related, try to be realistic. Don’t immediately jump into a huge caloric deficit. Not only can that have negative health effects, but you are more prone to slip, less likely to achieve your goal, and far more inclined to become discouraged and give up all together.
Aim for healthy, whole foods. The caloric content isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of health and weight loss; as you become more aware of calories, also pay attention to the overall health value of the choices you make. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins is the way to go.
Lorne Marr is a fitness enthusiast and blogger. Visit his site at http://lornemarrfitafter45.ca