It seems to be one of the biggest debates when it comes to nutrition; whether or not you should count calories, or do calories even count?
Well, lets first get something cleared up. Calories definitely do count. In fact it is pretty much irrefutable when you look at the science that you need to be in a caloric deficit in order to lose weight.
There is however a few things you need to be aware of:
- Just because you are in a caloric deficit does not guarantee you will in fact lose weight.
- Weight loss and fat loss are not necessarily the same thing. So simply looking for weight loss is not a good idea.
- There are some limitations to the practice of calorie counting.
- While you should be aware of how much you are consuming to optimise results, counting calories is not the only way to do this.
Before you start even counting calories though there is one important consideration you need to make.
I consider it extremely important for long-term success.
That is, do not try and attempt something you are not willing to do. Nor, from a coach’s point of view, should you expect a client to do something they are not willing to do. This goes for the nutritional plan, training and lifestyle behaviours.
So the question must be asked before you go about counting calories; Do you really want to go through the process of counting calories in the first place?
Christian Thibadeau talks about if a client is more dopamine dominant then counting calories will cause more stress whereas if some one is very anally retentive then counting calories could be a good thing.
What I have found is that most people do not enjoy counting calories at all. Those that do I believe fit into one of the following three categories:
- Bodybuilders and physique models who need to know and be able to adjust precisely what they are eating. For these people I often get them to count calories and it makes my job as a Coach somewhat easier.
- People who are statistical by nature such as engineers, accountants, or mathematicians. They like to know exactly what is going on which is cool.
- People who simply want to cheat and eat crap. They believe that as long as they don’t exceed their calorie quota they will be fine. Unfortunately these people are often not that healthy nor have as good a physique as they could if their focus was more towards quality foods that are less inflammatory for the body.
So, if you are happy to go through the process of counting calories then that’s great for you! When done right it does work but if you are not happy doing it or simply do not have the time then don’t do it, it’s not the only way to track how much you need to eat.
The process I prefer (maybe because I am somewhat dopamine dominant) is to work with portion sizes. Weighing you food is a hell of a lot easier and can get you just as good results. This is the approach we used for ICN Pro Men’s Physique Mr Australia Chad Thompson and he turned out all right.
I would recommend getting an experienced and qualified Coach / Nutritionist with proven results to help you work out your calorie and protein quota based on your lean mass, then determine the ratio of carbs and fats that would be best as an energy source. This should be based on your body fat, lifestyle, current training program and past nutrition.
Regular check ins and measurements will help you to tweak and manage dietary choices along the way and keep you on the road to success.
I hope this helps and wish you all the best.