How To Lose Weight Counting Calories – Am I Really Teaching This Stuff?
You may be thinking right now that you’ve read on this blog that I DON’T count calories. Why would I write a post on how to lose weight counting calories if I don’t do it myself?
A few weeks ago I started out on a quest to get ripped … or at least a whole lot closer. There is a new workout on the horizon called Visual Impact Cardio. As with all of the workouts that I recommend on my site, I like to know if they actually work BEFORE I recommend them. I have been following this new program for almost three weeks now as my personal review of Visual Impact Cardio to see if it works. I’ll post my results after another month or so.
Since I wanted to give this cardio program a fair shot I decided that I needed to make sure that I was fair to the writer. I needed to MAKE SURE that I was eating within the recommend boundaries for a good weigh loss strategy.
How To Lose Weight Counting Calories
In order to follow the program’s guidelines I decided it was time to start counting calories … at least while on the program. To be honest, I have lost plenty of weight in the past eating loosely, drinking beer and NOT counting calories just by following the Eat Stop Eat protocol.
For this test though, I decided to learn how to lose weight counting calories. In order to make this happen I needed to figure out the right amount of calories that I should eat to make my weight loss as effective as possible.
In my last post I outlined a VERY effective formula to figuring out how many calories you should eat per day.
Eat 10-12 calories per pound of your GOAL body weight, per day.
This is the calorie formula that I am following right now and the results have been very good. Please note though, this is an aggressive approach to counting calories for weight loss. There are other approaches that you can take.
Your Basal Metabolic Rate
In order to know just how many calories YOUR body needs to maintain, you need to identify your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. There are several methods and theories on how to do this. I personally like the calculator here. <– click there, enter your info, come back.
Ready? Okay. Now that you have your BMR we can talk about how counting calories can help to lose weight.
Depending upon what kind of shape you are in you may have noticed that your BMR is quite low.
If you are an “average” male at 5’10,” weigh 180 lbs and are 30 years old then your BMR is 1,869 calories. This means that your body will burn 1,869 calories without even exercising. Pretty cool, right? Almost. The downside is that the average male consumes much more calories than this each day.
In order to lose weight, you must create a calorie DEFICIT. That simply means that you have to eat fewer calories than you burn.
How Many Calories Are You Eating?
Knowing how many calories you are currently eating is a HUGE step in the right direction. In order to lose weight counting calories you have to know how many calories you consume on a normal day. Say that you have a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.
Breakfast – 700 calories
- Egg & Cheese Omelet
- 2 pieces of toast with butter
- 1 cup of coffee with cream & sugar
Lunch – 800 calories
Dinner – 1,300 calories
- French Fries
Total calories – 2,800
Now I realize that the everyday meal plan does not look like this. However, after you add in snacks and anything else, this calorie count is not unheard of … it’s right in there for many Americans. Plus, you could EASILY make each of these meals contain an even higher amount calories.
According to this model, the average male eating like this could gain over 1/4 pound each day … totaling 2 pounds a week.
How Many Calories Should You Be Eating
In order to combat this eating lifestyle, the average male would need to burn about 1,000 calories on top of his BMR each day just to maintain. That’s quite a lot of exercise. If you’re doing just cardio, that would be almost 2 hours EACH day … far too much time on the treadmill for me!
Instead of trying to out-exercise a poor diet, it is MUCH more efficient, and healthy, to get your diet in order first. You could stick to eating at your BMR and then exercise to lose any additional weight … not a horrible plan, but neither is it an extremely efficient plan. Instead, you should create your initial calorie deficit with your diet.
By eating 500 calories under your BMR everyday you could lose 1 pound (of fat) a week.
500 calories X 7 days = 3,500 calories (1 pound of fat)
That’s really a pretty solid number and the overall weight you lose will be more. However, that is a pretty low amount of calories to eat for an extended time.
Again, for the “average” male, that would mean eating 1,369 calories per day. While that is a far cry from starving, it is more sustainable to eat a bit more. At this height and age, depending upon muscle base, a healthy weight could be anywhere from 160 – 170 pounds. So instead of eating 500 calories below BMR, this guy could eat 1,600 calories per day (according to the formula below) and exercise for the additional fat loss.
10 calories X 160 pounds = 1,600 calories per day
So really, counting calories CAN help you to ensure weight loss. This is a time-tested model to lose weight and it works. Unfortunately, it can get old. Unless you are on a deadline or trying to prepare for a vacation or other event, I suggest just counting calories for a couple weeks. You will learn a lot about what you eat and how much you eat. After doing this for a while you will be able to gauge where you are at for the day.
If you are like me, and probably a ton of other people out there, and really don’t like counting every calorie you eat, I strongly recommend the lifestyle diet of Eat Stop Eat. This approach is much easier to sustain over the long haul since you are not as worried about how many calories you eat each day. Instead, you are going to focus more on how many calories you eat throughout the week.
Great Resource For Counting Calories
If you’re ready to jump in and and start tracking your calories there are a few things to remember. Now you know how to lose weight counting calories but you still need to make sure that you eat wholesome and nutritious foods since you are going to be eating a lot less. Limiting the calories is good … limiting your vitamins and other healthy nutrients is not so good.
I personally find that a low calorie, low carb, high protein and high fat diet works great. In order to make this VERY simple and easy to track I use www.myfitnesspal.com. There are several of these types of websites out there but this one is cool because you can get the app on your phone … and it’s free.
So that’s how to lose weight counting calories. Eat A LOT of green veggies (they’re virtually calorie free and they fill you up). Stick to this plan for a few weeks, maybe longer, and soon you’ll be able to do this in your sleep.
Just from the last few weeks I can already guesstimate (quite accurately) how many calories are in most meals.
January 31, 2012 @ 11:57 am
Nice post. And I really dig the design of your site!
January 31, 2012 @ 12:00 pm
Thanks Chris, I appreciate the compliments!
George Super BootCamps
January 31, 2012 @ 12:24 pm
This is just my experience, for what it’s worth, but I have repeatedly found that my fat loss is most effective when I track my calories.
That said, I do find that I get pretty good at guestimating my calories once I’ve been tracking for a couple of weeks (and I appreciate that all forms of counting are actually guestimates!).
I think the key, as with most things, is not to get hung up on it, or become dependent on it for success. We all have to be careful that calorie counting doesn’t become a crutch for us to lean on to ensure that we eat the right amounts of foods at the right time!
Keep up the (calorie counting:) good work.
George Super Boot Camps
January 31, 2012 @ 2:02 pm
Yep … my fat loss over the last few weeks has been incredible. I credit Rusty’s cardio program (after all that’s what I’ve been following) along with the calorie counting-diet I’m following. I could not have achieved the results I have without either one of those, but in the end I could lose weight without doing cardio … but probably not without eating right.
Half Meal Habit
January 31, 2012 @ 12:45 pm
Hey Kevin, Great post. Believe it or not, I got great results without counting calories. I ate my favorite foods, I just ate LESS. I admit there are a lot of people who can count calories and lose weight. They need that feeling of accomplishment to keep on going. Personally, I HATED that daily chore of looking up the food I was eating, figuring out my serving size, etc. I just came up with a plan that worked really well for me. It’s easy and it’s a great lifestyle change. I’d love your thoughts on it. Thanks!
January 31, 2012 @ 1:56 pm
I totally agree with you. That’s how I NORMALLY approach my dieting … that and following Eat Stop Eat.
For the last few weeks though I’ve been counting calories because I wanted to follow Rusty’s advice in his book so that I could give it a thorough review.
I’m with you on the “Half Meal Habit” for sure! That is a GREAT lifestyle “diet” … I do feel that it is beneficial to focus on macronutrients (and calories) as well though. It’s all good, just depends upon what you like and can stick with.
Half Meal Habit
February 14, 2012 @ 10:11 am
I’m at a point now where I am back to briefly looking at how many calories are in my meals. Getting an approximation helps me to make sure I’m still on track. I think if people have the time to keep track of calories, they should! It teaches you–and shocks you–how many calories are in food! Thanks, man!
February 14, 2012 @ 3:28 pm
Yeah, it’s definitely a good idea to do for a while at least … this way you KNOW where you are at.
If you are maintaining your weight or not concerned with dropping X amount of pounds in X days though, simply eating less is great and that’s how I plan on managing my diet once I’m through cutting this round.
Mitchell - Home Fitness Manual
January 31, 2012 @ 12:55 pm
Kevin, I try to keep track of my calories at least once a month, usually for the first five days of the month to make sure that I’m staying on target with my goals. Calories are an important component to building muscle, or for fat loss. The main thing I’m usually watching for is to make sure I’m getting plenty of protein, and plenty of veggies. This along with the right cardio plan can really blast off some major amounts of fat.
January 31, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
That’s a good idea to count for a week once a month. What I found is that I was actually eating too little … I guess I was a little over-zealous. Thanks for the tip!
Dave - Not Your Average Fitnes Tips
February 8, 2012 @ 11:05 am
Great tips on calorie counting…or avoiding calorie counting with ESE. I think counting calories is a great discipline when you want to get really lean. Plus, once you learn how to do it, you get a good feel for how much you can or can’t eat. I don’t track what I eat any more but I know when I’ve had more than my fill.
February 9, 2012 @ 7:55 am
Thanks Dave, yeah it’s crazy; I’ve been counting calories for 4 weeks now and it surprises me that I can look at a meal and know how many calories are in it … at least I get close anyway. 😉
February 14, 2012 @ 5:16 am
Awesome post Kevin-
I found myself really overweight in late 2010 (210 pounds) . It was only through tracking what I was eating and the activities I was doing – did the weight start to come off!
Before I was oblivious to the calories of anything that went into my system (including Grande Starbucks Cafe Mochas @ 300 Calories each – what I was doing drinking that? ). Never again will I go back to that world heh
February 14, 2012 @ 7:40 am
Thanks Sean! Yeah, drinking calories is killer … as well as Starbucks. I love their Green Tea Frappuccino but I only get them very rarely.
Congrats on your weight loss success!
June 7, 2012 @ 1:50 pm
courious. what is your tipical meals of the day and about how many calories is that? including snacks. and what’s your tipical workout?
December 29, 2012 @ 7:34 pm
Hey Kevin, glad to have found your site. Your ‘weight x 10’ plan is consistent with much that I’ve read for the ‘lean body’ approach (Brad, Greg, Rusty et al) ;). I’m curious what the macronutrients ratios are that you followed. Thanks in advance!