Counting Calories and Losing Weight
If you have ever been interested in losing weight, you must have heard of calorie counting.
The general idea is to count the number of calories you are taking in through food and drinks during the day. By doing so, you will be aware of what your daily nutrition habits are like, and you can then decide to consume fewer calories (to lose weight) or more calories (to gain weight). The concept sounds straightforward enough, and really it is. When done correctly, counting calories can be a great way to control your weight or help with your weight loss programme.
First things first. What is a calorie?
A calorie is simply a unit of energy; to be precise, it is the amount of energy necessary to raise the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C. For us, when we talk about calories in food, we are actually speaking about kilocalories – kCal. One kcal is equal to 1,000 calories.
1kcal = 1,000 calories.
Don’t get confused – when people speak about calories in food, they always mean kilocalories.
We need energy to function and carry out daily tasks; in fact, we need energy just to stay alive and breathe, and taking in calories gives us that energy.
Keeping track of calories used to be difficult, but with modern fitness apps, such as MyFitnessPal, it is surprisingly easy.
Why count calories?
The purpose of counting calories is to adapt your diet to your personal needs. When you start doing so, you will able to play around with the amount of food you are eating to achieve a specific goal. For example, if you are interested in losing weight, you should consider eating fewer calories than you need during the day (a calorie deficit). If you are looking to maintain your weight, you can just keep doing what you are doing. If you are looking to gain weight, you start eating more and enter a calorie surplus.
Different foods contain different amounts of calories.
1g of fat = 9kcal
1g of alcohol = 7kcal
1g of carbs = 4kcal
1g of protein = 4kcal
How many calories do you need?
The amount of calories you need depends on several factors. For a start, your gender, age and weight influence the number of calories you need daily. If you are young and fit, you are burning more calories than someone older and unfit.
The bigger the body, the more calories it needs to function.
The more physically active you are, the more calories you burn. Running, walking, exercise – these are all great ways to increase the rate at which you burn calories.
How do you count calories?
There is only one way that makes sense, and that is by reading the label on food packaging. All foods are required to display the number of calories per serving or per 100g. If you are using an app like MyFitnessPal, there are loads of foods that are already pre-loaded or entered by other users, making the process much easier and quicker.
Herbalife meals also make it easy to count calories. For example, a Herbalife shake made with skim milk contains only around 230 kcal, along with loads of necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Count calories like a pro!
Pay attention to serving sizes. Fast food and junk food often show nutritional information for tiny serving sizes on the labels. This way, they appear to be healthier than they are.
Buy a kitchen scale. You will often need to measure the amounts of food you are preparing to calculate calories. This will also help you control serving sizes.
Once proper nutrition becomes a habit, you can even stop counting and rely on your experience and feeling to continue eating well.
I am counting calories, but am not losing weight!
It is not possible to be exactly accurate with calorie counting; consider what you are doing as a best guess.
If you feel that you have been sticking to a calorie deficit programme, but have not lost any weight, try reducing the daily amount of calories you are taking in by 200kcal or so. Weight another week or two, and you should be seeing some progress.
Also, keep in mind that your physical activity impacts your calorie burn rate. The more active you are, the more calories you will burn, and the larger the deficit you will create. This is valid in the other direction too. The less physically active you are, the fewer calories you will burn. This makes it more difficult to create a deficit, and you will have to eat less.
Is counting calories a good idea?
The short answer is – yes. The more complete answer is a bit more complicated.
Calories are a great measure of how much you are eating, but they don’t really tell you what you are eating. Calories don’t tell you anything about the quality of the food that you are eating.
O paper, you could eat 1,000kcal of chocolate or 1,000kcal of fish and broccoli, and lose weight with both. In practice, 1,000kcal of chocolate is not going to help you feel full during the day. The same amount of broccoli and fish are. There is also the whole other topic of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that you need to eat to feel good and be healthy, and which you just don’t get from 1,000kcal of chocolate. Calories don’t say anything about the quantities of vitamins and nutrients that you are taking each day.
When counting calories can be helpful
– When you are having difficulty understanding why you are not gaining or losing weight
– If you are tracking specific fitness or athletic goals
When counting calories can be unhelpful
– If you are at a healthy weight already and have no problems maintaining it
– If you want to concentrate on food quality and tracking micro- and macronutrients
– If it kills the enjoyment of making and eating meals
How Herbalife can help
If you are interested in counting calories, Herbalife products can be of great help.
Know exactly how many calories you are eating. The serving sizes are easily controlled and measured.
Great nutrition. All Herbalife meals are made to provide you with optimum nutrition and contain 24 key vitamins and minerals. The high protein content helps burn calories, keeps away cravings and keeps you feeling full.
Easy portion control. One shake is one portion. There is no unnecessary measuring or weighing.
Consistent, routine. Herbalife shakes are easy to consistently include in your daily routine. You can have them on the go or take them with you anywhere.
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