Learning how to count calories in food should be very easy if you have some basic knowledge on what are calories, how much energy each type of macronutrient gives you, and some simple common sense.
Counting calories will be one of the things you will do daily IF you want to lose weight, gain muscle and/or strength.
What Is A Calorie ?
A calorie is a simple metric unit of energy which was first mentioned by Nicolas Clement (1824) as a heat unit or food energy.
Putting it simply, a calorie is the energy you needed in order to increase 1 gram of water’s temperature by 1 degree Celsius.
You might also wonder what is a kilocalorie. One kilocalorie equals 1000 calories.
In all countries except US, the energy value is noted as joules. Just to explain it further so you won’t get stuck here asking questions about this, 1 calorie = 4.2 joules so 1000 calories = 4.200 joules.
A 200 pound male has an approximate maintenance energy requirement of ~3000 calories/day which is ~12.600 joules.
I just represented this terminology so you can understand how to start counting calories depending on the metric used in your country. Nevertheless, I will always use the simple term known by every people, which is: calorie.
Now that we have the basic explanation of the calorie, let’s see how much energy each of these macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein) gives us per 1 gram.
- Alchool : gives us 7 calories/gram or 29.4 joules/g
- Carbohydrate : gives us 4 calories/gram or 16.8 joules/g
- Protein : gives us 4 calories/gram or 16.8 joules/g
- Fat : gives us the most calories: 9/gram or 37.8 joules/g
How Are These Values Determined ?
Every food has its calories counted by researchers that burn them in a device known as a bomb calorimeter which gives them the heat obtained by the burned food.
How Do I Use Them ?
Every time you count your caloric intake, look at the nutrition facts label and note down your calories, carbs, fats, protein.
Take a look at the picture to the right. It’s a picture of a Big Mac caloric values. We will “reverse engineer” the nutritional data for a Mcdonald’s Big Mac in order to see how this calorie counting “stuff” works.
Looking at the nutritional facts, we get the following information:
- Serving size: 219 grams
- Calories: 563
- Total Fat: 33 grams
- Total Carbohydrate: 44 grams
- Protein: 26 grams
Let’s make some calculations to see if the numbers are correct:
- 33 g of fat = 297 calories
- 44 g of carbohydrate = 176 calories
- 26 g of protein = 104
- Total Calories : 565
You’ve probably heard people saying: “don’t eat a big mac because they have 2000 calories and will make you fat”.
Such ignorance should be avoided. You should know how to count your calories and stop being lied in the face for such a simple matter.
I don’t imply you should eat all of your calories from Mcdonald’s Big Mac’s, KFC or other fast food. What I try to do here is to open your eyes.
Take a look at the twinkie diet:
No fluff, no bs, no irrational explanations, no insulin, no carb, no nada.
Again, this experiment just demonstrated that losing weight is all about counting calories. But if you are serious in keeping/gaining muscle mass, you also need to adjust your calories and protein. Having sufficient protein in your diet is the key to maintaining/gaining muscle mass.
Practicing How To Count Calories In Food
Now you know everything there is to know regarding counting calories. Before you start this step, my last recommendation would be to totally skip counting your food with cups, by hand or by different kitchen equipment that give you approximates.
For the best results, just get a nice and cheap digital scale that will give you the exact quantity of food you eat.
Why I say this ?
Let’s do a simple exercise :
Step 1: Take 1 cup of peanut butter and plug it into your calorie tracking software (usually when you measure a cup of peanut butter, you will stuff it until it’s full and a little over it)
Step 2: Take the peanut butter from that cup and put it on the digital scale so you can get the exact grams. Plug them into your calorie tracking software
Results: Look at total calories and compare them. You should notice that the cup of peanut butter probably has more calories.Why?
That’s how someone could screw up their diet with approximations like these. Every calorie adds up. Your daily caloric deficit can become null or you could even go overboard without knowing.
The frustration of not losing weight will take over you and your whole diet strategy.
Do you count calories in food?
If yes, what are you using to count calories?