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.
This is an important area and you should learn it right because counting calories will be one of the things that you will do daily IF you want to be successful in your losing weight and/or gaining muscle mass the right way.
How To Count Calories – 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 aka food energy.
Put it simply, a calorie is the energy that is needed in order to increase 1 gram of water’s temperature by 1 degree Celsius.
You may also see the term kcal aka kilocalorie and 1 kilocalorie = 1000 calories (just like 1 kg = 1000 grams of water).
If I got you into basic terminology now, let’s finish it by saying that in all countries except US, the energy value is noted as joules (aka energy measurement).
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.
Representing this in numbers, 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 everybody can understand how to start counting depending on the metric used but we will always use the simple term known by every people (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 and that’s 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.
Most of the time, people use software like fitday to make the job of counting calories easier and faster.
We will “reverse engineer” together the nutritional data for a Mcdonald’s Big Mac in order to see how all this calorie counting “stuff” works.
Looking at the nutritional facts we get the following information:
- Serving size : 219 grams
- Calories ( aka total caloric content ) : 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 and this is what I want to achieve here: everyone should know how to count their calories and stop being lied in the face for such a simple matter.
I don’t imply that 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:
What happens there is simple: the subject controlled his caloric intake to be lower than his caloric expenditure so he lost weight.
No fluff, no bs, no irrational explanations, no insulin, no carb, no nada.
Again, this experiment just demonstrated that losing weight is all about calories BUT if you are serious in keeping/gaining muscle mass, you also need to adjust your calories and protein more specifically because having sufficient protein in your diet is the key thing in maintaining/gaining muscle mass.
Putting In Practice How To Count Calories In Food
Now you know everything there is to know regarding counting calories BUT before you start this step, the last recommendation would be to totally skip counting your food with cups, by hand or different kitchen equipment that approximate the counting.
For the best results just get a nice and cheap digital scale that will give you the exact grams of food that you eat.
Why I say this ?
Let’s do a simple exercise :
Step 1: Take 1 cup of peanut butter (usually when you measure a cup of peanut butter, you will stuff it until it’s full and a little over it) and plug it into your calorie tracking software.
Step 2: Take the content of that cup of peanut butter and put it on the digital scale so you can get the exact grams and plug them into your calorie tracking software
Results: Look at total calories and you should notice that the cup of peanut butter probably has more calories than the exact measured grams.
That’s how someone could screw up their diet with approximations like these because every calorie adds up so your daily “deficit” would 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/tell us your strategy.
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