Should you count calories?

Updated: Nov 21, 2018

Spoiler alert, it isn't for everyone.

Calories, calories, calories. What is a calorie exactly? The scientific answer is that it's the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C. In simple terms, it's the energy your body needs to function and to perform activities such as breathing, organ function, movement etc.

If you're interested in managing your weight then you need to focus on calories to start with. Losing weight, gaining weight or the desire to maintain your current weight depend on the total calories in and total calories out, along with your activity levels of course.

When you begin your fitness journey it can become very overwhelming to know how many calories are in half an avocado, in the amount of sugar you put in your coffee, googling this, that etc.

Plus you may not realize when you're actually consuming calories. I've heard this too many times, where people think that 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in their salad doesn't add up to a lot, or drinking that 250ml glass of OJ "is very low cal".

My advice is the following. If you're someone who enjoys the process of learning how many calories are in each food, along with the macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) and calculating everything, then you'll reach a point (like me) where your brain automatically calculates more or less everything intuitively. After some months/ years of practicing that, you'll be able to know how much brown rice or oats you need everyday to gain or lose weight etc.

I still find myself occasionally using the Cronometer App which I believe is one of the best in calculating not only calories, protein, carbs & fat but also micronutrients (all your vitamins and minerals) within its huge database of foods/ drinks. It comes as a desktop app and a mobile one, so give it a go. It's really handy especially for us vegans due to the common fear of vitamin deficiency, Cronometer shows you everything from iron, to zinc and calcium along with what foods are higher in those vitamins and minerals.

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On the other hand if you've tried and can't be bothered or just find calorie learning and counting is time-consuming then maybe it's time to hire a nutritionist or find a tailored-to-your-needs meal plan with all the calories and macronutrient breakdown to help you achieve your goals!

In conclusion, the answer isn't a size-fits-all. It all depends on your preferences, time and actual interest. For me it just became a habit and maybe a curse, that every time I'm eating a meal my brain is wired to do the math and thus keeping me on track everyday on the average amounts of fats, protein and carbs I more or less consume relative to my goal.

So, should you count calories? If you can manage your weight from the knowledge you've gained from learning about the foods you consume, or if you simply don't have a very specific weight goal then, NO. But if you have a clear goal in mind then YES, counting calories will get you there faster and keep you on track, or just get someone to do it for you.

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