Should You Track Your Calories?

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If you have read any of my nutritional blogs already then you will know that calorie intake is a massive nutritional priority no matter your goals. Eating the correct number of calories for you is essential to maintaining a healthy bodyweight but does this mean we need to religiously track our calories or is developing good eating habits enough. In this week’s blog I will be discussing who needs to be tracking their calories and for whom it is unnecessary.

Firstly I just want to say that if you have a previous eating disorder or have an extremely obsessive personality then it is almost certainly not a good idea to track your calories unless your dietician or doctor advises you to do so. There are also some individuals for whom tracking calories probably shouldn’t be the highest priority. The first population group would be people who are new to dieting. Whether your goal is to lose fat or gain lean muscle, tracking calories as a beginner is unnecessary and over complicates things. Instead beginners should concentrate on increasing lean protein intake, increasing intake of fruit and veggies, reducing intake of processed foods and eating 3-5 times per day. Once these good habits are put in place then it is probably worth tracking calories and your bodyweight if you really want to maximise your progress. If you do have experience with dieting then there may also be a time where tracking calories might be unnecessary. If you have reached a healthy weight and want to maintain where you are at or perhaps you are focussed on performance or health then tracking calories may not be necessary. You should instead concentrate on the individual foods you’re eating and making smarter, healthier choices. It is worth tracking your bodyweight, however,and if your weight starts to move in a direction you do not want it to then starting to track calories is a good idea. The final group of the population that probably do not need to track calories would be very experienced dieters. A lot of experienced dieters are very good at estimating how many calories they need on a day to day basis in order to reach their goals and therefore do not need to religiously track caloric intake. They will start to track, however, if they have to for a specific reason (e.g. bodybuilding competition) but other than that they will probably track their bodyweight and adjust their food intake based on any changes they see on the scale.

So who should be tracking their calories? The first thing to say is that almost everyone should track their calories every now and then so that they have a rough idea of how many calories their body needs so that if they do decide to go on a fat loss or mass gain diet then they know where to start. If you have no idea on how many calories your body needs to maintain its weight then knowing how many calories will lose you weight is almost impossible. Some people, however, should really be tracking their calories on a daily basis. If you are no longer a beginner to a healthy diet and you have developed some healthy eating habits but your bodyweight is not going in the direction you want it to then tracking calories is certainly a good idea. If you are looking to lose weight then start tracking your calories and if your weight is not moving then reduce your calorie intake by 500. If you are looking to gain weight but you are not gaining any weight then increase your calorie intake by 500 instead. The final people who should be tracking calories are those interested in truly maximising their body composition or their performance. If you really want the best results then not only should you be tracking your calories but you should also be tracking your macro and micronutrient intake, timing your meals properly and taking the best supplements in order to maximise your gains. That sounds like a lot of effort… because it is. This is too much for most of the population, however, tracking calories alone can still be of benefit as it will take some of the guesswork out of things and make it much easier to stay on track.

So to conclude, you probably don’t NEED to track your calories but it can be useful for a lot of people. If you want to really make sure you are getting the most out of your diet then you should definitely be tracking calories but if you are happy with the progress, you don’t need to over complicate things, just stick with what you are doing and only add complexity when you need it!

Speak to you guys again soon.

Albie

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