Calorie counting is a commonly used expression when people are dieting or trying to lose bodyfat. It is the most simple approach to dieting. It works on the basic rule that if calories in are less than calories out (expended through metabolism and exercise) then you will lose weight. Although there is a bit more to effectively dieting than this, in my opinion, the basic principle for the majority of people is more than valid. 1lb of fat contains roughly 3500 calories of energy. This means that if you achieve a calorie deficit of 3500 then you theoretically could lose 1lb of bodyfat. This of course isn’t exact as your body is complex and may use bodyfat stores more readily than this or be reluctant to use fat for energy. For the most part though the theory is basic but true in my opinion.
Calorie counting therefore should be the foundation of anyone looking to lose bodyfat. You should firstly know exactly how many calories you need to intake to break even. This means that the total calories you eat should exactly match the amount your body burns to keep your body running as well as the extra calories you use up during the day just moving around or exercising. You can work this out by calculating your BMR (base metabolic rate) and adding on the extra calories burned in the gym. This is never going to be exact but will give you a good starting point. Once you know this number you can reduce it by a small amount and then you have the number of calories you should be intaking to lose weight. If you are always under your maintenance calorie level then you will lose weight (depending on where you get the calories but we will discuss that later).
So how much of a calorie deficit should you be in? well in my opinion a healthy calorie deficit should be between 400 – 500 calories per day. You can do this by eating 200 – 300 calories under your maintenance level or alternatively you can eat the maintenance amount and then do an extra 400-500 calories worth of work in the gym (or do a combination of the 2). This calorie deficit should lead to 1lb of fat loss every week. I will put it a different way. If your BMR is 2000 calories then you can either eat 1500 calories and do no exercise, or you could eat 2000 calories and do 500 calories worth of exercise (or again a combination of the 2). Simple!
Like I said above there is more to a successful diet than just calories in vs calories out but to anyone starting out on a diet this is the very first thing that MUST be taken into account before you choose the foods that you will be eating.
So make sure to count all your calories. Don’t just assume something is low calorie or not bother to check as it may lose you that hard earned deficit and slow down your fat loss.