Unless you are just beginning a weight loss plan, counting calories and macros should be a strategy used for gaining weight and muscle. For individuals who are just beginning their weight loss journey, counting these pesky numbers can help them insure that they are taking in the correct amount of nutrients. Or, more specifically, it insures that they are NOT taking in more than what they need. You see, transforming your body composition (whether losing or gaining weight) all comes down to a matter of calories in vs. calories out. What this means is that if you want to gain weight, you “simply” need to make sure you consume more calories than you burn. Likewise, if you want to lose weight you “simply” need to make sure that you burn more calories than you consume. Of course, you have certain medical situations which make this process difficult, but for a majority of people those anomaly-like situations do not apply.
This is why counting calories and macros is beneficial in the beginning. If a 35-year-old male, who is 6 foot and weighs 275 lbs., decides that he wants to lose weight, his body is used to consuming a certain amount of calories each day (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). If this individual attempted to lose weight on his own, without counting calories, macros, and keeping a food journal, he is almost inevitably doomed to consume more than what he realizes. There are millions of people who swear up and down that they “eat clean” or “don’t really eat that much,” yet losing weight is nearly impossible for them. Why is this?
Odds are they are eating a lot more than they realize. By counting calories and macros in the beginning, individuals can get a good idea of what the nutritional needs are for their specific goals. Over time, this method isn’t as necessary, because It’s almost impossible to overeat when you are eating clean. Anyone can consume 500 – 1000 calories more than anticipated when it comes to eating a cheat meal, or eating processed foods; They are loaded with calories. However, when you are eating fresh vegetables and whole foods, it’s very difficult to sneak a thousand extra calories in each day. In fact, you would most likely have to force yourself to consume the amount of calories your body is used to consuming each day.
Let’s take that 35-year-old male from earlier and apply some examples:
If this individual doesn’t exercise that often (perhaps 1-3 times per week), then he burns approximately 3,052 calories each day. So, in order to maintain his weight of 275 lbs., he needs to consume 3,052 calories each day. In order to lose weight, he would need to consume less than that, and to gain weight he would need to consume more.
If he starts his day with 3 pancakes, 3 slices of bacon, and 1 cup of orange juice, he will consume approximately 511 calories. If he eats a Big Mac meal for lunch, he will consume approximately 1, 100 calories (36% of his daily need in one meal). If he drinks 3 cans of soda each day, he will consume close to 500 calories. By only eating two meals and drinking soda, he is already consumed nearly 70% of his daily needs. However, if this individual were to replace the Big Mac meal for one whole chicken breast, one sweet potato, ½ cup of white rice, and 2 cups spinach, he would only consume 315 calories (despite the amount of food he would be eating). In order to consume the exact same amount of calories as the Big Mac meal, he would need to consume:
And that’s just one meal!
You may be someone that can boastfully destroy any all you can eat buffet, but I’m willing to bet you couldn’t eat that meal, let alone eat that meal three times each day, because to meet his body’s current calorie needs, he would need to consume that exact meal three times a day. Yes, three times. That means he would need to eat 12 whole chicken breasts, 9 sweet potatoes, 6 cups of rice, and 3 cups of spinach. It’s not impossible, but it would be very difficult. This is why when most people start on a strict meal plan, they find themselves leaving food on the plate.
If you are working to lose weight, and are eating clean for most of your meals, you don’t have to count your calories and macros. If you want to keep track, just to make sure you are hitting certain numbers, there is nothing wrong with it. However, if you are someone just starting out, and your meal plan isn’t as clean as you would like, or if you don’t know how to meal prep yet, counting these numbers can help you. You will be surprised how fast the calories add up.
Go to any of our “Become Your Best You” pages, and you will find a BMR/TDEE calculator. This calculator will tell you how many calories your body burns on a daily basis, which will tell you how many you need to reach whatever goal you have in mind.