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Is calorie counting a good method for diet control?

Calorie counting is another seriously debated topic within the world of health and nutrition………In fact, just the mere mention of nutrition or diet can open up countless “cans of worms” and endless tangents for people to go off on! 

We’ll keep it specific today. We’ll do some evaluation on calorie counting. We’ll avoid the more complex branches of the topic such as meal frequency, macro-nutrient combinations and meal timing. Those debates can provide the scope of future articles……….perhaps?

So what is calorie counting?

Like it says on the tin, calorie counting is just that………….counting the total calories of each meal and also your overall daily caloric consumption. This is where you determine a specific calorie intake (daily) based on your goals (build muscle, lose fat etc….), and you ensure you eat in accordance with set amount.

What’s the calorie counting pros?

Probably my most favorite ‘pro’ of the calorie counting method is the knowledge it provides. Knowledge being, it gives you a solid marker tool. For instance, you may determine your caloric requirements to be 2000 calories daily (based on your weight and activity levels). This figure may place you in a caloric deficit.  You now run the diet strictly and find you lost more weight than planned, you may have lost less than planned. You could even have felt too hungry on this caloric intake, maybe you felt totally satiated.

Whatever the case, you now have knowledge on how your body responds to that calorie range.

Knowledge is always power!

In addition, calorie counting goes some way to preventing uncontrolled wild binges you may be inclined to suffer from when not being so precise with your eating. Simply because you are aware of exactly what’s in (calories, sugars etc..) what you eat.

The cons……….

Many vastly published and respected figures have somewhat attacked calorie counting over the years. Many have deemed it simply sub-optimal and some have even been more outspoken and branded the method “moronic”.


Without getting too carried away with the micro details, a few of the primary factors for their case against calorie counting is that you simply can’t be exactly sure just how many calories an item of food contains. Also in accordance with this point, is the very real fact that numerous food labels are in fact rather inaccurate.

In layman’s terms: Even the food producers don’t know exactly how many calories their foods pack!

Yet another avenue that we can go down, is the avenue of thermogenics. Meaning, just how do our bodies interact with our ingested food? Which foods cost our body more energy to digest and which foods take practically zero effort to digest?

We do know that protein requires more energy to breakdown than carbohydrates and fats do.

To simplify, “eating 2000 calories per day” doesn’t answer with any precision, just what effect those calories are having on your body. 

What we also know…………

Virtually all those who are in opposition to calorie counting agree on one thing……

Something should be tracked/measured.

Whether it’s your daily protein requirements, or your daily carbohydrate limit, when it comes to achieving body composition changes, specificity is essential.

What you can’t measure, you can’t manage!

Not accounting for something, is basically throwing darts at a board blindfolded and hoping you hit something!

You just can’t be that vague.

So whether you use calorie counting or another variation, you require some form of measuring tool if you hope to see appreciable results.

Finally I can offer some experience on the subject. I’ve used calorie counting personally on various occasions. And I’ve found it to be very effective! If I’m looking to gain weight, it’s a great way to ensure weight gain is at the right rate and NOT at a hyperactive level. I can also tweak the numbers based on weight, measurements and even appearance.

Also, I’ve used it with many others. Believe it or not, I know one lady who uses calorie counting in the absence of exercise, and has lost impressive amounts of fat! Just by controlling her food consumption – (obviously her diet consists of good, whole and nutritious foods)

This article isn’t to persuade you to become a calorie counter or to join the anti-calorie counting brigade. 

It’s to weigh up the pro’s and cons and ultimately, realise that you must be accountable for something in regards to nutrition……….unless you just want to spin your wheels in the mud! 

If you opt to calorie count, providing you are consistent with the types of food you eat, the issue of exactly how many calories are in your food, shouldn’t have an enormous margin of error.

The available energy in many staple health foods such as meats, fruits and nuts are known worldwide.

Of course, calorie counting taken to extremes can be a torturous or miserable experience! This is where you get poor souls thinking they have to count the carbs in their celery sticks or the calories in their raspberries.

It needn’t be that complicated. Count the calories in your meats, major carb sources and major fat sources such as nuts, butter, avocados and coconut oil. Anything with a large amount of fiber present (vegetables), don’t be too OCD about.

If anything, you’re better off eating more of those foods! The minuscule details like the exact calories in superfoods like these, really makes minimal to no difference in the grand scheme of things.

Some may raise the issue of time constraints, however it is simply a case of filtering. Filter out the stuff that isn’t important to be obsessively measured (see above) and implement the habit of measuring the major factors. Habits, once formed, are second nature.

Take responsibility of your eating, be accountable for your calories or your macros………..whichever you choose, harness the power associated and start seeing the power of nutritional precision.

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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