If you have decided that you are going to educate yourself about dieting, counting macros(macronutrients) and calculating your calories are your first and most important steps.
You can be a master at timing, know everything about refined sugars and saturated fats or how these terrible carbohydrates make you fat, and still achieve pretty much nothing.
Why is that?
Your number one question when you want to eat healthily and be able to calibrate your weight is no other than HOW MUCH DO I NEED TO EAT IN A DAY?
Why calculate and count calories?
Just like above, if you have no idea how much you should be eating, how do you know that the calories you consume are leading to weight loss or weight gain?
There is a certain amount of calories that your body needs on a daily basis. According to our needs, calories are going to differ vastly between individuals and hence there is no set amount of calories that works for everyone.
If you are looking to lose weight you have to eat on a calorie deficit, all that this means is that you should be eating fewer calories than what you need to maintain your current weight (maintenance calories).
If you are looking to gain weight, you should be eating on a calorie surplus. So eat more calories than your maintenance calories.
In both cases, the important number is the maintenance calories, because only by knowing that, you know how much you should be eating. A good rule of thumb is to make subtle changes in your maintenance calories that are sustainable.
250-500 calories increase or decrease, is a good amount. I would not recommend going higher than that because that may not be sustainable in the long run.
Why calculating calories makes everything easier?
Meal regulation! If you have a view of the target, you can create your plan of attack.
In most cases when people want to lose weight, they cut down on sooo many calories which other than unnecessary, it is difficult, unmotivating and straight-up not how that works.
Something similar happens when you want to gain weight, you think you ate so much where in reality you just ate one big meal and close to nothing for the rest of your meals.
If you know how much, you can strategize. Spreading your meals in a creative way helps you to:
- eat more without feeling you are about to throw up.
- eat less without starving to death
- have a picture of how much you really need
Can you please just do it?
How to calculate YOUR calories:
There are 5 equally important factors in calculating how many calories you need:
- Activity levels
I hope that you can see the reasoning behind all of them. Your body has needs and if you don’t provide for them, it does not care what you want!
Calculating your maintenance calories is what we are after here and thankfully it is one google search away.
It is actually so easy to find a “Calorie Calculator” that I am not even going to tell you which one to use. There are so many out there that you can cross-reference the results and be very comfortable about choosing the right answer. I will, however, tell you about an all in one tool you can use for free at the end.
Why count your Macros?
Whether you want to lose or gain weight, counting macros will be step number 2.
Great, now you know how much you should be eating, now lets go over what you should be eating.
The great thing about understanding how dieting works is that you can experiment and find what is optimal for your needs. If however, you do not track what you eat, you will not be able to stick to a plan.
Equally important is education. By counting macros, you start to understand what foods contain what nutrients. What foods are calorie-dense and what foods are empty calories.
If you still think that calories are just calories and what is inside them is not important, maybe you can survive off Twix bars.
Macro 1: Protein
Protein is the holy grail of macronutrients and is going to be the focus of your diet. A protein-rich diet is key to both fat loss as well as muscle gain. Not only that, but protein can help with keeping your bones strong.
Sources of protein:
Protein and good fats
- dairy products
- nuts and spreads
Non animal protein
- Seitan(king of vegan protein)
- Nutritional yeast(very rich in vitamins)
Macro 2: Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates tend to get a bad reputation for making you gain weight, but the problem is not with carbohydrates. The problem is that most delicious things are jam-packed with them.
Cakes, pastry, fudge and most confectionary items are full of carbs. Yet another thing counting macros can help you with! You know how much you can eat and can eat it without guilt. Or if you ate too much, you know that you can cut out some from the rest of your meals.
What’s important, is that carbohydrates is the fastest source of energy and our body needs it. Not only that but moderation with carbs intake will definitely not make you fat. As in all things, if you eat them in excess you will gain weight.
Sources of carbohydrates:
- Rice(brown,white,with cell)
- Sweet potatoes(very rich in Vitamin A)
- Quinoa(also high in protein)
- Fruits and Vegetables in general contain mostly carbs
- Groats(similar to quinoa very high in protein)
Macro 3: Fats
No, they won’t make you fat, yes you 100% need them. Not only fats are extremely important to your diet, but believe it or not, they help for both weight loss and gain.
Fats help you regulate your hormones and drastically reduce cravings. Fats unlike carbs are very calorie-dense nutrients. Meaning that most foods rich in fats are also rich in calories. In weight loss, they help with cravings and feeling full. In weight gain, they help you get a lot of calories by consuming relatively small amounts of food.
Can you see why counting macros is essential?
Good fats sources:
- All nuts and spreads(also rich in a lot of protein)
- Dairy products(mainly cheeses)
- Avocado(delicious Guacamole)
- Fatty fish and Meets(like salmon and pork)
- All oils
- Dark chocolate
Absolutely any kind of food can have an adverse effect if consumed in excess, do not believe that fats and carbs are the problem. The problem is not knowing how to eat for you and follow silly stereotypes that generalise vastly about what being healthy means.
Meals should be accompanied with veggies, as veggies and salads other than helping you feel full with minimum calories, are important to get all necessary vitamins and fibres.
In this post, I have given you all the information you need to start strategizing towards the optimal diet. All that is left is to give you the tool to map your journey.
The one tool where you can input all this information, including counting macros and calories as well as getting an estimate of how much of each you should be consuming per day is: