How do I count calories?

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So you may have heard about 'calorie counters'... you know... the health crazed fanatics that workout everyday, don't eat fast food or party on the weekends!

If this is your idea of someone who counts calories you are badly mistaken. In fact, often people who calorie count are those most adequately equipped to fit 'bad food' into their diet!

Counting calories can be a huge advantage for any lifter wanting to manage weight as it allows you to precisely adjust your food and beverage intake to adjust your weight -wether your goals are shredding or bulking.

What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy. In terms of nutrition, a calorie is the amount of energy in food and beverages, and is the amount of energy expended when we train.

Energy from calories is vital to sustaining life, and about 20% of daily energy intake is used to support brain metabolism.

What is a kilojoule?

Kilojoules are the metric version of calories. To convert kilojoules to calories you simply divide by 4.2, or to convert kilojoules to calories you multiply by 4.2

Pictured: SLW athlete Shane Berland is a self confessed calorie counter!

Calculating calories from macronutrients

Carbohydrates, protein and fats are macronutrients that contain calories. Most food and beverages contain these macronutrients, and they are your bodies main source of energy. Each macronutrient has a varying amount of calories per gram:

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

To calculate how many calories are in a food, you multiply the above value according to how many grams of that macronutrient are present in the food. 

Take an egg for example… In one raw egg there is approximately 5g of fat, 6g of protein and 1g of carbohydrate. So to calculate the total amount of calories in one raw egg the following equation would need to be solved: (5*9)+(6*4)+(1*4)= 73 calories

You can determine the caloric and/or macronutrient content of most foods from the nutritional information panel printed on to the packaging, however for non-packaged foods & beverages there are many useful online databases and apps that can provide you with estimates, such as:

When sourcing nutritional information from the internet and the like, be sure to check that the information is not based on someones 'best guess', rather from a trusted source.

Calculating calories in complex foods

Once you have your head around counting calories and have some experience behind you, it will become easier to estimate the quantities of each macronutrient in complex food sources that don't have nutrition information available i.e. a meal at a restaurant or your mums cheesecake.

For example, you know that two slices of the wholemeal bread you have at home is 140 calories, so you could easily use this when estimating the calories in a 'big breakfast' from a cafe. 

Again you will find that many food databases have the nutritional information available for complex foods, however these are often estimates or based on someones 'best guess'.  When it comes to complex foods & beverages, sometimes it is better to make comparisons with food & beverages you know the calorie content of.

Pictured: Got back!? Shane Berland does!

How many calories should I eat?

There are various calculations you can make to determine how many calories you should consume each day i.e. BMR & TDEE, however these are averages and often do not take in to consideration muscle mass.

We suggest you monitor your usual diet for a week making note of how many calories you are consuming. Using this data you will be able to effectively reduce or increase your caloric intake to achieve weight loss or weight gain, instead of making what could be drastic changes to your diet and risking damage to your metabolism.

From this point you can also consider various principles such as 'reverse dieting' & 'IIFYM'.

Hopefully this has been a helpful summary of how to count your calories!

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