Calorie Counting: A Valuable Waste of Time?
In recent weeks I have been religiously using MyFitnessPal, if you have been on planet Zog for the past 10 years and not sure what it is, it is a food diary app that allows you to track your calories and macronutrients based on your personal goals and targets.
Now before you roll your eyes at the thought of calorie counting hear me out…I don’t really like calorie counting that much, in fact 80% of the time I don’t promote it when coaching nutrition with my clients however it does have its purpose.
If you like it or not, calories are the primary reason for weight loss and weight gain. The simple science is if you eat more than your body needs you will store that excess energy as fat and if you eat less than your body needs your body has to resource its own energy, from your fat stores.
Even though calories are an important factor in performance and body composition when it comes to coaching people to make long lasting changes to improve their health, lifestyle and bodies it falls way down my pecking order.
Before I start getting people to concentrate on number crunching I believe it is important to get people to eat the right foods first, remove the calorie dense beige foods and replace them with nutrient dense natural foods.
Once I have people eating foods which will improve their health I then turn to step 2 which is portion control, this is key for long term success to ensure people eat the right amounts of food to satisfy their hunger and to also meet the demand of their goals.
Only when a client plateaus in these 2 stages do I get them to focus on calories.
When I recommend calorie counting to clients I keep it simple and realistic, I do NOT recommend low calorie diets and will never allow my clients to do so, especially females who need to go slow and steady. A drastic drop in calories for a woman is dieting disaster.
The reason I have been using MyFitnessPal recently is due to a holiday coming up and wanting to get in shape for the beach. I already eat the right kinds of foods and I understand portion control however calorie counting really allows me to focus and ensure I am eating the right amount of food to achieve my goals without any guess work needed, nor can I blame witchcraft if I don’t see progress.
Many people are wary of calorie counting, they instantly think of slimming clubs, weighing food and obsessive behaviour, some will see it as a waste of time.
My answer to this is…that’s rubbish.
If you have a goal, weight loss for example and you know that the number of calories you eat has a profound impact on your progress and you choose not to for at least a short period of time record and see how much you eat then you are shooting in the dark.
If you are not seeing progress yet you see it as a waste of time then perhaps your goal isn’t that important to you and you should reconsider your priorities.
It would be like being in debt and not managing your accounts, ignoring your bank and card statements whilst continually using them…it’s insane and a sure way of getting in ever more debt right?
Now is MyFitnessPal and calorie counting the be all and end all? NO! Here are a few reasons calorie counting isn’t all that.
Labels and the app are never 100% accurate
Human error - What we think is a portion is not always accurate
Our bodies utilise food and energy differently to one another
Now here are the positives I have taken from using it the past 2 weeks
It makes me more organised, planning my meals in advance
It makes me more aware, I think first before eating something
It has educated me on portion sizes and calories in foods
It has stopped me over eating at night unnecessarily
I have stuck to my calorie and macro targets
It takes 3 minutes out of my day (0.2% of my day)
I am seeing good results
If you are struggling to see progress and feel you have plateaued perhaps you should try using MyFitnessPal for a couple of weeks, to make you aware of how much you are currently eating compared to what you should be eating.