It’s the 21st Century and we love counting things, recording data, and using all the gadgets that help us to do the counting and recording! So of allthe things we’re counting, should we be count calories?
It’s the thought that counts.
There are a million apps to help us count our steps, many of which let us know if we need to do more, if we’ve failed, or if we’ve exceeded the challenge. We count days until birthdays, vacations, and holidays. Women folk will count the days of period or count one when it’s next due. We count how many kids are in the car before we leave the house. We count unread emails, unplayed voicemails, and unseen texts messages. If we are mindful, we count our blessings.
But what about calories? Do we really need to count them, and do they really count?
Do I need to count?
Many a client has sat opposite me in clinic. Some wanting to lose weight. Others wanting to gain muscle or improve their fitness. Folks with thyroid problems or hormonal issues. Of those who are unhappy with their weight or physical appearance, most will ask me if they should be counting their calories. Whilst there is no hard and fast answer, I do have some criteria which I use to help decide if we are going to count calories or keep a non-cal food diary.
When do they count?
There are two times where I will often ask that we keep a caloric food diet. The first one is my athletes. Whether it be an athlete looking to lean down, build muscle, or improve their endurance, I may do a bit of calorie counting. Building muscle requires eating a surplus of calories. For my my endurance athletes, it about ensuring they’re getting enough fuel to support their training and events.
With my Body Composition clients, we may look at keeping a caloric diary, just to give us a realistic look at what’s going in versus what’s been used. It’s important to note that
it’s not just the OVERALL calories I am looking at, but the MACRONUTRIENTS are the important part.
How much of your energy are you getting from protein, carbohydrates, or fats? Once we know this information, we can tweak it to optimise health and training outcomes.
How do I count?
I often picture ‘The Count’ from Sesame Street when I talk about counting calories. “One, one calorie ah ah ahhh. Two! Two calories! Ah ah ah.” And so forth. These days there are a lot of apps and tools for folks to use to count calories.
If I am doing very precise work, I like to use NUTTAB. It is the Australia standard; the difficult part about using NUTTAB is that all foods are in 100g, this means you have to take raw data, and amend do the maths to work out the values of your intake. A lot of work! Other apps or websites that are popular are Calorie King, My Net Diary (my preferred) and My Fitness Pal.
There are two very import things to consider if recording calories.
1. Most people underestimate the volume of food they are eating. If you want to be most accurate, you’ll need a set of scales, and/or use metric cup/spoon measures for everything. This can get quite arduous. It can also be really eye opening; like I said, a lot of folk underestimate how much they are eating. You may realise you’re eating a cup of blueberries with breakfast, not a quarter cup. Or you may learn what you thought was a cup of spinach, is just a third.
2. App/Website food selection. Make sure you select the best representation of food when recording it. A lot of apps allow for folks to add their own foods into the system. A lot of these foods are missing important data. When selecting foods, makes sure if has at least total calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fats. It also pays to be a little discerning. If you just logged a doughnut and it has only 73 calories, you might want to hunt for another entry!
When to count it out.
There are times when I don’t think counting calories is helpful. Clients who have struggled with altered body image, BIDD, eating disorders. I will factor in a client’s personality; those who are high achievers, type As, perfectionists, or high anxiety folk, we may consider alternatives to.
Whilst I think checking in can be useful for some people, I feel there a few of us who will find it detrimental. For these folks, if I need to get a food picture, I will ask them to keep a food diary, or just take photos of the foods they are eating. There is always a way around finding the information I need to help you feel your best.
Count me in!
Do you need a bit of help with Performance or Sports nutrition? Is Body Composition your health and wellness goal? I Are side effects of medications or signs of your chronic condition affecting your body mass? I would love to help you. You can reach me here.
- Jenna Verhoeven
- athletes, health, macros, nutrition, weightloss