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Should You Be Counting Your Calories?

As a certified personal trainer under N.A.S.M, I have a unique perspective when it comes to frequently asked questions about fitness and nutrition. When it comes to nutrition, I’ve been asked by family and friends as to what they should be doing in order to lose weight or get in shape. Sometimes, they’ll even ask if they should be counting their calories. This, I thought, was a question worth discussing more in depth as I believe it’s a lot more complex than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

With that said, my answer has always been the same. It depends on what your goals are.

I believe the more serious and calculated (pun intended) you are with your physical fitness, the more you should be willing to count your calories. If you’re still unsure, I’ve listed a few variables that’ll help you decide whether it’s for you or not. You can find these listed below.

Have you hit a plateau?

Ah, the inevitable plateau. This can mean a number of things, but generally speaking, a plateau can be thought of as a stalling of your progression. Have you stopped losing weight? Are you not gaining any more strength? If you answered yes to these questions, or have stopped making progress despite the work you’ve been putting in, it might be a good idea for you to start counting calories. The reason being, you’ll have a more definite means of progression by tracking the numbers necessary to push you closer toward your goals.

Are you willing to do it?

Most people say yes, but I’ve found that few actually stick with it. That’s because counting calories requires a certain level of diligence. Take note that at first, it won’t be easy. You’ll have to understand how to read food labels, portion control, and calculate macronutrients...but don’t let that scare you from jumping right into it. You’ll come to know that the more you do it, the easier it gets. I spend a total of less than 5 minutes per day tracking these numbers. The same can be said for you if you’re willing to do it.

Do you have the necessary tools?

In addition to the knowledge of how you should be tracking your calories (and macronutrients for that matter), you’ll need a few tools in order to be able to count your calories. Though measuring cups do get the job done, food scales are much more accurate and in my opinion, make it easier to track your calories. Not only does this help you get started, but it’ll help you become more flexible with your diet as you’ll be accurately able to measure and weigh new foods that you’d like to incorporate into your diet.

Overall, “counting calories” has received a sort of negative connotation when it comes to physical health and fitness. Though it may be a little inconvenient, it’s a solid tool you can use to ensure your progress with your fitness-related goals. Don’t become obsessive and allow calorie counting to dominate your social life, just use it to get started. As you become better at it, you’ll be able to eyeball your food portions and will be that much better off when working with a flexible diet. Have any questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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