Tracking your calories is a vital key to reaching your goal. You could be trying to lose weight, maintain weight or even gaining weight. Knowing how many calories you are eating on a daily basis is the key to your success.
In addition to the number of calories you are eating its also important to track the macro nutrient content of those calories. The three macro nutrients are protein, carbs and fats. Each type of macro nutrient has a different effect on the body, so while a calorie is a calorie the macro nutrient content of those calories will have different effects on the body. Protein helps to build muscle and control appetite. Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen and stored in your muscles to help fuel your workouts. Fats help regulate your bodies hormones.
So knowing how many calories a day you need to maintain your current weight you can then break down the macro nutrient content of those calories. Set your protein first at approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Next ensure you are consuming enough fats to ensure your bodies hormones have enough. General recommendations is that 20% to 35% of your total calories come from fat. For someone eating 2500 calories a day that would be 55 grams to 97 grams of fat. The rest of the room you have left can be carbohydrates.
Please keep in mind this is a general guideline. Some people will do better with lower carbs and higher fat and vice versa. Protein intake may also need to be increased based on age or if the person is dieting. For a more in-depth understanding of how this works please refer to my nutrition page and review The Muscle and Strength Nutritional Pyramid videos by Erik Helm’s
So lets put this all together for a 200 lb guy who wants to maintain his weight. Current maintenance calories is 2800 calories a day. So we set protein at 200 grams and convert that to calories. 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories so 200 grams is equal to 800 calories. Next we set fat intake at say 30% of total calories. 2800 x 30% equals 840 calories. 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories so 840 calories divided by 9 equals 93 grams of fat. 2800 calories / day minus 800 calories for protein and 840 calories for fat leaves 1160 calories for carbohydrates. 1 gram of carbohydrates is equal to 4 calories so 1160 divided by 4 equals 290 grams of carbs.
Reading Nutritional Labels
Now when we go and buy food to meet our needs we need to calculate the calories based on the macro nutrient content rather than the calories listed on the nutrition label. Why is that you may ask? Well let me give you a real life example. My wife and I like to by frozen stuffed chicken breast and they come in a variety of flavors. We noticed a new one so we checked the nutritional label on the package compared to one of the ones we usually get.
As you can see the new one we were looking at on the right said it had 10 calories less than our regular one yet it listed more fat, carbs and protein. I was like that is impossible and doing the math you can see the actual calories was 300 instead of the listed 250. Moral of the story is do not track your calories based on the listed amount on the nutrition label. Manually track and calculate based on the macro nutrient content instead. This is especially important for those who are trying to lose weight.