Should You Count Calories?

Both losing and maintaining bodily fat stores are active processes. I’ve practiced different dietary methods: fasting, “clean” eating, journaling, paying attention to hunger . . .

Nevertheless, calories do have the final say on your final body composition. It’s the law of thermodynamics. Yes, your body is tightly regulated in a way that can adjust up or down, but I will not discuss that here. Just know that you cannot gain [fat] without food.

With that said, there are inherent inaccuracies when applying calorie counting to the real world. For example, one organic apple may have a different density to the next. Furthermore, it’s difficult if not impossible to know exactly how many calories you expend in a day, especially because it’s varies each day.

This does not dismiss the value of calorie counting; you just have to know its limitations. At best, calorie counting gives you a good estimate. And that’s where the value lies. As long as you’re in the “ballpark”, you’re less likely to be influenced by your environment.

Therefore, do not drive yourself crazy trying to get your numbers to the nearest calorie. At best, you’ll be closest to the nearest hundred. Furthermore, you’ll never know exactly how many calories you should budget for the day; it’s a matter of trial and error.

[personal note: I set a budget of 1200 – 1700 calories a day when I’m trying to cut, at a height of 5’11].


  • Set a budget of less than 2000 calories, especially if you’re trying to cut down. Most people don’t need 2000 calories, and you must assume that for special occasions, your numbers will be way up, so you have to plan for this.
  • Use a database–a nutrition book, online resource, or phone application. My favorite websites are FitDay and CalorieKing.
  • Weighing your food using a digital food scale is the most accurate way to keep track of food intake, even in food items that come in a package. Measuring using tablespoons and cups are the second most accurate, and eyeballing portion sizes are the third most accurate.
  • Eat at restaurants that have nutrition information on their menu. Remember, it will never be accurate (that depends on the chef), but at least you’ll have an estimate.

Summer is upon us–keep it tight.


One response to “Should You Count Calories?

  1. Hi Jason,
    I am hoping you can provide your advice/opinion. You stated above that when you are trying to cut, you set a calorie budget of 1200-1700. I am 5’6″ female and my body fat is currently 17.7%, I weigh 130lbs. I exercise rigorously for 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days per week. I have a decent amount of muscle, as I have been lifting for about 6 years now.

    However, I would like to be at 12% body fat. What do you suggest my calorie intake should be to get to 12%?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s