How To Track Your Calories

The How To Count Calories & Macros For Beginners Guide

The solution for losing weight, gaining weight, and even maintaining weight can all be found…right on your phone! Counting calories is one of the best habits you can learn and one of the easiest. Today I’ll simplify how to count your calories in this guide as much as possible.

To start you need to know how many calories you need to eat. There’s a million ways to figure this out online nowadays. To try and simplify this part of the tracking process, we created a Guide To Understanding How To Lose Weight. Check this out if you haven’t already!

Did you use one of those resources and find you’re not seeing any progress after a couple weeks? Modify your intake a bit and try again! Everyone is different! Part of being successful in this game of health and fitness is being able to learn and listen to your body. In my experience, most of these estimators are fairly accurate as long as you’re honest with them.

Alright, you figured out how many calories you need to eat to reach your goals. Next you’ll need to find a way to track those without carrying around a notebook and doing math all day. If you don’t mind being a food accountant then have at it!

My 2 favorite methods:

#1. Using a calorie tracker. With todays technology this is without question the easiest and quickest way all while being in the palm of your hand…or on your computer if for some reason you don’t have a smartphone.

As long as you can browse a website or download an app, you’ll be well on your way to tracking your calories. There’s more than a handful (THOUSANDS) of great sites but I’m a big fan of MyFitnessPal. I’ve been using it for years so we’ll use that as my example.

What you do to track your calories on here is simply add the food that you eat and that’s it! You now know how to count your calories.

No, not really. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and if it was I probably wouldn’t be writing this how to count calories guide. Let’s go over some things I’ve learned throughout the years that I think will benefit you.

If you have a food scale, going by grams will give you the best results. This is the best and most accurate method for portioning and recipes.

Don’t be scared to estimate

Eating a few bites of a Greek yogurt container on-the-go? Punch in 1 or 2 ounces or say .25 of the container!

If you don’t feel like typing in the food or can’t seem to find it, this app allows you to scan the barcode. If you still can’t find it, you can also enter it in yourself in a matter of seconds.

Aside from adding in your foods you can also set your calorie and macro goals. This will allow you to know how much of each you have left.

You can have different graphs like weekly or monthly goals to gauge your progress overtime.

You can add or change the name of your sections from Breakfast to say, Meal #1, or whatever else you want.

Apps can fail

Here’s where these apps can sometimes fail. They have LARGE databases mostly made by users. Not all foods are alike and sometimes things change or are entered incorrectly. You may scan a barcode and another food item will pop up or the right one will pop up with the wrong calories or serving size. The solution to this is to just keep an eye on what you’re adding. Give the macros a quick scroll to see if they match up, it’s easy.

Don’t overthink this too much. If something is off by 1/2 a gram or so then I wouldn’t worry about it. Yes, this part of tracking can be a bit annoying. Chances are you eat a lot of the same things though so the next time you add them it’ll be that much easier.

#2. Meal Prep everything. For those of you that are a bit more strict or have a crazy schedule, this method might prove to be best for you.

All you’re doing here is finding your daily calorie goals and preparing all of your meals for that day based off of those goals. If these put you at 2,000 calories a day then you’d times that by 7 or however many days you’re preparing for and prep your meals accordingly for that amount of days.

  • 10 ounces of chicken turns into 70
  • 100 grams of rice turns into 700
  • 20 almonds turns into 140

The only things that are flexible here would be:

  1. The day that you meal prep
  2. How many meals or recipes you’re gonna have per day

Nowadays there’s a ton of companies out there that will meal prep for you based off your goals. If you can afford that kind of thing it’s not a terrible option!

Meal Prep Trip

You can make most recipes a “meal prep recipe” by multiplying the ingredients. If a recipe makes 3 1/2 servings and you need 7 then you would times it by 2. You may need to adjust your cooking times to compensate for the larger quantity of ingredients but this should work for almost everything!

Do both?

Most people will incorporate both of these methods. They’ll meal prep 1 or 2 meals then give themselves flexibility to eat other things throughout the day by tracking their calories, which will help with cravings.

With that said, creating a new habit and learning how to count calories can prove to be a difficult experience. If you get lazy for a few days, don’t fault yourself too much. Eventually it’ll stick and become routine. For only a few minutes a day, you’ll wonder why you never picked it up sooner!

I’m always here hanging out so drop me a comment or question below if you have any!

2 Comments

  1. Luca on May 30, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Hey Derek, hi from Spain!

    First of all congratulations for your amazing job, I’ve only discovered your website recently and I find it one of the most brilliant and competent nutrition sources on the web!

    I got into the habit of meal prepping years ago, when I started following a training program by Lee Labrada. It changed my life completely and that’s when I really started seeing results in the gym!
    I’m a flight attendant so it literally saved my life… with the crazy schedules I have it would be impossible for me to stick to any diet. This way I spend just a few hours one day preparing batches of food and I’m set to start my working week. I never have to worry about what I’m going to eat next and above all I don’t feel tempted to indulge in unhealthy food (which is aplenty onboard an aircraft!) just because I’m super hungry or stressed or bored because of work. In fact I get pretty anxious now if I don’t manage to prepare my food for work in advance. It’s a habit which kicks in quickly and once it does you seriously wonder why you hadn’t thought about it before. I would recommend anyone to try it at least for one week and I’m sure they will never go back.

    Also, now that I’ve discovered myfitnesspal (and I’ve become a fan, just like you!) I find it even easier to track my macros and create my meal plans for the week. Years back I would just have a rough idea of the calories I was eating, now I simply nail them. Apart from being able to follow a diet much better, I’m learing so much about food and the nutritional value of everything I eat. I make much better choices now.

    • Derek Howes on May 27, 2020 at 9:21 pm

      Luca, you’re awesome! Thank you so much for the kind words and story. I love that you’ve found a way to manage your health in the air. Keep it up and don’t hesitate to reach out if you ever need any help!

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