Should You Weigh Food Cooked Or Raw To Track Your Calories Accurately?
There are some great unanswered question in the world. Such as, 'What's the meaning of life?" "Will there ever be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark?" And, of course, "Should you weigh your food cooked or raw?"
When you start out on your voyage of fat loss discovery, it doesn't take long before this question rears its head. And, as is often the case with nutrition, everyone's got a different view and rarely is there a consensus. But that's not a fat lot of good to you. You need answers. And fast. Because, get it wrong, and your efforts to track those all important calories could be totally wasted.
So here's what I propose.
Give me 10 minutes of your time and I'll give you all the answers you're looking for, and more. Sound like a fair deal?
And to whet your appetite, here's a sneak peek and what's cooking in this article (that's not hint to the answer by the way).
- Should you weigh your food cooked or raw? The short answer.
- What happens when you cook food? And does that make a difference to whether you weigh it cooked or raw?
- The practical approach to weighing food and tracking calories.
- Should you even give a shit about whether you weigh food cooked or raw, anyway?
So, my friend, shall we begin our voyage of culinary discovery? Great... you best start scrolling.
Should You Weigh Food Cooked Or Raw? Here's The Short Answer
Should you weigh food cooked or raw? The simple answer is... It doesn't really matter.
"Wait! What? But what about the..."
Trust me, it doesn't matter.
"But I was told you have to..."
Trust me, it doesn't matter.
Ok, I feel like I need to explain and shed some light on the confusing fat loss black hole I've thrown you into.
You see, when you're told you HAVE to do something a certain way, it's typically bullshit. In the main, there's a set of basic principles underpinning everything. And as long as you adhere to those, the method you choose is largely driven by preference.
For example, a calorie deficit. The principle by which your fat loss progress hinges. Get that part of the process right and it doesn't matter whether you follow the Keto method, Intermittent Fasting, Paelo, or even the Taun Taun intestine diet, the results are dependant on the underlying principle.
And deciding whether to weigh food cooked or raw is largely the same. The principle you should be mindful of is knowing the calories (and macros if you're tracking those) of either option. Because if you're armed with that information, you can use cooked or raw weights.
Basically, it comes down to what makes most sense for you and what you're actually eating.
So, let me furnish you with the long version of the story. Because, I feel like you might be itching for the bigger picture.
This Is What Happens When You Cook Food
Sometimes I'm guilty of taking for granted aspects of nutrition that I feel are basic. Because I'm in the trenches with this stuff on a daily basis, it's all too easy to forget that calories, protein, sleep, and nutrient timing are still alien concepts to a lot of people. And you may well be one of them.
And that's cool. After all, you only know what you know, right?
For all I know, you're an astrophysicist, a surgeon, or an engineer. And I can say with 100% certainty, I wouldn't have a clue about anything you would define as basic within your job.
So that's why I major in the fundamentals with my online coaching clients. Making sure they truly understand the basics of nutrition. All too often, I see people skip to the complexities before truly grasping the fundamentals.
To me, it's akin to writing a novel before you've mastered the alphabet.
With that said, let's swing back to our cooked or raw debate. Specifically, let's look at what happens when you cook your favourite bro meal. Chicken, rice, and broccoli, or course.
What happens to raw food when it gets cooked? Part 1... The Meat
Apologies if it feels like I'm teaching you how to suck eggs here. But I feel it's important to flip back to square one.
First up, we have the humble chicken breast. The poster child of the high protein diet. And the protein choice of champions for decades.
100g of skinless chicken breast in its raw form has roughly 110 kcals, 23g Protein, 0g Carbs, and 1g Fat. You can see why it's a bro favourite with those macros.
But what happens when you cook it?
Well, let's assume you're going "full bro" and you decide to steam said chicken breast. Yes, it'll taste fucking horrendous, but you and I can gloss over that for now.
As your plump chicken breast turns from pink to an off-white, wrinkled, sorry excuse for food, one key thing has happened. It lost water. So now it weighs less than when you started.
But, here's the thing. The calories and macros didn't change. Why? Because water has no calories. Which means your 100g of raw chicken becomes 80g of cooked chicken simply by losing 20% water (don't quote me on those numbers, they were just illustrative).
Obviously, if you cook in olive oil and add a sauce, you need to factor those in. But you can track those separately.
Is this true for every meat?
Ok, it's not a universal rule. For example, if you cook meat with a high fat content, you might lose some fat in the cooking process. But does that even matter? In my opinion, not really. Essentially, it comes back to what works best and makes the most sense for what you're cooking. Sometimes it'll make perfect sense to weigh cooked, other times it'll be uncooked.
The trick is not to become too hung up about it.
What happens to raw food when it gets cooked? Part 2... Rice
Now we move on to the carbs. And, Keto lovers, feel free to glide right on by, there's nothing for you here.
So, before you read on, let me just make one point clear. This example is not a rule for every carb on the planet. It's not even the rule for most carbs. Think of it more as a guide for the type of carb you might commonly use in your meal prep. Capisce? Cool.
Rice reacts the polar opposite way to chicken. Because instead of losing water weight, it gains it during the cooking process. Yes, your carbs suffer with water retention too. Damn, those scales are a bitch!
100g of uncooked rice has roughly 371 kcals, 7g Protein, 82g Carbs, and 0.5g Fat. But when you boil it in water that weight increases by about 3 times. Which means, 100g of uncooked rice is the equivalent of c. 300g cooked rice. Again, calories and macros remain the same because you've only added water and possibly some salt, both of which have zero calories.
And it's at this point I guess you might be saying, "Ok. I get it. But should I weigh food cooked or raw?"
No problem. If you're not quite there yet, let me talk you through a more practical approach you could take.
What's The Most Practical Approach? Cooked Or Raw?
Weighing food is a microcosm of life. Granted, you might not see it that way. And my description might sound like unnecessary hyperbole and aggrandisement. But hear me out on this one.
In life, there's rarely one clear answer. Most of the time the truth lies in the grey. As it's simply a case of context and situation.
For example, 'What's the best way to get from town A to town B?" Well, there's a number of different permutations. All of which will get you to the right place. But there's more than one way to get there, right?
And it's the same for your nutrition. Your goal might be to lose weight, build muscle, and look awesome AF. Cool. But there's more than one way to get there (as long as you're in a deficit, of course).
So when it comes to debating whether to weigh food cooked or raw, the answer is... It depends.
You see, if you buy some meat and it's already cooked, what's the fucking point of trying to figure out the calories of it raw?
On the flip side, if you're making a recipe that calls for 200g of chicken breast, then raw weight is going to be the way to go. Overcomplicating it beyond that is simply unnecessary.
And there's one more thing. As long as you have an accurate reference of the calories and macros, then weighing cooked or raw doesn't matter. Simply use the approach that is the most logical for the situation.
Cooked Or Raw? Should You Even Give A Shit?
Now the cat is well and truly amongst the pigeons.
This sounds like tracking blasphemy.
Not weighing food? "Simon. Are you a nutritional heretic and pushing me to body transformation suicide?"
Ok, so I know this sounds weird. But I've said it before and I'll say it again... You don't need to track calories to lose weight. You definitely need to be in a calorie deficit. But there's no law to say you have to get there by tracking. Believe me, the MyFitnessPal police doesn't exist. And the FBI (Food Bureau of Investigation) won't be beating down your door because you decided not to track calories.
To save you some reading time, here's a video to explain what I mean.
The Bottom Line On Whether You Should Weigh Food Cooked Or Raw
Whether you weigh food cooked or raw doesn't really matter. As long as you have accurate calorie and nutrient references, you can use whichever method suits you.
When it comes to nutrition, there are things you need to be concerned about more than others. Deciding whether to weigh food cooked or raw shouldn't appear very high up that list. Simply be flexible enough to choose the most logical method for the situation in front of you. There's really no hard and fast rules.
If the food is cooked, weigh it and use the cooked reference in MyFitnessPal (or whatever tracking app you decide to use). But if the food is raw and it makes sense to weigh it before cooking, do that and use the uncooked reference when you track.
But remember, tracking isn't the only method of losing weight and dropping body fat. So don't feel shoe-horned into someone else's process.
You do you!
Your Next Step To Mastering Nutrition And Shaping A Leaner, Healthier, Stronger Body
Here’s what to do next to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body. Simply click the link below and I’ll send you my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), a guide on calculating your calories, plus so much more.
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But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.