Do I Need To Track Calories To Achieve My Goals?
Lesson 6 Module 1
You don't need to track calories to achieve your goals, but your do need to know that calories count.
There are many ways you can manage your nutrition and achieve a calorie deficit, surplus, or maintenance. Calorie tracking is just one method available to you.
Calorie tracking is a great tool for those new to nutrition, as it can be used to educate you about the calorie content of foods and how to manipulate your calories across the week to suit the ebbs and flows of real life (see the Habit Course for more detail on these points).
Here are a few calorie tracking options in ascending order of complexity.
- Portion Control - (click here for a portion control guide).
- Protein tracking - Use if muscle gain is the goal but you have low commitment to full tracking.
- You are likely to need to support this by a structured non-tracking approach to manage total calorie intake.
- Macro Ranges - Use if you have a focus on training and want to be flexible and inclusive with food choices.
- An alternative might also be to just track calories and protein.
- Calorie Tracking - This can either be done every day of the week or on specific days (ie week days).
- Macro Tracking - Only really needed for bodybuilders in competition prep.
- For clarity, this is tracking Protein, Carbs, and Fat to specific values.
Here are a few non-tracking methods you may want to consider.
- Intermittent Fasting - 16:8 and 5:2 are the most common.
- 16:8 - Fast for 16 hours (usually 8pm - 12pm the next day), then eat between 12pm and 8pm.
- 5:2 - 5 days eating ad libitum (what you want). 2 days of very low calorie intake.
- Clean Eating - Removing highly-processed, refined foods from your diet completely.
- Low Carb / Keto - Reducing carbohydrate intake to low levels (<50-100g if following Keto).
- Habits - Adoption of specific daily habits that contribute to overall caloric control. Here are some examples.
- Eat 20-30g of protein with main meals.
- Eat 200g of low calorie vegetables with lunch and dinner.
- Swap full sugar soda for water or diet versions.
- Alternate Day Fasting - Eat what you want one day, then completely fast the next.
- Meal Replacements - Replace one of your main meals with protein shake, relatively low in calories.
Typically, these non-tracking approaches require you to follow a simple set of rules that apply a degree of restriction. Be careful, not to adopt an approach that feels over-restrictive. Adherence is key.
Often, combining a tracking approach with a habit-based approach can work well.