Calorie counting has massive benefits, including fuelling your body for success. It does however, bring with it a lot of questions. Is it necessary? Is it worth it? Can’t I just guess? Will I get obsessed? If you have goals to achieve body recompositing, calorie counting (for at least a period of time), will most definitely be worth it!

And no, you will not become obsessed and it is not unhealthy. Whilst for some people, calorie counting can become an unhealthy focus, for the vast majority, it is a very useful educational tool. Don’t underestimate the knowledge that calorie and macro counting will give you, specific to the foods you regularly eat.

So now that got you on board, let’s learn how we do it!


Calorie Counting – What do to and what not to do


What you do not want to do is to download myfitnesspal and allow it to pick calories synced with your activity levels. This is because it will cause you to under eat, be under fuelled, and be more prone to under recovery and injury. Even if fat loss is the goal, we still need to be correctly fuelled in order to see results.

This is why a deficit of 300-500kcal from your Total Daily Energy Expenditure – or the calories that you require to daily activities is recommended for a fat loss journey to be realistic, and sustained.

Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is composed of 4 parts:


  • BMR = Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body requires to simply just live – to pump blood around the body, and to breath. Essentially if you were to lie down still for the day and do nothing, your body would still need to burn these calories. Your BMR makes up 60-70% of your TDEE. Age, sex and genetics are among the factors that determine your BMR and there is little you can do to change it.
  • TEF = Thermic Effect of Food. This is the number of calories the body burns during chewing, digesting and absorbing nutrients from various foods. It usually accounts for 10-15%. The foods you eat can influence your TEF with fibre and protein taking longer to digest which will keep you feeling fuller for longer – and burning more calories. Makes up around 10% of TDEE.
  • NEAT = Non-Exercise Thermogenesis. This is the calories you will burn during any non-planned activity. This could be range from running a short journey to catch the bus in the morning, to vigorously hoovering the car. Getting your steps in throughout the day also counts towards this, contributing to about 15% of TDEE.
  • EAT or our exercise activity thermogenesis – any planned exercise! So your gym session, your daily run. This only makes up 5% of TDEE for the majority of recreational exercisers.



How do i figure out my daily calories?


So how to determine the calories and macros required to reach my goals?

There are a few scientifically backed equations that you can use to determine the calories required by our bodies, and how we can adapt them to allow us to reach our goals. Firstly, we want to determine our BMR, this part of the equation varies dependent on sex.

For females:

(10 X weight in kg) + (6.25 X height in cm) – (5 X age in years) – 161.

For males:

(10 X weight in kg) + (6.25 X height in cm) – (5 X age in years) + 5

Again, these formulas will give you your BMR – again the calories needed just to live. We then need to multiply this figure based on what our activity levels are to determine our Total daily caloric requirements.

Now you have to multiply by a scale factor dependent on your activity level.

  • Sedentary:  x 1.2
  • Lightly active: x 1.375
  • Moderately active: x 1.55
  • Active: x 1.725
  • Very active: x 1.9

There you have it!

Your daily calories required for maintenance. I would recommend spending two weeks aiming to hit the calorie targets you got from the above equation. This will allow the body adapt to a new way of eating without changing weight too much (however it may slightly change due to macronutrient variations such as more carbs holding onto water, or protein and fibre taking longer to digest and stay in the stomach for longer).

From here, if the goal is to lose weight, we want to have more calories expended than ingested, therefore decreasing calories is required.

Begin with a reduction of around 300kcal/day. This can be slightly increased to 500kcal, however for best sustained results that will result in long term weight loss, keeping to the lower end of a deficit is advised. If on the other hand your goal is weight gain, again anything between a 300-500kcal surplus will give you results!



Calorie counting Considerations


Macronutrient intake needs to be considered. Yes, you could probably lose weight if you ate McDonalds for the day and stayed within your deficit. But would be a really silly thing to do. Your health would suffer due to the amount of saturated fat intake leading to cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. The lack of protein would slow muscle growth and you would not get a ‘toned’ up look. Not to mention the decrease in energy levels which would not have you training properly in the gym. The list goes on, just don’t do it!!

What we want to do is focus on protein first, as, it is the most important for fat loss and muscle gain. We want to aim for 1.6g – 2g/kg of protein each day.


For example, 104g- 130kg if you weigh 65kg. If you weight 80kg, this number increased between 128-160g.


How much carbs and fat we eat doesn’t matter as much but I would advise aiming for about 45% + of your energy intake to come from carbs, especially if gaining adaption to exercise is your main priority. We also require a minimum of 0.53g/kg of fats for body function. Either of these should be decreased in a deficit and increased in a surplus. Even if carbs are decreased however, it is important we time their intake before and after workouts workout to help with replenishment, and recovery.

The other biggest consideration needed when it comes to calorie counting it to include EVERYTHING. Yes, I’ll say it again, EVERYTING.

Time and time again people will say it doesn’t work for them.

That’s not true, in fact it’s a fact that any person in the history of the world who has ever lost weight has done so while being in a caloric deficit. To ensure you don’t fall into this trap, count EVERYTHING! Any bit of food or beverage you consume – oil on the pan, orange dilute, butter on your bread – It all counts!

Even doing this for 2 weeks will give you improved knowledge on the calorie content of foods you didn’t know before. So why not freely educate yourself and get some gains as a result?



In summary


There you have it, calorie counting 101. Calorie counting, even for a short amount of time, will do you wonders no matter what your health and fitness goal may be. Having a strong understanding of not only how much energy you burn on a daily basis, but also the amount that you need to consume to maintain, lose or gain weight is invaluable.

Start today and thank me for the results you’ll see in the next few weeks.

There’s never going to be a better time to do it, so save scrolling on social media for 10 minutes each day and start today!


Want To Learn More?


Since COVID-19 entered our lives, we have aimed to deliver some great weekly information as to how you can remain healthy, productive and in good spirits. This blog post is the latest addition to a growing library of information. Click to read more on our dedicated COVID support blogs.


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