5. The law of calorie balance
Date: 4/8/2009 10:51:11 PM ( 10 y ) ... viewed 2413 times
The Definition of a Calorie
Many people talk about calories all the time, but if you asked them to explain exactly what a calorie is or tell you how many calories they eat and burn every day, they wouldn't have a clue. By the time you are finished with this chapter, you will be an expert on calories. You will know exactly what calories are, how they are stored your body, how many you burn every day and how many you should eat to lose body fat without losing muscle. I'll show you why calorie counting is important and you'll learn why guessing or counting only "portions" might be the only thing preventing you from getting leaner. I'll also show you a simple method you can use to make calorie counting a quick, easy and painless process. Best of all, I'll let you in on the single most powerful technique for fat loss ever developed.
The best way to begin is with the definition of a calorie: The technical definition of a food calorie (kilocalorie) is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kilogram (lliter) of water 1 degree Centigrade. A calorie is simply a measure of heat energy. When food is burned, it releases a certain amount of heat (energy), depending on the type of food. The more calories that are in a food, the more energy will be released when it is burned.
The word "calorie" is used interchangeably to describe the amount of energy in food and the amount of energy stored in the body as adipose tissue (body fat) and glycogen (stored carbohydrate). For example, a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut contains about 210 calories and a 25-minute jog on the treadmill burns off about 210 calories.
Body fat is like a reserve storage tank for energy. When we speak of "burning off body fat" we are talking about releasing calories from your "storage tank" and burning them to fuel your activities. If you're inactive, the body fat just sits there in storage until you need it. If you're an average 185-pound man with about 18% body fat, you have 33.3 pounds of adipose tissue. There are 3500 calories in each pound of body fat, which adds up to a grand total of 116,550 calories of reserve energy in storage - enough to last you a long time!
Such a large calorie storage depot, combined with the body's starvation response, explains why you can stay alive for so long without food (as long as you get plenty of water). Fasting has been studied extensively and there are many documented cases of people living for months without eating any food whatsoever.
Your energy reserves served an important evolutionary purpose, but as you learned only very small amounts of body fat are essential for health. In our modem society where famine is no longer the concern it was for our ancestors, body fat is today little more than an annoying cosmetic problem (and a possible health risk).
Thanks to tens of thousands of years of evolution, you've developed a body that is an incredibly efficient fat-storing machine. That's the bad news. The good news is, by understanding calories and balancing your input with your output, you can easily lose fat or maintain a healthy and attractive body fat ratio.
The calorie bank analogy
A good analogy is to look at your body like a living calorie bank and caloric energy like money. You store calories in your body the way you store money in a bank. You can make energy deposits and withdrawals from your body the way you would make money deposits and withdrawals from the bank, depending on how high your energy costs are.
When your energy costs are equal to the calories you consume, then all the calories you consume are burned immediately and no deposit or withdrawal of calories takes place - your balance stays the same. When your energy costs are greater than the number of calories ingested, you will make an energy "withdrawal" from your calorie bank and your body fat "balance" will decrease. When your energy costs are less than the amount of calories you ingest, then you will make an energy "deposit" and your body fat "balance" will increase (excess calories go into fat storage).
The reason why calories count!
From these basic explanations and definitions, you can now clearly recognize the importance of counting calories. Keeping track of calories is just as important as keeping track of the deposits and withdrawals to your bank account. If you fail to pay attention to your finances and you make more withdrawals than deposits, you would soon find yourself broke and in debt. It's the same with your body, although in the case of calories, the reverse is true: If you don't keep track of your calorie deposits, you'll soon find yourself with an overstuffed calorie account in the form of unsightly and unwanted body fat!
Despite the obvious importance of watching your caloric intake, many diet programs insist calories don't matter as long as you eat the right "secret combinations" of foods. For example, in 1961, a book called "Calories Don't Count" was published by Dr. Herman Taller. The program was one of the first to promote high protein; very low carbohydrate diets (VLCDs). Others followed, the most popular of which was "Dr. Robert Atkin's New Diet Revolution."
The common denominator in most of these VLCDs is the claim that by removing most or all of the carbohydrates, you can eat an unlimited amount of calories from everything else (protein and fat). This is where the phrase "calories don't count" originally came from and that's why you hear about this idea so often. Unfortunately, the concepts of eating unlimited anything or of calories "not counting" are dead wrong!
According to the "calories-don't-count" theory, if you eat certain foods, or certain combinations of foods, you can eat as much as you want and you'll still lose weight. In our lazy and pleasure-seeking society today, this idea sounds wonderful, but this is physiologically impossible. The reason you lose weight on VLCDs without setting calorie limits or requiring calorie counting is because they tend to reduce appetite and cravings.
VLCDs allow you to eat more fat, which makes you feel full sooner. You also tend to get fewer cravings because eating fat and protein in the absence of carbohydrates levels out your blood sugar and insulin levels. The end result is you automatically eat fewer calories. The weight loss experienced on these programs comes from a calorie deficit, not from any "magical" effect of the diet itself If you were to follow a VLCD, but you consumed more calories than you burned up in a day, you would still gain body fat. The often-made claim, "Eat all you want and still lose weight," is one of the biggest and most common lies told in the weight loss industry.
The law of energy balance
This brings us to the law of energy balance; the granddaddy of all nutritional laws, and the first fundamental you must understand and obey if you want to get super lean.
The law of energy balance says, if you burn more calories than you consume, then your body must tap into stored fat for energy to make up for the calorie deficit and you will lose weight. The reverse is also true: If you consume more calories than you burn each day, you will store the surplus and gain weight.
The Law of Energy Balance:
To lose weight, you must burn more calories
than you consume each day.
To gain weight, you must consume more calories
than you burn each day.
The first corollary of the law of energy balance
There are two corollaries to the law of energy balance. The first corollary says that too much of any food - even so-called "healthy" foods - will get stored as body fat. If you consume more calories than you burn, (you're in a calorie surplus), it doesn't matter what you eat; you will gain weight, usually in the form of body fat. If the calorie surplus is beyond what you need for muscle growth, then all extra calories will be converted into body fat.
There's no such thing as a diet where you can "eat all you want" and lose weight simply by eating one particular food, one food group or a special combination of foods this is physiologically impossible. It's also impossible to eat exorbitant amounts of calories (or protein) thinking that you'll gain more muscle that way. No diet program has a "metabolic advantage" that can override the law of energy balance, no matter what combination of foods it prescribes.
Corollary One of the law of calorie balance
Too much of ANYTHING will get stored as fat - even healthy food
The second corollary of the law of energy balance
The second corollary of the law of energy balance says, if you are eating fewer calories than you are burning each day (you're in a calorie deficit), then even if you eat "junk food," you won't store it as body fat.
Corollary two should not be interpreted as a recommendation or a free license to eat anything you want in small quantities because you can "get away with it." Obviously calorie quality is also important - and we will discuss calorie quality in later chapters. However, knowledge of this corollary takes some of the pressure off you and allows you to relax your diet and enjoy "naughty" foods from time to time without guilt, as long as you do it in moderation. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it too, but you can't eat the whole thing!
Pay attention to portion size and never stuff yourself at one sitting
The law of energy balance is the major law of weight control you must understand and obey if you want to get super lean. The law of energy balance and its two corollaries override all other nutritional laws. Many people do almost everything right: they work out, choose the right foods and eat frequently. Yet they miss the most obvious factor of all: they're simply eating too much! Sometimes, the only mistake holding people back from reaching their goals is failure to pay attention to portion sizes.
Not every overweight person is an overeater. Some people hardly eat at all and they still can't lose weight. However, many people who are overweight are overeating and this is often the ONLY thing they're doing wrong. Fat loss requires the discipline and willpower to control your portions at all times.
The major rule is to never stuff yourself in one sitting. Instead, always spread out your calories throughout the day in smaller, more frequent meals.
How to determine your daily caloric needs
Once you understand the importance of calories, you're ready to figure out how many you need. The first step in designing your personal fat loss plan is to calculate the total number of calories you burn up every day. This is known as your total daily energy expenditure (IDEE). IDEE is also known as your "maintenance level," because this is the level where your calorie "deposits" are exactly equal to your calorie "withdrawals." IDEE is the total number of calories your body bums in 24 hours, including basal metabolic rate and all activities. Once you know your maintenance level, you will have a reference point from which to start your program.
The 6 Factors influencing your daily calorie needs
Your daily calorie requirements depend on six major factors. The formulas for calorie calculations you are about to learn take into account all six ofthese factors to get the most accurate estimate possible.
1) Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
BMR is the total number of calories your body burns for normal bodily functions, including digestion, circulation, respiration, temperature regulation, cell construction, and every other metabolic process in your body. In other words, your BMR is the sum total of all the energy used for basic bodily functions, not including physical activity. BMR usually accounts for the largest amount of your daily calorie expenditure - about two thirds. BMR is at its lowest when you're sleeping and you're not digesting anything. BMR can vary dramatically from person to person depending on genetic factors. You probably know someone who can eat anything they want yet they never gain an ounce of fat. This type of "fast metabolism" person has inherited a naturally high BMR.
2) Activity Level
Next to BMR, your activity level is the second most important factor in how many calories you need every day. The more active you are the more calories you burn; it's that simple. Become more active and you burn more calories. Sit on the couch all day long and you hardly burn any.
Your total body weight and total body size are also major factors in the number of calories you require. The bigger you are, the more calories you'll require to move your body.
4) Lean Body Mass (LBM)
Total body weight correlates with the number of calories you require, but separating your total weight into its lean and fat components allows you to calculate your calorie needs even more accurately. The higher your LBM, the higher your BMR will be. This is very significant when you want to lose body fat because it means the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, and it requires a great deal of energy to sustain it. The best way to increase your BMR is to increase your LBM. This is why you could say that weight training helps you lose body fat, albeit indirectly
Metabolic rate tends to slow down with age. Therefore, the number of calories the average person requires also goes down with age. Fortunately, you can prevent and even reverse the age-related slowdown in metabolism by developing more muscle through weight training and nutrition.
Men usually require more calories than women. The average male has a maintenance level of 2800 calories per day. The average female requires only 2000 calories per day to maintain. The reason for this difference is not so much a sex-related issue as a body weight and muscle mass issue; the average man carries much more muscle mass than the average female and this explains the spread in calorie requirements between men and women. Except for individual genetically-related differences in BMR, a 140 pound man and a 140 pound woman would have the same calorie requirements if their activity level were identical.
Methods of determining caloric needs
There are many formulas you can use to determine your daily calorie needs using these six factors. Any formula using LBM in the calculations will always be more accurate than one based only on bodyweight. However, you can still get a very accurate estimate of your calorie expenditure just from body weight alone.
The "quick" method (based on total bodyweight)
A fast and easy method to determine how many calories you need is to use your total current weight times a multiplier for IDEE.
Fat loss = 12 - 13 calories per lb. of bodyweight Maintenance (IDEE) = 15-16 calories per lb. of bodyweight Weight gain = 18 to 20+ calories per lb. of bodyweight
This is a very easy method to estimate caloric needs, but its most obvious drawbacks are not taking into account activity levels or body composition. If you're extremely active, this formula will underestimate your calorie requirements.
Using this formula, a lightly active 50-year-old woman who weighs 235 lbs. would have an IDEE of 3055 calories per day (235 X 13). Since almost all women will rapidly gain weight on 3000 calories per day, this illustrates another flaw in the quick formula - it will overestimate your calories if your fat is significantly higher than average despite these drawbacks, the quick formula is a good way to get a quick ballpark estimate, as long as your body fat is average or less.
Equations based on BMR.
A more accurate method for calculating TDEE is to determine basal metabolic rate (BMR) first, then multiply the BMR by an activity factor to determine TDEE. Then; are two formulas you can use to calculate your BMR. The Harris-Benedict formula is the one you will use if you don't know your LBM (you don't need body composition information to use this formula). If you know your LBM, you should use the Katch Mcardle formula for the most accurate calorie estimate of all.
The Harris-Benedict formula (BMR based on total body weight)
The Harris-Benedict formula uses the factors of height, weight, age, and sex to determine basal metabolic rate (BMR). This makes it more accurate than determining calorie needs based on total bodyweight alone. The only variable it doesn't take into consideration is lean body mass.
This equation will be very accurate in all but the extremely muscular (will underestimate caloric needs) and the extremely over fat (will overestimate caloric needs).
Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)
Note: 1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
1 kilogram = 2.2lbs.
You are male
You are 30 yrs old
You are 5' 8 II tall (172.7 cm)
You weigh 172 lbs. (78 kilos)
Your BMR = 66 + 1068 + 863.6 - 204 = 1793 calories/day
Once you know your BMR, you can calculate TDEE by multiplying your BMR by the following activity factor.
Sedentary = BMR x 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active = BMR x 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week)
Mod. Active = BMR x 1.55 (moderate exercise/soprts 3-5 days/week)
Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
Extra Active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job or 2 X day
training, marathon, football camp, contest, etc.)
Continuing with the previous example:
Your BMR is 1793 calories per day
Your activity level is moderately active (work out 3-4 times per week)
Your activity factor is 1.55
Your TDEE = 1.55 X 1793 = 2779 calories/day
Katch-McArdle formula (BMR based on lean body weight)
The Harris-Benedict equation has separate formulas for men and women because men usually have higher lean body mass and larger bodies.
Since the Katch-McArdle formula accounts for LBM, this single formula applies equally to both men and women and it is the most accurate method of determining your daily calorie needs.
BMR (men and women) = 370 + (21.6 X lean mass in kg)
You are male
You weigh 172 lbs (78 kilos)
Your body fat percentage is 14% (24.1Ibs fat, 147.9 lbs lean)
Your lean mass is 147.91bs (67.2 kilos)
Your BMR = 370 + (21.6 X 67.2) = 1821 calories
To determine TDEE from BMR, you simply multiply BMR by the activity factor:
Continuing with the previous example:
Your BMR is 1821
Your activity level is moderately active (you work out 3-4 times per week) your activity factor is 1.55
Your TDEE = 1.55 X 1821 = 2822 calories
As you can see, the difference in the IDEE as determined by both formulas is statistically insignificant (2779 vs. 2822 calories) because the man we used as an example is average in body size and body composition. The primary benefit of factoring LBM into the equation is increased accuracy when your body composition leans to either end of the spectrum (very muscular or very obese). This is yet another reason to monitor your body fat percentage and not just your body weight.
Adjust your caloric intake according to your goal
Once you know your IDEE (maintenance level), the next step is to adjust your calories according to your primary goal. The mathematics of weight control is simple:
1) To keep your weight at its current level, you should remain at your daily caloric maintenance level.
2) To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by reducing your calories slightly below your maintenance level (or keeping your calories the same and increasing your activity above your current level).
3) To gain lean body weight, you must increase your calories above your maintenance level (and engage in a program of progressive resistance training).
How to adjust your calories for fat loss
Now let's talk about how many calories you should eat to lose body fat. A calorie deficit that's too large or maintained for too long will eventually invoke the starvation response and slow your metabolism. Nevertheless, you must have a calorie deficit if you want to lose fat. The secret is to use a small calorie reduction and to avoid any diet that calls for extremely large calorie reductions.
Body fat is nothing more than stored energy. To release stored energy, you must be in a calorie deficient state. Calories not only count, they are the most important factor in a fat loss program. If you are eating more calories than you burn, you will not lose fat, no matter what you're eating or what kind of training you're doing. Some foods may get stored as fat more easily than others because of the way they affect your hormones and blood sugar, but always bear in mind that too much of anything will get stored as fat. You can never override the laws of energy balance.
There are 3500 calories in a pound of stored body fat. In theory, if you create a 3500-calorie deficit per week through diet, exercise or a combination of both, you will lose one pound. If you create a 7000 calorie deficit in a week you will lose two pounds. The calorie deficit can be created through diet, exercise or preferably with a combination of both. Because we already factored in the exercise deficit by using an activity multiplier, the deficit we are concerned with here is the dietary deficit. The strictly mathematical model of calories in versus calories out doesn't always work because of the body's weight regulating mechanism - also known as the starvation response. Nevertheless, the mathematical model gives you a starting point, and as long as you follow the 8 strategies you learned.
Calorie deficit thresholds: How low is too low?
It's a fact that cutting calories too severely slows down the metabolic rate and causes the loss of lean body mass, so that leaves us with the question, "How low can you go without negative effects?
There definitely seems to be a certain cutoff or threshold point where further reductions will begin causing problems. The most common guideline for fat loss is to reduce your calories by at least 500, but not more than 1000 below your maintenance level.
Reduce your calories by 15-20% below maintenance for optimal, safe fat loss
A more precise way to determine your correct calorie deficit would be to use a percentage deficit relative to your maintenance level. Reducing calories by 15-20% below maintenance level is a good place to start. A larger deficit (25-30%) might be necessary in some cases, but the best approach would be to keep your calorie deficit from diet small, while increasing your activity level to create a bigger deficit, if needed. Remember, the larger of a deficit you create, the sooner your body will catch on that you are dieting and the sooner it will start slowing your rate of calorie burning.
Minus 500 method:
Your weight is 172 lbs.
Your IDEE is 2822 calories
Your calorie deficit to lose weight is 500 calories
Your optimal caloric intake for weight loss is 2822 - 500 = 2322 calories
Your calorie deficit to lose weight is 20% (.20% X 2822 = 564 calories) your optimal caloric intake for weight loss = 2258 calories
Adjust your calories according to your weekly results
All caloric expenditure formulas are just estimations for giving you a starting point. The ONL Y way to tell if your estimate is accurate is to get started and watch your results carefully. To see how your body responds to your initial calorie calculations, measure and record your results in terms of weight and body composition using the instructions in chapter three. If you don't get results you expect, you should adjust your caloric intake and exercise levels according to the instructions in chapter four, "charting your progress."
The "skinny" on gaining muscle while losing fat
Supplement advertising in fitness magazines has brainwashed many people into believing that gaining muscle and losing fat at the same is an easy and common occurrence (with the right "miracle" product, of course). IT'S NOT! It's quite rare. It's common to see a large decrease in body fat with a small increase in lean body mass. It's also common to see a large increase in lean body mass with a small decrease in body fat. But one thing you will almost never see is a large increase in lean body mass and a large decrease in body fat at the same time (especially if you are drug-free or genetically average).
Because so many people can't make up their minds and they flip flop back and forth between trying to gain muscle and trying to lose fat, they sometimes end up accomplishing neither! Clear goals and a laser-like focus are critical if you want to make the most efficient use of your time, energy and effort. Make up your mind and follow through!
It's physiologically impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same moment in time. You can't gain muscle in a calorie deficit and you can't lose fat in a calorie surplus, it's that simple.
There are several situations where gaining large amounts of muscle and losing large amounts of fat can occur at the same time:
1) when steroids and/or fat burning drugs are used.
2) In beginners whose bodies are extremely responsive to exercise (some of the rapid muscle and strength gains in beginners can be attributed to neurological adaptations).
3) In advanced trainees after a long layoff (the muscle gain can be attributed to "muscle memory" i.e., they are not gaining new muscle, they are simply regaining what they previously lost).
4) In genetic superiors.
The most efficient method of improving body composition is to put 100% focus on your single most important goal; losing fat or gaining muscle - one or the other. If you have above average amounts of body fat, then your number one goal should be to focus on losing fat first. Then, once the fat is off, you can re-write your goals and work on gaining muscle while maintaining your new, lower body fat level.
The zig zag calorie rotation method for maximum fat loss: the most effective nutritional technique for fat loss ever developed!
Every time you cut calories below your maintenance level, it's never long before your body recognizes the deficit and adjusts your fat burning thermostat so fewer calories are burned. The larger the drop in calories and the longer the drop are maintained, the bigger the drop will be in metabolism.
Your body is an amazing machine that is remarkably adaptable to any situation or environment. Your body likes to stay in a state of equilibrium and will always fight your efforts to change.
Fortunately, there is a way you can "trick" your body into keeping your metabolic rate up while you're dieting for fat loss - It's called the zig zag method and it's without question the most powerful fat burning technique ever developed.
You must have a deficit to lose fat, but what you don't want is a large deficit for a long period of time. The way to "outsmart" your body's starvation response is to avoid prolonged calorie deficits. You simply drop into a calorie deficit for a brief period of three days, then - before your body has a chance to decrease your metabolic rate- you raise your calories back up to maintenance level (or even above maintenance) for one to three days. You then repeat this process until you reach your desired body fat percentage.
Basic "zig zag" rotation
Low calorie days (15-20% below IDEE):2240 calories – 3 days
High calorie days (maintenance level):2800 calories – 1 day
Adjustments in calories may need to be made according to your weekly results, and some experimentation is usually necessary before you find your correct numbers.
Compare your estimated IDEE to how much you've been eating
In order to know where you should begin, you need to know how many calories you were consuming prior to starting this program. Most people have absolutely no idea how many calories they eat every day. If you fall into this category, then it's time to start the new positive habit of calorie counting!
Before you make any major alterations to the quantity of food you're eating now, figure out exactly how many calories you've been averaging over the past few months. Think back to a recent "typical" day of eating and write down everything you ate from the time you got up in the morning to the time you went to sleep at night. Don't forget the little things like sauces, condiments, the milk in your coffee, the sports drink during your workout, that beer on the weekend and late-night snacks.
Then, get out your calorie list found in the appendix and add everything up. (I also recommend Corinne Netzer's "Complete Book of Food Counts" for an exhaustive listing of over 12,000 foods). If your food intake always varies and you don't have a typical day, then write down three days worth of recent menus, add them up and divide by three to get a daily average. After you've tallied it all up you may be surprised (often unpleasantly) at the amount you've been eating.
Make it a discipline to learn the calorie values of all the foods you eat on a regular basis and commit them to memory. There are probably only about a dozen or so. For foods you eat only occasionally, have your calorie counter book or calorie chart handy to look them up.
Adjust your caloric intake gradually if necessary
It's usually not wise to make drastic changes to your caloric intake all at once. After you've done all your calorie calculations and determined your optimal calorie level to reach your goal, compare that amount to what you've been averaging over the past few months.
If your current caloric intake has been substantially higher or lower than your new target amount, then you may need to adjust gradually. For example, if you’re optimal caloric intake is 2600 calories per day, but you've only been eating two meals and 1500 calories per day for the past year, your metabolism may be sluggish from the low meal frequency and calorie intake. An immediate jump to 2600 calories per day might actually cause a gain in body fat if your body has adapted to the lower calories. A sudden increase would create a temporary surplus.
The best approach would be to gradually increase your calories from 1500 to 2600 over a period of weeks to allow your metabolism to gradually increase. Simply eat the same foods and the same number of meals, but gradually increase your portions to let your body acclimate.
The reverse is also true; if you're eating a lot more than your recommended amount, it may be wiser to gradually reduce your calories than to drop them suddenly. Cutting too many calories too quickly often causes diet relapses because the change is too dramatic for some people to handle.
Keep a nutrition journal: Read labels, count calories, and weigh or measure everything...at least once
During the initial stages of this program, I strongly encourage you to keep a "Daily Nutrition Journal" in which you keep track of your calories and other important nutrition information. Or, just keep your nutrition journal in a plain old spiral notebook.
If you're not familiar with calories, you should keep a detailed nutrition journal at least once for a period of one to three months. After you've done this exercise, you'll have gained a new perspective on calories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Get yourself a good food scale like the "Health-O Meter" (available in the Kitchen section of better department stores or at house wares stores) and get a complete set of measuring cups. For any packaged foods that you don't know the caloric value of by memory, read the "Nutrition Facts" panel on the label. For produce and natural foods that don't come with labels (Potatoes, yams, vegetables, fruits, etc), use your calorie book or chart to look up the food values.
Is all this calorie counting really necessary or can you just count "portions"
Some people claim that meticulous calorie counting is not practical. Instead they insist that you should count "portions." Controlling portion sizes instead of calories is a start but its not going to be precise in your calorie intake and you will never know if your in a deficit or not.
If you don't become familiar with the calorie content of your daily staple foods and keep a detailed nutrition journal at least once, then you're not just serious about your goals - you're guessing! Once you've completed this journal exercise, you'll be able to at least make an educated ballpark estimate of your caloric intake from that point onward.
A simple way to make this process quick and easy is to type out your menu on an Excel spreadsheet with all your calorie and macronutrient totals calculated and then tape it to your refrigerator (and stick a copy in your Day Timer or appointment book too). If you follow the same basic menu every day, or close to it, then there's no more calorie counting to be done - you only have to do it once to set up your initial menu.
Calorie counting is a discipline that pays off
Although it's clearly not necessary to write down the calorie amounts of every crumb that goes in your mouth every day for the rest of your life, it's important that you understand the law of calorie balance and you always have at least a ballpark figure of your current daily intake. If you're just guessing and you don't have the slightest clue how much you're eating, you could be Way off in either direction. If you're not making any progress, this lack of attention to detail might be the only thing holding you back. Do you really want to take that chance?
Ultimately, whether you decide to track calories meticulously should depend on your results. Results are what count. Counting portions and "ball parking it" is fine ONL Y if you're getting the results you want. If you're losing fat while maintaining lean body mass without counting calories, then keep doing what you're doing. However, most people who refuse to count calories are NOT getting the results they want because they are guessing, which simply demonstrates a lack of discipline.
You might not consider calorie counting and number crunching fun or easy and you might not feel like doing it. However, calorie counting is a discipline just like anything else. The best definition of discipline I've ever heard was by achievement expert Brian Tracy, who said, "Discipline is doing what is hard and necessary rather than what is fun and easy and doing it when it's necessary, whether you feel like doing it or not."
So if you want the best results, then get out your calorie book, measuring cups, scale, daily nutrition diary (or spreadsheet) and start counting. In the upcoming chapters, get ready to learn about more disciplines you'll want to adopt in order to slash your body fat to ridiculously low levels, revealing the chiseled muscle definition you've always wanted!
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