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The law of calorie balance is an unbreakable law of physics: Energy in versus energy out dictates whether you will gain, lose or maintain your weight. Period.
To maintain your weight, you must consume same number of calories you burn. To gain weight (muscle), you must consume more calories than you burn. To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn.
If you eat more calories than your body can utilize, you're going to gain fat, period. If you only count portions and haven't slightest clue how many calories you're taking in, it's a lot more likely that you'll eat more than you realize. (Or you might take in fewer calories than you should and trigger dreaded "starvation mode" which causes your metabolism to shut down).
So how do you balance practicality and realistic expectations with a nutrition program that gets results? Here's a solution thatís a happy medium between strict calorie counting and just guessing:
Create a menu using an EXCEL spreadsheet or your favorite nutrition software. Crunch all numbers including calories, protein, carbs and fats. Once you have your daily menu, stick it on your refrigerator (and/or in your daily planner) and you now have an eating "goal" for day, including a caloric target.
That is my definition of "counting calories" -- creating a menu plan you can use as a daily guide, not necessarily writing down every morsel of food you eat for rest of your life. If youíre really ambitious, keeping a nutrition journal for at least 4-12 weeks is a great idea and an incredible learning experience, but all you really need to get started is one good menu. If you get bored eating same thing every day, you can create multiple menus, or just exchange foods using your one menu as a template.
Using this method, you really only have to count calories once when you create your menus. After you've got a knack for calories from this initial discipline of menu planning, then you can estimate portions in future and get a pretty good (and educated) ballpark figure.
For more information on calories (including how calculate exactly how many you should eat based on your age, activity and personal goals, and for even more practical, proven fat loss techniques that strip off body fat fast, check out my ebook, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle at www.burnthefat.com
Tom Venuto is an NSCA-certified personal trainer, certified strength coach, and author of the #1 e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle.Ē Tom has written over 170 articles and been featured in IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Menís Exercise. For info on Tom's e-book, visit: www.burnthefat.com. For Tomís free monthly e-zine, visit Fitness Renaissance: www.fitren.com