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The law of calorie balance says:
To maintain your weight, you must consume same number of calories you burn. To gain weight, you must consume more calories than you burn. To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn.
If you only count portions or if you haven't slightest clue how many calories you're eating, it's a lot more likely that you'll eat more than you realize. (Or you might take in fewer calories than you should, which triggers your body’s "starvation mode" and 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 that’s 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, print it, 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 you’re 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 on road to a better body is one good menu on paper. 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 need 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 more educated) ballpark figure.
So what’s bottom line? Is it really necessary to count every calorie to lose weight? No. But it IS necessary to eat fewer calories then you burn. Whether you count calories and eat less than you burn, or you don’t count calories and eat less than you burn, end result is same – you lose weight. Which would you rather do: Take a wild guess, or increase your chance for success with some simple menu planning? I think right choice is obvious.
Tom Venuto is a certified personal trainer, natural bodybuilder and author of the #1 best selling diet e-book, "Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle. You can get info on Tom's e-book at: www.burnthefat.com. To get Tom's free monthly e-zine, visit www.fitren.com