Despite the fact that we promote deals on nutritional supplements, you will always see us saying that diet comes first…
…Because diet does come first! So before you go buying any supplements on this site, it’s time to get your diet in check.
To do that, it’s time to start measuring. There are four things you need: a calorie counter, patience, willpower, and a food scale.
You NEED a Food Scale – The Most Underrated Tool!The most important thing to note is that if you’re going to do this right, you need a food scale.
The last thing you want to be doing is eating a 7oz potato and thinking its 4oz every day. Similarly, you’ll need to start measuring your fats and oils with measuring spoons!
For instance, 1 tablespoon of olive oil is really not that big… but it packs a whopping 14g fat and ~120 calories. I could easily use 2-3 tablespoons and not even realize that I just added 40g of fat and 350 calories to my light salad.
Now slightly overdoing the olive oil fine when bulking up… but it’s not so fine when dieting down (or when it fills you up so much that you miss your protein numbers!)
Measuring prevents problems like that… and eyeballing it is how you get stuck on nasty plateaus.
So get a scale and don’t feel ashamed that you’re weighing food. If you don’t, it makes this whole process practically useless.
Another warning: You need to get religious about this stuff! You can’t selectively put in your healthy foods. You can’t do this once in a while. You need to do this EVERY single day, with every single thing you put in your mouth.
Note that if you eat nearly the same exact thing every day, you might be able to get away with missing a day here or there. But for most people, that’s not the case.
What if I don’t know what’s in this?
If you’re unable to calculate the macros out of a meal, chances are, you probably shouldn’t have been eating it in the first place (unless it’s a cheat meal).
This process is only as accurate as you are. If you’re serious, you need to measure seriously.
Learn to Adapt
The point of this is that you will be able to manage things once you have hard data. You can check out some examples of this on the bottom of our page.
But don’t adapt too quickly. Small changes over a few weeks time can add up to some serious results. Getting too drastic too fast can really hurt your system and put you on one of those rollercoasters we all hate.
Learn to Read the Labels
How to Read Food Labels – No matter how expert you are, you’ll probably learn something here. Many people know less than they think when it comes to reading the labels!
The Calorie Tracking Websites and Apps
Now let’s take a look at the best calorie counting websites and apps, and give commentary on each one.
I’d try three different ones for a day with the same foods and see which one has an interface that works for you.
This is probably the most accurate and detailed of them all, with tons of natural foods (that you should be eating).
Hugely popular nowadays (it’s early 2013). I recommend this one as one of your three choices.
It also has an app that’s got tons and tons of great reviews. Overall, this is the one you’ll probably want to stick with, while looking at NutritionData when you need some hardcore data on a food here or there.
Daily Burn is both accurate and easy to use. Has some cool add-ons worth messing around with.
This used to be the go-to. They were practically first to this little “calorie counting” market. And then… the site hasn’t been updated since like 2003. I like the custom foods you can create, but it’s pretty inaccurate otherwise.
iPhone App available.
Am I the only person out there who just doesn’t trust about.com for anything?? It just seems to me that they have too much stuff, and you can’t be great at everything.
That said, if you do a lot of cooking, you’ll love the tool that takes your recipe and servings and it calculates things for you.
Also has an app.
- My Calorie Counter
This looks okay, but something about going to my-calorie-counter.com makes me wonder if I should trust it. I might accept one dash, but two? What is this?
Basic and accurate, but I haven’t used it for a while. Site seems to be getting out of date.
Never tried it… probably never will. Drop a comment if you’re a user.
Good lists of information here, but I’m not seeing a tracker. Good to get some quick data. Site runs too slow for me.
Calorie King does well with the commercially available products out there.
- Calorieking.au – Same as above, but for you wonderful Australians.
- LiveStrongYep, these guys have one. And if they weren’t founded by that lying bastard Lance Armstrong, I’d have considered linking to their site. But they were, so I won’t.
Some Adaptation Examples
Now that you have some cold, hard data… if you hit a plateau, you will know how to respond!
One thing to note is that we almost always feel that you can’t get enough protein in. That’s the most important number to hit every day. At least 1g per pound of bodyweight for muscle growth.
After that, here are a few examples, but there’s many more things you can do:
- Trying to burn fat and lose weight, and the scale is moving down yet you are looking no better? This is a tough one, but the two responses are to “keep it up” and to raise your protein and resistance training (like weightlifting) while dropping some carbs and fats in exchange.
You might also want to mess with the timing – slowly drop the carbs (especially the simple ones) late in the day. After ~4pm or so, keep it all colorful veggies and lean proteins with some healthy fats (ie, grilled chicken salad with a bit of olive oil – no bread, no croutons).
- Trying to bulk up, and nothing’s working? Eat more. Quality complex carbs (yams, sweet potatoes, steel-cut or old-fashioned oats, brown rice) and tons more protein (chicken, turkey, beef, pork, nuts, eggs, whey protein, fish, etc). Inch it up EVERY day until you see results that don’t make you too fat.It’s tough to bulk up and add muscle without adding fat… but you can at least monitor the amount of bodyfat you’re putting on and try not to spiral too far out of control.
- Trying to just lose weight, but you’re not? Now you know that you need to drop calories each day (preferably out of the carbs and fats department). Just drop 5% of your calories for a week and see where you are after that.Note: we hate the idea of ONLY looking at weight loss. I don’t care about how much you weigh. I care that you’re healthy and pleasant to look at. That means, I care mostly about your muscletone-to-fat ratio and your bodyfat percentage.
If you only care about your weight, you will be endanger of becoming “skinny fat”, which is totally unattractive. We want to see a bit of muscle tone, not skin and bone or flab-and-bone!!
Meanwhile, that brings us to the next point:
- Trying to Lose Weight, but the scale is the same yet you think you’re looking better?
Keep it up! THIS IS A GOOD THING!!! If you look and feel better, then that’s the whole point!
What’s happening here is that you’re building more lean muscle – which is taking the place of that bodyfat. For you ladies, this is totally fine – you’re not gonna get “jacked” — you’re getting toned.
At this point, focus on bodyfat percentage and health/energy/vibrance, and screw the scale for a little while (or at least remain happy with it staying around the same number while you make the ‘beginner muscle tone gains’).
We love it when people get to this point, yet it pains us to see people quit when this starts happening. This is a successful sweet spot, not a plateau! Keep shedding the fat, if it converts to muscle tone, all the power to you. This is how sexy bodies are built.
- Trying to bulk up, but it’s too much bodyfat? Slow down on the calories a touch, bump up the protein, and lower the fats and carbs. Work out harder (see our Top 10 Pre Workout Supplements to get you fired up)!!! Get your veggies in!
As always, see your doctor before beginning a new diet and/or supplementation program. But it’s always best to go to your doctor with data to show what’s going on.
Chances are, after you start seriously measuring your foods, you’ll be able to tell exactly where you’re going wrong. But if not, doctors and dietitians are there for you. You can also contact us and we’ll be happy to take a look at your plan – just tell us where you’re at and where your goals are!