We recently hosted a Fat Loss Workshop here at the gym.
The focal point of the workshop was to gather actionable strategies that can work for you to lose fat. Not a magic bullet or quick fix shortcut to fat loss.
With that being said, the overarching concept and "numero uno" consideration for losing fat is …drum roll please… calorie balance.
Meaning calories consumed against calories being burned.
If you utilize more calories than you consume on a daily basis you will (in almost all cases) start to lose weight. If you consume the same amount as your body uses daily, you maintain. If you eat more calories than you use, you will start gaining weight.
To gather even more info on the importance of calorie balance check out this blog post.
So now that we have that squared away, and you are ready to start focusing on calories as your basis for fat loss, let’s look at some of the reasons why calorie tracking just might be failing you.
#1 “Here and there” food
How common is this scenario? You are preparing dinner for the family, the sides are done, but you are still cooking the chicken. You reach over, grab the spoon for the rice and “taste” a spoonful. 5 minutes later, the chicken isn’t quite done, the rice is still there, and now you snag another bite.
Or, you walk past the pantry and a little pang of hunger hits you. You swing open the door, find the quickest "grab and go," snag a handful of it, and go on with your day.
Chances are, at the end of the day, you aren’t going to record the extra rice, or the handful from the pantry.
The above scenario basically boils down to under-reporting of these quick snacks, or “tastes.”
There is also research to back this up. Studies have shown "failure of some subjects to lose weight while eating a diet they report as low in calories, is due to an energy intake substantially higher than reported, and an overestimation of physical activity".
Meaning we are, and most likely not on purpose, under-reporting our calorie intake, while simultaneously over-reporting our physical activity.
I love ketchup, ranch dressing, buffalo sauce…
That being the case, it becomes pretty easy to be liberal with condiments of all kinds.
A common serving size of 1 tablespoon can quickly turn into 3 times that amount with a few seconds' longer squeeze. But when it boils down to tracking time, it’s easy to record the single serving.
Measuring food with a food scale, or using measuring cups and spoons, is going to be the most accurate way to determine exact portion sizes. But think about the last time you actually measured out your ranch dressing. Ummm...maybe never?!?
An extra 50-100 calories each time you are saucing up your chicken or dipping your fries can add up quite quickly.
So, what should you do? No, it's not "bring a measuring spoon everywhere."
Try this: just for the next week, measure out your condiments with measuring spoons to get an accurate feel for exactly what the serving size is, each time you use it.
This will create some valuable awareness to how large/small each suggested serving size actually is, and will allow you to understand the calorie load.
#3 Liquid Calories and Alcohol
The final area where a lot of calories can sneak in without us realizing, or having trouble tracking, is liquid calories.
Liquid calories can come from a host of different things: coffee, wine, milk, juice, beer, and booze, to name a few.
Like to drink craft beer…are you tracking 150-300 calories per 12 ounces?
Having a quick sports drink after an afternoon jog…make sure to enter the 80 calories into FitPal.
That daily mocha habit at Caribou is certainly easy to forget when it comes to tracking, but those 320 calories have to be considered toward your daily total.
Or how about finishing your daughter's O.J. she didn’t drink at breakfast (I know you all do that, or at least dads do!). Does that 45 calories make your tracking sheet?
These liquid calories tend to add up the fastest of all, and in the entire scope of things, may provide to be the least valuable forms of calorie intake.
Don’t get us wrong, calorie tracking isn’t an exact science. In fact, for most of us it is really just a "best guess" estimate.
But we do have to remember that every calorie counts, and make certain to keep in consideration that it’s sometimes easy to misreport or forget calories throughout the day…and this my friends, just might be why calorie tracking is failing you.