20 Pros and Cons of Counting Calories


You probably think calorie counting is an inevitable step on your fat loss journey.

It’s not.

We aren’t anti-calorie counting, it’s just not the only way to do it. The question is, is it the best way?

Let’s look at the pros and cons.

#1 - It’s an eye opener.

Pro

The main benefit of counting calories is you become more aware of the foods you eat.

As you learn how many calories some foods have compared to others, it opens your eyes to what types of food aren’t worth your time.

The more you know about the food you eat, the easier it is to make better choices.

#2 - You won’t do it forever.

Con

It’s not that you can’t do it forever, it’s that you won’t.

It’s a lot of work.

This isn’t necessarily a major drawback. If you at least get to where you can estimate how many calories most foods have, that’s useful knowledge.

In this way, calorie counting can be a great tool to use for a few weeks. Unfortunately, many people can’t keep up with it for even that long.

#3 - You could be way off.

Con

Even if you consistently track calories and get good at making estimates, there’s a good chance your calculations could be off by 20%. Possibly a lot more.

Unless you always eat the exact same thing, your estimates could be fine one day, and way off the next.

This can be frustrating when you think you’re eating enough to lose fat, but it doesn’t work out.

#4 - It gives you a baseline.

Pro

The fact that you’re trying to track your food intake is a good thing.

It might not be as accurate as you’d hoped, but having a baseline will give you a concept of the difference between a cup of strawberries (50-ish), and a cup of mixed nuts (800-ish).

And whether a dinner roll is really 100 or 150 calories, having a rough estimate can help you decide if it’s worth it or not.

#5 - It’s a calorie culture. (A)

Pro

Calorie info is widely available.

You can look at nutrition labels, online, or right on a menu.

If you do your own diet research, it’s almost impossible to get away from it.

Just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s the best. But it’s helpful to have the information you want so readily available.

#6 - It’s a calorie culture. (B)

Con

Our culture’s obsession with calories and weight loss has led to unhealthy practices.

Just because you lose weight in a calorie deficit doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Here’s an extreme example:

If you need 1,500 calories a day to lose weight, you could have 7 candy bars, or a few small meals with a balance of protein, carbs, fat, and veggies.

Both will help you lose weight. Only one is good for you.

Don’t value calorie quantity over nutrient quality.

#7 - So many changes.

Con

Calculating calories for fat loss isn’t a one time event — the number is always changing.

As you lose weight, you’ll have to cut calories more to continue losing fat.

At the same time, your metabolism may adapt to your calorie deficit by slowing down. How much this will happen is impossible to predict.

Your body might also adjust your physical activity. Your energy expenditure could go up or down, and you’ll be unaware that it’s happening.

All of these things complicate the idea of a simple math equation for determining how many calories to eat.

#8 - It’s easy to conceptualize.

Pro

Having a sharply defined number to work with is appealing.

As we’ve already seen, that number can be somewhat inaccurate, and will likely change at some point, but there’s no reason why you can’t adjust it as you go.

As long as you don’t mind staying on top of those adjustments, the guide of a specific calorie goal can be a successful strategy.

#9 - The daily accountability.

Pro

Tracking calories is like having a built-in accountability partner.

Whether you do it on your phone, or on paper, your notes will be staring back at you keeping you honest as you go about your day.

After a long day at work, they’ll let you know if the beer and chips you’re craving fit your calorie goal, or if they’re off limits.

#10 - It can take over your life.