You might decide to count calories on keto to help you reach your weight loss goals. While many people lose weight on keto without tracking calories, others find it useful to stay on the keto track, and it might help prevent you from overeating. Let’s discuss top tips for calorie-counting on keto.
How Can Counting Calories Help with Weight Loss?
Numerous health experts endorse the concept of ‘calories in vs. calories out’ and believe calorie-counting is a key part of the weight loss picture. ‘Calories in vs. calories out’ is a model based on the idea that to be more metabolically healthy and maintain stable body weight, the number of calories you consume needs to match the number you expend in energy.
Calories in refers to the calories you get from your food and calories out are the number of calories you burn as energy. With this model, you should achieve weight loss if there’s a calorie deficit, and you consume fewer calories than you’re burning for energy. On the other hand, if you’re consuming more calories than you’re burning for energy, you might gain weight, according to this model.
Counting calories might not be necessary for the beginning and transitioning to a ketogenic diet could just do the trick. Countless people lose weight just by switching out unhealthy foods for healthier keto-friendly options. If you reach a weight loss plateau, you might experiment with calorie-counting.
How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight?
Calories give your body the energy needed to sustain life. Calories are units that measure energy, typically the energy content of beverages and foods. Caloric needs and nutritional requirements vary because each individual’s body, metabolism, and lifestyle are unique.
2,000 calories are usually considered the standard daily intake. This number is based on the estimated nutritional needs of most adults according to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines. It’s also often used as a benchmark to create nutrition label recommendations.
Depending on the activity level, adult women require an estimated 1,600-2,400 calories daily compared with 2,000-3,000 calories for adult men. Those in periods of growth and development, such as adolescents and pregnant women, often need more than the standard 2,000 calories.
A 2,000-calorie diet might help some people lose weight, but myriad factors play a role, such as your age, height, weight, gender, activity level, and weight loss goals. 2,000 calories per day would exceed the calorie needs of some people and might result in weight gain.
For example, if you reduce your daily calorie intake from 2,500 to 2,000, you should lose around 1 pound in 1 week. This is because 3,500 calories (500 calories saved over 7 days) is the estimated number of calories in 1 pound of body fat.
Safe weight loss is typically around 1-2 pounds a week, but some health professionals believe that in most cases, losing a little more weight in a week won’t be a problem. To help you figure out how many calories you need to lose weight using these calories in vs. calories out model, you could try a weight loss calculator [6,7,8,9].
Online Calorie Counters and Weight Loss Calculators!
Certain apps and websites, such as My Fitness Pal or Lose It, can help you track your calorie intake and calculate the right number of calories for weight loss. Some experts recommend using a calorie counter for a few days to see how many minerals, vitamins, calories, protein, fat, fiber, and carbs you’re eating.
The calculator requires this data because these factors influence your metabolism and the number of calories your body needs to function. It’s important you’re as honest as possible about your exercise and daily habits, so the calculator can give you the most accurate numbers, and you can get the best possible outcome. If you’re not sure how active you are, try keeping an activity journal for a week or looking at data from your fitness tracker.
If you exercise more, you’re burning more calories, and the calculator can adjust your daily calorie intake accordingly. Be careful that you don’t eat more calories than you burn after exercise [10,11].
You should also try to be realistic about your weight loss goals and your ideal body weight. You don’t want to set a goal weight below your healthy body mass index (BMI). Your ideal weight might not match up with your healthy weight. Working with a keto doctor or weight loss professional can help you achieve your weight loss goals safely and improve your general health and wellness.
Top Tips for Counting Calories on Keto
Cutting and monitoring your calories does require change, but it doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming or difficult. Making the following changes can reduce your calories:
- Skip high-calorie, low-nutrition items (most aren’t keto-friendly anyway!)
- Swap high-calorie foods for lower-calorie options
- Reduce your portion sizes [12,13]
Meal-prepping is also useful, so you don’t fall off your calorie-counting keto track.
The Complex Weight Loss Puzzle
Weight loss definitely isn’t as simple as calories in vs. calories out, and different foods have a different metabolic effect in your body.
The same number of calories in a sugary granola bar and a head of broccoli doesn’t have the same metabolic impact in your body. Put simply, weight loss also involves insulin and hormones, the impact on your metabolism and the thermic effect of food, your gut bacteria (microbiome), and several other factors. The quality of your food is also important. A growing number of health and nutrition professionals now point to the quality of food rather than the number of calories when it comes to weight loss and human health [14,15].
Consuming foods with fiber and protein can help you feel more satiated when you’re cutting your calories. You can also try other methods to help you lose weight, such as exercising, reducing your stress, getting plenty of sleep, and drinking more water .
Are You Counting Calories on Keto to Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals?
Share your top tips and your experience calorie-counting with the keto community.
1. United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eighth Edition. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
2. Institute of Medicine at the National Academies. (2010). Front-Of Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbol, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209847/
3. United States Food and Drug Administration. How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/how-understand-and-use-nutrition-facts-label
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8. Hall, K. D. (2008). What is the required energy deficit per unit weight loss? International Journal of Obesity (London), 32(3), 573-576. DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803720
9. Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2003). Weight Management: State of the Science and Opportunities for Military Programs, https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10783/weight-management-state-of-the-science-and-opportunities-for-military
10. Ndahimana, D., Choi, Y-J., Park, J-H., Ju, M-J., & Kim, E-K. (2018). Validity of predictive equations for resting energy expenditure in Korean non-obese adults. Nutrition Research and Practice, 12(4), 283-290. DOI: 10.4162/nrp.2018.12.4.283
11. Sumithran, P., & Proietto, J. (2008). Safe year-long use of a very-low-calorie diet for the treatment of severe obesity. Medical Journal of Australia, 188(6), 366-368. DOI: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2008.tb01657.x
12. Frankenfield, D., Roth-Yousey, L., & Compher, C. (2005). Comparison of predictive equations for resting metabolic rate in healthy nonobese and obese adults: A systematic review. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 105(5), 775-789. DOI: 10.1016/j.jada.2005.02.005
13. Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor, S. T., Hill, L. A., Scott, B. J., Daugherty, S. A., & Koh, Y. O. (1990). A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51(2), 241-247. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/51.2.241
14. Lee, A., Cardel, M., & Donahoo, W. T. (2019). Social and environmental factors influencing obesity. Endotext (internet), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278977/
15. John, G. K., Wang, L., Nanavati, J., Twose, C., Singh, R., & Mullin, G. (2018). Dietary alteration of the gut microbiome and its impact on weight and fat mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Genes, 9(3), 167. DOI: 10.3390/genes9030167
16. Westerterp-Plantenga, M. S. (2008). Protein intake and energy balance. Regulatory Peptides, 149(1-3), 67-69. DOI: 10.1016/j.regpep.2007.08.026
Steph Green is a writer, researcher, and singer/songwriter with a passion for all things wellness. In 2016, after four years of struggling with her own health problems and painful autoimmune disease, Steph developed a life-changing and extensive knowledge of keto, nutrition, and natural medicine. She continues on her healing journey and enjoys helping others along the way.