HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD YOU BE EATING?
Weigh yourself at the beginning of a month. One week won’t be enough, even two is questionable. The more time you give it the more potential there is for accuracy. Also take some notes about how you feel and how your clothes feel, maybe take some “before” pictures.
Keep count of the calories you consume each day. No need to change anything. Just keep count. Everyday. Food and drink. Even the stuff you don’t want to count. Weigh yourself at the end of the month. Note any change in your weight (also note how you feel in your clothes, maybe take some more pictures). Add up ALL the calories for the whole month and divide by the number of days to find your average calories per day.
Now you know what that average calories per day did to your weight (how you feel and how you look in those pictures). Based on this you can make adjustments to suit your goal. Want to lose weight but didn’t; tune your daily calories down by 200-300 and try again. Want to get bigger and gain some muscle; look for a slow increase in weight and increased strength in the gym. If these things aren’t happening you might need to tune your calories up by 200 and try again. See how you can now make adjustments for your goals based on the data you’ve collected.
You could absolutely use a calorie calculator to give you a rough estimate to begin with but you’ll still need to do the above weeks, testing the estimate the calorie calculator gave you, because that’s all calorie calculators are… estimates… you still need to test the estimate to see if it’s right for you.
Is it annoying that it takes time? Yes. Is there another way? Not really.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD YOU BE EATING?
After calories, protein is probably the next most important element of what you eat, especially if you have muscle building goals or even just want to look and feel “toned”. Protein has calories (four calories per gram of protein) so needs to be included inside of the calories counted above. Unfortunately you can’t just add 3-4 protein shakes to your day and call it good because that would drive your total calories up too.
Protein intake needs to be at a reasonable level to help maintain or build muscle. A good initial goal: average 100g protein per day. Once you’ve gotten some practice at that it can be customised further but as I’ve said many times before I’ve never met someone that was eating 100g plus of protein per day by accident and most people need that or more (only very small people may not need as much) so get there first then worry about minutiae if you want to.
THINK SIMPLE AND THINK LONG TERM
Counting calories and weighing chicken to hit protein targets are short term solutions though. They’re really useful experiences for education but I certainly don’t want to keep doing them for the rest of my life, I don’t know about you. So count calories and protein for a few weeks or months, yes, but while you’re doing that look for the simple and long term, maintainable strategies that help you adhere to your targets. Using these forever will help when you stop counting things.
For example: Homecook most of the time and base meals on large servings of vegetables. Plan meals that are large and satisfying enough to mean you don’t need to snack and if you do snack, use fruit. Learn the difference between actual hunger and all the other kinds… There are loads apparently but the easiest three to understand are stomach or real hunger, mouth hunger or cravings and heart hunger or emotional eating (a simple test here is if an apple isn’t good enough, like you’d say to a child, then it’s not real hunger it’s something else). And/or any other simple and maintainable strategy you use to help you adhere to calorie and protein targets… These are the real game changers!