Alternatives To Calorie Counting For Weight Management

Table of Contents
1. Best Alternatives to Calorie Counting: Track Your Macros
2. Know the Calories of Your Favorite Foods 
3. Build Muscle
4. Plan Ahead 
5. Reduce Your Sugar Intake
6. Try to Reduce Your Stress

While most people understand that the best way to lose weight is by creating a caloric deficit, it’s not always easy to count your calories. There are alternatives to calorie counting that could work better for you.

Many people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight rely on simply counting calories, which is actually not the best way to lose weight for everyone, and it requires a lot of measuring and calculations to count your calories effectively.

Calorie counting can potentially mislead you, because it often prompts dieters to neglect the importance of the nutrient content of their food. When people take calorie counting to the extreme, they will eat foods that are low in both calories and low in nutritional value, which can lead to a host of other health concerns such as nutrient deficiencies, loss of muscle mass, and lethargy.

Additionally, when you limit your calories too much, your metabolism can be negatively impacted.  Metabolic adaptation is the process of your body acclimating to the way you feed it. We need calories for energy, and if you are constantly running so low on calories that you’re very hungry, your metabolism is going to slow down because your body wants to hang on to every single calorie it can get. Your body might think it needs to store fat, because your low daily calories are making your body think it’s starving.

While it’s important to be mindful of how many calories you’re eating if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s equally as important to focus on the calories that you’re burning, and to make sure that the calories you are consuming are nutrient-dense.

So if you think you’ve been counting calories long enough to no avail, read on to learn about some alternatives to calorie counting for weight loss.

Best Alternatives to Calorie Counting: Track Your Macros

Macro tracking is where knowing the nutrient content of your food comes into play. As Kim Abbage Hart, a personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist explains, “Losing weight is simply a formula of consuming [fewer] calories (or energy) than what you expend in a day. However not all calories are created equal as some can be highly processed [and] high in saturated fats and sugar. Tracking calories only gives you a number to hit. That means that you can consume your daily total caloric intake in bread or pasta alone and technically still be within your daily intake.”

Hart continues, “An alternative to counting calories only is to explore tracking (or counting) your macros. ‘Macro’ is short for macronutrients and consists of three main components: carbohydrates, fats and protein. All foods are some form of these three macros and are essential in a healthy diet.The reason tracking your macros may be more beneficial is that (ideally) it is individualized, takes into account a person’s height, age and activity and [is] based on each person’s weight or fat loss goals. Additionally, tracking macros allows you to track the quality of foods you eat and tweak them accordingly based on your fitness goals.” Meaning you don’t have to completely give up the foods you love; you can just make healthier versions of them instead.

Know the Calories of Your Favorite Foods

Rather than give yourself a headache by trying to measure your food, track calories and count calories, you could instead just have an idea of the calorie count of your favorite foods.

People who are trying to lose weight by creating a caloric deficit, for example, don’t necessarily need to count calories. They might have memorized the number of calories in their favorite sandwich, and they may have a rough idea of how many calories are in the typical smoothie they make as a mid-afternoon snack.

This is one of the alternatives to calorie counting that allows you to be mindful of your calorie intake without obsessively counting calories.

Build Muscle

One great way to lose weight in the long-term is to shift your mindset away from lowering the numbers on the scale and towards building some muscle. This is because muscle weighs more than fat, so as you build muscle mass you are likely to notice that you weigh slightly more. However, there are a few important changes that your body goes through as muscle mass increases that will have you looking and feeling your best.

When you start steadily building muscle by weightlifting regularly, for example, it’s one of the great alternatives to calorie counting since muscle burns calories. Muscle burns more calories than fat does, meaning that your metabolism will speed up as you grow your muscles, resulting in more calories burned at rest. Secondly, many resistance and strength training exercises like squats, deadlifts and push-ups emphasize building a strong core, a large muscle group that includes your midsection (abs), thighs and glutes. If you want to shrink your waist, focusing on strengthening and tightening up your core is one of the best ways to go about it.

Plan Ahead

If snacking is hindering your weight loss goals, one way to stop is to make sure that you have pre-made healthy snacks portioned out and ready to go. Aside from the fact that you are more likely to eat the fruits and vegetables you buy if you take the time to wash and slice them, planning and preparing your meals and snacks in advance can help you break the habit of reaching for whatever is convenient and quick, which often leads to snacking on foods loaded with sugar and preservatives.

What’s more, if you plan your meals in advance, you have a rough idea of the calorie and nutritional value of what you’re eating.

Reduce Your Sugar Intake

When it comes to losing weight, what you eat can be more influential than your activity level and you might be surprised by changes you notice simply by reducing or cutting out added sugar.

White table sugar is an empty calorie with almost no nutritional value whatsoever. Additionally, diets high in sugar negatively impact your body’s insulin response. Combined, these two factors make you feel constantly hungry and more likely to binge eat, filling up on more and more sugar to satiate you.

Instead, reach for fruits, vegetables and dip and foods with a high fibre content to help you feel fuller longer.

Try to Reduce Your Stress

Stress wreaks havoc on your body in many ways and can noticeably hinder your ability to lose weight, particularly around the midsection and in the belly area, thanks to a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is our body’s response to stress and perceived danger. Ashley Hawksworth, nutrition coach and personal trainer with STAG Fitness explains, “Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone, but it does a lot more besides, including regulating our metabolism.”

Hawksworth continues, “Healthy cortisol levels should follow what’s called the cortisol ‘curve’, where cortisol is naturally high in the morning and then tapers off throughout the day and evening. When the body and mind are chronically overstressed with things such as work stressors, work deadlines, obsessive personality, environmental pollution, lack of sleep, too much coffee etc. the body releases cortisol at all hours of the day and there’s no natural curve. Elevated cortisol levels can increase cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods leading to more cravings and eventually weight gain. What’s more, low-carb meals may support a healthy weight loss plan but [are] not ideal for those fighting high levels of cortisol. High-carb meals can help drop your cortisol levels.”

If chronic stress is a problem for you, consider speaking with your doctor about how it’s affecting your weight and discuss steps you can take to reduce your stress.

When it comes to weight loss, there are a few different approaches you can take. Crucially, however, quite a bit of your success has to do with your body’s genetic composition, metabolism, and genetic makeup that impacts your ability to build muscle. You can find out more about what your unique DNA tells you about your body by taking a DNA test from CircleDNA.  Learning more about your genetic makeup can help you and your doctor create a diet and exercise plan that is well-suited to you based on your DNA.


  1. What Are Macronutrients? (Cooking with Kim)
  2. Instagram: ashleynutritioncoachandpt

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