Come to find out they weren’t tracking calories anywhere near accurately and they were actually eating more towards the 1800 calorie mark.
Let me make this very clear, if you are not weighing your food out in grams on a food scale then you are not counting calories.
You are essentially guessing numbers out of thin air.
I will also say if you are using cups, tablespoons, and ounces for your solids, that is also a surefire way to get an inaccurate calorie count.
Cups, tablespoons, and ounces are measurements of volume, not weight. A chicken breast for example is a solid which needs to be weighed as such, in grams, not ounces.
Oatmeal is a solid that needs to be weighed in grams, not cups or 1/2 cups.
I could go in depth here, but I already did in a YouTube video that covers exactly step by step how to count calories correctly.
I will link that here below if you want to give it a watch, I know it will help you a ton.
Beyond that, I want to help you out even more by making sure if you are a person looking to lose weight that you know how many calories you should be eating.
I have a totally free calorie calculator HERE if you want to head there to check out how many calories you should be eating. (Hint : the 1200 calories my fitness pal gave you is wrong).
In my article I wrote on the most common calorie counting mistakes I talk about how a few simple mistakes or calculations can lead to hundreds if not thousands of calories being unaccounted for.
You may think you are eating 1200 calories, but you really are eating 1900!
This means you won’t see progress and be wondering why. This is why right here.
Take some time, dive into the resources I gave above, and learn how to count calories accurately.
I promise it is going to pay off in the long run.
How To Count Calories In Homemade Food : Step by Step Guide
With that being said above, the fact you are even here reading this article lets me know you clearly want to be as accurate as you can with your counting so you can see the best results.
For that, please pat yourself on the back. It can be very easy to just say “well screw it! I can’t be perfect so I will just eat whatever I want, not track anything, and get back on track Monday!”.
You are not doing that. You are here to work hard and put in the effort you need to in order to see results.
For that I respect you.
We are now going to head into the step by step guide you need to learn how to count calories in homemade food.
For this guide we will be using the my fitness pal app. It is a totally free app on pretty much all smartphones.
There are other apps, but truthfully this is the one I use with my online coaching clients , it has worked incredibly well for us, and again, it’s free.
Let’s cover two scenarios, best case and non best case, if that is even a phrase.
Best Case Scenario
Best case scenario when it comes to how to count calories in homemade food is that you are creating the meal from scratch and can be in total control of the ingredients from start to finish.
If that is not your scenario, don’t worry I will have another option for you, but just know that this is going to be the most accurate way of knowing how many calories are in your food.
Weigh Each Ingredient Out Separately
First off what you will do is weigh each ingredient out separately.
Let’s say you are making a chicken and rice dish with some veggies.
You are going to want to get each ingredient, weigh it out on your food scale (in grams), and account for them.
Let’s say you have
450g of raw chicken breast
200g of dry, uncooked jasmine rice
100g of dry carrots
2tbsp of olive oil to cook in
If the grams is confusing to you, I would encourage you to watch the video above on counting calories.
Remember if you are taking into consideration a solid, do the best you can to weigh it in grams.
Now you have all of your ingredients you are going to make your meal with.
Determining Serving Sizes
Sometimes this is where things can get tricky because it depends on the food.
If you are making something like muffins for example, the serving size is going to be based on how many muffins you make.
The recipe you are making produces 10 muffins, then your serving size is 10.
For something like a soup, casserole, or a dish that can’t be broken up into individuals, here is what I tell my online coaching clients to do.
One way of tackling this is let’s say you are making a meal for your family of 4.
You know each person is going to have some of the meal. In that instance, I would make the serving size 4. We will touch on how to know how much you had in particular ate here in a second.
Let’s say you are only cooking it for yourself so that you can have for that one moment in time.
In that instance, I would make the serving size one, because you are planning to eat all of it now.
If you were planning to eat some of it now and some of it later on, you can still make the serving size one and simply toggle the selection in which how much you eat.
More on this to come soon.
Input Into My Fitness Pal Recipe Section
Next, what you are going to is head to your my fitness pal app.
You are going to go to
“Diary” “Add Food”
Click the “+” in the top right hand corner
Select “create a recipe” and choose “enter ingredients manually”.
From here, you are now going to be able to input all of your ingredients you just weighed out on your food scale.
So you will search for the food, input it with its correct serving size (in grams), then do that for each individual ingredient.
Remember, this is the importance of getting every ingredient as well as the accurate measurements for each one.
You may have to change the serving size in my fitness pal from cups to grams, and you can do that by simply clicking on the “Serving Size” line.
Once you are done, you now have your recipe made up for your homemade food.
The next step for how to count calories in homemade food is going to be determining your serving size.
Determining Your Personal Serving Size
Like we mentioned above it can be a bit confusing to know how much you are actually eating.
From a technical standpoint what you will do is go into my fitness pal.
Click on “recipes” and simply click your recipe.
This will then ask you how many servings you are having.
Here is what I will say.
Obviously for things like a muffin, or a cookie, if you have 1 that is one serving. If you have 2 that is two servings, and on and on.
Let’s say you are making dinner for your family of 4, you, your spouse, and your two kids.
You know your kids probably won’t eat as much as you (or maybe they will if they are anything like me!).
In this instance, let’s say your kids have about 1/2 of a serving each. This would leave it so you and your spouse both have 1.5 servings of the dish.
1/2 serving + 1/2 serving for the kids = One total serving.
1.5 serving for you + 1.5 serving for your spouse = three total servings.
One total serving + three total servings = 4 total servings, the same amount that you inputted into the recipe calculator.
Obviously assuming you ate all of it and the dinner is now gone, awesome, you are good to go.
If you ate a bit less than what you had expected, simply just adjust in my fitness pal to maybe have 1.25 servings instead of 1.5.
Now, if you are cooking for just yourself for that one moment in time, awesome, you would simply just pick the recipe and count you had one serving.
If you are cooking for yourself but making food for later in the week, here is what I would do.
Let’s say you are going eat half of the recipe for dinner tonight and the other half of the recipe for lunch tomorrow (which btw, is a great idea!).
What I would simply do is add the recipe, but just switch the serving size to 1/2 at dinner, and 1/2 at lunch.
Same thing goes for if you had it at 3 different times, say dinner that night, lunch next day, and snack that day as well.
You would input 1/3 serving size for each time you eat it.
This way, you are still accounting for all of the calories because you still ate it all, just at different times.
How To Track Calories In Homemade Food : Next Best Option
What I laid out above was the best case scenario. That is going to be a step by step guide to making sure you can count calories in homemade food in the most accurate way possible.
I fully understand sometimes you can’t do that. Maybe you aren’t the one cooking, maybe it doesn’t have an ingredient, things happen.
To that, here are some things I would say.
Focus On Consistency, Not Perfection
For as much as I bashed not counting calories accurately at the beginning of this article, the simple fact is sometimes you are not going to be 100% accurate. It just won’t happen, and that is okay.
Remember this is not a game of absolute perfection, rather this is a game of consistency.
Simply do the best you can.
This is why I am such an avid fan of counting calories in the way I showed you in the video above because the more you do this, the more you are going to learn what 100g of a cooked chicken breast looks like.
You will learn what 100g of cooked jasmine rice looks like, and so on. This is important because this will then help you be able to “guess” more accurately.
If it happens every so often where you have homemade food you can’t track to perfection, simply do the best you can, be as accurate as you can, and get right back to tracking afterwards.
My two cents would be to “guesstimate” towards the higher end range. If you think something is 100 calories, probably go for 150-200 to be on the safe side.
This way if it is higher calories, awesome, you guessed right. If it isn’t, sweet, you were under then!
Weigh Out After
This strategy is going to be very dependent on the food. If you are having a soup that is homemade, highly unlikely you are going to measure out the chicken stock, the chicken breast, the carrots, etc.
But if you are having a meal that you are able to weigh out the food on, like say chicken and rice, this is always an option.
What I would do here is again simply break out your food scale and get an accurate reading in grams of what you are eating.
It may not be perfect because you don’t know the exact ingredients, but something is better than nothing.
Just remember that most nutrition labels are depicting the calories for raw food, not cooked.
So when you are tracking food I would simply just specify that you are eating 100g of a cooked, grilled chicken breast, or 100g of cooked jasmine rice.
The calorie amounts do change from raw to cooked, so specifying that can help a ton.
Quick Side Note : Weighing Meat Raw vs Cooked
This is a very common question I get asked so I figured I would clear things up here for you now.
Like mentioned above, the most accurate way to track your food is raw or uncooked.
Now again, I realize sometimes this is not possible, so there are two main ways I like to go about this.
One is what I mentioned above, simple going into your my fitness pal app and specifying you ate 100g of cooked, grilled chicken breast.
The second option is using the multiple based on the cooked-ness of your meat.
The more cooked it is, the higher the multiplier, the less cooked, the lower the multiplier.
This is because meat loses size (water weight) the more it is cooked, but that doesn’t mean the calories change.
If you have 115g of a raw chicken breast that you cook to a nice and dry texture, it may be only 90g cooked.
Yet remember, nutrition labels take account raw weight. So even though it is only 90g cooked, you are still eating 115g of a raw chicken breast.
So what I would do is multiply your serving size nutrition information between 1.1-1.5.
Well Done Chicken
If a serving size of chicken breast is 4oz (112g) and you weigh it out cooked ( dry to the bones) and it comes to 90g, I would multiply 90 x 1.5.
This would give you 135, meaning it was probably about 135g of raw chicken breast.
You would then base your entering into my fitness pal off of 135g of raw chicken breast. This would give you the accurate nutrition information (protein, carbs, fats, calories).
Medium Rare Steak
If you are having a medium rare steak, since that is not cooked thoroughly much at all, I would make the multiplier lower.
Let’s say a serving is 4oz (115g). You weigh your steak out and it is 105g. I would take 105 x 1.2 to get 126g of raw steak you are eating.
You would then base your my fitness pal entering off of 126g of raw steak. This would give you the accurate nutrition information (protein, carbs, fats, calories).
Use Other Ways To “Count Calories”
If there is no way you are getting any sort of accurate calorie information from the homemade food, that is 100% fine too.
Remember, you don’t have to count calories, but calories always count.
Meaning there are a million ways to keep your calories in check, mainly revolving around portion sizes.
Remember the most important part of this equation is total calories. That means HOW MUCH you eat matters much more than exactly WHAT you eat.
My top two favorite ways to do it this is following the One Plate Rule ( I cover exactly what the one plate rule is in this article HERE ) and making sure no matter what you include some protein with the meal you are eating.
How To Count Calories In Homemade Food : Final Word
Well, I hope this guide on how to count calories in homemade food was insightful and it helped you out a ton.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below I would love to help the best I can.
If you know someone who can use this guide, send it on over to them.
Other than that, happy calorie counting and look to talk soon.
“According to this basic training principle, training must include overload and progression to be successful. The body must be overloaded so that it has to work harder than normal. As the body adapts to a particular workload, the person should progress to a higher work level. For example, to gain strength, the muscles must be loaded beyond the point at which they are normally loaded. As the muscles become stronger, the load has to be increased to stimulate further strength increases. The load should be increased gradually over a long period of training.”
If you want the Eric – simplified version,
Progressive Overload is simply just doing more over a period of time.
We will talk specifics about how this can happen but in the most simple terms, this is all it is.
If you are lifting the same weight, with the same reps, and the same form as you were 6 months ago, your body is not going to change.
Now, why is your body not going to change and why is this principle of progressive overload important?
Let’s continue finding out.
Why Is Progressive Overload Needed To Change Your Body?
The fact is that in order for your body to change, there needs to be a great enough reason to elicit this change.
This goes way back to our primal ways. The reason our bodies function the way they do right now is due to what happened 3 4 500 years ago.
We need to be able to survive the heat and cool our bodies down, so we sweat.
We had to go hunt for food and eat it, that is why we have our 4 canine teeth to bite into meats.
Point being, there was a stress that our body was under, so we adapted.
It was in fight or flight mode. Either we adapt to the conditions and survive or we die of heat stroke and starvation.
Changing your physique is no different, and this is why progressive overload is so important.
In order for your body to grow stronger, more defined muscles, it needs to have a stress put on it great enough your body has to respond and adapt to.
If the stress is not great enough then there will be no reason to change your current status.
Your body likes homeostasis, it doesn’t want to change. It doesn’t care if you want to see your body change. You want to see that not your body.
Your body only changes when it has to in order to keep you alive because that is it’s main job.
Progressive overload allows this because if you recall the definition of progressive overload it is simply doing more over a period of time.
Therefore, this means that over time you will continuously put a stress great enough on your body that your body has to respond to.
When you are working out it is basically saying “oh hell, there is this weight being placed on us, we better make sure we respond and are ready for this next time around to keep us alive”.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a stress from a 20lb dumbbell or a stress from a 20lb boulder rock, it just knows there is a stress that it needs to be able to handle.
The way your body responds is by growing stronger, more defined muscles.
The caveat here is unless that stress is something your body is not used to or cannot fully handle at that moment in time, then there will be no reason to respond.
If your body can say “oh yes we have dealt with this kind of stress before, I can handle this, no need to change everything is good!” Then it will! Like I said earlier your body likes homeostasis, it will do everything it can to remain the same.
If you are lifting 15lbs for 10 reps and you do that everyday for the rest of your life, then no, your body has no reason to change because it is used to that. It can handle that. It has already adapted to that stress.
This is why progressive overload is the single most important piece of exercise information I can provide to you.
Without you, you simply will not change.
Now, obviously at some point your strength is going to tap out, or we would all be lifting houses and cars.
Yet there are multiple ways to achieve this progressive overload principle. Let’s talk about some now.
What Is Progressive Overload? 5 Methods
Have you ever heard the saying,
“Methods are many, principles are few”
Well that is exactly the case here.
The principle of progressive overload is something you have to have in order to create change in your body. Yet the methods you use to achieve this progressive overload can be one of many.
We will cover some now.
First Off, Master The Basics
Before we dive into the methods let me be abundantly clear.
The single most important thing that lies within this progressive overload principle is the understanding that you can have basic movement patterns and technique down first.
You understand how to do a body weight squat, a correct push up. You feel confident you can perform a body weight lunge.
Before you get into things like adding weight or reps to your exercises, if you don’t have a solid foundation built first it won’t matter.
Much like if you were to build a sky scraper on a foundation of feathers. Not going to last very long is it?
I would strongly encourage you to take some time and not just learn, but master the basics first.
Whether that means hiring a coach , whether that means taking some time to search the google machine for proper technique, or whether that means leaving your ego at the door and being okay with re learning proper technique.
In order to not only get the most out of these methods below, but also stay injury free so you can keep having progressive overload, make sure you are confident in the basics.
I will also add,
You should NEVER sacrifice more weight or reps for shi*tty form. Ever.
Now, that is not to say every rep is going to be picture perfect and beautiful. There will be times where you get deep into a set or the weight gets heavy and hey, maybe it isn’t 100% perfect, but it happens.
That is different than completing rounding your back to get up a deadlift, or using the same method you use on your spouse at home to get up a bicep curl.
For progressive overload to be applicable, form and technique need to remain consistent throughout any of these methods.
Once you have lost that, everything else falls apart.
Keep it in tact and you will succeed.
Now, when it comes to what is progressive overload, these 5 methods will give you some applicable information to input into your workouts.
Method 1 – Lifting more weight for the same reps
Let’s say on week one you are doing 100lbs on a back squat for 8 reps.
To apply the method of progressive overload, on week two you could do 105lbs for 8 reps.
Week 3, 110lb for 8 reps.
Week 4, 115lbs for 8 reps.
That is a very simple, basic, but not easy way of applying progressive overload.
Method 2 – Lifting the same weight for more reps
Conversely, the next method is lifting the same weight for more reps.
Let’s use our same 100lbs for 8 reps on squat example.
Week 1 you could do 100lbs for 8 reps.
Week 2, 100lbs for 9 reps.
Week 3, 100lbs for 10 reps.
Week 4, 100lbs for 11 reps.
Yet again, it isn’t sexy or super flashy, but this is how you change your body over a period of time.
Method 3 – Lift the same weight for the same reps with more range of motion
Sticking with our same squat example, let’s say you were squatting 100lbs for 8 reps but you were really only going down 1/4 of the way.
Then on week two you got a little lower down.
Then, week 3, you get 1/2 down into your squat.
By week 6, you are hitting 90 degrees on your squat with the same weight for the same reps.
This would be progressive overload because you would recruiting more muscle fibers the bigger range of motion you are able to achieve.
Therefore you are putting more stress on your body over a period of time.
Method 4 – Lifting the same weight for the same reps with less effort
Let’s say on the first week of you squatting 100lbs for 8 reps it was HARD.
Like you were had a car on your back and you were trying to squat.
By rep 6 your legs were shaking, you were winded and had a hard time catching your breath.
Then, week 2, it got a little easier.
Week 4 rolls around, you are noticing you aren’t struggling nearly as much and you aren’t getting out of breath.
Then by week 6 it is like you are repping this out with ease.
That would be one form of progressive overload, you are doing the same weight and reps but with way less effort.
Just be careful of this one because once you get to that point of using less effort, you need to make sure you increase the weight!
If you want to know when to increase the weight you are lifting, keep reading because at the end of this article I will give you practical ways how.
Method 5 – Doing more volume in the same amount of time
Something I use quite often with my online coaching clients is what is called an EDT.
This stands for Escalated Density Training.
Basically I give them 3 or 4 exercises, have them set a 15 minute timer, and see how many rounds they go through.
Now this isn’t an AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) because in an EDT, you are still looking to maintain proper form. You are looking to still push the weight you are lifting and it is less about going max out rounds, more just pushing the limits.
So let’s the EDT was
bicep curls x10
Tricep extensions x10
Shoulder Presses x10
On week one, you got 4 rounds total in 15 minutes.
On week two, you got 4.5 rounds in 15 minutes.
Week three, you got 5 rounds in 15 minutes.
Then week 4 you got 5.5 rounds in 15 minutes.
Even if you kept the weight the same for everyone of those movements, you are still achieving progressive overload because you are doing more work over a period of time.
To piggy back off of this, you could also have done 4 rounds in 15 minutes each week.
Yet if you started with 10lbs on bicep curls, 10lbs on tricep extensions, and 10lbs on shoulder presses.
By week 4 if you were doing 15lbs across the board for each exercise, while still getting 4 rounds, that would be progressive overload as well.
What Is Progressive Overload NOT? Linear
In each scenario above I laid out what would happen in a perfect world.
As I am sure you know, everything does not always go according to plan.
Like we touched on earlier, progress will not always be linear.
If it were that easy to just a rep each time or add 5 lbs to the lift each time, in like 2 years you would be deadlifting cars.
There will be periods of times where you go into the gym and it is hard to progress or things may plateau a bit.
That is normal and to be expected. Every workout won’t be your best one ever.
In the same way that when you are losing body fat, the scale is gonna spike up or stall out sometimes, but as long as you keep going you will lose weight.
Same concept here. Sometimes progress will be great, other times it will feel like it is impossible.
My urge to you would be just don’t quit and keep pushing for more.
While also remembering that even done ONE more rep on ONE set of the day is progressive overload.
For example if you are doing 3×10 on bicep curls and they just feel heavy as anything.
Remember that if you go in the next day and you do one set of 11 then 2 sets of 10 again, you still did more than you did last time. That would still be considered progressive overload.
You don’t have to nor will you set the world on fire each time and that is okay. That is not what we want.
We want slow and steady progressions. That is what is most optimal for your joints, nervous system, and muscles anyhow.
This bleeds into my next point. One of the last ways I want to answer the question of what is progressive overload is by showing you some examples of what it can actually look like on a week to week basis.
Examples Of Progressive Overload
I usually split my progressive overload up into two main ways, using a linear progression and a double progression model.
Linear progression means you are simply adding say 5lbs to the bar each time for the same rep count.
If you start with 100lbs, next you go to 105, then 110, and so on.
I use this with my clients for compound movements normally. Movements like squat, bench, deadlift, etc.
An example of that can be below.
Linear Progression Scheme
As you can see, this individual started out at 4 x 8 for 30lbs on squat and finished with 4×8 with 40lbs. That is progressive overload.
Another model of progression is called a double progression model.
This is for either those of you who are a bit more advanced, or for movements that simply will not allow for linear progression like a bicep curl. You can’t just end up curling 100lbs.
Therefore what I do with my clients is I give them a rep range and tell them to progress within that rep range.
Let’s say you are doing bicep curls with 10 lbs and have a rep range of 10-12 reps.
Week 1 you do 10 reps.
Week 2 you do 11 reps.
Week 3 you do 12 reps.
Once you hit the top end of the rep range, you go UP in weight and DOWN in reps.
Therefore week 4 would be 12.5 lbs for 10 reps, then proceed to work your way back up in reps again.
An example of that can be looked at below.
As you can tell, it isn’t a massive change, but that is exactly what we want.
Slow and steady progression is what is going to lead to the greatest change in your body over time.
What Is Progressive Overload? Final Word
I hope this article helped answer the question of what is progressive overload.
I encourage you to go back and make some notes what you believe can help you the most.
While you were reading if any questions or concerns came up, feel free to drop them below and I would be happy to help.
If you are interested in working with me 1:1, I will link my coaching application form HERE to see if we may be a good fit together.
Other than that, thank you for reading, and we will talk soon.