As a fitness junkie, “Should I count my calories in a day?” is a question I get asked all the time.

Truth be told, counting your calories sounds like a bore. I’m a stickler for routine. This means I’ve refined my diet to a point now where I know the nutritional profile of the food I typically consume. So, counting calories isn’t necessary for me anymore. Hurray!

That said, I still think counting calories or attempting to do so is advisable for anyone starting out on their fitness journey.

Having to constantly crunch the numbers behind your food can dull the senses. But I’ve found that being able to estimate my calories actually makes it easier for me to enjoy my meals without guilt tripping whether I’ll go out of shape.

Depending on my fitness goals – which is to build muscle right now – I need to be consuming in excess of 4,000 calories daily. 

4,000 sounds like a whole lot. That’s why understanding caloric intake can help in planning your diet for the rest of the day. 

Let’s use breakfast as a reference point. Here’s a quick rundown of my breakfast calories.

An egg has about 90 calories and the egg white has roughly 17 calories. There are 4g of protein sitting in the whites and maybe another two in the yolk. Either way, the eggs I just had this morning are somewhere between 500 – 550 calories.

These numbers are of course subject to serving size and ratios. For instance, the calories in a medium size egg could well differ from larger Grade A eggs.

There are another 125 calories from the medium sized sweet potato I ate, which also gives me about 30g of carbohydrates. 

Breakfast of champions cannot be complete without my green drink. My vegetable juice blend with half a grapefruit thrown in is about 80 calories, give or take. 

That puts my breakfast at an estimated 700 – 750 calories. I aim for this figure every single day and because I’ve eaten for a long enough time, I have a pretty good understanding of what is needed to achieve that.

Doing the math, if my breakfast nets me 750 calories, then I just have to shoot for the same roughly six times a day.

To make that more achievable, I supplement my calorie intake with a couple of protein shakes, plus some oats and a fat source like coconut oil thrown into the mix.

What about folks who eat out?

Unfortunately, there’s a whole bunch of unaccounted calories when eating out.

When I’m home in the kitchen, I know exactly what 220g of ground beef looks like on a plate and the calories I’m getting from it.

In a restaurant, a ribeye steak tastes great because it’s been grilled with butter. That’s added calories too.

What about that cup of salad dressing on the side? Compared to a tablespoon or two, an entire cup of dressing is a generous amount of calories.

People who eat out end up consuming way more calories than they realize. Unless you pick up on these things like I do, it can be counterproductive to your fitness goals if you don’t know your calorie intake.

That said, being overly meticulous all the time can be a real turn off at the dinner table.

On an episode of Quite Franklin, undercover FBI agent Jack Garcia – who successfully infiltrated the Gambino crime family in New York City – was giving me the insider tour of gangster gastronomy. We got into a little debate after.

Could I, a clean diet enthusiast, have earned my mob name within the ranks of the underworld?

According to Garcia, mafia men have a killer appetite and are starving for the finest Italian cuisine in every city. Like all Sicilian delicacies, risotto, pastrami, ricotta, salami, pasta and parmesan cheese are not the most calorie light foods.

While there’s a slim chance I’d be able to pass for Italian, my dining habits would be an instant turn off.

Trained to look at the menus, my food choices are mostly for nutrition and health’s sake, taste often a minor consideration.

Dinner decorum does matter and counting calories though useful, has little place in most social settings, not just among mobsters in a restaurant.

However, counting calories is an imprecise science. The composition of what you eat is crucial to how much you consume and burn.

It’s time to drop the fatty, oily and fried food in favor of lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

In conclusion, whether you decide to work the numbers or not, it’s more important to adopt healthy lifestyle practices and good food quality. Then and only then, we can discuss bringing out the calculator.