Counting Calories on Paleo Plan?

Calorie counting is a pain in the butt.
It really is – have you ever tried it?  I have, and for me it was time-consuming, tedious and a source of self judgment (unless I had a really “good” day).  You no longer eat food; you eat calories and tabulate them in your head while you eat them, instead of enjoying your food.

On the other hand, though, calorie counting can be very useful if you’re trying to lose weight.  But so can the Paleo diet.  Here’s my philosophy on counting calories while you’re on the Paleo diet: The main reasons that people have weight issues are that they 1) have unbalanced blood sugar so they have sugar cravings all the time (and indulge them), and 2) people are over-consuming fluffy foods like grains, legumes and refined sugars. The Paleo diet, and in particular, Paleo Plan, help solve those issues.  Because you’re eating breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner every day and each is complete with high quality protein, fats and carbohydrates, your blood sugar doesn’t have a chance to spike or plummet.  That means fewer sugar cravings.  And because the diet doesn’t include grains, legumes or refined sugars, there’s no fluff to over-consume.

So try the plan first.
What I suggest is that if you’re doing Paleo Plan and you’re trying to lose weight, start off by following the plan and NOT counting calories.  If you aren’t losing weight after a few weeks, before you go blaming the stupid Paleo Plan for not helping you, get really honest with yourself about whether or not you actually followed the plan.  It’s easy to sneak in some chips here, some cookies or cake there, a beer every night, etc.

If you look over your diet and you find that you’ve been pretty diligent about sticking with it and you’re STILL not losing weight, then check in with how your body feels about how much you’re eating. For instance, if you’re feeling weak throughout the day, like you don’t have enough fuel in your system, then you’re not getting enough food (or you may be detoxing if it’s the first week or so of the diet).  Sometimes not eating enough can put your body into starvation mode, so it holds onto fat for reserves (just in case you don’t eat for a while).  It’s an evolutionary thing.  On the contrary, if you’re feeling stuffed like you do on Thanksgiving day every time you eat, then you’re obviously eating too much.  Adjust your portions as necessary.

Calorie Counting
Alright, if you REALLY want to know the nitty gritty details about your diet, here’s the calorie counting part:

Go to or and get a free account. Enter in your statistics and your weight loss goals and it will tell you how many calories you should be eating per day. Then enter in your Paleo Plan meals to one of the programs for a few days and see if you’re on target with your calories.  You can also enter in your workouts to see how many calories you burned. Those programs are sometimes a bit off in their calculations for your daily calorie needs (they’re sometimes too low) because they’re assuming you’ll be eating a lot more carbs than you do on this diet. More carbs equal less weight loss.

I think it’s a good idea for anyone to know how many calories they’re eating on average. However, the scale and the calorie counting can get pretty addictive for people, and that’s not always a healthy thing. In general, listen to your body’s needs for calories and enjoy your food.  Beyond that, use the tools above to get more precise.

Anyone have any experiences with calorie counting on Paleo?


  1. i was under the impression that we should eat “enough” calories to keep our blood sugar elevated and not necessarily count them. people metabolize differently making calories-in/calories-out a myth. instead, carbohydrate (not net) intake determines how our body stores and burns fat resulting in weight-loss or weight gain. i think knowing how many calories each person needs is important solely for the purpose of maintaining energy, but anything else, in my research, is pointless.

  2. I enjoyed your post!! I consider myself 90% Paleo, since I do eat some dairy like; cheese, sour cream and yogurt. I call myself a Organic Clean Eating Paleo, not eating grain, sugar and soy. I do count my calories because I tend to eat way under what I should and the weight does not go anywhere then. I also think counting helps me to wrap my mind around what is proportion healthy.

  3. I’m a myfitnesspal user and have not successfully lost weight, yes I lose weight, but it’s painfully slow – maybe 1.5 lbs a month. I work out 5 to 6 hours a week, with a trainer and in advanced cardio classes. Just finished my first week of eating paleo and I lost 4 lbs. I tracked all week on myfitnesspal and my calorie deficit was only about 2000, so in theory it should be about a 1/2 lb loss. My daily average ‘net’ calories (after adding calories for exercise) were only about 1000, but more interesting was the fat/carb/protein split – I was over ‘recommended’ percentages for fat & protein, but 50% under on carbs. I’ll probably track for the first month of eating on the paleo plan and see if things stay consistent. After that, there may not be any need to count calories. Woo hoo!

  4. As a black girl who has over 100 pounds to loose, I know that I can’t eat Paleo and lose weight on its own with out counting calories. There is no way I can eat 3 steaks and avocados and tons of bacon each day and think that I am going to end up skinny. And that’s what I thought. If you are obese and Paelo then CALORIES COUNT. I found that I was eating almost 3000 calories a day with all the coconut oil, ghee, avocados, bacon, steak and eggs… I like to eat large and hearty portions of food, so I think that that it is misleading for the Paleo community to uphold that calories don’t count. Maybe thats true for the Altheltes that can be found on Marks Apple and other sites dedicated to fit people. But what you don’t hear a lot about is the experince of obese folks– especially women trying to lose weight doing Paelo. Bascially its Atkins without the Splenda and dairy.

  5. Ahh well a a steak loving Paleo water myself I can tell you that you need balance. Avocados and bacon at every meal!? That’s not nutritionally sound under anyone’s guidelines. I don’t watch my cals at all and lost 30 lbs over the summer by eating bacon and eggs cooked in grass fed butter, coffee with butter and mct oil, big ass salads for lunch and protein and veggies for dinner. If I had to wager a guess if say I fly around 3000 cals a day and 100-125 grams of fat. Granted I haven’t counted. I am disciplined in that I don’t crave or bend on the food rules, heck I won’t eat even the wrong kind of cooking oil. I do however take cheat days from time to time.

    The six pack is coming and I’ve helped others lose weight as well. So no, we don’t count calories, but pay attention to a mindful way of eating well balanced whole foods. Sure, a lot of bacon (I eat a pound a week) – but not bacon all day. I love dark chocolate but common sense says dont eat it at every meal in large quantities. Go ahead and blame the diet though, I’m sure thats the problem

  6. Okay, that might have been harsh. A lot if people struggle with changin their eating habits. I sure have …another good suggestion would be to follow one of the many 30 meal plans you can get from Marks daily apple, books like practical paleo and the Paleo Solution.

    Ill tell you though, whenever I’ve given the guides to other people the first they point out is the high calories and high fat. I think that’s another reason paleo has the reputation it does. It utterly confounds people when they watch me eat, they want to know how I possibly stay so fit eating huge portions of what they consider weight gaining foods like hamburger parties and olive oil salad dressing. When you’re fat adapted and not putting tons of insulin spiking foods in your body it’s going to work.

    You can’t cheat on the paleo diet every day if you want strong results. Then you get a double want effect of carbs, negative insulin response and a high fat diet. Your body won’t be efficient in processing the fat if there’s wheat and an abundance if sugar in the way.

  7. I agree with Lady Z. When she said “If you are obese and Paleo, calories count,” she was absolutley correct. You can re-word that statement to read “If you are obese and [any random diet plan/lifestyle], calories count” and still be correct 100% of the time. Science will always win that argument. The only way for an obese person to lose weight is to reduce caloric intake. There is no way around that equation, despite what many health & fitness gurus may tell you.

    Food energy is always going to be food energy, and your body will treat 3000 calories of Paleo-approved foods the exact same way it will treat 3000 calories of non-Paleo foods in terms of energy expenditure/storage. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what you are eating – if you are eating TOO MUCH of it, your body will have an excess of food energy. If your body cannot utilize that food energy immediately, it will store it.

    Joe – Avocados and bacon are both Paleo-approved foods. Why can’t we have them for every meal? Mark Sisson told the world that there is no such thing as too much bacon. Ever been to Nerd Fitness? Steve Kamb will tell you that you can “eat until you’re no longer full,” as long as you are eating Paleo. Rob Wolf tells us that as long as we eat Paleo, we will lose weight. If the well-known and respected “experts” are making statements like this and advertsing them as true, then people are going to do exactly what they say.

    So what happens when common sense and science meet with the logical fallacy typically associated with Paleo? Reality, as Lady Z demonstrates beautifully. What would happen if Lady Z tried to call out Dr. Loren Cordain, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, or any other Paleo expert on their obvious errors?

    They would tell her to read their disclaimer.

    Visit any Paleo-centric website and you will usually find a disclaimer that tell you that weight loss and fitness are not a guarantee of following any particular diet plan, and that results may vary depending on a variety of factors, such as body type, metabolism, health conditions, activity level, genetics, etc, and that you should always consult with a physician before attempting weight loss.

    What that means is Paleo may or may not work for you. What that also means is that everyone responds to foods differently. Everyone knows someone who can eat as much food as they like and never gain a pound…without exercising or dieting. Everyone also knows someone who can look at a cookie and gain five pounds…regardless of how much exercise and dieting they do.

    Just because Paleo works for you does not mean that it will work for everyone. Remember, correlation does not imply causation.

    Lady Z knew what would happen before she tried Paleo. She had the right idea. She understands the one and only thing that any obese person should understand: weight loss involves calorie reduction, and the only way to reduce calories is to count them!

  8. I’m just starting paleo today. I don’t eat bacon for religious reasons. As a lifelong dieter am also nervous about eating too many calories so will monitor on fitday. For me the answer will be to keep it simple without getting too bored in the process. I notice many paleo recipes contain fruit and honey and am trying to keep my fruit intake low so don’t trust a lot of recipes. Also as a single person, 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs or parsley etc is awkward and expensive as I have to somehow freeze the remainder.

    Don’t want to sound negative as am really looking forward to this journey. Am not even concerned if my food should taste bland or boring provided the weight loss is happening and I’m not having to spend half my day dwelling on food shopping, menus etc.

    Is there such a thing as “Simple Paleo”? If so, that’s for me! Would appreciate any comments and/or assistance. Very many thanks.

  9. I’d like to add to this discussion with a word in support of vegetables. My experience has been that I have only ever lost weight when I have replaced empty carbs with vegetables. Now I start my meal planning with veg and then incorporate the protein food. While many lovely natural foods are paleo they are also high in fat. I do believe that we eat low-fat to our peril but when you are trying to lose weight we need to get real with ourselves about how much we are actually eating. And WHY-is it emotional, boredom, finishing the kids leftovers? Ive found that as I eat fewer carbs my stomach has shrunk and my “I’m full now” hormone gives me very clear message s like never before.
    Good luck Lady Z -youre not alone.

  10. I have been on paleo for a month and I’m gaining weight. I’m going to eat just veggies at night. What do you think?

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for your comment! Can you tell us if you are following the meal plan service, or what the macronutrient ratio is (% carbs: %protein: %fat) in your diet? It’s common for people’s weight to fluctuate over the first 4-6 weeks of Paleo, and then level out…so keep in mind that it’s still early in the game for you. When first starting off (and not following a meal plan), it’s common for folks to overdo it on Paleo carbohydrate sources (i.e. fruits, tubers, natural sweeteners), which can interfere with weight loss. Hormones, stress, exercise (too much or too little) and a host of other factors can also (and often do) play a role. So I can’t say that I recommend only eating veggies at night as your ‘solution’, because it is likely that something else is going on, or not enough time has elapsed yet for your body to adjust to the new diet. Please keep us posted on your progress, and if you need more one on one help, please check out our private Paleo consulting page for more info!

      In good health,

      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  11. So a couple of years ago I started the paleo diet and calorie counting, not even knowing that there was a name for what I was doing, and just eating enough calories to sustain my bodies processes. I lost a lot of weight but has to stop because I got pregnant. Now a year after I had my baby I am on the exact same diet but I am not losing any weight, with only one difference, I am drinking a cup of coffee milk (1 cup coffee 2 cups skim milk) everyday. It could be because of the milk, but that is only adding a small amount of calories and no fat, or it could be because my body has changed since I had a baby. So everyone’s body reacts differently in respect of what is needs, hopefully I can figure out what mine needs before it gets out of control.

    1. Hi Amanda!
      Thanks for your comment here, and congratulations on becoming a mother! :-)
      The skim milk could definitely be contributing to the weight issues for a number of different reasons. Dr. Cordain summarizes some of the issues with consuming cow’s milk in this article:

      I consider skim milk to be a processed food, since the fat portion is removed, leaving only the carbohydrate and protein components (which are generally the culprits when it comes to triggering inflammation, allergies, etc.) Also, 2 cups of skim milk contain roughly 30 grams of carbohydrates, which can also contribute to weight gain.

      For my clients who are unable to ‘give up’ drinking milk, I recommend that they drink whole, organic milk, ideally raw. Weston Price Foundation summarizes some of the benefits of drinking raw milk here:

      Milk/dairy in general, is the most common food allergy among adults, and many folks don’t realize that they have a hidden intolerance to dairy until they remove it from their diet for a few months, and then re-introduce it back into their diets via an “elimination/provocation” challenge. Also, I’ve seen several individuals discover that they do not tolerate pasteurized dairy after removing it from their diet, but seem to do fine with raw dairy products.

      I think a 6 week strict Paleo challenge, followed by an elimination/provocation of dairy would probably give you a lot of insights into the situation. We have a free 30 Day Paleo Challenge group on Facebook, where we support one another in doing just this. Here’s the link if you’d like to join!

      Keep us posted on how you are doing, and I wish you the absolute best!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, LMP, MS, CNS®

  12. Hi
    I’ve just started the Paleo diet and noticed that there’s quite a bit of reference to over exercise. I’m trying to keep my car intake below 50 g for weight loss reasons and also that I am insulin resistant. But I run daily for about 40 minutes at gym – how will this affect my aim to lose weight? I am also struggling to cut out Sweetener – how does this detriment the lifestyle?
    Thank u!

    1. Hi Jessica,

      Well, since you just started Paleo (and it sounds like you’re trying to get into ketosis on such a low carb regimen) you may want to monitor your progress for a while and see how it goes. Signs of overtraining include sleeping too much or too little, getting sick frequently, having the feeling of “heavy” limbs, experiencing weight loss plateau or even weight gain, and feeling sluggish, irritable and depressed. If you’re experiencing any of these things, you may be overtraining and you may want to cut back. Here’s a post on the subject, Regarding artificial sweeteners, there’s really no redeeming value to them and it’s not a bad idea to work towards avoiding them completely,

      I hope this helps,


  13. Hi We started the Paleo eating plan a week and half ago. The guys have lost 7lbs each and I haven’t lost anything. I use my fitbit and get my 10,000 steps in almost everyday. I eat smaller portions then the guys. I am starting the change of life so not sure if that is an issue. I’m feeling not as blotted but would like to see some change on the scale!!! Should I exercise more my fitbit says I’m burning about 2000+ calories.
    They guys would also like to know if they can have dill pickles?
    Any help would be great!

    1. Hi Heidi,

      Thanks for your comment and congrats on your Paleo journey! We have a couple of blogs on our website that might offer some insight to your situation:
      10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Paleo

      14 Tips to Overcoming Weight Plateaus

      Having said that, it does take time to achieve safe and lasting weight loss, and men tend to shed the pounds a lot faster than women. It’s hard to know if you should “exercise more” without knowing more about you, but as the articles above mention, too much exercise (considered a stressor by the body) can also contribute to halted weight loss.

      Some dill pickles are Paleo-friendly, just make sure to read the ingredients on the products you are buying!

      Hope this helps!

      In good health,
      Kinsey Jackson, Paleo Plan Nutritionist

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