I'm training for a TKD tournament. My Master is a very big proponent of counting calories, but I don't want to eat too little when I'm training intensely for the rest of the year. I obviously don't want to go over or under my weight class either. That being said, is counting calories something I should do? Or should I just eat healthy (meats, fruits, and veggies) and not worry about caloric intake?
In its most basic sense, just let the scale be your guide. Weigh yourself at the same time under the same conditions every day (Such as first thing when you get up in the morning), and watch the trends. If you notice that your weight is creeping up, you need to either increase your cardio/workouts a bit or cut back on the calories a bit. Be aware that if you ease off your workouts to taper/be fresh for a competition, you may need to cut calories slightly as well.
To some extent, the "3500 calories = 1 lb" is a bit of a myth. The base fact is that if you expend more calories than you consume, you will lose weight, and if you eat more than you expend you will gain.
As far as the composition, since you are not an endurance athlete, my personal recommendation is to aim for about 40-50% calories from lean proteins, 20% from healthy fats and 30-40% from carbohydrates (For comparison, endurance athletes will be in the 50-60% range for carbohydrates). You can get a lot of your carbs from fruits and vegetables, and any grains that you consume should be as unprocessed as possible. I generally tell people to "shop the edges" of the store, as that is usually the raw meats section, produce, bakery. The further into the boxes you get, the more processed/empty calories come into play.
Lean meats: Turkey, chicken, pork, lean ground beef, certain steak cuts. Healthy fats - Vegetable oils, avocado, nuts. Best oils for cooking are grapeseed, walnut and avocado. Avoid oils with high levels of saturated fats.
Depending on the style of tournament and the length, you may want to increase carbs slightly in the days leading up, but be aware that this will also cause a slight rise in weight as the muscles retain more glycogen and water. True carbo loading is a 1-2 week process, and generally only done by endurance athletes to maximize energy stores just before long events. You may also want to experiment in training with various food bars (Such as Lara bars, one of my personal picks) for energy/nutrition between matches.