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Same same but different: Why calorie counting isn’t worth it

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Ever counted calories in a bid to lose weight? Then you’re not alone. Many people see tracking every single gram of food they eat, as the most effective way to reach their goal weight. What if we told you this tedious chore is not worth the effort? That’s right, you can put down the scales and close your calorie counting app, because calories from different foods are not all the same. Got your attention? Read on to discover the truth about calorie counting.

Calories are not the same

No, calories are not equal and weight loss is not simply a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn. Sure, at first glance it seems logical enough, that 500kcal from a can of coke are the same as 500kcal from Kale. This would be the case in a laboratory, where the burning of the same amount of kcals would release the same amount of energy. But the human body is far more complex than that and many people forget this important point in their calculations: Everything you eat or drink will trigger totally different metabolic responses.

Let’s take a can of coke for example: it mainly consists of sugar, which will immediately spike your blood sugar. Your body’s response to sugar is the release of insulin, which at the end will lead to the storage of fat and an increased feeling of hunger. Kale on the other hand, will balance your blood sugar level, which saves you from those 3pm dips in energy. Furthermore, it will leave you feeling fuller for longer. So you’re more likely to pass at the afternoon snacks, you’ll still reach for after a can of coke. That’s why it’s important to eat healthy foods in order to lose weight.

It’s not accurate science

If we assume that all calories are the same (see above), then there would still be one big problem: calorie counting is inaccurate. Being able to precisely calculate the calories you consume and burn throughout the day is a misconception. You want to know why?

Let’s first discuss the calories you consume: The calorie estimates in food databases, handbooks or websites are often incorrect, due to wrong labelling, food quality and laboratory measurements. Second, the cooking method changes the amount of energy available for digestion and absorption. Third, everyone absorbs calories different, which is i.a. due to everybody’s individual gut bacteria.

The same inaccuracy occurs when you want to calculate the calories you burn. Calorie trackers can also display a measurement error, especially because every individual person burns calories different which is among other things, due to their genetics, the quality of their sleep and hormones.

Why calorie counting can feel like being in a food prison

Calorie counting can cause many people to develop an unhealthy relationship to food. They get really obsessed with what they eat and can’t stop thinking about calories. When they look at food they see only numbers and calories, and this can become an obsession. You have to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. This kind of restriction is not good for your mental or physical health. Especially since food should nourish your body and soul as well as leave you energized and feeling good.

Conditions where calorie counting could make sense

Calorie counting can make sense for professional athletes or bodybuilders aiming for a specific body composition. Furthermore it can be helpful for people who don’t really have a clue how many calories they are approximately consuming on an average day.

Let’s recap

If you want to lose weight, calorie counting might not be the ideal approach. First, calories from different foods are not the same. Second, the calculation of the calories you consume and burn are not accurate. Third, calorie counting can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.

Count personal bests, burpees and how many pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables you eat every day. Not calories.

Get your Nutrition Coach and enjoy a healthy nutrition without the worries of counting