Many resort to calorie counting as the best way to monitor their food intake and, if you have not heard it before, I am here to tell you that those days are gone… for good… because calorie counting is not an exact science as you thought it might be both when it comes to the factors concerning calorie consumption as well as calorie expenditure.
And, I think this a good news as it can free us from endless measuring and counting. Life is too short, right?
Studies show up to 25% errors when counting calories on each side: 25% error on calories we consume and 25% error on calories we burn because of our own individual differences, industry as well as our own measurements errors.
An outdated view is CALORIES IN/CALORIES OUT… that what goes in – that is the energy we have to use. While it is true that the more energy (measured in KCal or “calories”) we eat than what we expend – we will gain weight and, at the same time – if we take in fewer energy than we need – we will lose weight, science shows that the problem with calorie counting is completely flawed and here is why…
1.Research shows that we actually can not trust that the information on food packages is accurate, it is not an exact science. Food companies use many methods to count calories, so the governing body will permit inaccuracies of up to 20%, which means that errors can go up to 40%:
Something that is “100 Calories” can actually be anything between “80 cal” and “120” cal. So, calorie counts on labels and databases are just averages, what you are eating could be lower or higher. Some of the calorific information is still used from a 100 year old database when values were first established and experts claim some could be up to 50% off.
This just does not serve us at all, doe it?
2. Another problem is that all calories are not created equal. This is in the sense that absorption of different foods will vary as well as their effect on our blood sugar levels.
150 calories of broccoli and 150 calories of a fizzy drink are as different as heaven and earth how body will react to each. One will keep our blood sugar levels stable, contribute to our wellness and will not store fat, whilst the latter will send our blood sugar levels spiraling up, cause body to produce more insulin, which will turn excess blood sugar to fat and send it to existing fat cells, blocking the release of stored fat, causing us to gain weight.
So, we should always be thinking about calorie quality, not quantity.
A refreshing study published in the British Medical Journal (Nov 2018) confirms that the lower the Glycemic Index of a diet (achieved by lowering the amount of carbohydrates) the more energy you burn off through metabolism: out of two groups who ate the same amount of calories, group that ate less carbs (carbs were set at 40% instead of conventional 60%) – lost more weight and also burnt off 250 more calories than the group who ate more carbs (60% of diet), despite the fact that both group’s ate the same amount of calories. Protein for both groups was set at around 25%. So, types of foods, specifically starches and sugars will slow down the rate at which body burns calories.
3. Also, we do not absorb all the calories that we consume, some pass undigested and this varies from food to food.
We also absorb less from protein-rich foods, while it also varies for carbohydrates and it is all different depending on the actual carbohydrate.
Formulas that scientists use to determine calorie count that reflect only what we absorb is in particular wrong when it comes to fiber-rich foods, we absorb more than calculated, whilst we absorb a lot less of nuts and seeds that thought.
4.Not only that all calories are not created equal, but how we prepare them will change its calorie load, its effect on the blood sugar.
Take sweet potato as an example: sweet potato, when boiled for 30 minutes, has a low to medium Glycemic Index of 44. If you bake it for 45 minutes or over – it actually turns into candy with GI of over 90, which is high and general advice is that foods of that GI should be avoided.
5. Differences in gut bacteria will cause each of us individually to absorb calories unique to us and it varies from individual to individual. Some can absorb 150 more calories a day because their unique set of gut bacteria is different to someone else’s and predisposed to absorb more calories.
6. We are not great at estimating calories and portion sizes as research shows that even nutritionists can make errors up to 25% when trying to estimate calories. Well, if our laboratories get it wrong, we are only human.
7. Sleep deprivation for one single night can decrease calories burned by anything up to 20%.
8. Even variations in FTO gene can cause us to burn 160 calories less per day. Carriers of the FTO gene are also more likely to succumb to impulsive hunger pangs and prefer high-calorie foods. ( Fat mass and obesity-associated protein also known as alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase FTO is an enzyme that in humans is encoded by the FTO gene located on chromosome 16.)
9. We can not also rely on different fitness trackers either to calculate our exact calorie expenditure. Some have been found to be up to 30% inaccurate. So we could be over estimating how much we are actually burning.
10. Temperature changes caused by hormones during women’s menstrual cycle will also effect their resting metabolic rate and some (lucky) women can burn up to 150 calories more per day.
11. Then there is brown fat. Ever heard of it? Everyone has at least a little bit of brown fat. Unlike regular old white fat, which stores calories, mitochondria-packed brown-fat cells burn energy and produce heat. It is activated by cold ( brown fat helps babies, who don’t yet have the ability to shiver, to stay warm), so those, who have more brown fat can burn up to staggering 400 calories more than those who have very little of it.
12. Diet plays a huge part in our calorie burn. Some foods are known to have Thermojetic influence on our metabolism, and such are foods with capsaicin (found in chilies): study shows those that have it in their diet can burn up to 120 more calories and it is through activating the brown fat. Catechins in green tea can also boost metabolism by increasing levels of hormones that tell fat cells to break down fat. This releases fat into the bloodstream and makes it available as energy. But, we can never really figure this in when calculating calories.
13. Calorie counting in unfriendly. It requires knowledge, relying on labels to be accurate as well as apps, calculator and trackers and then us physically to weigh and measure everything. I am sweating just thinking about all that effort. And we could still be falling short of knowing if we are right or not bearing all the above multiples of variables in mind.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY
There sure is and for that you do not need trackers, apps, measuring equipment, weighing equipment, specialist knowledge, calculators, etc.
USE YOUR HAND TO DETERMINE YOUR PORTION SIZES!
Balanced plate will consist of:
Lean Protein: your palm size and thickness.
Healthy Carbohydrates (veggies): as much as hand can grab of your veggies (or a measure of a fist)
Healthy Carbohydrates (wholesome starches, fruits and grains): your cupped hand (if you are losing weight – best exclude those for even higher fat burn and focus on Protein + Veggies + Healthy Fats)
Healthy Fats: tip of your thumb will determine the portion of oil (teaspoon). It is an equivalent of 6 nuts, 1/2 medium avocado or 6 olives.
On top of eating your meals in balance, it is also all about the frequency of your meals and getting the hydration and exercise zeroed in.
Using your hand does not have all the answers, but it encourages us to choose foods where we can clearly determine what part is protein and what part are carbohydrates or fats, so it immediately eliminates processed foods.
The above are the exact reasons why with my clients and at our group challenges we have taken all the guess work out for you and created steps and plans to follow to help you get to your goal without the painstaking measuring, teaching you how to eventually put your own meals together and how to achieve nutrient balance & density using simple solutions.
We even recommend you throw away your scales and stop weighing yourself too! (This one is hard, I know!)
If you do not have a better plan, this one is certainly working incredibly well for many because it is well researched and based on the latest nutritional science, not fad.
Life gets busy, so having tools to help you along the way to plan better is priceless. We educate you how to balance your meals (and we have tried and tested delicious recipes to help you along the way too), how often to eat, how to build exercise habit into your lifestyle and more… so, you can slowly build healthy, active lifestyle habits into your lifestyle with a long term goal in mind.
I hope you find this information of a value and please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like help or have any questions.
Certainly hope this will liberate you if you are still counting every single calorie you eat! Hope you can see how unnecessary and even futile it can be. Here is to your freedom!
Yours in Health,