As someone on a weight loss journey, the first thing you probably check when you grab a package of food is the number of calories. You’ve probably heard that you should consume fewer calories than you consume – and that’s true. However, as much as you want to count calories to lose weight, it’s not always as straightforward as it seems.
Confused? Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Today, Evolve Daily shares 5 Things You Need To Know About The Calorie Counting Myth:
1) What is a calorie?
Calories are a measurement of energy. The calories you see on the nutrition label on a box of food shows the amount of energy needed to heat up a gram of water by one degree Celsius. Unfortunately, whatever you’re eating doesn’t heat up water. Instead, it provides the fuel for the energy needed by your body to breathe, metabolize food, and other processes.
2) How are calories measured?
Let’s say we want to measure the calories of a banana. Scientists measure calories using a piece of scientific equipment called a bomb calorimeter. This device incinerates the banana and measures the heat produced when it is burned. This measurement represents the total amount of energy or gross energy of the banana.
However, the human body isn’t a bomb calorimeter and our digestive system is not as efficient. The digestive system can’t completely break down all foods. The body turns this into waste instead. Thus, calorie counts on nutritional labels aren’t gross energy, instead, its energy that can be metabolized and can only be measured in estimates.
3) The Atwater factor
The Atwater system was developed in the 19th century to approximately measure the energy per gram of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and alcohol. To calculate the number of calories our banana has, food companies count the grams of fat, protein, carbohydrates, and alcohol, multiply each by its respective factor (nine calories per gram of protein, etc) then add up the totals.
Today, research shows that the Atwater factor isn’t as accurate as we believe it to be. In fact, it sometimes overestimates or underestimates the number of calories a certain food has.
4) Measuring calorie expenditure
Although there are many accurate ways to measure calorie expenditure, or caloric output, these are very expensive and impractical for daily use. Typically, the Mifflin St.Jeor equation is used but it is also inaccurate because it is based on a guess of how many calories a person expends on a daily basis.
5) So what should I do?
If you’re eating healthy, balanced meals rich with lean proteins, green leafy vegetables, and good carbs, you probably don’t have to count calories. Keep on giving your body what it needs for nourishment and it will take care of the rest, including keeping you at an ideal weight for your body type.
Although the calories in and calories out equation works, it is too flawed to measure exactly what you’re eating and expending. You don’t need a nutrition label to tell you what and what not to eat. If you’re looking to lose weight, get rid of all the unhealthy, processed foods in your diet and aim for whole, nutritious foods. Your body (and your sanity) will thank you in the end.