Counting calories may not be as important as you think. Most dieters and athletes are obsessed over calories. They are counting them and cutting them to lose weight, gain muscle, or stay fit. The truth is that not all calories are created equal. If you want to lose fat, you have to focus on macros. Tracking your daily intake of protein, carbs, and fat is more important than counting calories. This is the only way to lose weight and preserve muscle.
What Are Calories?
A calorie is a unit of energy. You need calories to survive. Just how much depends on a variety of factories, such as your age, gender, total weight and lean mass, physical activity, and energy requirements. The amount of calories needed vary from one person to another. So does counting calories matter?
A sedentary individual doesn’t need more than 1,500 calories a day, while a pro athlete or a bodybuilder can have as much as 8,000 calories daily. Gauging your daily calorie intake without being aware of your energy expenditure is useless in gaining or losing weight.
Calorie Counting for Weight Loss
When it comes to calories and weight loss, things are quite simple. If you aren’t burning what you take in, the calories you eat are going to be stored as fat. In order to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. One kilogram (two pounds) of fat is 7000 calories. By creating a deficit of 7000 calories in a week, you will lose one kilogram.
Counting calories is not a long term solution. It can actually lead to weight gain. For the start, food calories affect your body differently depending on their source. 500 calories from chicken and brown rice are not the same as 500 calories from potato chips. Secondly, the method for measuring caloric content may not be all that accurate. Different foods have different digestion times.
Counting calories is meaningless simply because people digest differently due to the type bacteria in their gut. Your metabolism, as well as the way food is cooked can make a huge difference to how many calories are absorbed.
Researchers have found that instead of the 170 calories in a serving of raw almonds, only 129 calories are taken in. Another reason why you shouldn’t count calories is that many foods pass through your body undigested because you lack the enzymes and bacteria needed to break down those foods.
Additionally, much of the nutritional data on labels is outdated. Recent studies indicate that overweight people absorb more calories from food as they may have an over-abundance of certain types of bacteria.
Should You Count Calories?
Calorie counting is overrated. If you want to lose fat or gain definition, you should rather see the bigger picture. Just counting calories won’t help you too much unless you look at the kinds of calories consumed. The foods you eat make quite a difference.
Once again, focus on your macros. For example, two eggs contain about 140 calories, 12 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and zero carbs. The protein in eggs is used to build and repair muscles. But when the body’s supply of carbs gets too low, fat and protein are used as a source of energy. On the other hand, one serving (28 grams) of potato chips provides over 155 calories, 1.9 grams of protein, 14 grams of carbohydrates, and 10 grams of fat.
Potato chips are rich in trans fat and sodium, and have little or no nutritional value. What would you choose: two eggs packed with protein and amino acids, or 28 grams of potato chips loaded with saturated fat? Both have similar calorie content, but different nutritional value.
Calories in Macronutrients
Whether you want to shed a few pounds, build muscle, or maintain your body weight, you need to get the right macronutrients in your diet. Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Some people claim that alcohol should be considered a macronutrient as well. Alcohol is NOT a macronutrient because the human body doesn’t need it for survival. Let’s have a look at the calories in macros:
• 1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
• 1 gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories
• 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories
Instead of counting calories for weight loss, you should rather determine your daily macronutrient intake. In order words, you should calculate how much protein, carbs, and fat you need every day. Consistency and balance are key. Also, 100 calories worth of carbs will impact your body differently than 100 calories worth of protein – which is another reason why you shouldn’t put so much emphasis on calories. If you just count calories, you can get tricked into thinking you are doing a good job, but if all your calories are coming from simple carbs and saturated fats, you’ll gain weight.
Food is more than calories. What you eat affects your health as well as your waistline and your overall well-being. Eat quality foods to enjoy optimal health. Over time, you’ll find the right amount of calories needed through trial and error.