Calories themselves do matter. There’s no way around that. If you eat more than you burn, then you’ll put on weight. If you eat less than you burn, then you’ll lose weight. In learning this, people may want to count calories in order to keep in shape and on top of their health. However, this article is going to focus on whether you need to count those calories.
What is a Calorie?
Firstly, let’s look at what a calorie is. From a scientific perspective, it is the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius. However, the easiest definition to understand is how much energy a food or drink contains. If you take in too much energy, then your body stores it for use later. This is what fat is: stored energy. If you don’t take in enough energy, then your body goes to its readily available stores which is why we lose fat.
Calories come from three main sources known as macronutrients. These are fats, carbohydrates and protein. Fats carry 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates have 4 and protein also has 4. This is the reason why fat is normally given a bad name. Although fat does come with a lot of calories, it has many other benefits for your body. Don’t skimp out on fat just so that you can eat more carbohydrates or protein. All are important for our body to function.
Why Count Calories?
The biggest advantage to counting calories is that it gives you a good idea of your energy intake. Nothing’s ever 100% accurate when you count calories but it does allow you to better control and understand everything you’re eating. This means that you can look after your weight and fuel yourself correctly for sporting activities as well as balance your nutrition.
Men generally need around 2,500kcal (10,500 kj) and women 2,000kcal (8,400 kl). These values will obviously depend on a lot of factors such as age, weight, height, and amount of activity. Yet, if we look at our sedentary lifestyle, then even these figures could be too much.
Be Careful When Counting
Like I’ve already said, nothing is completely accurate when it comes to counting calories. For example, according to the European Commission Guidance on Nutrition labelling, companies are allowed to be within about 10% when measuring calories. This means that a 100 kcal product could actually be anywhere from 90kcal to 110kcal. Also, when you weigh your food, it’s never going to be completely correct unless you’re extremely diligent with it which will take more time and also cause more stress.
But don’t let this get in your way. The difference is negligible when it comes to body composition, energy for activities and eventual results. It would be nice if calorie counting was completely faultless. Alas, nothing comes without its problems. The metabolism is a complicated beast and we can only do our best to work with it.
There are many hormones which take part in controlling metabolism like leptin, glucagon, insulin, T3 and T4. All these impact our body and mood more than you think and need both macronutrients and micronutrients in order to work properly. Also, if you have problems with your digestive system, then then you could have problems absorbing nutrients that you consume. Junk food can wreck your digestive system which is another reason why natural foods are so good for the body.
Counting calories is better for certain people. If you always eat junk food, then counting calories could help. This is because you don’t have a healthy diet already so the least you can do is control your caloric intake. However, it’s much better to choose healthier foods that are higher in nutrient value but lower in calories. Natural foods have many more vitamins and minerals than processed or junk food. They’re also easier to fit in your diet with fewer total calories.
One of the biggest drawbacks with counting calories is that it’s time consuming and not always appropriate. You can’t whip out your scales if you go to meet your friend for coffee or carry them with you if you go to a family members house. It’s not only weird but also quite rude. It’s also not an enjoyable or sustainable way of living. The people you know can quickly become tired of it if you do it all the time, and it can get in the way of making plans.
You don’t need to count every single food that you eat. You don’t want to be that person who weighs out an apple or counts every leaf of their salad. The most effective way of living is to count calories occasionally and eat healthily. Counting calories can give you a good idea of the amount of energy in each food. Once you know the total, then you can eyeball foods from then on. You can know roughly the amount of fat, carbs and protein in a muffin or latte or chocolate bar because you’ve found it out before. This then allows you to live easily and healthily from then on.
Also, don’t worry about getting in the exact right amount of calories per day. If you’re hungry one day and eat a little more than you should, then the chances are that you won’t be as hungry the next day and eat a little less. Over the course of the week, your energy will balance out. This obviously doesn’t count if you binge or starve yourself. Never go to extremes. If you fancy something, then have it in moderation. The key to any body composition goal is moderation. Nothing will harm you if you just have a little of it and sometimes a little bit is enough to subdue any cravings.
After a while of being more observant with your food, you’ll begin to feel how much you need to eat for maintaining, losing and gaining weight. This is a much more sustainable and stress-free way of living. However, it does require a bit of effort at the start, but so does everything worth having. Life will be boring if you have to count calories all the time. Simply take note of the energy values in each food, count sometimes, eat healthy and exercise. If you’re an athlete and want to take your nutrition more seriously, then you may want to count calories regularly, but for the general public, it isn’t necessary. If you feel like you have any issues with your digestive system or hormones, then visit a doctor. Getting healthy is supposed to be enjoyable and happy so if you’re stressing out or unhappy, then you need to change something. Don’t worry, you’ll reach your goal in the end.