Do Calories matter?
Have you ever wondered what a Calorie actually is?
Everyone knows that Calories are listed at the top of the food label. We have become consumed with Calories and checking to see how many Calories are in certain foods. We have apps dedicated completely to counting calories. We want to know how many Calories we’ve eaten and how many Calories we’ve burned with the amount of steps we took that day (more on this in a future post…)
I have some information that might surprise you.
The Calories that are on your food label are calculated by a machine and not by a human body. This could cause some problems. We are complex organisms that operate differently than machines. It is estimated that there is about a 20-30% error with the number they slap on the food label. There could actually be 25% more or less Calories in that food. For example, if a food is listed as having 150 Calories, it could actually have about 115 or 190 calories. The label is a major approximation.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to rely on inaccurate Calorie numbers to ensure I am healthy.
Not only are food labels inaccurate, but our body may not even use all of the Calories that are in our food. Our body doesn’t absorb everything that we eat, which means we can’t know for sure how many Calories we are actually taking in, regardless of reading the food label and calculating each food we eat in a day.
In addition to all of this, each person is different and I may absorb more calories that you did from that pizza last night. Our bodies are complex and we can’t stick to equations and numbers in order to get our bodies to a healthy state.
Is a Calorie just a Calorie? Is a Calorie in an apple the same Calorie that is in a cheeseburger? I ask this question to help you see that there are so many factors that go into Calories, and it isn’t all about numbers. There is a bigger picture and it is more involved than adding and subtracting our food for the day. I go into this in older posts and will go into more in future posts, but Calories are not the main thing you want to be worried about when you eat food. There are many more factors you need to concern yourself with including nutrients and ingredients.
All of this to say, Calorie counting may not be as useful for overall health and weight loss as people might think.
Many of us calculate or have someone calculate for us how many calories we should be eating every single day. It is usually based off of age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. There are many different equations to do this, which I won’t go into. Bottom line is you need to know that each number you come up with is a major approximation and there is estimated to be a 30% error.
Not only are the equations inaccurate, but your body has more going on in there than just a height and a weight. There are processes in the body going on that affect how many Calories you burn and don’t burn. You don’t even need to move in order for your body to burn Calories. You are burning Calories while you sleep in order to keep your heart pumping and your lungs breathing. You could have a type of medical condition that requires more energy, therefore your body has to burn more Calories in order to function. There are many different circumstances for each person and we can’t know exactly how many Calories we need from calculations.
Each person has a metabolism that is affected by many different things. If you eat too few calories, your metabolism slows down because it has to preserve everything it can in order to survive. If you exercise too much, your metabolism will slow down because it is also trying to maintain your basic functions in your body in order to survive. There is no way to know exactly how each person’s metabolism is functioning. Hence, why these calculations cannot tell us everything that is going on in the body.
GAIN OR LOSE
What if I told you that you may need to eat more Calories in order to achieve your goals?
It is 100% true that if you take in more Calories than you use, you will gain weight. It is also true that if you take in less Calories than you expend, you will lose weight. The tricky part is we don’t know EXACTLY how many calories we are taking in, and we don’t know EXACTLY how many calories we are expending.
Something that may make it seem like your body isn’t functioning like it should include a slower metabolism because of restrictive dieting. Remember when I asked you about eating more calories to lose weight? Well, if you restrict your diet so much, your body will slow down it’s metabolism and therefore burn fewer calories in order to preserve everything it can. In this case, you will eat less calories, and struggle to lose any weight. You need to eat more so that your body can function like it should and burn Calories like it should.
I am writing this post because I think a lot of us count Calories as a way to lose weight or gain weight. Calories may be the only determining factor when choosing a food to eat. Yes this does work sometimes, but it’s not going to work forever. Counting Calories is very tiresome and most people don’t want to do a bunch of calculations before they dig into their delicious dinner. Not only that, but now you see that it is very inaccurate on both sides of the equation.
WHAT TO DO
What I recommend to people is to eat a real food diet full of natural healthy foods. Usually these foods don’t have a food label. If you can eat foods without a label, you will not need to count Calories in order to lose weight and be healthy. These foods were made for our body and our body recognizes them. Processed foods that are surrounding us today confuse our bodies and our bodies don’t function properly if we eat too much of them.
If we feed our bodies nutrient dense, whole foods our bodies will be healthy and happy. If you have more specific goals like building lean mass or gaining weight because you have trouble putting on weight, you may need individualized nutrition counseling. Please contact me if you have any specific questions.
That’s it for today! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and YouTube to channel to be updated when I post!