Last week, I alluded to the fact that I don’t think you should focus on counting calories. Despite all my research and the conversations I’ve had recently about this, my belief holds true. Here, I’m providing you with the 6 top reasons why you should stop counting calories.
1. Reported Calories are Inaccurate
Did you know that the USDA allows some variation in the reported calorie counts on nutrition labels? According to the FDA, actual calorie counts can be as much as 20% higher than what is printed on the label. Further, in 2011, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article that stated that “19% of individually tested [restaurant] foods contained... at least 100 calories more than the stated energy contents, an amount that could cause [11-15 pounds] of weight gain per year if consumed daily.”
The other side of the equation – calories out – is equally difficult to track. Each person has a unique base metabolic rate (BMR) or resting burn rate, as well as unique aerobic and strength training burn rates based on sex, age, exercise intensity, duration, body mass index, genetics, etc. Although these numbers can be estimated, their accuracy is questionable. For better results, a personal heart rate monitor can be used, however, this reading is really only accurate for determining the aerobic burn rate, not a strength training burn rate.
2. Calories were not Created Equal
In theory, a calorie of protein should be equal to a calorie of carbohydrates should be equal to a calorie of fat, but research suggestions that the energy required to digest the three different macro groups varies. Protein requires more energy to digest than carbs, while carbs require more than fats.
3. Counting is not Sustainable
The act of calorie counting is incredibly tedious. At a basic level, focus needs to consistently be placed on both reported calories and portion size, but the puzzle is much more complex than that. As an example, your body doesn’t absorb all the calories that are ingested – how do you account for that?
4. Focuses on Quantity, Not Quality
As I mentioned in #2 above, all calories are not created equal. In that case, I was talking about macros (whole foods), but let’s take it a step further. 100 calories of Twinkies is NOT the same as 100 calories of kale – can we all agree on that? But, in your calorie counter they are the same! When solely considering calorie counts, the concept of eating a balanced, whole foods based diet is completely overlooked.
5. Food is More Than Energy
Thinking of food solely as an energy source is a limiting belief. As I’ve stated here before, I believe that food is medicine and that we can heal many of the ailments of our modern society simply through changes to our diets. Your diet also provides the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to aid in processes such as cell growth, muscle repair, and bone strengthening.
6. Counting Calories Removes Intuition
Meticulously counting calories masks a piece of the puzzle that logic can’t replace: your body’s natural intuition. Your body is very good at sending signals regarding the food and hydration it needs. Unfortunately, when you’re focused on 100 calories this and 200 calories that, it can be hard to hear the message.
Now, it’s time for you to weigh in (see what I did there?)... are your thoughts on calorie counting changing? Leave an insight in the comments.