The idea of counting calories for weight loss became popular in the late 20th century, and even today there are many controversies about how good it is or not.
It is a long held belief that in order to lose weight all one has to do is burn more calories than what is being consumed through eating.
It is further believed that achieving this caloric deficit over time either through a weight loss diet or an exercise program will result to weight loss.
While some consider this way of losing weight to be effective, for others, counting calories is just an excuse, because it is much easier to count calories than to really understand the complex effects of food in the body.
The energy we need to be healthy comes from food, and is expressed in calories. The number of calories is actually a fuel that we need to take into the body in order to be able to live normally.
If we eat more food than our body requires, the excess can be stored in the muscles, but much more often the food turns into fat.
Counting Calories To Lose Weight
This tried and tested approach to weight loss has yielded real results for a lot of people. But there has been a research out of Harvard University that seems to cast a shadow of doubt over this time tested weight loss plan.
The data was collected from over 120,000 people covering a period of 20 years.
The study suggests that there are certain foods that are highly linked to either weight gain or weight loss.
For example, it was discovered that potato chips top the list of foods contributing the most to weight gain and followed closely by potatoes, red meat and sweetened beverages.
The food groups that were correlated with weight loss included nuts, yogurt, fruits and vegetables.
Is Counting Calories Bad?
Of course, the study does not suggest that people should stop eating red meat, potatoes and potato chips. Nor does it suggest that people should stick to legumes and fruits and vegetables.
Perhaps the point being driven here is the amount of calories contained in these foods as related to weight gain or weight loss.
It is after all the most quantifiable aspect of the foods mentioned in the study. Naturally, fatty foods such as red meat, potato chips and potatoes contain more calories than foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates.
A bag of potato chips could have a weight gain impact on the body than say bingeing on celery sticks.
Potatoes are high on starch which is a complex carbohydrate that is composed mostly of glucose.
When the body processes potatoes it breaks down the starch into its glucose form to be used by the body for cellular energy.
This quick absorption leaves the hungry feeling hungry for more starchy foods causing the person to gain more weight.
This fast absorption also happens with simple carbohydrates such as soft drinks and sweetened juices.
This is actually what causes the weight gain and so it makes a lot of sense to cut down on starchy foods to effectively reduce the body’s craving for it.
Some dieters address this by using natural appetite suppressant foods.
Is Counting Calories Effective?
The reason why people who count calories do not lose weight can be found in the fact that the emphasis is on quantity, and not on quality.
Adding calories often leads to the wrong choice of foods, because certain foods such as potatoes contain a large number of calories due to the starch they consist of.
The mistake is to choose foods that do not have any nutritional value.
Counting Calories Calculator
To calculate the required number of calories several elements are taken into account – height, weight, age, gender, lifestyle, etc.
Another way to calculate how many calories you can burn during the day is to multiply your weight (lbs) by 12 if you are not physically active at all.
If you exercise occasionally multiply your weight by 15.5, and if you exercise regularly for 30 to 60 minutes during the day, multiply your weight by the number 17.25.
The value obtained is the amount of calories you need.
Younger people, athletes and people who are exposed to more physical exertion during the day should increase their daily calorie intake.
Is Calorie Counting Still A Good Idea?
In the final analysis the concept still holds, burn more calories than what is consumed through a good diet and exercise regimen, and weight loss will follow.
But this time around, people can more proactively create a diet that enables them to burn the calories more easily and create that caloric deficit of burning more than what is being consumed.
It is not the types of food per se that causes weight gain or loss but the amount of calories they represent plus the body’s ability to burn them.
As an example, while yogurt may be a good weight loss food it does not do anything to burn calories or actually allow the body to lose weight. What it does is reduce the body’s craving for calories.
Low-carb diets such as ketogenic diet are quite popular not because of the belief that carbohydrates promotes weight gain but more because the diet forces people to focus on cutting the amount of caloric intake.
Counting Calories Weight Loss
There really is no secret to losing weight and it does not involve a whole lot of sacrifices. There would of course be a need to change one’s diet especially if the person is used to eating fatty foods.
But always the focus should be on knowing what you eat and on engaging in some sort of physical activity.
Family gatherings and meals outside the home can make life difficult for people who are trying to lose weight by counting calories.
That is why training is the best way to burn excess fat in the body.
One is still allowed to eat a wide variety of foods but they have to watch out for the portions of foods that are high in fats or starch.
It would also be a good idea to introduce more fruits and vegetables on the diet. Foods such as grapefruit, celery, whole grains, avocados and Brazil nuts help fight weight.
Coffee and green tea, as well as foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, help burn fat faster.
A counting calories diet should be used with caution, as calories provide the energy needed for normal functioning.
That is why it is best to seek detailed instructions from a doctor or nutritionist, or simply reduce meals and introduce as much physical activity as possible into everyday life.