Calories: Those mystical little creatures

What are calories?

We’ve all tried the Jenny Craig or the Bernstein diet that really focus on either counting calories or drastically limit your caloric intake. Losing or gaining weight is dependent on the calories in versus calories out, or energy balance. But it’s important to remember that the calories within a food are not the end all be all. Before we go into some of the downfalls of counting these mystical little creatures, I want to make sure everyone knows exactly what a calorie is.

Because they get a bad rap! How many times have you heard “That dessert was AMAZING, but I don’t even want to LOOK at the calories.” We’re all guilty of thinking the same way. We’ve been trained to think that calories are bad. The problem is that calories aren’t the enemy. A calorie is just a unit of measurement. It’s similar to the watts on a light bulb, or speed in a car. We need calories for everything our body does.

Two reasons why counting calories may be a losing battle

Calorie counts aren’t always accurate.

When you’re going into the grocery store I bet you look at the nutrient label on the side of the box. From here, you can read the amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and so on and so on. But did you know the calories and nutrient amounts can be off by a pretty significant margin?! We don’t test every meat or vegetable for its calorie content so one apple can be very different from the next. The individual differences can come from the length of storage time for a product, ripeness at the time it was picked, even out of date data on its nutrient content. All of this can make it very difficult to tell how many calories are in each piece of food.

Calorie consumption equation can be fairly off the mark.

Another reason counting calories may not be the right decision for you is actually the method of determining how many calories you need. The way you decide how many calories you should eat in a day is can your total daily energy expenditure. This is a formula used by taking your total body weight and averaging the oxygen intake throughout the day. The problem with this formula is it can range anywhere from 10% difference in actual caloric needs to as much as 43% for individual’s who are overweight.

While you definitely need to be cognizant of what you’re eating and how much, putting too much stress on the exact calorie amount is not worth it and hard to follow through with in the long run.

Eat real food.

Shop around the outside of the grocery store and you should be just fine.

Want to know what good nutrition is? Check out our article here!


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Nick Prevett

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