When we tell clients that they can lose weight by eating more calories, they often look at me like I’m either trying to trick them or I’ve lost it !
But the truth is, the concept of “calories in versus calories out” is greatly oversimplified, and in my opinion, seriously outdated.
Here’s why more calories aren’t bad plus 5 more myths busted !
Myth: Calories, not quality, impact weight
A University of Florida study found that people who consume more antioxidants maintain lower BMIs, smaller waistlines, and lower body-fat percentages than those with lower intakes, even though both groups consumed about the same number of daily calories–a strong indication that the nutrients calories are put together with play a key role in metabolism. Other research has uncovered similar effects. Wake Forest University researchers found that even at the same calorie and fat levels, monkeys fed foods high in trans fat gained four times more weight and 30% more belly fat compared to animals who munched on meals made with natural plant-based fat. More evidence that eating 500 calories worth of processed or fast food does not have the same impact on the body as eating a 500-calorie meal composed of fruits, veggies, whole grain, lean protein, and heart healthy fat.
Myth: The math is precise
A Harvard professor created a buzz when she spoke about the 100+ year old formula used to determine the calorie values many people rely on. It turns out based on further study, several foods actually contain less, because some components of the “calorie” don’t get digested. Incomplete digestion means that rather then being absorbed into the body, where calories have to be burned, used, stored, or just simply travel through your digestive system, to become excreted as waste. This analysis led to insight that almonds supply about 30% fewer calories than the label says, while other foods may pack more than expected. In addition, many studies have shown that after ingestion, some foods, like ginger and chili pepper, or food patterns, like vegan diets, increase metabolic rate, triggering you to burn more calories. In short: 2 + 2 may equal 6 or 3!
Myth: Numbers don’t lie
By law most products are allowed a 20% variance when it comes to the accuracy of the calories stated on the label. So if a frozen dinner lists 300 calories, it could actually contain over 350. If you eat several packaged foods each day, and you’re a calorie counter, you may wind up with a few hundred more than you budgeted for. And that’s for “wiggle room.” A recent Today Show investigation found that the numbers on diet frozen treats were off by as much as 68%.
Myth: Counting calories is a surefire strategy
Can you count calories and still gain weight? Maybe. In a recent study from the University of California, San Francisco, scientists randomly assigned 121 women to one of four things. The first tracked their calories, keeping them to 1,200 a day. The second ate normally, but recorded the number of calories they consumed. The third ate 1,200 calories a day, but didn’t have to record them, and the fourth ate normally, without any calorie tracking. Researchers found that when calories were limited, levels of cortisol(a stress hormone) became higher. And calorie counting, even without limitations, also made the women more stressed. Cortisol is known to rev up appetite, spike cravings for fatty and sugary foods, and lead to an increase in belly fat, so causing it to surge surely isn’t a smart weight-control strategy.
Myth: All calories are created equal
There are three types of calories your body needs: Carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Because each performs a unique function, they aren’t interchangeable, so getting the right amount of each is important. For example, if you ate too few protein calories and too many carb calories, the jobs that proteins do wouldn’t get done, and the surplus carb calories would get sent straight to your fat cells. This can result in weight gain, as well as the loss of muscle mass, dry, dull hair and skin, hormonal imbalances, and a weaker immune system. Too much or too little of all three calorie types can lead to unwanted side effects, so getting a certain number of daily calories, without regard to the type of food, just doesn’t make sense.
Myth: Counting calories is necessary
In one recent survey, only 12% of adults were able to accurately estimate the number of daily calories they need for their age, height, weight, and physical activity level. If you’ve overestimated your calorie needs, which we’ve seen many clients do, counting won’t create results. I’m not saying to ignore calories completely, but don’t obsess over them. Instead, choose more fresh foods, or foods as close to their natural state as possible; strive for a balance of “good” carbs, lean protein and healthy fats to help your body function optimally; eat breakfast every day to jump-start your metabolism, eat on a regular schedule, spacing your meals about 3-5 hours apart; pay attention as you eat and stop when you feel just full enough, satisfied, energized, and ready to move on with your day. When you listen, your body is pretty good at telling you how much it needs, no math required.
Hope this helps you with your OCD calorie counting :).. let us know if we’ve helped you break your fat loss plateau!!
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