Is Calorie Counting Outdated?

Nov 18, 2020

calorie counting - is it outdated?

Recently calorie counting for weight loss has been under a lot of criticism. In the last year, Tech Insider released videos about the problems with calorie counting for weight loss and about the inaccuracy of commonly used calorie counters. And in March this year, The Economist published an extensive research article, named “Death of the calorie”, which focuses on the history and the problems regarding measuring calories. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!

We are sure that at some point in your dieting journey you have come across this topic. So in this article our Hudson Dietitian will explain to you the background of all this criticism.

What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy commonly used in relation to food as a measure of energy received from food consumed. The UK National Health Service explains that our bodies need the energy from food to keep us alive and keep our organs functioning. Energy is needed not only for intended physical activity, like exercise, but also for breathing, and digestion. Therefore, we have a resting rate of calorie burning, which we have limited control over. Additional calorie burning is a result of our lifestyle and food choices.

To maintain a stable weight we must put the same amount of energy into our bodies as we use up through normal body functions and physical activity. An excess of energy (calories) provided is stored in our bodies as fat. Hence, healthy calorie restriction, or increase in physical activity over time is a good way to ensure sustainable weight loss in Hudson area.

How are calories counted?

The measure of calories is simple. A calorie is the amount of energy, or heat, needed to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit). You can already see why this is problematic for measuring the amount of calories a person gets from food.

Calories in food are measured by how much potential energy the food possesses. In the1860s, an agricultural chemist, Wilbur Altwater popularized the idea that this method can be used to measure both the energy contained in food and the energy the body expended on muscular work, tissue repair, powering organs, etc. By burning food, and running multiple experiments he concluded that different food groups offer different amounts of energy (calories) to the body:

  • 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat = 9 calories

What’s the problem with calorie counting?

The problem with calorie counting comes from individual differences. Let us first explain to you how our bodies ‘burn’ calories.

Our metabolic processes begin with our enzymes breaking down foods into their basic components. Namely, carbohydrates into glucose, fat into glycerol and fatty acids, and protein into amino acids. These are transported through the bloodstream to the cells where they are immediately absorbed, or sent to be further processed. In the final stage of metabolism, these molecules are reacted with oxygen to release their stored energy. The rate at which this happens is referred to as our metabolic rate.

We can see that the above process relies on many individual characteristics and is affected by an individual’s activity level. So, what problems occur with calorie counting? Here are some examples:

  • It is extremely difficult to accurately count the amount of calories a person will get from food, and the amount actually present in the food. Companies do not burn all the ingredients to find that out – they estimate.
  • Calorie Counters are extremely unreliable! Watch the below Tech Insider video to learn more.
  • Some calorie rich food, like nuts, contains many other essential nutrients, such as fibre, protein, and minerals, or require more energy to be processed. Hence, these shouldn’t be compared with “empty” calories.

Considering the controversy surrounding calorie counting for weight loss, you should be even more inclined to distrust the easy-fix fad diets that are floating online. At Batista Weight Loss our expert dietitians work with you to create an extremely effective weight loss program that is designed to fit your characteristics and body exactly.

Now that we have pointed out the difficulties with accurately measuring the energy intake we will get from different food, let us run you through some easy-to-follow alternatives. In our next article “Calorie Counting Alternatives” we give you three alternatives and discuss exactly why they are much better for you than calorie counting.

Find out more about our Hudson Dietitian!

Our highly qualified weight loss experts at Batista Weight loss and Wellness: Susan West-Opyoke, RDLD; John Batista, M.D.; Stephanie, M.A; and Valerie, Office Staff, together have decades of experience working with weight loss patients.

At Batista Weight loss and Wellness we believe that successful weight loss depends on two factors – the knowledge about how to lose weight and following through on your weight loss plan. Our experts will provide you with a customized weight loss plan, and regular face-to-face interaction and motivation.

To create your own customized weight loss plan with us and achieve sustainable weight loss in Hudson don’t hesitate to contact us on (352) 600-3476 or drop us a visit at our clinic: 443 Mariner Blvd, Spring Hill, FL 34609, USA.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.