How useful is calorie counting?

Counting calories is very popular these days. Just about everyone who diets or exercises does it. There are a lot of tools available to help you do it. Google for ‘calorie counting’ and you will see for yourself. There is even a government website and an app that will track your daily calorie (or kiljoule) intake. Also, every packaged food item caries the calorie information on the packet – food manufacturers are required to display this. But how useful is it? Not very.

A lot of people will disagree with me – that’s understandable. They have built their whole lifestyles, and careers, around this useless concept. And now, their ego will not let it go. If you are one of those, you need to ask yourself the question: is there any value in sticking with an idea that’s built on a wrong assumption? It’s like building a house on bad footings. You will build something, but it will not be what you planned (the footings might not support the desired structure). It is the same with counting calories. You can actually get much better results if you do not hang on to concepts that do not work.

First of all, where did this idea come from? Calorie was originally designed as a measuring unit of heat (or energy). The scale was developed by burning different substances and comparing the amount of heat given off. But does it apply to human metabolism?

Short answer is no, we do not “burn” the calories like fire does. We metabolise the energy but there are many variables to consider. For example, each person has a different metabolic rate. In other words, one person will burn the calories quicker than another and so will need food more frequently. This may depend on the muscle/fat ratio, fitness level, daily activities, rest, lung capacity, coffee intake, cigarettes and other drugs, even time of day, and so on. Therefore, whatever is written on a packet, will have a different effective value at different time and with variations of light and whatever else is inside the body at the time.

Furthermore, rate of absorption of energy is also dependent on the food combination.For instance, if you add more fibre to your meal, it will slow down the absorption. Also, mixing protein, carbohydrates and fat in different ratios will also have different effects. This issue has not been explored enough, in my opinion, before conclusions are drawn. On the other hand, one study done in Japan goes even further, to conclude that food combination is important in prevention of disease. So, for example, if a portion of bacon has a value of 100 calories on its own, it will have a different effective value when you eat it with wholemeal bread.

However, my biggest gripe against calorie counting is that it takes away the responsibility from the individual. Do you need someone else to tell you how much you have to eat? Conforming to standards and eating only a prescribed amount appears to allow omeself to be treated like a clone – where one rule applies to all. Don’t forget that you are an individual. You are different from the next person, even if they look the same. So cherish your individuality and be happy you’re not a clone. Enjoy what you eat (in moderation), use common sense and don’t waste your time with useless information.


About istayinshape

Passionate about keeping in shape body, mind and spirit. Can help you achieve that dream body.
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