The Calorie Counting Myth

Calories are a measurement of energy, so cutting back on calorie intake and exercising more and expending more energy should mean that you lose weight, right? This "calculation" is the core logic behind the “calories in, calories out” theory—that creating a calorie deficit and burning off stored calories leads to weight loss. If only it were this simple. This approach takes for granted that all calories are alike and are burned in the same way, no matter where they come from.



There are three types of calories that our bodies burn for energy: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. All you need to do to get your calorie intake for a day is to add up your carbs, fats, and proteins. When counting calories, many people practice portion control, which can end up being somewhat tedious and too restrictive for many people. Another thing to consider is that when your calorie intake drops, your metabolism is likely to slow down, making it harder to lose weight. Finally, low-calorie diets are often low in protein, meaning they leave the body more vulnerable to infections, as well as bone, joint, and muscle disorders.


Instead of assigning a calorie value to your food, you need to consider what your food is made of and how the body will put it to use. You can get protein from plant sources like seeds, beans, nuts, sprouts, or quinoa; you can get animal-based protein from fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, and red meat. Carbohydrates come from starchy foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. Fats can come from the cooking oils we use to make our meals like olive oil, butter, or coconut oil. Fat can also come from meats or plant-based sources like avocados, nuts, and seeds.


You can think of carbohydrates as the fuel for the body. They are either burned when you use energy or stored in the tank for later use. When carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles, it is known as glycogen. Glycogen can be quickly converted to energy when you need a boost. Once the liver and muscles are stocked full of glycogen, however, it is turned into fat for later use. If your body needs a prolonged exertion of energy and if all of the glycogen is used up, it turns to the stored fat for energy. So if you take in more carbohydrates than you need without exercising, you’ll gain more weight as stored fat.


While carbs are good for basically one thing (energy), the body uses protein and fat in many different ways. If carbohydrates are the fuel for the body, proteins are the nuts and bolts holding everything together. The body uses protein for building muscle cells as well as creating and repairing the membranes of all cells. Protein is also used to create enzymes that send messages throughout the body for certain functions to occur. Fat is used to transport nutrients that are not water-soluble, it is the first ingredient for many different types of hormones, it insulates nerve cells to prevent their electrical signals from short-circuiting, and—just like protein—is used to create and repair cell membranes.


Fat and protein are a lot like lumber. You could burn it if you needed some energy, but you could also build many different things out of it. So when you consume protein, for example, muscle protein from a cow, your body could do some things with that building material. Your body might break it down and form a digestive enzyme from it; it might use it to create hemoglobin to carry oxygen in the blood, or it might decide to repair the membrane of a damaged cell with that protein molecule.


When the body burns fats, they produce a byproduct called ketones. Ketones are fat molecules that are incompletely burned—sort of like the charred coals in the bottom of a fire pit. Certain organs like the heart and brain will readily burn ketones when they are around, but if the body has no use for them, ketones are excreted through urine, breath, and sweat. So if you’re burning a lot of fat and there’s no place left to store the leftover ketones, the body gets rid of them. This is sort of like tossing out good charcoal that’s not done burning—a waste of energy—but that’s what you want to do if you want to lose weight: waste energy.




Some Weight Loss Concepts to Consider:


1.    We have seen that people who eat fewer calories have an adverse effect on their weight loss efforts because they slow down their metabolism and burn fewer calories. The body stores fat as a survival mechanism in case of long periods without food. If you suddenly begin eating far fewer calories, your body will adjust and slow down your metabolism because it figures that food must be scarce. Conversely, we have observed that people who eat more calories increase their metabolism, but only on low-carbohydrate diets. As we said before, the body won’t waste carbohydrates; it will either burn them for energy or store them for later.


2.    We know that portion control is difficult for many people. Instead of cutting everything in half, we generally recommend that you lower your carbohydrate intake, particularly the carbohydrates with little to no nutritional value, such as white sugar, white flours, baked goods, chips, pop, fruit juice, and products with high fructose corn syrup. Limit your intake of bread, pasta, and rice but eat plenty of whole fruits and vegetables. Skip the meats high in saturated fats like bacon, sausage, and other cured meats.


3.    We recognize that exercise is, of course, an important part of weight loss. Exercise is important for everyone and an essential part of the weight loss equation.


4.    Scales will tell you your body mass, but not what is in that mass. Weight is just a number—it won’t tell you whether that mass is fat, muscle, or water. Body Composition is a more important measurement than total weight when discussing fitness and health.


5.    First, make the lifestyle changes you need to live healthy, then the weight loss will follow. Weight loss is in a way just a byproduct of changing your lifestyle to include healthier habits. Learn to make healthy choices every day and feel better.


Are you ready to take the guesswork out of weight loss and nutrition? Call us today at 773-878-7330 to set up a consultation with one of our experts.



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1.  Your individual health status and any required health treatments can only be properly addressed by a professional healthcare provider of your choice.  Remember: There is no adequate substitution for a personal consultation with your chosen healthcare provider.  Therefore , we encourage you to make your own health care decsions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

2.  The Constitution guarangtees you the right to be your own physician and to prescribe for your own health.



Read 3144 times Last modified on Monday, 23 May 2016 16:10