Have you been eating less, exercising hard, counting every calorie you eat and every calorie you burn but still do not seem to make any progress with weight loss? Does it frustrate you to see people eating more than you, exercise lesser and yet they are leaner than you? What is going wrong?
The issue is we get fixated with calories. We think calorie is the measure of amount of energy intake or amount of calories burnt. We know that when we burn more than we intake, we should lose weight. However it does not seem to work. Here are 4 reasons why just counting calories will not help you with your goals.
1. Calorie value of a food item is the amount of energy animals and living being derive from it. Determining the amount of calories a food item will produce is determined in laboratory. What this does not explain is the food energetics inside a human body. Here are few things that influence the food energetics inside a body:
- We need energy to digest food which is not accounted for in the calorie values. Eating and digestion costs energy (calories). Chewing the food, swallowing the food, churning the food, making acid in the stomach, making enzymes, move the digested food through the intestine costs energy. Some food require more energy for this entire process. Proteins ( Meat, Poultry, Dairy, Soya products) takes the most energy to digest, next are carbohydrates ( Grains, daals, pulses), followed by Fat(oils) Fibre in carbohydrates require more energy for digestion and whole food need more energy to digest than processed food.
- Gut bacteria alters how the energy is consumed. Many bacteria reside in our gut These bacteria influence the calories absorbed from various foods in our body. This microbiodata is different for different people. How much calories a person will be absorb from a specific food depends on his/her microbiodata.
- Cooking affects nutrient values and passage of food through the intestine. The properties of different foods speed up or slow down their journey through the intestines, depending on whether they are cooked or resistant to digestion. Depending on how the food is cooked it can change the nutrient value of the food and can alter the calorific value.Hence, the food energetics inside a human body would be different from the laboratory calculated values.
2. Not just quantity, quality matters too: The calories in 1 piece of laddoo is less than the calories in 2 medium sized apple. However, 1 laddoo will unfavourably impact multiple hormones – Insulin, Leptin, Glucagon, Cortisol, Estrogen and more You may decide to burn off the calories by exercising. But what about the negative impact you created in your hormones? How will you reverse them? Weight loss or weight gain is a result of your metabolic processes.
3. Type of exercise decides total energy consumption:
You would have heard of a phenomenon whatsapped afterburn. In scientific term it is whatsapped Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC, informally whatsapped afterburn) is a measurably increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity. In recovery, oxygen (EPOC) is used in the processes that restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed. Strength training, Interval Training cause more EPOC or afterburn than a comparable duration and intensity of steady state cardio vascular exercises like jogging, cycling, swimming and zumba. The afterburn promotes “FatLoss” as the excess energy that is needed for recovery comes from stored body fat.
Measurement of EPOC is a laboratory process. Wearable devices like apple watch, garmin, fitbit, mi band cannot accurately measure it.
4. Devices are not accurate: If you are using a fitness band like fitbit, mi band, garmin, apple watch to track calories burnt during the exercise then you should understand how these calories are calculated. These calories are calculated based on your age, height, weight and the activity you are performing. These are general number are good to be used as pointers. To accurately know the calories you burn from an activity again is a laboratory process.
Calories are not the only cause of weight gain. Lack of sleep, lack of hydration, lack of exercising, over exercising, stress and nutrition deficiency can all result in unfavourable weight gain. Hormonal imbalances created in your body by eating the wrong types of food also create an environment for weight gain.
Stop counting calories. Instead focus on nutritious food, regular exercising ( avoid over exercising), 7-8 hours of sleep per day, 2-3 litres of water per day and 20 mins of daily sun exposure. Focus on health, not on calories. Weight loss will fall in place.
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