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Is Counting Calories A Total Waste Of Time?

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Calories, calories, calories. For many of those who are trying to lose weight, it feels like that's all that matters. The truth? Successful weight loss is about much more than calories in vs. calorie-out. According to Ben Greenfield, author of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life, calories don’t actually matter. What’s more important is the nutrient density and quality of the food rather than its caloric content.

A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition endorses this notion, finding that so-called high-glycemic foods influence the brain in a way that might drive some to overeat. Although both test groups in the study were consuming the same amount of calories, some participants were eating sweeter, high-glycemic-index foods and experienced symptoms of food addiction and hunger cravings due to blood-sugar-level crashes a few hours after eating.

In other words, eating different foods, despite their equal calorie content, produces different results. Need other reasons to avoid counting calories? Check out these 3 reasons to avoid calorie counting at all costs, adapted from Beyond Training:

1. Humans don’t "burn calories": A calorie is simply a unit of measurement to describe the amount of heat produced when a nutrient is burned in a calorimeter. The process your body endures to burn fat or turn nutrients into energy is far more complex than simply counting the number of calories burned. Plus, different people experience different hormonal and metabolic reactions to food.

2. Calories don’t fuel exercise: Contrary to what some may believe, calories are not the fuel for exercise. Rather, human motion is fueled by adenosine triphosphate. You may spend time counting calories when, in reality, your energy is derived from your own storage fat and not the food you ate prior to your workout.

3. Nutrients are what really matter: If you focus too much on numbers, you risk depriving your body of vital nutrients. For example, if you had to choose between a Taquitos 100-calorie snack pack or an apple, you may choose the snack pack just because it is advertised as a low-calorie food. However, the apple you’re passing up also has tons of vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, thiamin, and riboflavin.

Source: DRS

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