Should I Be Counting Calories?
Should I Be Counting Calories?
The concept of losing weight is fairly simple at the most basic level – in order to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we eat. But, as is normally the case, things aren’t quite as simple as that.
We need calories for energy, and we need energy to live our daily lives, for all our biological processes to tick along as they should and to exercise. Living our daily lives and having healthily functioning bodies is pretty much covered off by the calories we eat on a normal day, eating a healthy diet. When we eat excess calories and we don’t exercise to burn them off, we’re in a calorie excess, the body stores them as fat and we gain weight. If we’re on a diet or we’re restricting our calorie intake and we’re exercising more, we’re in a calorie deficit, and we lose weight.
But if we severely restrict our calorie intake and we attempt to exercise, we might not have enough calories for the energy required to perform a workout, and we become lethargic and dizzy and we don’t achieve the level of workout we want to.
So the trick is to get a healthy balance of calories. But does counting calories necessarily work?
The concept of counting calories has been around for decades, from the advent of ‘low cal’ ready meals and replacement meal shakes in the 1980s, to the better understanding of balancing fat, protein and carbohydrate intake of today. Counting calories helps us to understand what we’re putting into our bodies so that we know if we’re overeating and likely to gain weight. It also helps us eat enough calories if we’re training hard, to manage the demands we’re putting on our bodies.
The problem is, unless we’re being supervised by sports and exercise scientists, using fancy measuring equipment in a fancy laboratory, the science of the calories we’re eating and burning isn’t exact. The best we can hope for is a rough estimate.
So is counting calories worthwhile? After all, it can be extremely time consuming counting and recording all the calories we’re eating. Unless we’re eating pre-packaged food 100% of the time, which are often filled with fat, salt and sugar, or are so low cal that they lack flavour or substance we don’t really know how many calories we’re eating, without inputting everything into a calorie counting app. Which is at best time consuming and boring, at worst, likely to push us towards the biscuit barrel.
But equally, it’s hard to work out how many calories we’re eating when we’re making homecooked meals. It’s even harder to know how many calories we’ve burned as even the most sophisticated fitness trackers still only give an estimate.
So the best way to look at calorie counting is a rough estimate of your daily intake, without getting too uptight about counting every single calorie. Choosing a collection of a dozen or so core meals that you know the calorie count of will help. That way, you won’t have to spend precious time endlessly counting calories and working out if you’re in an excess or deficit.
Our recipes all have a calorie count per portion, which will help with your estimate, and our workouts all have a calorie burn figure. We know that sticking to the same meals is boring, so choose a broad selection of flavours and ingredients so that your taste buds don’t get bored. And mix up the exercise too!
Spending less time counting calories will free up time to plan, prep and cook healthy meals and exercise. Which is kinda the whole point, isn’t it?
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