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The Do's and Don'ts of Calorie Counting

The New Year has been and gone and many people will be looking to get fitter, get healthier, lose weight and shift that unwanted tummy fat. With that being said many of you will probably embark on some form of fitness routine and diet plan, which could include counting calories. Calorie counting can be an extremely complicated business, and if we are calorie counting are all calories equal? Or are some better than others?

People haven’t always been calorie counting, this is something that has become a lot more popular in the past decade or two. As far as weight gain is concerned a calorie is a calorie, and in order for you to lose weight it’s pretty simple – you need to be in a calorie defect, but there are many reasons to base your food choices on other criteria as well as just the calories it contains – for example having something that is higher in fibre, will keep you fuller for longer and aid with better digestion, meaning you won’t need to reach for extra calories to fill you up.

Carbohydrates and protein have 4 calories per gram, whereas fats will contain 9 calories per gram, and alcohol yields 7 calories per gram, so as you can see not all foods are the same, and by eating a bacon, cheese burger you could potentially be consuming half your calorie intake and a whole load of fat in just one meal. Now I’m not saying you can’t have this by any means, providing it fits into your total calorie allocation at the end of the day.

Calorie counting has gained in popularity in recent years because counting calories is far easier than actually understanding what we eat. Calories do count but are only a small part of a big picture.

The food we eat produce hormonal effects on the body. Some hormones such as insulin is triggered when we eat too much in one go and will ultimately “store fat” from the excess energy (calories) that we don’t need, whilst other hormones such as glucagon helps stabilise blood sugar. Studies have shown that diets based on the same amount of calories but differing portions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will give different amounts of weight loss.

It is extremely difficult to count calories accurately, and whilst many of us use different calorie counting apps to log and monitor what we are consuming, many of us neglect or under/overestimate certain things such as the serving size of the foods we are eating, the quality of the food that we consume and most of us actually don’t know how many calories we should actually be consuming. I know for a fact many of these calorie-counting apps default to 1200 calories which for many people can be ridiculously low. With that being said many man in the western world will consume an average of 2600 kcals per day, whilst women 1877 which dependant on activity level could be too high.

Its not hard to see where these extra calories go – To our waist line! Bigger meals, eating out lots, having larger portions and all you can eat restaurants lead to undermining our calorie counting efforts, and people that are overweight will ultimately have larger portions to give them that sense of fullness.

As calorie counting can be a complicated process and one that my people struggle to stick to why not try a few of these alternatives.

  1. Eat smaller portions. This seems very simple, but by using a smaller plate you will consume less calories as most of us gauge a serving based on what we actually eat. For example, a portion of breakfast cereal is 30g, most of us will pour a heaped bowl full and class that as a serving when in fact it is probably about 3 servings.

  2. Choose the right types of foods. As stated previously some foods require more energy than others to digest and metabolise, this is called the thermal effect of food. For example, to digest 100 calories of chicken your body will use 26 calories to breakdown the chicken to its basic amino acid structure meaning you are using calories to breakdown calories, or a piece of wholemeal bread will take a lot longer to breakdown than that of its white counterpart therefore keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

  3. Consume the right kind of food. Nearly one quarter of our diet intake tends to come from sweets, deserts, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. When it comes down to weight loss a calorie is a calorie! Consuming high calorie foods will inevitably mean you put on weight, and when it comes to health its best to eat foods that are more nutritionally dense such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and good quality proteins to help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Remember you don’t need to count calories BUT make your calories COUNT!!

At Build a Body we do not believe in fade diets or reducing your calories drastically to lose weight as this is ultimately going to set you up to fail, and you will ‘yo-yo’ and put the weight you have lost back on or put more weight on in the long run. A ‘diet’ should be something you enjoy and something that fits in with your lifestyle, therefore providing it fits in with your overall calorie allowance there is no such thing as a ‘bad food’. There are however healthier foods that work better and provide more nutrients and benefits for your body.

For more information on calories, diet or fitness, and how you can incorporate all of these into a healthy sustainable lifestyle please contact us at Build a Body, to book in for a FREE consultation –, We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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