Caloridiculousness: a word meaning calorie counting is ridiculous.

As a trainer a common concern my clients bring to me is “If I want to loose weight, do I have to count my calories?”

As a personal trainer it is my responsibility to educate my clients on the particular topics or concerns they are interested in. Lets face it, one of the biggest reasons people higher a personal trainer is to help them loose weight and feel healthier when all of their attempts at fad diets have failed. A common misconception that lots of people have is that in order for weight loss to happen calories must be cut. There are many factors that make calorie counting not so fun. It’s time consuming, which means you’ll start off counting your calories great at the beginning of the week and slowly loose momentum towards the weekend. You fall into the trap of thinking, “I can bank all of my calories up so that I can have that piece of cake or pizza at the end of the week because, “hey I earned it!” Right? Or maybe it sounds something like this…  “If I cut my calories way down I’ll loose weight” Then you fall into the trap of not eating enough calories and end up bouncing right back to your original weight and then some. This is because your body wasn’t getting the right amount of nutrients. Lots of fad diets and exercise programs that have come and gone over the years contribute to this misconception. But the biggest misconception here is that calorie counting is an accurate science. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, calorie counting is not a precise science. It’s inaccurate and for several reasons. However, the age old adage that you will loose weight when you cut/track your calories still lives on and it’s evident across nutrition labels in America.  According to Precision Nutrition people are looking for certain items on their nutrition labels in the following specific order, guess which one is first on the list? ….

  • calories
  • fat content
  • sugar content
  • cholesterol content
  • trans fats content
  • protein content
  • sodium content
  • carbohydrate content
  • saturated fat content

Before we look at the different factors that can affect calorie count lets first discuss how calories are measure in a lab. It all starts with whats called a Bomb Calorimeter. According to Precision Nutrition, a food item is put into the Bomb Calorimeter or sealed chamber. It is then lit on fire electronically and begins to burn. As it burns it heats up the chamber and the water around it. Scientist can then calculate this particular food items calorie count depending on how the temperature within the chamber changes.  Unfortunately, this Bomb Calorimeter is extremely different from the human body. However, there are quite a few more factors that influence a foods calorie count. The following are a few different factors to consider. 

  • Resistant Starches/ Fibers
  • Outdated Data
  • Imprecise Analytical Methods
  • Product Variety
  • Soil and Growing Conditions
  • Ripeness and time of harvest
  • Animals’ diets
  • Length of storage
  • Preparation/method and cooking time

So you can see there are several factors that influence a foods calorie count. But if we don’t track our calories what DO we track? Macro-nutrients are a little bit more precise when tracking one’s food. Macro-nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. In conclusion the best practice when trying to loose weight is to focus on the quality of your health, and the quality of your food. Meaning eating whole food without food labels as often as possible. To plan and prep your meals especially when you have a really busy schedule. After all the better we plan the more we succeed. 

Berardi John, Andrews Ryan, St Pierre Brian. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2018 3rd ed. 129-132.