Do We Really Need To Count Calories?

So… you want to drop some body fat, but you don’t have a clue about counting calories, never heard of a macro nutrient and can’t decide which type of diet suits you best. Never fear, it’s quite possible to achieve fat loss goals without knowing any of the above!

To start with – DISCLAIMER – These are just the views of a personal trainer who has read peoples research and watched informative videos and come to his own conclusion. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into the topic.

Firstly, let’s talk about diet. At present, there are tons of different diets out there that claim they are the best way for you to lose body fat. From ‘Atkins’ to ‘Blood Type’ and everything in between, they all seem to have that perfect formula for you to hit your target weight. And here’s the funny thing…They all work!

Any of these diet types will, in one way or another, restrict you of certain foods. Whether all these diets are good for your long-termhealth, however, is a different subject altogether. Personally, I feel that diets such as the ‘Keto’ diet have some tremendous health benefits and, making your body fat your prime source of energy as opposed to glucose (which predominantly comes from carbs) can only be a good thing. The ‘Alkaline’ diet is another avenue I’m a big proponent of. I mean, what better way to eat then to consume only truly natural foods.

But how can All of these diets work? Well, as mentioned earlier, all these different types of diets restrict certain types of food which will, in turn, place you in a calorie deficit. So, with less calories going in than out, it’s only natural that weight loss will occur.

So, if all these diets mean less calories going into your body equals you losing weight, then why wouldn’t we want to count calories? Well, here lies the problem.

Firstly, counting calories is a major hassle. Having to weigh your food, research how much calories are in each food per gram and then keeping a diary of it all is way too time consuming. Secondly, these diet types are not one size fits all. What works for one person may not work for another. Depending on your genetic make-up, your metabolic rate and your age, amongst many other factors, will determine what works for you and which food types suits you best. So, this will mean a lot of trial and error before you can figure out how you should be eating. And lastly, but most importantly, calorie counts aren’t even accurate! Most of the calorie counts for foods are based on the 4-4-9 rule. This is, 4 calories per gram of protein, 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and 9 calories per gram of fat. So, this would mean that depending on how many grams of protein you consumed for the day, would determine how many calories you consumed from said protein. The problem is, the 4-4-9 rule is only an estimate.

There are a lot of variances in the different types of foods that come from carbs, protein and fat. For example, a polyunsaturated oil can contain up to 9.2 calories per gram, whereas animal fat can contain anything from 6.5 to 8 calories per gram. That’s quite a big difference when you’re trying to be very specific about how much of any one thing you are eating.

Calorie counts on packaged food is also an estimate. Ever been to Tim Hortons (which Canadian hasn’t been to Tim Hortons) and bought a BLT? The menu will state that there’s 420 calories in it. But not every sandwich is the same. The bacon could be a slightly different size or have more fat on one slice than the other. The weight of the Lettuce or Tomato will differ from sandwich to sandwich. There could be more sauce in one than the other. All these variables will affect the calorie count. Why would you want to spend half your day weighing up foods and doing maths when the numbers you are concluding may not even be accurate.

So, if counting calories is soooo time consuming and could be a big waste, then what’s the solution? Actually, it’s quite simple. The best way to start is by simply making better food choices. If you spent a whole day eating ice cream & cookies and then another whole day eating green vegetables, which one do you think would have a more positive impact on your health and your waistline? Exactly!

We all know which foods are inherently bad for us. Start cutting down on the sugars, processed foods and alcohol and start to replace them with nutrient dense foods like vegetables and nuts. Add in some resistance training 2-3 times per week and, not only will you start to see a reduction in body fat but also a dramatic improvement in your physical and mental health. Once you start putting these small actions into practice, you should start to develop a better relationship with food and your body itself will start to function better as you are giving it more of what it actually needs.

To conclude, don’t allow all the jargon out there about calories and diets overwhelm you. Simply use your common sense when making food choicesand eat more of what’s better for you and less of the other junk!

-Ricky Gwee

September 22, 2019
  • Ricky Gwee
  • Personal Trainer