Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is Counting Calories To Lose Weight Useless?

Can calorie tracking help you lose weight?


Is Counting Calories useless?In this article, you will learn why calorie counting is useless and how you will never need a weight-loss diet again.

A calorie tracker references a simple relation between food intake, calorie consumption and current weight. Based on the physical laws of thermodynamics, it suggests that weight loss and weight gain are easily controllable.

This is a misconception as calorie tracking is basically useless to control the body weight.

What is a calorie tracker?


Calorie requirement - calorie intake = change of body weight.

Or: Who wants to lose weight has to burn more calories than he takes in. 

For example: Who needs 3000 calories, but only takes in 2500 loses 500 calories, approximately 1.9 ounces of fat. 

That sounds plausible and seems to make sense. 

But a calorie tracker is unrealistic, based on false assumptions and not suited to take control of your weight.

Here is why:

What is wrong with calorie tracking?


A person is not a machine. Or let´s say: A person is a complicated machine. Full of unexplored variables. 

The simple formula of a calorie tracker ignores this fact. 

We don´t know everything about the human organism, but here is what we know: 

The energy consumption is based on variables


The energy consumption is based on the activity level and metabolism of a person. And on the available energy. Who does not eat, has less energy and moves less - and as a result, burns fewer calories.

The energy supply is variable


We can eat a lot or a little. That depends on how often we are hungry. Hunger is not primarily based on energy consumption, but on hormones. Read more HERE. Therefore, energy supply is another variable and it is controlled by our brains. 

Intestinal Bacteria is a variable 


Certain "good" gut bacteria residing in our colon are responsible for how effective food is being transformed into energy. Energy production varies from person to person. How much damage we have done to our colon also has a big influence on that (antibiotics, sugar, other "bad" food and medicine, additives). 

That damage is reversible, but that will be subject of a separate article. 

Energy storage is a variable


Its position as the last of the list implies that it is a simple result of subtracting or adding the aforementioned variables. 

But the energy storage is dependent on much more: 
  • The type of calories we consume
  • Our hormone levels
  • The efficiency level of our metabolism
And more. The variable "energy storage" directly influences energy supply and energy requirements. 

There are several variables with dependencies on other variables with sub-variables. 

Until today, we do not even know all factors that play into that. Therefore, it is safe to say that calorie trackers are useless for weight control. 

It is not a nice way of living anyway, is it? Even if it were useful, it takes away a lot of life quality to constantly check tables before you enjoy a meal. 

Why is calorie tracking useless?


There are a few problems with the energy-balance:

The exact energy requirements are unknown


The rule of thumb is based on the BMR (basal metabolism rate) and is supposed to calculate the amount of energy needed by your body to maintain bodily functions like brain, heartbeat, temperature over the period of 24 hours in a state of rest. Like: How many calories are you burning while you sleep or do not move at all.

Added to that is the estimated energy requirement based on your activity level (sport, workouts, office job, manual worker).

All of the formulas are based on the assumption that everyone has the same metabolic efficiency and lives the same way every day.

We know that this is not the case.

Some advocates of calorie counting are aware of that and explain, that the formula will work long-term and not on a daily basis.

We will look at why even that cannot be true.

The exact energy supply is unknown


We can research for as long as we want. No 2 carrots will ever have the same energy content. This applies to all natural food. It is not possible to create a table that gives us exact information on the calorie content of individual foods.

A serving of 12 nuts. Or a handful. Which size is a standard hand? How big are the nuts? Flat hand or can I form a basket and stuff it?

Our activity level is based on the kind and amount of calories supplied


Who eats more has more energy and can be more active. Did you ever offer a basket of sweets at a children´s birthday party?

The body notices the extra energy available and the kids become louder, start running around and get agitated.

Muscles operate at very different efficiency level


The transformation of energy into muscular activity differs up to 20-30 % (at the same fitness level) from person to person.

Sarah has to run longer than Monica to burn off that marshmallow. Yes, life isn´t always fair.

The metabolism depends on the available energy


Energy shortage = Hunger. The metabolism slows down and uses less energy.

Someone who eats less than his body needs might feel cold. He gets weaker, irritable and maybe depressive.

Someone who eats more than needed might get hot flashes (thermogenesis) and get more giddy. If he ate a lot during the day he might feel the heat (careful, German here. I know "hot" would not have been correct in that context and I am not sure about "heat") at night and a leg might pop out from under the blanket.

This is how the body tries to get rid of excessive energy.

The type of calories influences the metabolism


Calories from protein, fat and carbohydrates influence our metabolism and the feeling of hunger and energy storage in different ways.

Carbohydrates are more likely to stimulate calorie storage by causing our body to produce more insulin.

Protein is more likely to set energy free so that it is available for activities. This is caused by glucagon.

Foods influence appetite-suppressing hormones (like leptin and ghrelin) in different ways. Therefore, it has an effect on our energy consumption.

If someone consumes 2000 calories in the form of sugar the body will store more energy and less energy will be available for activities than if he had consumed the 2000 calories through fat or protein.

As a direct result of that he will get hungry again sooner and be more hungry overall.

How the body is fighting for balance


The body is trying to keep his weight. For that he can use hormones like leptin, ghrelin and glucagon to make us feel hungry. Our brain gives the signal and we are not consciously aware of that.

Our body can burn energy through thermogenese or slow down metabolism to conserve energy.

We cannot easily control these processes that are controlled by our brain.

But we can be a major disturbance and bother for our body through what we call "unhealthy diet".

We can eat large amounts of sugar and constantly mess up our insulin levels. Or we can starve ourselves (any survivors of the "Tracy Anderson" diet, the excellence of dangerously unhealthy,  please drop me a note) and promote the reduction of muscles and bones.

Who starves will lose muscle mass. Fat is the emergency reserve of our body and he will stick to it until there is no other way.

That is another misconception of calorie tracking. Living with a negative calorie balance does not equal losing fat. As mentioned before, first of all the body will take it from muscles and bones.

Who starves will have less energy and move less resulting in a lowered stimulation of the muscles.

It´s just another signal telling the body that there is a crisis and muscles are not needed at this moment and are open for dinner.

Conclusion


  • Calorie trackers are useless.
  • The law of thermodynamic is valid.
  • The calorie balance theory is valid one way. If you eat more energy than you need, you will gain weight. And probably feel pretty happy. Homeostasis makes sure of that. 
  • If you eat less calories than you burn over a period of time you will lose weight. But first you will lose muscle and bone substance. You will have less energy, feel cold and might feel down, sad or depressive. This is also  a result of homeostasis. 

None of these factors can be quantified in a way that would make them predictable.

Solution

If you want to support the homeostase of your body and not be an annoyance to your body you should eat healthy. 

It is very easy to healthy when you are used to it. If you are currently living an unhealthy diet, it can be very hard. Like very hard. Seemingly impossible. 

Sugar, MSG´s and other additives are extremely addictive. (Read HERE how to detoxify from sugar and HERE about the impact of MSG's.).

Conventional diets, powders and pills will not help you


When you read this article, you might have gone through a dozen weight loss "solutions" that had no effect, no long-term effect or even a jojo effect. 

So what can you do to lose weight (and keep it off!) in a healthy way?

We have learned how the brain (that controls the output of hormones) is the biggest factor in weight loss. 

Therefore, we need to retrain our brains and possibly collect some information on nutrition. Losing weight is not that hard if you take the right approach. 

Who eats in a natural, healthy way will never have to bother with dieting or calorie counting. Here is how you will achieve this:

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for reading.