When browsing the grocery store, that familiar rumble in your stomach can make grabbing that next snack very tempting. Of course, stroll past the pastry shop and fix your eyes on a shiny package.
You pick it up and feel the weight of the chocolate inside. Then flip it over, read the package, and grimace: 600 calories per bar. With a scowl, you replace the candy bar on the shelf that was thwarted again by those damn caloric values.
But are all of our calorie counting efforts in vain? Does calorie counting actually help us lose weight and maintain good physical health, or can it make things worse in the long run?
A calorie count: a quick story
Calorie counting is older than most people would expect. At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of strange experiments were carried out on various foods to calculate their calorie content. A calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of one milliliter of water by one degree Celsius.
When we eat, the calories in it serve as fuel for our day.
Calories give us energy to think, heal, grow, and move. However, if we ridicule excess calories, our body cannot find a use for them, our body simply stores them for later – mostly in the form of fat.
This stuff is undisputed. However, where people disagree is over whether monitoring our caloric intake can actually help us lose weight. Science has evidence on both sides of the argument, which makes things … a little complex.
Counting calories and food groups
Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, fat 9, protein 4 and alcohol 7. This means that your daily caloric intake is highly dependent on the types of foods you consume. Let’s look at it this way …
You are consuming far more calories on a diet high in cheese, gummy candies, and wine than someone opting for a chicken and brown rice dinner. And it’s a well-documented fact that consuming more than you burn off means gaining weight. But what about weight loss?
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A calorie deficit is reached when we burn more calories than we use. When our body lacks the caloric intake it needs to function properly, it draws from its reserves, that is, our body fat. This calorie deficit is a necessity in order to lose body fat.
Different types of calories
There is a lot of debate about whether all calories – for example from protein or fat, carbohydrates – can be considered the same. Is 200 calories worth of bananas equivalent to 200 calories of chocolate? In terms of weight loss alone, the answer is yes: all of these calories will be included in your total and will create the necessary deficit.
In reality, however, those 200 calories of bananas also contain vital nutrients that chocolate may be missing (sorry!). While this deficit exists and you may lose weight, there is no guarantee that you are giving your body the nutrition it needs.
Since fruits and vegetables contain hormones that regulate hunger far better than chocolate ice cream, for example, you need to eat far fewer vegetables to feel full and satisfied. When the nutritional content of our food is low, we tend to overeat – no matter how carefully we plan our daily calorie count.
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One reason why counting calories is discussed as a weight loss method is because people claim you can eat as much as you want, provided your diet consists of the right foods.
This is apparently supported by the fact that studies of subjects on low-carb diets seem to show they lose more weight than people on high-carb diets even after reaching their caloric intake. So what’s up?
The truth is that a calorie deficit is always required for weight loss. The main reason why some people doubt the science is because people in studies are usually not just able to judge how much food they have consumed, but also how much exercise they get in a day.
In studies, test subjects often use self-recorded food diaries. a notoriously inaccurate method of collecting data. It was found that subjects can underestimate their intake by up to 2000 calories. Also, people on low-carb diets typically eat more protein, which makes them feel fuller and therefore eat less.
Conclusion: counting calories is not easy
But if you get it right, it really works.
Counting calories is a proven way to lose weight, provided it is done correctly. Keeping a record of what you eat is a good place to start. Write down every food or drink you consume in a journal or on your phone to keep track of things. There are also numerous apps that you can use to enter your meals, such as: B. MyFitnessPal, with which you can document your documents faster and easier.
However, it is important to be consistent and thorough. For example, if you are eating a sandwich, don’t forget to list everything in it. Those butter buttons all add up faster than you think! Scales and measuring cups help you too – it’s all about accuracy.
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In the end, losing weight comes down to eating fewer calories than you burn. This doesn’t mean that you should eat whatever you want while unfortunately there is a calorie deficit – while you could certainly do so and would lose weight, you would potentially be missing out on a ton of important nutrients.
A balanced diet is the key!
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