Should we count calories or not?


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The answer of course is it depends on the context of scenario & application but always keep in mind that calories does count. Whether a person should count calories or not depends on personal preference, goal, desired leanness and individual response on a diet. There is no single diet that will cater to everyone’s needs that’s why it’s hard to make an absolute statement regarding this subject so, for better understanding, I will make a comparative analysis if when and how we should/ we should not track our calorie intake. Both diets can yield results but what matters more in the end is if which diet produces the desired results and the one a person can adhere to. Taking things at the absolute level without defining the context can often lead to disaster.

*Non-calorie counting diets*

Advantage/s:

1.) Convenience

For people who have higher body fat percentages, those who were just eating mindlessly upon doing any diet or for people who are willing to engage on a diet eating the same repetitive/ staple foods are better off sticking to this diet. In my observation, many people can see results just by making simple dietary changes such as eating the majority of their foods from whole foods, switching to diet soda/ non-calorie beverages, cutting carbs/ added sugar in their diet, minimizing the consumption of fast foods, by controlling the portion of their meals, etc. Some people have “no time” to weigh and log their food intake.

2.) Psychologically less stressful

Dieting itself can be stressful. Now, to some people who constantly think about eating by numbers(tracking calories), tracking their macros can add “stress” to the diet.

3.) Simplicity

To some people who have no formal background or interest to learn about nutrition, by doing simple dietary changes and lifestyle changes such as increasing their physical activities/ inclusion of regular exercise routine can already produce results.

Disadvantage/s:

1.) Boredom

We live in a society that variety is the spice of life. Some people likes eating a wider variety of foods in their diet because it makes them stick more to their diet. To them, eating wider variety of foods increases their psychosomatic boost to adhere to their diet better. While some people, eating the same foods especially to those “clean-eating” folks may get bored on these kinds of diets.

2.) Desired results may stall

Especially in the context of weight loss, when a person lose weight, they also decrease their basal metabolic rate or the amount of calories they need also becomes less to sustain their new body weight. Failure to create a calorie deficit will produce no results. This rule applies to weight gain also. If there is no calorie surplus, one cannot increase his weight. If you’re just guessing about the total amount of calories you eat, it’s hard to determine whether you are truly on a calorie deficit/ surplus or in neutral balance(meaning no change). One of the reasons why many dieters fail in their diet is due to underreporting/ underestimation of their true calorie intake.

*Calorie-based diets*

Advantages:

1.) Flexibility

Personally, the best thing I like the most about tracking my calorie intake is it gives me freedom to eat anything in my diet even when trying to lose weight/ body fat as long as it’s factored within my calorie budget. Especially these days where most restaurants and fast food chains are now listing the calorie content of their menu items, it makes it easier for us to just to log our food intake.

2.) Optimal results

In the context of optimizing the results in terms of body recomposition, weight loss, weight gain or just weight maintenance, in my opinion, calorie-based diets are superior since you’re eating by numbers on these diets especially if one is tracking the macronutrient proportions as well(distribution of protein/fats/carbohydrates) because tweaking the macronutrient proportion will not only optimize the establishment of a calorie deficit/ surplus but it can also be useful on increasing the diet’s satiety factor, may increase training performance, may increase calorie partitioning, etc. But the biggest advantage is the guarantee that one is really on a calorie deficit(during weight loss) and calorie surplus(during weight gain). Combine this with modern gadgets such as the pedometer or the Bodybugg, calorie-based diets can be even taken into the next level to achieve better results.

Disadvantages:

1.) Inconvenience

It might be inconvenient for some people due to their work schedule, inaccessibility from the use of computer/Internet/smartphone, lack of patience, some people prefers diets that requires them not to think a lot, etc. Although, in my personal experience, just like what I wrote in my blog “Technology: Privilege to lose fat part I,” with the current technology right now, we can now track calories using our mobile smart phones.

2.) Psychologically more stressful

Thinking about numbers when logging foods and weighing foods on a scale can add to the stress on top of the diet itself. While in my own experience, since I’ve been tracking my calorie intake consistently for 2 yrs. or so, it just became a habit and I got used to it so it’s less than a hassle now than when I first started tracking my calorie intake. Eventually, after counting calories/ weighing foods on a scale, we can improve our skills on guesstimating the weight/ calorie content of foods anyway with the exception of fast foods.

P.S.

There might be some diet gurus who will tell you that calorie counting doesn’t work well it works because humans follow the law of thermodynamics that states “An energy cannot be destroyed nor created” or calories in = calories out. However, the law of thermodynamics doesn’t describe it’s subcomponents meaning the weight that tip on the scale could be coming from muscle(LBM) weight, adipose tissue(body fat) or water weight. I’ve also read somewhere that there are some gurus who are demonizing sodium and tells you to drink more water. Well, if your diet is high in sodium, it can be counterbalanced by increasing your potassium intake.

There are both pros and cons on each type of diets. The best diet is a diet that one can adhere to. I wrote this blogpost for you guys to identify if which type of dieting strategy is the best depending in the context of the scenario.

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