Calories in vs calories out is a commonly used method for losing weight or gaining weight. Eat less and move more to lose weight or eat more and move less to gain weight. But is it really that simple?
Whilst this method can certainly be a helpful guide, it is definitely not an accurate equation and extremely oversimplified. Metabolism is a highly complex process and is affected by a wide range of factors that goes far beyond just food and exercise.
Factors that influence ‘ENERGY IN’
APPETITE: Regulated by hormones, sleep, macronutrient intake (carbs, fats, proteins), fibre intake etc.
FOOD CONSUMED: The quality of the food (fresh vs processed) availability, accessibility, lifestyle, economic status, culture, education, sleep quality etc.
CALORIES ABSORBED: The types of food consumed (fat from a Mars Bar vs fat from an avocado), the way the food has been prepared e.g. (raw vs blending and cooking which increases the absorption of calories), your digestive health and gut flora, inflammation, health status etc.
PSYCHOLOGICAL STATUS: Stress levels, mindset, emotional state, diet and lifestyle habits, confidence etc.
Factors that influence ‘ENERGY OUT’
ENERGY BURNED AT REST: Influenced by your body weight, muscle mass, diet history (yo-yo dieting slows metabolism), genetics, sleep, age, stress levels etc.
ENERGY BURNED EXERCISING: Influenced by the type of exercise, intensity, duration, frequency, energy levels etc.
ENERGY BURNED DURING DIGESTION: Influenced by the macronutrient composition (protein burns more calories during digestion than carbs), the way the food has been prepared or processed (processed food burns less energy than whole foods).
ENERGY BURNED THROUGH OTHER FACTORS: Such as genetics, occupation, leisure activities, hobbies, energy levels, stress levels etc.
In addition to all of that, counting calories is boring and takes the fun out of eating. It also keeps food constantly top of mind which can also encourage overeating and cravings.
In my practice I focus less on counting calories and more on educating and encouraging clients to eat quality nutrient rich foods. Eating this way supports your energy levels, sleep quality, hormone levels, appetite, food choices, gut health and the many other complex factors that affect your calorie balance.
And for the record, Diet Coke is not better than normal Coke, in-fact emerging research on artificial sweeteners suggests it’s worse!