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Should You Count Calories?
Are counting your calories really worth it? On this episode of Open Sky Fitness, Rob and Devon discuss the disadvantages and benefits of counting calories on a daily basis.
Counting Calories is a Mental Game
“Doing such a low-calorie diet can be dangerous because you don’t really learn how to live a healthy lifestyle. You learn how to live a low-calorie deficit lifestyle and it messes with your body.” – Rob and Devon Dionne on one of their clients following a low-calorie diet to lose weight fast.
The mentality that we have to eat less and move more actually hurts us. It makes us all feel targeted and that we’re not doing enough even though we’re really giving it all we’ve got.
All of our bodies are different and we have different health goals. Diets are created to help people, but the reality is that extreme diets like low calorie diets only help 5% of people! That’s right, low calorie diets have a 95% fail rate!
A Strict Health Program or Diet is Not Your Golden Ticket
Programs like The Biggest Loser or meal plans like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers may seem like they help people experience health miracles, but they’re really not sustainable in the long term.
Once you’re done with a program like The Biggest Loser, you have to figure everything out for yourself again. You’re not in such a strict environment anymore. You have to learn how to cook for yourself and maintain your healthy lifestyle while balancing everything out- work, family, and other responsibilities at the same time.
“The best thing that you can do to see improvement in your health is to eat whole foods and find a physical activity that you love and can do for 2-3 times a week.” – Rob and Devon Dionne on living a healthy life.
What is a Calorie?
It’s true that if you eat more calories than you can burn, you will gain weight and if you eat fewer calories than what your body needs, you will lose weight. But the question to answer is: How are you burning those calories? – Devon Dionne
A calorie is essentially a unit of energy that the body can utilize.
It’s easy to keep track of the calories that you take in, but it gets complicated when you want to calculate how many calories you’re burning with exercise.
A lot of people believe that the calories that come from what they’ve eaten and what they’re burning are the same, but this is not true. There are many different factors that come into play that help you burn calories.
Your body actually utilizes and burns calories in 4 different ways:
- Resting metabolic rate
- Thermogenesis: the calories it takes for your body to digest food
Your Resting Metabolic Rate
“We’re genetically designed to over eat. So when we have the opportunity to over eat, we do it because our bodies are designed to store as much excess energy as possible for the times when we do not have the opportunities to consume food.” – Rob Dionne
Think of your body like a bank and the calories that you consume are your salary. Each day, you take in a certain amount of money/calories and you either spend it all or you have a bit left at the end of the day. The money/calories that are left over from before go into the bank/body storage.
If you spend what you take in, you don’t lose weight and stay the same, but if you have calories left over, you gain weight by storing fat.
Doing a low calorie diet is like chopping our salary by 1/3 of what our body is used to consuming. When we lower our calorie intake, our body learns that it cannot burn as much as it could before because it wants to hold onto the fat that we’ve stored.
Storing calories and fat is a natural survival tactic that humans have had for centuries. We’ve had it ever since we were hunters and gatherers when food wasn’t always available for us.
A low calorie diet lowers your metabolic energy rate because your body wants to hold onto the energy.
Thermogenesis: Whole Food vs Processed Food
Thermogenesis tells us how many calories we’re able to burn in our digestive system.
There was a study done about how our bodies are able to burn calories when we eat whole foods vs. processed foods. During the study, one group ate whole-wheat bread sandwiches with real cheddar cheese and the other group ate white bread with processed cheese. In a nut shell, the study concluded that we use way more energy and calories to digest whole foods than we do for processed foods.
The quality of food that we eat makes a difference in the amount of calories we burn.
In another example, Rob and Devon took a close look at how a processed meal of 1,700 calories from a fast food restaurant compares to a whole meal of at most 1,000 calories that contains a steak with veggies and/or potato.
Our body can easily digest the 1,700 calorie meal so our body doesn’t really burn a lot of calories. However, when we eat a whole meal of steak and vegetables, the body burns so much energy and calories just to digest all of the food during thermogenesis.
The Connection Between Calories and Hormones
“Calories in restaurants and on labels can give or take by 20%. So the FDA will allow for a protein bar to label the product as having 20% less calories than it actually does have. Therefore, a protein bar may say it has 200 calories, but it could actually have 20% different and have up to 240 calories.” – Devon Dionne
Insulin Production Can Increase
When we’re healthy, our cells are able to receive energy from food in the form of glucose. If we have too much glucose, then the excess amount is stored as fat.
If we follow an unhealthy diet, the glucose is unable to get into the cells to give us energy. Instead, the glucose just ends up staying in the blood stream. But we don’t want the glucose to stay in the blood stream and so our body keeps pumping more and more insulin to try to get rid of it. If the glucose has no where to go, then it ends up in the liver and stored as fat. When there’s too much glucose in the body, we can become insulin resistant.
When we have so much insulin in our bodies and we’re depleted of energy, we could have Type 2 Diabetes.
The Function of Adrenaline Can Slow Down
Because of over production of insulin, adrenaline cannot function properly. It cannot use fat from the cells and utilize them. If you eat all the time, you’ll have too much insulin and your body cannot release adrenaline.
The Right Amount of Proper Exercise Can Burn Calories
“Cardio is a great way to burn calories in the moment. But weight lifting burns more calories overtime and increases both your metabolism and insulin sensitivity.” – Rob and Devon Dionne
No one should feel like they have to force themselves to do a certain workout for so many hours and days each week. To help you burn more calories with exercise, find something that you enjoy doing. Whatever form of exercise you love to do, make sure that it’s doable and you can do it a couple of times each week. Maybe you can’t hike every day, but you can at least go for a run or hit the gym during the working week.
The best way to see results is to do both cardio and lift weights. Cardio helps you instantly burn calories, but lifting weights will allow you to have long-term results.
Just keep in mind that the more muscles you have, the more weight you will have to lift over time.
Too Much Exercise is a Recipe for Disaster
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as working out too much. Over-exercising will actually help you gain weight!
When you’re stressed out and you’re working out a lot, your cortisol stress levels will increase. When your cortisol levels are high, it decreases your insulin resistance and you hold more weight in your body.
When Is Calorie Counting a Good Idea?
Calorie counting can be good for two things:
- A starting point to know your body
- When you’re preparing to be in a fitness competition
Counting calories is a great way to know the base point of your health and how many calories you’re eating each day. It can help you pay attention to the foods that you’re eating, the portion size, and understand how many calories you should cut out from your diet.
You don’t have to count calories forever. Just do it for a week or so to understand your personal nutrition.
Keep a food journal to track everything including how many carbs, proteins, macro-nutrients, and fats you’re eating.
Counting Calories Can Do More Harm Than Good
“What are you learning about your body when you go on a diet? Besides just losing weight, are you paying attention to your energy levels, digestion, sleep, or even your mental health? Pay attention to those factors because when you put your body through a calorie deficit, it’s less likely that your body will be able to run smoothly.” – Rob Dionne
Unless you’re just starting to take a look at your nutrition or you’re going to be in a body building competition soon. There’s really no reason why you should be concerned with counting calories.
To summarize this topic, here are reasons why you shouldn’t be counting calories:
- It’s mentally unsustainable
- Slows down your metabolism
- Easy to yo-yo your diet
- Creates stress and bad moods
- Poor quality of food from programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers
- Harms your digestion, sleep, and mental health
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Have a Question or Review for Rob or Devon?
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What You’ll Hear on This Episode
00:00 Open Sky Fitness Introduction
1:15 Opening comments with Rob and Devon
5:00 Yes or no? Calorie counting: effective strategy for weight loss in the long term?
8:00 Why programs like The Biggest Loser won’t help you live a healthy life for the long-term
10:50 What is a calorie?
12:35 Resting metabolic rate explained
18:05 Thermogenesis: How many calories burn in our digestive system
21:30 The connection between calories and insulin
28:50 The function of adrenaline
30:30 The quality of food makes a difference with burning calories
33:15 Low calorie diets increase stress hormone levels
35:00 Different cultures and lifestyles have different diets to follow
36:20 How exercise affects your intake of calories
39:00 There’s such a thing as too much exercise
39:30 A summary of why you should avoid a low calorie diet and even counting calories
47:20 Closing comments with Rob and Devon
50:10 Open Sky Fitness Closing
RESOURCES MENTIONED DURING THE SHOW:
- The Open Sky Fitness Podcast Group on Facebook
- Listen to episode 95 of the OSF Podcast- NY Times Article is One-Sided About The Biggest Loser
- Check out OSF episode 120- How to Hack Your Diet: Carb Cycling & Fasting
- Learn more about calories and healthy eating with episode 123- Hot Topics: Gluten & Sugar
- Step up your cooking game with OSF Episode 119- Convenient Foods and Meal Prep Hacks
- Get organized with the OSF episode 117- Kitchen Clean Out Hacks
- Find out Which Popular Diet is Best For You with the OSF episode 116
- Change your ways with OSF Episode 115- 5 Steps to Planning a Healthy Life
- Want learn the healthy way to add calories? Find out How To Gain Weight Fast with the OSF Episode 90
Ask Rob a Question or tell him what is working for you: Email Rob@OpenSkyFitness.com
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Thanks for listening/reading Episode 133- Should I Count Calories? Why or Why Not? We hope you have gained more knowledge on how to be a healthier you!