Counting Calories in Food

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Calorie counting is confusing, isn't it? Are you among those who have tried this and found it unsatisfactory? Well, if you have, you're not the only one. There are several heated debates regarding the topic where some insist that this process has done wonders for their diet and health while others argue it left them more anxious and prone to imbalanced eating.

Various studies and research support both these sides, hence the confusion. The truth is that there are advantages, and the strategy is effective when devised a certain way; however, like everything else, it has its cons. So, to put this confusion to end once and for all, let's get into the thick of it.

Understanding Calories

By an extremely scientific definition, a calorie is the amount of heat necessary to raise 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius. It is basically a value or a measure of how much energy you get when you eat something. 

Similarly, burning calories means the amount of energy used in physical exertion, like maintaining a steady heartbeat, walking, or running. It is interesting to note that different foods have different calories. Likewise, with different exercises, you burn a different number of calories. Running at 5-6mph on a treadmill for about half an hour can help you burn approximately 300 kcal. The same is achieved by more than an hour of walking.

So, to attain your desired daily nutrient intake and have a balanced eating system, you need to watch what you eat. Luckily, it's pretty easy nowadays, as several online resources are available, like and numerous calorie-counting apps that keep track of everything. 

Calorie counting requires insight

Despite being obvious, this is one of the most frequently misunderstood statements. Let's take nuts. It's common knowledge that they are healthy and should be a part of your diet. However, if you enter your nut intake in a diet tracking app, your calories can rocket sky high as nuts are rich in fats. But in reality, not all those calories are active.

Researchers observed that the fats present in nuts are encapsulated inside the cell walls, meaning they are made of dietary fiber, which our bodies cannot digest. So basically, it doesn't count. So many diet apps are woefully wrong in their guidance about calories. Our bodies do absorb some energy, however, it's significantly less than everyone believes it to be.

Similarly, starch and sugars within beans and other plants are also energy-rich molecules with high-calorie counts, but removing them entirely from your diet can impact your eating habits, leading to nutrient deficiency and, in the worst-case scenarios, eating disorders. Additionally, cooking must be considered. A cooked meal often has greater calories than the sum of its components.

Different bodies have a different response to calories

Consider how your body consumes calories! When you digest calories, your body's first priority is to use them for basic needs. That includes performing the functions of the organs like the brain, lungs, and heart. In this case, we are talking about Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). This is the minimum number of calories you need if you are at rest.

The problem of calorie counting starts here. Everyone has a different RMR. Some people burn calories faster than others. So when they follow the same diet, one loses weight far quicker than the other. If counting calories works for you, go right ahead, given that you maintain a healthy weight but consider the external factors to avoid putting yourself at risk. If you think this strategy doesn't work for you, it may be due to your slower RMR.

After tending to basic functions, your body uses calories for digestion and the general physical activity of the day, along with workouts if you are active. The actual calorie counting begins only after you account for these three things.

As soon as your body has the energy it needs for these activities, excess calories are stored as glycogen in your muscles, and the rest is converted into fat. So keeping these things in mind, you will gain weight if you intake more calories than you need.

Is it Worth it?

Seeing the listing of processes above, you may wonder if tracking calories is worth it since it's hard to quantify the digestive rate of your body. Ensuring that you're paying attention to what you're eating is the initial step towards a healthier diet.

The solution is consistency, an intake of healthy food, and an appropriate amount of exercise. But physical aspects aside, a significant drawback of counting calories is the mental stress it gives you. Keeping a tally of everything you consume is not exactly healthy. If you cannot handle that or if you have a history of eating disorders, this is definitely not something you should try.

What Is the Recommended Calorie Intake?

If you're wondering how many calories you need to consume daily, you must know that several factors affect your calorie intake. Some of them are your age, gender, weight, and the amount of physical activity you do. Compared to a 70-year-old woman who doesn't exercise, a 25-year-old male athlete will need more calories.

Additionally, to lose weight, you'll need to consume fewer calories than your body burns. Depending on the 2020-2025 American Dietary Guidelines, a person's daily calorie intake should range between 1,800 and 3,200 kcal depending on their weight, age, gender, and physical activity level.

These guidelines indicate that men should consume more calories than women. Women require 1,600 to 2,400 calories, while men require 2,000 to 3,200 calories. It is important to note that this is a simplified guideline for how many calories someone should consume every day, and individual needs may differ.


In the end, it all boils down to you, your needs, what you're comfortable with, and your body's physical and psychological response to changes in your eating habits. If calorie counting works for you, without the mental stress, then you're welcome to use it. If not, there are plenty of ways to lose weight. No need to stress yourself. Remember that your end goal is to achieve a healthy body.

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