Are You Spending Too Much Time Counting Your Calories?

Lisa Austin Blogs, Most Recent, Nutrition Related

Not all calories are created equal. There is more to ‘calories in – calories out’ than what you read on a label or calculate on an app.  Let me explain why:


Calories IN

Most people who count calories to lose weight or manage weight assume they are calculating down to the last 5 calories! Unfortunately, it’s not an exact science. In fact, counting calories for weight loss is flawed in many ways.


As we know, the principles of energy balance are quite simple:

  • More calories in; ie. more energy consumed than you use = weight gain.
  • Fewer calories in; ie. less energy consumed than you use = weight loss.


However, it gets a bit trickier than that.

You will never be able to truly know how many calories you are consuming because:

  • You can’t really trust that the calorie (and macro-nutrient) numbers you see on food packages are accurate or calculated at all.
  • If we assume the calories were correct, once the food is cooked, chopped, or blended, the amount of energy available for digestion and absorption changes.
  • Once the food enters your body, it’s all the same – right? Wrong! If you aren’t absorbing all the nutrients for one reason or another then your body is not getting them, nor being able to change them into usable energy.


Something that seems as simple as knowing how many calories you’re eating can be impacted by so many factors.  Counting calories is not the best way to rely on giving your body enough wholesome goodness while you strive for your goals.

Calories OUT

You’ve just learned a few reasons why calories in is not quite as accurate as you thought; but, you’re tracking the calories out accurately, right? Your fitness tracker is telling you how many steps and how many calories you are burning during your workout … or is it? Unfortunately, just like calories in, it’s more complicated than that!

Let me explain four reasons why we really can’t know exactly how many calories we are burning.

  • Devices that are giving us the readings of how many calories we are burning are very imprecise. Even in a controlled environment, there is room for error.  Devices can have up to 30% room for error. 30%!!!
  • Each person is going to burn calories differently – our genes, how we sleep, our gender and hormones will all play a role in how we burn calories. Remember that hormones are responsible for every process that happens in the body and are dependent on one another to function.
  • The foods we eat and the amounts of protein, fats, and carbs affect how our metabolism adjusts and, in turn, how we burn calories.
  • Lastly, weight and weight loss history will vary from person to person. If you have yo-yo dieted for long periods of time, you will have a harder time burning the same number of calories as someone who has not yo-yo dieted.


To help understand calories out download Counting Calories Debunked and receive the infographics. You will see the problems with calorie counting as it relates to the energy balance equation. It will give you a new perspective on burning calories for weight loss.


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