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Counting Calories Diet: How Much You Eat Is More Important Than What You Eat
There are always discussions about what you should and shouldn’t eat. Every month or so, the “experts” suggest no longer eating certain food groups or even certain foods within that food group. Some diets, for example, said you could eat apples, peaches and berries but not bananas and watermelons. Some would not allow you to eat any kind of fruit.
Any diet that says all foods in a certain food group are off limits could be a bad diet to follow. Contrary to popular belief, you can lose weight by continuing to eat much of the same foods you’ve always eaten but with one subtle change: You limit the calories you’re eating by reducing the amount or serving size of the foods you’re eating.
But, before you can figure out how to devise the right calorie diet for you, you need to understand what a calorie is, how it works, and why the number of calories matters.
Calorie Counting Diet: What is a calorie?
A calorie is simply a unit of measurement; it is not a magical amount that is imparted to foods in different amounts. By definition, a calorie is the amount of heat/energy required to raise the temperature of pure water by one degree. To be really scientific about the word calorie, it equals 4.1855 joules. Most scientists debate joules rather than calories these days.
Every food you eat, whether you cook it yourself or buy it packaged, contains calories. The amount of calories can depend on how much you eat, how the food was cooked, and other ingredients that might be included in the food. For example: Green beans are a low-fat, low-calorie food when cooked on their own. Most people cook green beans with butter or even with additional ingredients like bacon and potatoes. A product that was a good choice can become a worse choice with the addition of just a few more calories, regardless of what they might be.
How does a calorie work in the body?
When you eat food, any type of food, it is broken down into energy which is either used immediately, stored as potential energy (as glycogen), or stored as fat. The body breaks down food, the pancreas floods the body with insulin, and insulin decides what goes where.
Each food decomposes at its own pace. For all the noise about fad diets, there’s no difference to protein, fat, or carbohydrates as far as the body is concerned: If the body has too many calories of any kind, it will gain weight. But there’s a difference in the speed and effort it takes to break down those calories. For example, the body can break down fat quickly, with minimal effort. Protein calories, on the other hand, are broken down much more slowly in the body and also require much more work. That work is called thermogenesis, literally heat generation. Protein Creates the Most Thermogenesis: Only alcohol creates more heat than protein.
Calorie Counting Diet: Why the number of calories you eat matters
After establishing that there really is no difference in the type of calories your body burns or stores, the experts will explain why the number of calories in your diet really matters. Making sure you get enough calories is just as important as making sure you don’t get too many. Either way, you can end up with weight gain.
A diet counts calories with too few calories
A diet that doesn’t have enough calories will slow down or crash your metabolism. When the body is prevented from getting enough energy, it will begin to shut down what are considered non-essential systems. If this continues, your body will shut down your metabolism completely, hold onto every single calorie that comes in, and start burning lean muscle mass for energy.
A calorie counting diet with too many calories
On a related note, a diet that’s too high in calories can mean the body is dealing with too much energy at once. The body will store as much as possible because it is so overwhelmed. Even if you’re working out, you may be taking in too many calories for your body to burn effectively, and ironically, the more you train, the more you may be taking in without thinking about it. A study by Kendrin Sonneville, RD, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, showed that kids who exercised more also ate more—most of them ate all the calories they worked out and then some ( Source: Mindy Berry Walker, Hungry for More Fitness magazine, September 2010).
The more you exercise, the more you want to eat; the more you eat, the more you think you should exercise. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends and can make you fat despite all your best intentions.
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