Counting calories is a popular method for losing weight. But it doesn’t work for everyone. More often than not, the pounds you’ve lost will return after a short period. This leads to frustration and discouragement and to people giving up on their weight loss journey.
Let’s look at the science behind this weight loss method and see if there’s an alternative.
There’s More to It
Many people think that counting calories is an efficient way to lose weight. As such, they only pay attention to the numbers. But experts claim it’s equally important to consider where the calories are coming from.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, three main factors determine how your body processes food:
- Gut microbiome
- Type of calories
Our body needs to work to extract calories from the food we eat. The type of food we consume will determine how much energy our body will need to spend. This is called “caloric availability.”
Caloric availability represents the number of calories we can actually extract from foods, compared to the total calorie amount. For example, when we eat 100 calories of protein, we can use only around 70 calories. The rest goes to the energy that’s necessary for processing the 100 calories.
In comparison, the caloric availability of fat is 100%, complex carbohydrates 90%, and refined carbs around 97%. This means our body doesn’t use a lot of energy when digesting them.
This is connected to the thermic effect of food (TEF), which we experience whenever we’re digesting macronutrients. The TEF for protein is high, meaning our metabolism works harder to digest them, thus expending more energy and contributing to weight loss.
Eat More Protein
Instead of only paying attention to the total number of calories you consume throughout the day, focus on the origin and quality. Incorporate more protein into your diet, increase your fiber intake, and consume less sugar.
If keeping track of your food makes you feel good, try counting macros, but consult your doctor or dietitian first.