By MACROS | Published on October 18, 2017
Calories no longer just set up camp on the back of your food’s packaging. They’re now up-front and the words “low calorie” shout out at you. In some cases they’re even heading up supermarket aisles.
Entire restaurants are low calorie and your treadmill tells you how many you burn per minute. They’re everywhere, acting as judge, jury and executioner of the food and exercise world. Here’s what you need to know about the smallest parts of your food.
Strictly speaking a calorie is the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1g of water by 1°C. The trouble is, your gut isn’t exactly a scientific laboratory and your body runs on chemical energy created by your digestive acids eating foods. “This is then distributed and absorbed by all your cells,” says sports nutritionist Gavin Allinson (fourweekfatloss.com). It’s a little tricky likening the energy in your stomach to those digested by a raw flame.
What’s more, research in the Journal of Consumer Research found we can’t count calories properly thanks of the order in which we encounter foods. People who were shown a salad then a cheeseburger thought the cheeseburger had 787 calories. But those who saw the cheeseburger before they saw the salad thought the burger only had 570 calories. To be more accurate about calorie counting use a free fitness app like MyFitnessPal, which has a huge database of foods and is constantly updated.
Counting calories is useless
Everybody responds differently to the same number of calories, largely because metabolisms are unique. In fact, two diets that were equal in calories created very different weight-loss results, according to Wake Forest University School of Medicine research. A diet higher in trans fats made people 8% heavier, which means they were immediately stored rather than used.
This means counting calories is pointless if you’re not counting the nutrients they’re accompanied by. The better the quality the food, the leaner and healthier you’ll be because a low-calorie diet of bad foods will kill you.
Genetics are a calorie’s ringmaster
You can thank mom and pop for your smile and your waistline. Research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found genetics affect how many calories you burn when you’re doing simple everyday stuff. That’s not to say your genetics leave you helpless, it means you need to move a little more. Research at Queens University found that fidgeting at your desk and walking around the office burns a tremendous amount of calories in the long run and can even increase your fitness levels.
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Negative on the negative calories
The concept of negative calories – where foods contain less calories than it takes to eat them – is a notion that belongs in 1980s fitness dogma. Celery, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture, has 16 calories per 100g and won’t cost as many calories to chew and digest.
The solution? Eat chocolate, in moderation of course. Research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found eating a small amount of chocolate when the cravings hit might be a calorie-neutral pursuit. People who ate chocolate on more days of the week were thinner than those who ate chocolate less often. The regular chocolate eaters didn’t eat fewer calories or exercise more. The researchers hypothesize that small amounts of chocolate stop you from binging. Good news for chocoholics.
Low calorie is a trap
Low-calorie products send your brain and body mixed messages. Research at Purdue University found these zero calorie artificial sweeteners might actually make you eat more calories because they disrupt the link between sweetness and high calories. If you taste something sweet and don’t get calories, your body tells you to go out and look for more. Go for a full-fat, high-sugar version of something and just have a smaller serving. That way you’ll be satisfied. It’s called having your cake and eating it. Is there any other way?