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Calorie Counting – Why It’s Hard

By Jiri Kaloc

If you’ve ever tried counting calories, you know that it’s not an easy thing. Noting down every bite of food and every sip of beverage takes determination. Let’s look at the difficulties of calorie counting and how to overcome them.

Measure, don’t rely on eyeballing

Studies show that people mis-measure food two-thirds of the time and even trained nutritionists underestimate calories in meals by an average of 30 %. If you want to be precise, you should download an app that will help you or consult an online calorie database. And don’t rely on your judgement, you have to weigh everything!

Careful about hidden calories while eating out

Eyeballing visible ingredients is a hard task in itself but then there are the sauces, marinades, and fillings that are pretty much invisible when it comes to estimating their caloric values. If you want to be really precise, you have to avoid eating out or choose restaurants that offer caloric values next to their meals on the menu.

Write it down now, you won’t remember

Relying on your memory is the surest way to make mistakes and be imprecise. We tend to subconsciously underestimate the quantity of unhealthy foods and overestimate the quantity of healthy foods when recalling meals. It’s best to write down the caloric values before eating to make sure you don’t forget. A tip for snacking: for example, when eating nuts, weigh a certain amount, note it down, and put the rest back into the pantry. A 100g bag of Brazil Nuts is 656 kcal and if you leave it open and mindlessly continue eating, it will disappear!

© Martin Roman

Don’t trust fitness trackers

Based on a 2017 study, the most popular fitness trackers like Fitbit, Apple Watch, or Samsung Gear are off by 9-23 % when it comes to estimates of calories burned during aerobic exercises. And when it comes to total calorie expenditure, they are, on average, off by 30 %! Keep this in mind when calculating your daily expenditure. It’s better to be more conservative when trying to reach a specific caloric deficit.

It’s not just food and exercise

When it comes to estimating your total daily energy expenditure, you have to consider all the variables. For example, in cold environments, people burn up to 400 kcal more per day. Hormones are also a big factor; the basal metabolic rate can increase by 10 % during a women’s menstrual cycle. The food you eat also plays a role. According to estimates, you also burn more energy digesting protein (20 – 30 %) than carbs (5 – 10 %) or fat (0 – 3 %). If your target caloric deficit isn’t working, you know where to look for answers now.

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