Benefits and pitfalls of calorie counting


The practice off calorie counting benefits anyone who commits to it.  After the initial and substantial benefits of tracking food occur, however, more precise caloric inventory becomes necessary. 


Understanding the implications of general and precise calorie counting are critical to fully knowing how to log and adjust your diet.


                 General logging off food


Logging food, generally, means adding up the listed calories of the food eaten each day.  Among the many benefits of this practice include eating less, eating healthier, and losing weight.


In fact, keeping a food diary is one of the most associated practices with weight loss and maintenance!



The success of a simple food diary is likely due to a number of things.   Among them are consciousness of true hunger,  continual awareness of goals, and closer attention the types of food eaten.


Having to make the effort to log everything you eat will often incline one to only eat when hungry enough.  Taking multiple times each day to journal calories often raises awareness-of/inclination-to other healthy behaviors.   Counting calories also provokes avoidance of excess food as well as unhealthy foods.


The aforementioned are among the culmination of factors that produce significant weight loss when diet is journaled.


After such weight loss,however, generic counting of calories can present certain frustrations.  Among the frustrations are weight and energy fluctuations.


As mentioned above, calorie counting inclines people to integrate healthier foods into the diet; foods higher in protein and fiber.  Such integration often takes the form of periods of eating that vary across the health spectrum.  All the while ingesting the same calories despite changes in food quality.


This adherence to calorie limits despite food differences results in fluctuations in weight and energy level.   Such fluctuations occur because, despite listing the same caloric value, healthier food costs more calories to process.


So, if you go from a period of unhealthy eating to healthy eating without eating more to make up for increased processing calorie-cost, you'll feel lethargic because you're, in reality, getting less calories.


Conversely, going from a period of healthy eating to less healthy without lessening calories to account for easier processing will result in weight gain; because, indeed, you're getting more calories.


                How to avoid weight and energy fluctuations


The way fluctuations in weight and energy are avoided is by adjusting caloric intake based on whether more or less protein and fiber is eaten.


                                Adjusting for more protein


Protein is listed as yielding 4 calories per gram, just like carbs.   The cost of processing protein, however, is 20-30% of each protein calorie ingested.   So if your going to replace fat/non-fiber carb calories with protein calories, allow yourself about 1 extra calorie for every gram replaced by protein.  This roughly resembles using 5 protein grams to replace any 4 grams of fat/non-fiber carb.


                                Adjusting for more fiber


Fiber is listed among the carbs in food and, as such, is given a 4 calorie per gram value like protein and regular carbs.   Truth is, however, that fiber yields significantly fewer than 4cal/g after processing.   In fact, I've seen estimates of fiber yielding less than 2cal/g, which is less than half the energy labeled.  So it might be wise to almost double-quadruple (double for carbs/protein, almost quadruple for fat) fiber amount relative to what it's replacing.


                In a nutshell


The act of calorie counting in any form, yields benefit.   Tracking diet is associated with positive things like weight loss and healthier behavior changes.   Weight/energy fluctuations can arise however when processing costs of increased protein and fiber aren't considered.   Avoidance of such fluctuations is as easy as making sure you consider such costs when planning meals.




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