Are you having trouble making progress in your weight loss journey? Perhaps you’ve thought about trying calorie counting, but you’re not sure whether it’s a good idea. If so, you are certainly not alone. There has been much debate on whether calorie counting is worth the hassle.
In this article, we’re going to go over 6 of the most notable benefits that come with tracking and restricting calorie intake. But first, we need to understand what a calorie is, how our body uses it, and what role it plays in losing weight. Let’s jump right into it.
To put it simply, a calorie is the body’s energy source. AKA the unit of measurement that describes the output of energy in the body that comes from a food source. On top of this, calories are also used to define the energy output needed to perform unconscious motor functions such as breathing, thinking, and pumping blood through the heart and circulatory system.
The energy we obtain through food and drink is commonly recorded as kilocalories (kcal), as most foods contain thousands of calories. A carrot, for example, has 25,000 calories. This is converted into 25 kcal as the average adult diet requires anywhere from 2,000 kcal to 2,500 kcal. Most people generally use the term calories in place of kilocalories as it’s easier to use in conversation. On top of that, the vast majority don’t realize that there is a difference between the two terms.
So why do calories matter, and why is it important to understand how our bodies interact with them? It starts with the food you eat. The calories needed to function every day come from our food sources. Those calories we obtain from food and drink are comprised of three major macronutrients, or macros for short.
These macros are:
- Carbohydrates or Carbs
When consumed, the digestive system breaks down the food into smaller components, which can then be used to fuel the body with energy or be used in the construction of new tissues wherever the body needs it. Most of the calories will typically go to supporting basic but vital bodily functions. This includes providing the energy source necessary for the nervous system, heart, kidneys, brain, and lungs, among many other vital organs.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what calories are and how our body uses them, let’s talk about the benefits of calorie counting and restriction.
One of the most obvious benefits of restricting and tracking calorie intake is that it can be an extremely effective practice to help you lose weight. You may have heard the phrase calories in vs. calories out. This concept is based on the fact that our bodies only need a certain number of calories to use in a day, while the excess winds up being stored for later use. While some of it is stored in the muscles and liver, the rest is stored as fat. So, if you consume too many calories, you will gain weight.
On the other hand, if you fall into a caloric deficit by consuming less than the body needs to use, the stored energy will be reallocated in order to compensate for that lack of calories. Now, you may be wondering, do I have to count calories to lose weight? And the answer is no. But keeping track of how much you consume will ensure that you stay in a deficit as opposed to just guessing and hoping for the best.
Calorie counting has been shown to increase weight loss success, particularly when shared on various forms of social media, because it greatly increases personal accountability in regard to following set goals in health and fitness. Using tools such as fitness apps that can track your calorie intake is especially helpful as they often feature motivational responses when a calorie goal has been logged.
Additionally, posting your calorie goals within groups created on these various platforms serves as positive reinforcement. These communities are focused on supporting each other throughout their respective fitness journeys and empowering each other with open dialogue and communication.
When trying to lose weight, it is important to know how many calories you are consuming, as you will not reach your weight loss goals if you are consuming more than your body is burning in a day. Counting your calories will help you to become familiar with how many calories each meal contains and allow you to adjust your meals if necessary.
It should be noted that it’s not always about restricting the number of calories you consume. If you’re strength training with heavy weights, for example, you may actually need to increase the number of calories you consume in order to meet the energy requirements your body needs to function at optimal levels.
When you keep track of each meal you consume, whether it be in a journal or in a fitness app, you tend to make healthier choices when it comes to food. It provides a sense of accountability and removes any illusions you may have been hiding behind when it comes to being honest with yourself about unhealthy eating habits.
Oddly enough, a few studies suggest that calorie restriction affects the aging process. It has been shown to slow down the age-related decline in motor functions, brain function, and even the appearance of age in the skin. On that note, more research needs to be done on the subject, as there is not enough information to state anything concrete.
It’s free. Calorie counting does not require any sort of fancy equipment or expensive diet plans. Virtually anyone can do it, and it doesn’t cost you a single dime. In fact, there are many fitness apps available that also offer calorie trackers at no cost.
To summarize, calories are the body’s energy source, and they play a major role in many vital bodily functions. Calories come from our food sources, and excess amounts are stored as fat to be used at a later time. The benefits of calorie counting include more success in weight loss, increased accountability, knowing how many calories you truly need, helping you make better food choices, possibly slowing the aging process, and the fact that it is completely free.