Have you ever thought that, despite what you’ve been repeatedly told by all fitness gurus, nutritionists and health magazines, trying to slim down by keeping track of every calorie that goes into your body is not such a smart idea and it rarely works? Well, we have. And we’ve discovered exactly why. Read this article to kick off old, ineffective habits and start eating smart for real results!
People Are Not Machines and Calories Are Not Created Equal
Calorie counts are hard to miss nowadays – food packages, restaurant menus and cookbook recipes all carry detailed information on their caloric value, so that health-conscious and dieting consumers, properly equipped with calorie trackers, can make an informed choice when shopping for food. After all, how can anyone expect to reduce the number of calories they eat without counting them?
Surprisingly, in-depth research on the subject has shown otherwise. Dieting scientists have found out that the importance of calorie counting for losing weight is highly overrated. In other words, this is just another myth we have to debunk and get rid of, so that we can focus on truly effective fat loss techniques.
A person is not machine, and the overly simplistic formula of calorie trackers ignores this truth. Our energy consumption is based on the activity level, metabolism and available energy. So the person who eats less, has less energy and is less active, and will therefore burn fewer calories.
In addition, calorie stats are based on a 100-year old formula called the Atwater system, in which carbs, fat and protein have a fixed number of calories. For example, carbs and protein have 4 calories in each gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram. So if a food has 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrate, it should deliver a total of 134 calories to the person eating it. But is that really true?
During the last few years, scientists have learned that not all calories are created equal and we must update the traditional method that we use to measure calories. According to one speaker at this year’s annual meeting of the Institute for Food Technologists, called “Re-examining the Energy Value of Food”, the current system provides merely an estimate of the energy content of foods and therefore doesn’t tell the whole picture when it comes to the calories your body extracts from food.
This is because the Atwater system fails to take into account that not all the energy in foods is complete digested or absorbed, and today we know that absorption varies based on the type of food and the individual who is consuming it. There is no easy way to predict what you will end up absorbing from the macronutrients contained in a certain food item, as the net amount of calories that are absorbed by the digestive system depends on the interaction of many factors, such as the metabolism and the presence of other foods in the gut. All of this means that if you’re working really hard to become leaner, you need a smarter dieting strategy.
We’ve done our research and discovered a few science-based hacks that can help you choose the right kinds of foods that allow for fewer calories to be absorbed and achieve your goal much faster and with less discomfort. Read the rest of this article and use our tips to improve your strategy for more efficient fat loss!
UP THE PROTEIN
Speeding up your metabolism is one of the key steps to losing weight, as it allows you to burn more calories. So here are two protein facts that are worth repeating: foods high in protein help rev up your metabolism, and your body actually burns many more calories while digesting protein than it does while digesting fat or carbohydrates. This is called the thermic effect of food – the energy required to chew, digest, absorb, transport and store the food you eat, and protein has the highest TEF of all macronutrients (ranging from 20-35%, compared to 5-15% for carbs and fats).
It’s still unclear how protein changes the way the body stores calories, but many studies have found that protein has a major impact on body fat percentage. For example, a group of researchers at Tufts University discovered that people who ate more protein at the expense of carbs find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. This is why replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can speed up your metabolism and accelerate fat loss.
TIP: Cut down on carbs and increase your intake of protein to harness the calorie-burning power of protein. Protein is also very satiating, so you will need less food to stay full for a longer time. Not to mention, it will allow you to build some muscle, too!
USE THE POWER OF NUTS
Nuts contain nutrients that may promote weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer, as well as crucial nutrients for the optimal functioning of the brain, heart and gut, which makes them a valuable part of a well-balanced diet. A 2001 study published in “Nutrition Reviews” has shown that there’s a strong link between high intake of dietary fiber and a lower risk of being overweight or obese. The researchers suggest that by adding only 14 extra grams of fiber per day will result in a significant weight loss in a couple of months. Nuts are very rich in fiber, with almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts containing the highest amounts per serving. They’re also rich in protein, which is another highly satiating nutrient.
Furthermore, studies have found that the Atwater system is very unreliable when it comes to determining the energy value of raw nuts. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that one serving of almonds provides the body with 130 calories, which is far less than the 167 calories determined by the Atwater system. Other researchers have discovered the same about pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts. Perhaps more importantly, snacking on nuts makes it less likely to overeat later in the day, according to new studies.
While it’s true that nuts also contain lofty amounts of fat, the truth is that these calories don’t get fully absorbed in the digestive tract. Nuts are pretty resistant to digestion, since their strong cell membranes prevent some of the macronutrients present in them from being thoroughly metabolized in the body. In fact, at least one-fifth of the fat in nuts never gets absorbed by the body, according to a 2008 paper published in The Journal of Nutrition.
TIP: Most of the findings associated with the fat-loss benefits of raw nuts also apply on legumes and seeds in their least processed form. Replace your peanut butter with raw peanuts and instead of reaching for the almond butter, try snacking on unsalted almonds. Your body will absorb a lot fewer calories from most foods in their raw state, and if they contain enough fiber (as they usually do), they will help you feel fuller too.
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