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Just numbers: why we should stop calorie counting forever

Just numbers: why we should stop calorie counting forever

Healthy lifestyle

Just numbers: why we should stop calorie counting forever

March, 3rd

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We know that for a healthy person, the calorie intake is between 2,100 and 2,600 per day. We are used to the fact that the calorie content is indicated on the packaging of any product. From all sides, we are only told about how to burn and gain calories. But is this so important on the path to proper eating behavior? And what, if not calories, really matter when it comes to weight gain? We deal with Tim Spector, author of the book “Myths about diets.”

Calories are just calories

Scientifically speaking, calories are the amount of energy released when a standard unit of dehydrated food is burned.

However, calories differ in calories. This is clearly proved by the following experiment: 42 monkeys for seven years received two different diets of the same calorie content. In the first group, 17% of the total source of calories came from natural vegetable oils, in the second – from artificial trans fats. As a result, the monkeys in the second group gained weight compared to those who ate properly, in addition, among them, an increased increase in harmful visceral fat and poor insulin values ​​were recorded.

The takeaway is simple: 1,000 calories from fries doesn’t equal 1,000 calories from meat and vegetables.

When nutritionists give us the “right” calorie intake, they often overlook many factors:

  • The “age” of the food and the method of preparation (which part of the food will be absorbed depends on this);
  • physiological characteristics (for example, people with a longer colon can extract more calories from food than those with a shorter colon);
  • how we consume food (eating white rice with chopsticks rather than a spoon will slow down the rate at which blood glucose rises and activate insulin production).

That is why focusing on calorie norms is not only unproductive, but even harmful to the body.

What does genes have to do with it?

Here’s another experiment. In it, volunteer students acted as subjects: for four months they received food, the nutritional value of which was 3600 calories per day (that is, 1000 calories more than the accepted norm).

By the end of the experiment, all of the students gained weight. However, this increase was different: someone had 5, and someone had 13 kilograms. Someone has excess fat deposited on the stomach, while someone has calories turned into additional muscle mass.

Only a few pairs of students showed the same weight gain: they were twin brothers

The experiment clearly proves that how quickly we expend energy or store fat is directly dependent on genes. They affect not only weight gain, but even where excess weight will be deposited.


Genes are also responsible for our eating habits and even love for certain foods. A source

British biologist John Speekman has hypothesized about drifting genes. According to her, two million years ago, the genetic regulation of the amount of fat in our body was much stricter. After all, if our ancestors were well-fed, they would become too easy (and attractive) prey for predators. Therefore, obesity genes were simply discarded.

As time went on, the need to flee from predators disappeared and the regulation of body fat decreased. However, for some, these genes were randomly preserved: such people remain slim even with an abundance of food around.

Sports and calories

We know that calories that are not burned by the body are stored as fat. But can physical activity help to combat them?

The benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. They have a beneficial effect on the condition of the heart and life expectancy. The only question is how intensively it is worth exercising and whether you need to test yourself for strength.


270 hours of exercise per year will add about three years to your life and relieve you of many ailments. A source

You will smile, but … The addiction to exercise is also explained by genetics. Some people find it easier to be athletic, they get more pleasure and enjoyment from this process.

The standard recommendation of trainers is this: if you burn 3500 calories during a workout, you will lose about 450 grams of fat. Sounds inspiring, but scientific studies show that there is no correlation between these processes.

Moreover, physical activity has shown its ineffectiveness in the matter of weight loss: without dietary restrictions, it practically does not help to lose weight.

Still, playing sports is important. Yes, they will not help you “burn” extra calories, but they will make you healthier. Lack of exercise is twice as likely to lead to early death as obesity. Just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day reduces the risk of premature death by a quarter in a person who leads a completely sedentary lifestyle (and this is almost all of us).

Based on the book “Myths about diets”

Cover photo from here

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