Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
When it comes to losing weight, toning up or gaining muscle, some universal principles are generally accepted – they are:
How do you achieve the above? You track your calories and make sure you’re eating the correct amount for your specific goals.
That simple, right?
Not so fast! While the above universal principles do hold true, here are three things you didn’t know about calorie counting that can impact the number of calories you consume on a daily basis.
These little-known facts are not included on the estimated calorie count you see on MyFitnessPal or on the back of packaging yet can have an influence on your overall results and progress.
1). You Burn Calories While Eating Calories
You burn calories while eating calories – this is known as the thermic effect of food! To put it another way, it takes energy to burn energy! When you eat food, you burn a significant number of calories from breaking that food down.
Digesting, chewing and swallowing your food along with moving the nutrients to their required places throughout your body all require energy from calories.
However, here’s the interesting part – not all foods are created equal. The type of food you’re eating will determine the number of calories you burn while eating.
What do I mean by this? Protein, carbohydrates and fats are not broken down equally by the body. As you’ll see below, eating more protein rich foods burns more calories while you’re digesting it compared to foods higher in fat. Let’s get into some specifics:
On average, about 10% of your total daily caloric intake is used up in digesting your food!
2). The Type of Food Itself Matters
Calories in vs Calories out is the basic law of thermodynamics. But the type or make up of the calories we consume also is important. Some foods are simply more digestible than others. And this research study really was an eye-opener for me.
Person A had a sandwich consisting of “whole foods” while Person B had a sandwich consisting of “processed foods.” Both sandwiches had the exact same amount of calories and the meals were practically the same. However, Person B had a 50% reduction in calorie burning for the remainder of that day compared to Person A.
In other words, eating the heavily processed made a huge difference in the number of calories that were stored or burned that day! Sometimes the calories from the foods you eat are simply not digested. It’s not only about how much you eat, it’s also about what your body can absorb.
What’s the takeaway? While overall calorie intake matters, the type of foods we eat also matters a lot. The more calories you can get from real foods instead of processed foods, the better.
3). How the Food is Prepared
As you already know by now, certain foods are more digestible than others. Another factor which can impact the number of calories we absorb from our foods is how the food was actually prepared.
Cooking food increases the number of calories you actually absorb from food. Whether you bake, boil, steam, grill or even microwave your food, cooking it increases the number of calories that your body actually digests.
This is not a bad thing by any means – it just means that having say raw carrots chopped up vs cooked carrots steamed will impact on the number of calories you actually digest.
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Reference: Eat Smarter, Stevenson S: 2020.
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