Calorie Counting is a Flawed Science

Today I want to share with you some information on The Surprising Problem with Calorie Counting!

Most people who count calories for weight loss or weight management assume it’s an exact science. It’s not. In this article you’ll find a few reasons why calorie counting (i.e. logging your food to calculate intake) is flawed.

“Calories In” is not accurate

It’s absolutely true that the principles of energy balance work:

More Calories In vs Energy you Expend = Weight Gain
Less Calories In vs Energy you Expend = Weight Loss

However, counting calories, is fundamentally flawed because we can’t trust that the calorie numbers (and macronutrients) we see on food packages are accurate. The truth is, the way they’re calculated is imprecise.

Look at the image below​​. The calorie counts on food labels and in databases are averages. Research shows that true calorie content of what you’re eating is often significantly higher or lower. 
Food companies can use any of 5 different methods to estimate calories, so the FDA permits inaccuracies of up to 20%. This means that “150 calories” can be 130-180 calories or an error rate of up to 50%.

Look at the image below​​. The calorie counts on food labels and in databases are averages. Research shows that true calorie content of what you’re eating is often significantly higher or lower. 
In addition, we don’t absorb all the calories we consume and the ability to absorb calories is highly dependent on the individuals current health status.
Our own individual gut bacteria can increase or decrease the calories we absorb. People with a higher proportion of Firmicutes bacteria absorb an average of 150 more calories per day than those with a higher proportion of bacteroidetes.

“Calories Out” is not accurate

As if trying to calculate “Calories In” wasn’t innacurate enough, it’s much harder to measure how much breakfast you’re burning during exercise. Daily activity tracking and exercise counts can also be a problem.

Don’t get me wrong. There is value in knowing how to apply calorie counts properly. However, despite what most fitness trackers and people think… meticulous calorie counting simply isn’t a “must” when it comes to weight management.

For example, the calorie expenditure numbers we see in online calculators, fitness trackers and health magazines are based on laboratory averages with large margins of error.

Consumer fitness trackers are off by about 30% for total daily calorie expenditure. And for aerobic exercise, the devices show errors between 9% and 23%!!!

And just like we are all different in terms of how many calories we burn from what we take in… we are also all unique when it comes to how many calories we burn during physical activity. Even the time of the month can impact your calorie burn.

For example, women’s menstrual cycles affect their resting metabolic rate. Overall, it’s not unusual for an individual’s metabolic rate to vary by 100 calories form day to day.

Because… calorie burn estimates are imprecise; individuals burn calories uniquely and variably; what and how much you eat influences the calories you’ll burn…

Counting calories is less realiable than you think!

Forget Calorie Counting and Use This Instead

Rather than trying to “math” your way to calorie exactness, just look at your hand instead.

My Precision Nutrition Coaching program teaches you to gauge food portions based on your hand and has nothing to do with carrying around weigh-scales, measuring cups or smart phone apps.

Here’s how it works:

  • Your palm determines your protein portions.
  • Your fist determines your veggie portions.
  • Your cupped hand determines your carb portions.
  • Your thumb determines your fat portions.

Two Palms for Men’s Protein

One Palm for Women’s Protein

Two Fists for Men’s Veggies

One Fist for Women’s Veggies

Two Cupped Hands for Men’s Carbs

One Cupped Hand for Women’s Carbs

Two Thumbs for Men’s Fats

One Thumb for Women’s Fats

Based on the guidelines above, which I assume you’ll be eating approx 4 times per day, here’s what your daily food intake would look like:

For Men:

  • 2 palms of protein dense food with each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
  • 2 cupped hands of carb dense foods with most meals;
  • 2 entire thumbs of fat dense foods with most meals.

For Women:

  • 1 palm of protein dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
  • 1 cupped hand of carb dense foods with most meals;
  • 1 entire thumb of fat dense foods with most meals.

Of course, just like anything… these recommendations are simply a starting point to fine tuning a diet that is personalized to your lifestyle, genetics and physiology. So depending on the goals (weight loss, adding muscle, improving endurance), there would be modifications that occur.

Want More Individualization?

Consider getting on the list for My Precision Nutrition Coaching program. We open this program up 4 times per year and only allow a certain number of people to sign up at any point in time.

If you’re ready to work on your personal nutrition, then click here to sign up for our presale list!

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