Calorie counting, nutrition and energy

There are many theories thrown around when talking about what it takes to lose weight. Is weight loss as simple as counting calories?

What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit used to measure that amount of energy which we get from food and drink. The term is interchangeable with kilojoules (kJ), the same way which kilometres and miles measure distance. There are 4.2kJ per calorie.

How much do you need?

The Australian Government has come up with an average recommendation of 8,700kJ. Your individual energy requirement depends on age, height, gender, activity level and injury factors.

For example, a 55-year-old woman who works a desk job and doesn’t exercise would need about 7,000kJ per day whereas a 19-year-old male who has a physical job and plays sports may require 13,500kJ.

Energy balance

For a person’s weight to increase or decrease, there must be an energy surplus or deficit. Having more energy than the body requires means that the excess is stored for later use. Not having enough means that the body will dip into its reserves to make sure there is enough energy for the body to function. If you are consuming the right amount of energy for your activity level, body weight stays the same.

Are all calories the same?

If it were as simple as energy in and energy out, you could eat nothing but your energy requirement in Mars bars and not gain weight. However, this would mean you would become deficient in protein and most vitamins and minerals and be consuming more sugar and fat than required.

A quarter of a cup of almonds has the same number of calories as a Dairy Milk chocolate bar although the almonds have more protein, heart healthy fats, fibre, vitamin E and magnesium. Even though there is the same amount of energy, there are additional nutritional benefits to having the almonds over the chocolate.

Calorie counting

There are many programs and apps which can help track your nutritional intake. These can be helpful in raising awareness of what the foods you are eating contain, such as high levels of salt or fat.

Calorie counting tools can also be helpful in making you aware of how often you eat and identify eating patterns. They can also lead to restrictive behaviour as a fear of exceeding the calorie allowance or avoidance of enjoyable foods because they don’t look good on the record.

So, losing weight should be simple, right?

Yes, the theory is to eat less calories than your body requires and you will lose weight. However, when you reduce the amount which you are eating and drinking and reduce it by too much, the body’s metabolism will slow down to reflect the reduction in energy. Which is why when thinking about reducing how much you eat, you should only reduce it by small amounts at a time.

Should I calorie count?

If you find yourself unable to recall what you ate in the last 24 hours, keeping a food diary would be a good idea. It can be as simple as writing down the foods eaten, without having the pressure of conforming to a strict number every day.

If you are wanting to lose some weight, calorie counting for one week per month can be a more lifestyle friendly alternative. It is a good way to check in with what you’re eating and is more likely to work long term.

To speak to a qualified nutritionist about your diet, give the clinic a call today or book in with Elizabeth online: