Counting calories is a controversial issue in the weight loss area.
It is very likely that if you follow a classic calorie-counting diet, you will end up gaining weight. This statement will surely surprise you. You may even doubt that it is true.
Not everyone knows that this strategy has been questioned many times. This is due to the overwhelming evidence that shows an increase in obesity and metabolic disorders generated after controlling the calories ingested.
👉 80% of people who follow a classic diet and lost weight regain it in the following months.
👉 40% end up having more weight than when they started this type of diet.
Therefore, today you will discover the differences between a classic diet and an effective diet for weight loss, such as the ketogenic diet, in addition to all the points you should know about calorie counting.
The reality of counting calories
When counting calories, it is assumed that our metabolism behaves like a predictable machine, that is, that the weight we gain or lose is the difference between the calories that go in and those that go out → This is a MYTH.
First of all, it is necessary to take into account the limitations that caloric counting brings with it:
Averages are not exact
There are two “approximations” to the number of calories on a label, leading to significant errors.
The actual amount the body absorbs: These data are based on the assumption that 100% of what we eat is absorbed, although, in real life, this is known to vary widely.
Each person has a different metabolism
Expressions such as “you’re a lime” (for eating a lot and not getting fat) or “I’m getting fat with air” are popular translations of the fact that for various reasons, we can have a higher or higher basal metabolism low. This fact cannot be contemplated in the equations of daily caloric calculation.
Not all calories are the same
Not all foods are the same. In a McDonald’s meal of hamburgers, fries, and ice cream, there may be the same calories as in a meal consisting of steamed vegetables, a beef steak, and fruit, but the effect that one meal or another will have on your body are entirely different.
Many also assume that adipose tissue has no other function than to store that part of what we eat and that the body does not spend, a simplification that borders on the absurd.
You can see all the functions of fatty tissue that positively influence your health in this article.
What works and what doesn’t for weight loss
Interestingly, one of the characteristics that people who manage to maintain a healthy weight share is that feelings of hunger and satiety can still guide them. They are known as intuitive eaters.
On the other hand, surrounding ourselves with edible products designed by the food industry to confuse these mechanisms of hunger and satiety is a guarantee of starting to gain weight.
👉 The reason is that processed products are designed for you to eat even when you don’t need to, and this is the leading cause of obesity in the Western world.
The ketogenic diet for weight loss
In recent times, the idea of calories entering and leaving is being transferred to better interventions, which seek to solve the causes that have led us to this situation of the metabolic pandemic.
To go beyond the calorie-counting model for weight or fat loss, we are committed to recovering the body’s mechanisms from regulating itself, among which the ketogenic diet is gaining more and more ground for different reasons:
The ketogenic diet or keto diet reduces appetite.
In general, all diets designed to lose weight produce a compensatory effect that encourages the recovery of lost weight.
As we have already mentioned, this effect includes a reduction in caloric expenditure. This leads to a decrease in satiating hormones such as leptin and cholecystokinin and an increase in the appetite-stimulating hormone: ghrelin (reference).
👉 If you establish a debt of calories with your body, your body will claim them, and you will feel hungry.
The exciting thing about the keto diet is that it produces just the opposite effect: It has a satiating impact!
This is probably because fat and protein consumption is in itself satiating since there are no changes in the hormones that regulate appetite. It could also be due to a possible appetite suppression of ketone bodies.
Keto diet reduces the production of fat and stimulates the use of stored fat
Another of the typical deregulatory effects of the western diet is what is known as cellular metabolic memory or glucose hysteresis.
The fact that you eat so many times a day and generally with a moderate-high carbohydrate content leads the cells always to use glucose as fuel and never mobilize energy reserves.
Over time, cells are unable to use fat for fuel, thus losing essential body capacity. This is known as metabolic flexibility, the use of the optimal energy substrate for each situation.
With the ketogenic diet, by restricting carbohydrates and consuming a lot of fat, we send the body’s unequivocal message that it is necessary to regain this capacity.
Our body adapts to the fact that it is the food substrate itself. That induces a metabolism based on the burning of fat or carbohydrates. If fat comes, we will use fat. In case carbohydrates come, we will use carbohydrates.
If we combine fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, your cells will likely use carbohydrates first.
“The restriction of carbohydrates allows us to generate the ideal metabolic environment. Thus the body understands that what it has to do is mobilize and use fat and not accumulate it.”
If you are interested in starting the ketogenic diet, I recommend that you read more on keto here:
Do you need to count calories on the ketogenic diet?
Taking into account the objectives and reasons that lead us to choose the ketogenic diet as a strategy for weight loss and when faced with the question of whether we should count calories when we practice it, the answer is that in principle no, since we want our own body regains the ability to self-regulate without resorting to external parameters.
Exceptions for YES counting calories on the ketogenic diet
There are situations in which counting calories can help us, but always considering the limitations of counting.
When you need a frame of reference to make it easier for you. In general, the ketogenic diet regulates in most cases your hunger and satiety mechanisms. However, there may indeed be an associated difficulty in achieving it.
In these cases, it may be interesting that you use the caloric count to have a frame of reference. This helps you identify if you are guided by real hunger or have been carried away by hedonism for a few days.
Use it to generate learning but keep in mind that the idea is that your feelings guide you.
Know how much you eat
Associated with the first factor, another possibility for counting calories comes when you have already made a change towards consuming food and not products. However still, it is difficult for you to normalize your weight.
We are surrounded by delicious things for our palate (even if they are keto). Eat keto, but you always have nut butter, cakes with sweeteners, or low-carbohydrate chocolate nearby. You may not be able to normalize your metabolism. Even if you meet the standard of 30 grams of carbohydrate per day.
In these cases, it is useful to calculate the number of calories you are eating. This way you’ll know, approximately, if you are eating more or less than you should.
Also, keep in mind that overeating is often an indicator of a deeper problem:
- You’re frustrated, so you eat.
- You’re stressed, so you eat.
- You sleep little, so you eat.
We suggest that you focus on solving these problems and not trying to control your hunger.
Conclusion on counting calories in a ketogenic diet
In general, the ketogenic diet aims to regain hunger and satiety and follow eating rhythms that your body can manage. These are much more effective and consistent strategies than counting calories.
Calories can serve as a frame of reference. Calories are useful on the road to health and weight regain. As long as they are viewed as an aid rather than a drag. The hunger you feel is more important than the calories you should eat.
From this context, we understand calories as one vital tool. We can use it together with all of the above. It is beneficial in the transition towards the recovery of your metabolic flexibility.
👉 Our approach is that as much as possible, you support the body to recover its regulatory mechanisms. For this, we use the ketogenic diet and other vital tools such as the regulation of biorhythms or the optimal fat-muscle ratio.
I assure you that from the tranquility, all those people who count calories at the beginning understand very quickly that eating is like breathing. You cannot be thinking if you breathe or not, you must let yourself be carried away by your body signals.