Is counting calories reliable?

In this blog we tell you more about the down side of counting calories. Is it really that reliable?

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Online you can find a bunch of different websites that can calculate how many calories you should eat. You simply enter your gender, height and weight and "biem!" The calculator will give you a recommended calorie intake. Add a formula that tells you how many of each macronutrient you should eat and you can call yourself a dietitian.

Let me be brutally honest and very clear. Counting calories to find out if equals your recommended intake is a big nonsense. And at the same time, I recommend it to some of my cliënts... Say whaaaat ?!

You may be wondering: is this guy really going to deny a shitload of scientific study’s? Studies that prove that weight gain (or loss) depends on the ratio between energy in and energy out? Nope. It is absolutely true that if you absorb fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. And the other way around. But read well! I am not talking about what you ‘eat’, but what you "absorb". There is a significant difference in that. What you put in your mouth is rarely fully absorbed.

The ‘state’ you are in is of great importance in the whole process. Your nervous system is always in a specific state. For example, if you are physically active or mentally stressed, you are largely in the "fight or flight" system. Fight or flight means that our body does not prefer digestion, but instead focuses on the functioning of our muscles so that we can actually fight or flee. If we want to get a good picture of the relationship between intake and output, we should first of all, ensure that we are in complete rest after eating every meal. No stress from work, social media or your mother-in-law who wants to come over for coffee. The only question is: is that possible? Is that feasible in your life? Perhaps you have a job, a family to look after and a mother-in-law who really wants to get some coffee.

In a subsequent blog I will tell you more about how you can deal with this and how you can limit the damage of a stressful day. For now, it is important to realize that counting calories is not as black and white as is often said.

But if counting calories makes no sense at all because we don't know how much we actually absorb. Then why do I recommend it? To count calories it is important to keep an accurate nutritional diary. You can only calculate this if you keep a good record of what you eat in a day. Keeping track of your diet alone ensures a great deal of awareness. In almost all cases that I recommend doing this, people discover things they have never thought about. They find out, for example, that they actually eat very few vegetables, that they drink very little water or that they consume a lot of sugars. In addition, it is extremely valuable for me as a coach to know what the person eats, in order to be able to link to specific complaints. That's why keeping a diary in 9 out of 10 times is the first step. But to say that those calories really matter... Nope.

Conclusion: keep track of what you eat for the first 2 weeks, use common sense to make adjustments yourself and the moment you have that on the ride you can go for the next step.