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Should we count calories?


Have you ever heard of energy balance? It is the principle governing the gain, loss or maintenance of body weight. Indeed, it is the balance between your energy intake, that is, the quantity of calories you consume daily in the form of foods and beverages, and your daily caloric expenditure, that is, the calories burned by your basal metabolism, your daily activities (working in a seated position vs. in construction, for example), and your physical activities.

Becoming conscious of the amount of calories we ingest on a daily basis is an essential part of a weight loss process. However, it should not be our only strategy. In addition to integrating physical activity to our approach, it is also necessary to make good food choices.

Indeed, foods contain macronutrients, that is, lipids, carbs, and proteins, as well as micronutrients, such as calcium and iron, to name only these. People looking to consume as few calories as possible and who fill their basket accordingly at the grocery often end up with an “empty” basket: empty of nutrients! You should know that even if you provide your body with the amount of calories it needs, it will still send hunger signals if it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. This is why if you need 1800 calories daily, and you eat 1800 calories worth of chips, you will not get fatter, in theory… But your body will send you hunger signals again to fulfil its nutrients needs, and you will end up with an energy surplus.

What should you do?

  1. Choose foods with a lower caloric density
    I.E., choosing foods that contain less calories for a greater volume, such as fruit and vegetables, which will promote a feeling of satiety (1).
  2. Carefully read nutritional labels
    Choose healthy and nutritive foods. Compare similar products and choose the ones that contain the most possible nutrients for a comparable amount of calories. To be well prepared for this, I suggest you read the article Reading the nutritional labels: child’s play!
  3. Listen to your hunger and satiety feelings
    Your body tells you if it needs energy or if it has received enough. It would be much simpler to listen to it instead of calculating! Although it is still necessary to realize how many calories we eat, it is also necessary to listen to our body. I suggest you read the article Is your appetite playing tricks on you?

What do you think?

By Marilyne Petitclerc

[1] Baribeau, Hélène. Passeport santé http://www.passeportsante.net/fr/Nutrition/Regimes/Fiche.aspx?doc=densite_energetique_regime

Marilyne Petitclerc

Holder of a degree in nutrition from Université Laval, Marilyne has worked as a nutritionist for Nautilus Plus since 2010. Passionate about healthy eating and sports nutrition, she also gives lectures and hosts cooking workshops. With her clients, Marilyne makes extensive use of the instinct diet approach and the Mediterranean diet model. Furthermore, she has attended classes on live nutrition at the Hippocrates Health Institute. Maryline ran the Quebec City Marathon des Deux Rives - Half Marathon in 2010 and 2012. She also took part in the Staircase Challenge, another event held in Quebec City in June 2012. Marilyne also plays in an Ultimate Frisbee league and trains regularly at the Nautilus Plus branch where she is employed.

Should we count calories? is a post from I'm taking charge. I'm taking charge is a blog that aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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