Start Nutrient Counting

 Quality calories over quantity of calories | Crystal Phillips, RHN

Two major Reasons why you should not calorie count:

1)    Calorie counting is inaccurate

A calorie is not simply a calorie but rather an approximation of the amount of potential energy in food. How we determine the amount of calories in food is with the help of what’s called a “bomb calorimeter” through the following process:

Electrical energy ignites food Þ Food heats surrounding air Þ Air expands and exists through a copper tube Þ This same tube heats up the water around the tube Þ Calories are calculated by the heat of the water.

Because this process would take too much time, money and energy to perform on every ingredient on the grocery shelf, they use approximations on the labels.

To further contribute to the inaccuracy, there is still energy that can be lost through the absorption and excretion process once ingested.

With this in mind, it is still important to note how incredibly efficient our bodies are at utilizing the energy from food. Approximately 91% of the energy in our food is utilized by the body which is impressive when you compare that to the 12-20% of energy utilized from the gas you put in your cars.

So even with your best effort to measure precise calorie intake, you can still be off by 8-10%.

2)    Different Calories have different qualities

It’s the difference between starting a fire with dry twigs or a damp log. Some Calories provide better fuel than others meaning more of their calories are clean-burning energy. These “quality” calories come from nutrient-dense, wholesome, unprocessed foods that are higher in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients.  Some examples of these nutrient-dense calories are; raw fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, cold water fish, game meat and legumes.

The book: “the Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” by John Berardi provides  an excellent case study of an athlete who needed to lose body fat percentage without losing strength in order to enhance sport performance. Rather than counting calories or reducing calories to lose that excess body fat she increased protein and fat intake as well as the quality of the food she was eating to more nutrient dense, wholesome, unprocessed foods.