Have you ever thought that, despite what you’ve been repeatedly told by all fitness gurus, nutritionists and health magazines, trying to slim down by keeping track of every calorie that goes into your body is not such a smart idea and it rarely works? Well, we have. And we’ve discovered exactly why. Read this article to kick off old, ineffective habits and learn hot to eat smart for real results!
People Are Not Machines and Calories Are Not Created Equal
Calorie counts are hard to miss nowadays – food packages, restaurant menus and cookbook recipes all carry detailed information on their caloric value, so that health-conscious and dieting consumers, properly equipped with calorie trackers, can make an informed choice when shopping for food. After all, how can anyone expect to reduce the number of calories they eat without counting them?
Surprisingly, in-depth research on the subject has shown otherwise. Dieting scientists have found out that the importance of calorie counting for losing weight is highly overrated. In other words, this is just another myth we have to debunk and get rid of, so that we can focus on truly effective fat loss techniques.
A person is not machine, and the overly simplistic formula of calorie trackers ignores this truth. Our energy consumption is based on the activity level, metabolism and available energy. So the person who eats less, has less energy and is less active, and will therefore burn fewer calories.
In addition, calorie stats are based on a 100-year old formula called the Atwater system, in which carbs, fat and protein have a fixed number of calories. For example, carbs and protein have 4 calories in each gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.
So if a food has 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbohydrate, it should deliver a total of 134 calories to the person eating it. But is that really true?
During the last few years, scientists have learned that not all calories are created equal and we must update the traditional method that we use to measure calories. According to one speaker at this year’s annual meeting of the Institute for Food Technologists, called “Re-examining the Energy Value of Food”, the current system provides merely an estimate of the energy content of foods and therefore doesn’t tell the whole picture when it comes to the calories your body extracts from food.
This is because the Atwater system fails to take into account that not all the energy in foods is complete digested or absorbed, and today we know that absorption varies based on the type of food and the individual who is consuming it.
There is no easy way to predict what you will end up absorbing from the macronutrients contained in a certain food item, as the net amount of calories that are absorbed by the digestive system depends on the interaction of many factors, such as the metabolism and the presence of other foods in the gut.
All of this means that if you’re working really hard to become leaner, you need a smarter dieting strategy.
We’ve done our research and discovered a few science-based hacks that can help you eat smart and choose the right foods that allow for fewer calories to be absorbed. This will help you achieve your goal much faster and with less discomfort. Read the rest of this article and use the tips below to learn how to eat smart and improve your strategy for more efficient fat loss!
BUMP UP THE PROTEIN
Speeding up your metabolism is one of the key steps to losing weight, as it allows you to burn more calories. So here are two protein facts that are worth repeating: foods high in protein help rev up your metabolism, and your body actually burns many more calories while digesting protein than it does while digesting fat or carbohydrates.
This is called the thermic effect of food – the energy required to chew, digest, absorb, transport and store the food you eat, and protein has the highest TEF of all macronutrients (ranging from 20-35%, compared to 5-15% for carbs and fats).
It’s still unclear how protein changes the way the body stores calories, but many studies have found that protein has a major impact on body fat percentage. For example, a group of researchers at Tufts University discovered that people who ate more protein at the expense of carbs find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. This is why replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can speed up your metabolism and accelerate fat loss.
EAT SMART TIP #1:
Cut down on carbs and increase your intake of protein to harness the calorie-burning power of protein. Protein is also very satiating, so you will need less food to stay full for a longer time. Not to mention, it will allow you to build some muscle, too!
USE THE POWER OF NUTS
Nuts contain nutrients that may promote weight loss by helping you feel fuller longer, as well as crucial nutrients for the optimal functioning of the brain, heart and gut, which makes them a valuable part of a well-balanced diet.
A 2001 study published in “Nutrition Reviews” has shown that there’s a strong link between high intake of dietary fiber and a lower risk of being overweight or obese. The researchers suggest that by adding only 14 extra grams of fiber per day will result in a significant weight loss in a couple of months.
Nuts are rich in fiber, with almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts containing the highest amounts per serving. They’re also rich in protein, which is another highly satiating nutrient.
Furthermore, studies have found that the Atwater system is very unreliable when it comes to determining the energy value of raw nuts. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that one serving of almonds provides the body with 130 calories, which is far less than the 167 calories determined by the Atwater system.
Other researchers have discovered the same about pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts. Perhaps more importantly, snacking on nuts makes it less likely to overeat later in the day, according to new studies.
While it’s true that nuts also contain lofty amounts of fat, the truth is that these calories don’t get fully absorbed in the digestive tract. Nuts are pretty resistant to digestion, since their strong cell membranes prevent some of the macronutrients present in them from being thoroughly metabolized in the body. In fact, at least one-fifth of the fat in nuts never gets absorbed by the body, according to a 2008 paper published in The Journal of Nutrition.
EAT SMART TIP #2 :
Most of the findings associated with the fat-loss benefits of raw nuts also apply on legumes and seeds in their least processed form. Replace your peanut butter with raw peanuts and instead of reaching for the almond butter, try snacking on unsalted almonds. Your body will absorb a lot fewer calories from most foods in their raw state, and if they contain enough fiber (as they usually do), they will help you feel fuller too.
EMBRACE WHOLE GRAINS
We all know that refined carbs are the source of all evil. But whole grains, which contain complex carbohydrates, can support weight loss efforts and protect heart health, among many other benefits.
One study published in the journal Food & Nutrition found that participants who had a sandwich made with multigrain bread used 20% of the food’s calories for the needs of digestion, while the participants who ate a white-bread sandwich used only 10%, even though both sandwiches had the same amount of total calories!
Countless studies have shown that people who follow a weight loss program incorporating whole grains lose more fat than people who eat refined grains. One of the main reasons for this is that whole grains are much higher in fiber than refined grains, and dietary fiber is one of the crucial nutrients for enhancing satiety and reducing hunger.
EAT SMART TIP #3:
For best weight-loss results, on top of increasing protein intake and replacing over-processed salty and sweet snacks with nuts, seeds and legumes, make whole grains, such as whole wheat, whole oats, whole-grain corn, wild rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, buckwheat, millet and quinoa, a staple in your diet.
GO RAW & SOLID
As we’ve already mentioned, eating foods in their raw, unprocessed form requires extra work from the digestive system and actually decreases the amount of calories our bodies absorb from food. This is also supported by the study conducted by a group of scientists from Harvard which found that cooking increases the amount of calories we absorb from food. This is not surprising, knowing that cooked foods require less energy for digestion and therefore allow more calories to be available.
In addition, raw foods require more chewing, which spends additional energy and also triggers areas in the brain which signal satiety. Did you know that up to 20% of the daily calories consumed by the average American come from beverages? It’s no wonder we have an epidemic of obesity.
Furthermore, there is substantial evidence that consuming meals in liquid form results in higher rates of absorption than eating proper whole-food meals. One study published in the journal of Obesity found that people who consumed liquid meals experienced stronger food cravings later in the day, compared to people who consumed the same number of calories in solid form.
This is because the fiber found in solid meals slows the absorption of nutrients and thereby releases energy in a slow and steady manner, without causing spikes in blood sugar, while simultaneously reducing the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
EAT SMART TIP #4:
We’re not suggesting that you should go into the extreme and become a raw vegan, of course. But you could benefit greatly from eating more foods in their raw, solid form. Replace calorie-loaded sweet drinks and sodas with teas and water, and eat a big colorful salad instead of drinking a veggie smoothie. In addition, always have some nuts and seeds in your bag to snack on whenever hunger cravings appear.
You can easily cut down on calories while achieving longer-lasting satiety by tossing a handful of chopped almonds and sunflower seeds into your morning oatmeal and including a raw salad at every lunch and dinner meal.
As it usually is the case with dieting, being mindful of what you eat can be much more important than simply reducing the number of total daily calories you consume. The interaction between food and our digestive tract is a fairly complex one, so no dieter should assume that by putting all calories in the same basket and making dramatic cuts they will succeed at melting away all their extra fat.
Not only that this is a less effective approach compared to making smarter food choices, but this strategy could easily backfire and lead to overeating and regaining the lost pounds.
The best advice that dieting science has to offer is: forget about calorie counting (to an extent). Instead, similarly to what you do when you’re training your muscles, try to eat smarter and, provide your gut with a harder workout by opting for solid foods which have a high thermic effect, are in raw form that requires more chewing and extra work from the digestive system. That might well be the entire secret to effective and sustainable weight loss. Good luck!