Calorie Counting, Where do I begin?

No doubt, you would’ve heard or have had some opinion on the big calorie-counting debate.

Here are some facts about the origin of a Calorie:

A Calorie (kcal) is a unit of energy equal to the amount of heat needed to increase the temperate of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.

Discovered in the 19th century, it was concluded that:
– 1 gram carbohydrates = 4kcal
– 1 gram Protein = 4Kcal
– 1 gram of fat averages 9kcal

Digestion was not accounted for, i.e. the amount of energy it takes our body to break-down and process food and thus energy expenditure.

This measurement does not consider how these different macronutrients effect our hormones and energy levels which will vary from person to person.

Processed Food taking out the work

In a modern society, where fast-food chains are readily available, ‘Calories’ as a label may prove to be an inaccurate measure. First of all, we need to consider the quality and nutritional content of food intake and consequently the impact it has on our bodies. The food on our plates (or takeaway containers) is less and less likely to represent its original wholefood form. For example, all white rice starts out as brown rice; a milling process removes the rice husk, bran, and germ. Removing this fiber content from food increases the rate of digestion and causes a higher spike in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels dramatically affect our appetite and can leave us feeling full and content or unsatisfied and tired. The latter makes us less likely to hit the gym and often results in reaching for more sugary hyper-palatable foods. Sound familiar?

More Sedate Lifestyles

Not only are we eating more energy-dense food, we are exercising less. Desk jobs, modern transportation and the availability of ready-made and takeaway food therefore means we are overall expending less energy through everyday activities such as cooking and walking to the grocery store (approx. 190 kcal an hour).

So can we decrease energy in, and increase energy out, simply by improving our food choices? Perhaps. If you are eating more nutritional food, you may find you actually eat less, feel more satisfied and have more energy to exercise. Calories can be great as a guideline to check your approximate intake but generally more nutritional food choices and consistency will pay off.

Simple Substitutions

Not all calories are created equally – Take a look at these nutritional comparisons:


Protein bars can have their place (if it really is the only option available after a big strength session) but check the labels and try alternating with natural protein options as the majority.



Switch out the highly processed and inflammatory vegetable oils with alternatives such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Avocado. It will 100% taste better too.



Switch out refined white rice and swap for a more nutritious alternatives such as wholegrains and vegetables.



Be mindful of calories but be more aware of the quality of food you are eating. Often “healthy’ food labelled products can have more sugars and additives than chocolate or cakes. Check ingredients labels; if you can’t understand them than neither will your body.


Always choose the more natural alternatives; eat food that looks like food. Try these easy alternatives today (don’t wait for a new week!) and start making healthier food choices a habit.

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