Why Calorie Counting Is A Waste Of Time

calories_counter_21747_1_1_730Most weight loss programs are based upon some sort of counting system. This normally shows up in the form of calories, points, grams etc.

While I am not disputing that calories are important I will stand by the fact that you can estimate your daily calories all you like, it’s probably nowhere near accurate.

Calories are energy that comes from our food. The technical definition is: the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kg of water by one degree Celsius. Fancy eh?

Below I am going to explain the top four reasons why calorie counting can leave you overweight, frustrated and burnt out.

Now, before we get into the fun of why calorie (or point) counting is meaningless, I first want to chat about the nutritional profile of “food”. I say food with quotations because if we have to look at a bunch of labels for ingredient lists, the item in question is probably not that close to food anyways ๐Ÿ˜›

So let’s talk food labels. You’re a health conscience person. You look at the macronutrient breakdown of a product before you buy it, right?

Food Label

But the kicker is, the macronutrient values on food labels are simply an approximation and not measured in a lab. The way the process works is a single result of a food test becomes the standard value for the database. Let’s look at the problems associated with food labels alone:


  • Resistance Starches/fibers
    • The human body does not get as much energy from resistant starches compared to the bomb calorimeter- often energy counts are overestimated
  • Outdated data
  • Imprecise testing methods
  • Product variety
  • Natural vs. Processed
    • Using a single test at a single point in time to describe all further batches seems insane
  • Growing conditions
  • Ripeness at time of harvest
  • Animal diets
  • Length of storage
  • Preparation and cooking time


With these factors alone, food labels can have an error margin of +/-25%… not exactly comforting.

calorie in vs outBut now, back to the point a hand. So you want to count calories to lose weight right? It’s simple, calories taken in must be less than calories expended to produce weight loss. Got it.


But let’s look a bit further…


  1. The calories in vs. Calories out method doesn’t touch upon quality.
    1. Under this mindset, consuming Twinkies instead of chicken breast is fine.. so long as your daily intake is in check. This is simply ridiculous logic. By placing an emphasis on the kind & quality of food you eat, chances are you won’t have to pay too much attention to caloric totals. Eat. Real. Food.
  2. Different foods react differently in your body.
    1. Again, the difference between Twinkies and chicken. Each food is unique in the way it breaks down within the body. This breakdown affects digestion rates, hormone release and ultimately the ability to lose fat and gain muscle.
  3. The type of food you eat can alter your daily expenditure.
    1. Think consuming small amounts of calories for long periods of time will result in sustained weight loss? Think again. Eating too little will cause a shift (a negative one) to your metabolism. Lack of quality calories will cause your metabolism rate to decrease and ultimately store nutrients instead of burning them. For a more in-depth look at this point, check out my blog “Why Dieting Makes You Fat”
  4. Counting calories is inconsistent.
    1. In addition to the fact that food labels are approximations, it is near impossible to determine your expenditure for the day as well (unless you are in a science lab 24/7)


So after all that work of meticulously counting calories what was accomplished? Most likely nothing sustainable. Learn to consume quality foods and your body will reward you with increased energy, a stable metabolism and a fair weight for your body type. Bedsides, who really wants to spend the next fifty years adding up their points for the day and wondering if the protein bar you ate earlier pushed you over the limit? Focus on the sustainable habits, not the temporary ones and save your time & sanity for better things.

Happy Eating ๐Ÿ™‚


Resources:ย  “Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition” Precision Nutrition by John Berardi & Ryan Andrews. “Metabolism Advantage” by John Berardi