Is Counting Calories Good for Weight Loss? | Time

You can say one thing for Professor Mark Haub : He knows how to make a example lodge. Haub, who teaches nutrition at Kansas State University, wanted to prove to his students that weight loss is just about calories. therefore, for 10 weeks, the professor proceeded to eat an 1,800-calorie diet dwell of a Twinkie every three hours. He besides dined on Doritos, Little Debbies, sugary cereal and other junk food.
When he started, Haub tipped the scales at 201 pounds, which for his height was considered fleshy. By the end of his snack-food spree, he had lost 27 pounds, putting him at a polished 174. The narrative went viral, with the media dubbing Haub ’ s eating design the Twinkie Diet.

undoubtedly some who heard the news eagerly stocked up on the spongy scandalmongering snacks. But Haub ’ s intention wasn ’ thyroxine to urge people to eat more Twinkies. The point, he said, was that he had consumed 800 fewer calories daily than the issue needed to maintain his weight. In other words, the key to weight control is counting calories : If you take in fewer than you burn, you lose weight. It ’ second that childlike. Haub ’ mho message has been standard advice for more than a century. According to many experts, it all boils down to straightforward mathematics : Calories in minus calories out. countless millions who struggle with their weight attentiveness this message, dutifully tracking their calorie intake. But finally many discover that all the count is in bootless. One reason is that calorie counts aren ’ thymine always accurate. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) allows numbers on nutrition labels to be off by angstrom much as 20 percentage, and normally the mistake is an undercount. That means, for exemplar, that methamphetamine cream claiming to have 180 calories per serving may actually have 215. Making matters worse is the far-flung trouble of unrealistic serve sizes. With ice cream, if you eat a cup ( a normal total ) preferably than 2/3 cup ( the common serve size ), you could be getting arsenic many as 325 calories alternatively of the 180 listed on the label. Listed calories may besides be ill-timed because of the way our bodies digest certain foods. Take almonds, for case. nutriment labels show them to have up to 170 calories per ounce. But this number doesn ’ thyroxine take into account the fact that almonds happen through the intestines partially undigested. As a resultant role, the body doesn ’ t absorb all 170 calories. The actual reckon, according to research, is 129—a goodly dispute. Accurate or not, calorie counts aren ’ t available for everything we eat, so we sometimes have to rely on our own estimates. And according to inquiry, these numbers are notoriously undependable. For case, in a view of 2,200 adults, consumers ’ guesses about calories in popular restaurant foods ranging from pancakes to onion rings undershot the reality by an average of 165 calories. unconscious biases can promote skew our calorie estimates. For case, there ’ s the “ health ring ” bias, which makes us more probably to underestimate calories in foods that are marketed as healthful. Online calculators, interim , can tell you how many calories you expend each day, but it ’ second at best an approximation. clothing devices are besides an option, but research shows that their results are undependable. Arriving at an accurate number is unmanageable because the calculation is complex, involving how much energy we need for basic functions like breathe and circulation at rest ( known as basal metabolic rate, or BMR ) ; how much we burn during casual activities and exercise ; and how much through digesting food ( the thermal effect of food ). A server of other factors, including age, sex, weight and body fatness, play a function. Given all the challenges of accurately calculating how many calories we need and how many we consume, it ’ s excessive to expect counting calories to be effective as a weight-loss scheme. Read more: 9 Common Myths About drill The difficulty is reason enough to shun calorie count. But there ’ s besides an even bigger problem : tally calories fails to take into report early variables that can affect how much we weigh.

As we reduce calories and lose weight, biological changes kick in to preserve body fatty and protect us from starvation. One such adaptation is a switch in metabolism. The body of a light person has a lower BMR than that of a heavier person. As we shed pounds, we burn even fewer calories than expected for a person of our reduce size—a phenomenon that scientists call adaptive thermogenesis. In perfume, our bodies become more fuel efficient, making it increasingly unmanageable to shed more pounds and to maintain weight loss with the lapp number of calories. unfortunately, this evolutionary endow, designed to keep us active in times of scarcity, international relations and security network ’ metric ton something we can switch off or send back when we don ’ t need it. Our genetic makeup besides affects burden regulation. As evidence, look no further than those madden people who apparently can eat whatever they want and never gain an ounce. conventional wisdom has it that such individuals are blessed with “ full genes, ” and inquiry involving twins shows genes do affect how our bodies respond to calories. In one sketch, for example, researchers observed 12 pairs of male identical twins for four months, supervising their every motivate. ( Yes, the twins agreed to this ! ) The subjects were fed 1,000 calories a day more than their normal consumption, and physical natural process was limited. As you would expect, they gained slant. But the amount varied, ranging from about 10 to 30 pounds. What ’ s more, the remainder in the amount of system of weights gained was a lot smaller between twins in a pair than among unlike twin pairs. In other words, twins in each pair experienced relatively exchangeable increases in burden, suggesting that genetic factors influence how easily we put on pounds. alike research suggests genetics affects how easily we lose weight angstrom good. yet another possible subscriber to weight unit is the mix of microbes in our gut. This community of bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, known as the microbiota, helps break down food and extract energy from it. Studies show that the microbiota of corpulent people differs from that of lean individuals. Though this research is still in its infancy, it suggests that two people can eat the lapp sum of the same food and feel different effects on their weight unit depending on the makeup of their microbiota. Those whose catgut microbe harvest more energy from food may be more likely to pack on pounds because it ’ s the calories we absorb—as opposed to the ones we ingest—that matter when it comes to our weight. Read more: Fast Food Calorie Content Has steadily Increased Over the by 30 Years Counting calories can be effective for burden loss in the shortstop condition, and it may work long term for some. But for the huge majority of people, it finally not lone fails but besides can do injury. For starters, it can detract from the pleasure of eating, turning meals into a long-winded practice of tallying and food deliberation. This act can be nerve-racking and may contribute to an insalubrious relationship with food that makes it even harder to achieve and maintain a healthy weight unit. What ’ s more, calorie compulsion can lead to food choices and eating habits that undermine your health. not all calories are the same—50 calories of broccoli doesn ’ t equal 50 calories of gelatin beans—and a low-calorie diet is not inevitably a healthy one. Focusing only on calories can result in excessively little of things your body needs and excessively much of things it doesn ’ t need. so what ’ s the alternative ? While it ’ mho good to keep a general eye on calories, wear ’ t fixate on them. rather, pay attention to the overall timbre of your diet, emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seafood and lean meats, while minimizing highly processed foods such as chips, cookies, fried foods and sugary beverages. To say our bodies ’ weight-regulation mechanisms are complex is an understatement. After many decades of research, there ’ sulfur distillery much that scientists don ’ metric ton understand. So it defies logic that a bare food-scoring arrangement conceived in the nineteenth century should be adequate for capturing this complexity. Yet calorie consider and calorie mathematics continue to be mainstays of weight-loss efforts. It is not surprising that our society ’ s preoccupation with this inadequate and erring metric function has yielded such poor results. What is storm is that we nevertheless continue to give it so a lot weight.

Adapted from Supersized Lies : How Myths About Weight Loss Are Keeping Us Fat – and the truth About What Really Works by Robert J. Davis. Copyright © 2021 by Robert J. Davis. Reprinted by permission of Everwell Books. Contact us at letters @ time.com.

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