Counting Calories...Still Stupid!

Do you count calories? I hope not. I don’t. Big waste of time if you ask me, but, I’m just a dopey blogger, what do I know? Here Dr. Fuhrman talks about calorie-counting:
With calorie-counting and point-counting and having to weigh, measure, and calculate amounts eaten, you are following a diet. Who wants to diet and measure portions forever? I enjoy eating. I eat the way I advise all my patients to do, yet I am not overweight. Why? I enjoy eating lots of great tasting stuff and not having to worry about my weight or my health. Intellectually, I know that I am doing the right thing to prevent heart disease and other medical problems from developing in my future. Dieting and measuring out thimble-sized portions of food for the rest of one's life is not something that fits in naturally and permanently into anyone's lifestyle.
And it seems those calorie-counting meters on gym equipment are no better. In fact, many experts think they’re pretty inaccurate. Gina Kolata of The New York Times reports:
You can use your heart rate to gauge your effort, and from that you can plan routines that are as challenging as you want. But, researchers say, heart rate does not translate easily into calories. And you may be in for a rude surprise if you try to count the calories you think you used during exercise and then reward yourself with extra food.

One reason for the calorie-count skepticism is that two individuals of the same age, gender, height, weight and even the same level of fitness can burn a different amount of calories at the same level of exertion.

Claude Bouchard, an obesity and exercise researcher who directs the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., found that if, for example, the average number of calories burned with an exercise is 100, individuals will burn anywhere from 70 to 130 calories.

Part of that is genetic and part is familiarity with the exercise. The more familiar you are with an exercise, the fewer calories you use at the same level of effort, he found in a research study. Subjects rode stationary bicycles six days a week for 12 weeks. They ended up burning 10 percent fewer calories at a given level of effort after their training. The reason, he said, is that people perform an exercise more efficiently as they become more accustomed to it.

There also is a seldom mentioned complication in calculating calories burned during exercise: you should subtract off the number of calories you would be using if you did nothing. Almost no one does that, Dr. Bouchard said. But for moderate exercise, the type most people do, subtracting the resting metabolic rate can eliminate as much as 30 percent of the calories you think you used, he added.

Resting metabolic rates, though, differ from individual to individual and also differ depending on age, gender, body mass, body composition and level of fitness, so guessing at your resting rate also is fraught with error.
Personally, I could care less what those meters read. I go for duration and intensity. Whatever the calories will be, will be—how about you?
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Kelli - May 4, 2008 12:37 PM

I realize there can be many discrepencies involved with counting calories, however, when I first began to eat for health and losing weight I became a scale whore. I got on the scale every day and was rewarded with a lower number every day. I intially lost 60 lbs in six months just from eating right, but then I plataued. I kept the weight off but wasn't exercising. After two years, I finally got down to business. I began to work out 6 days a week and was firming up but was not losing pounds. I started really getting depressed and felt defeated. After working with friends and my gym, I realized muscle weighs more than fat and so while I was getting healthier and firmer I was staying at the same weight. I no longer get on the scale daily, only about once a week. I rely heavily on the calorie counter on my treadmill and my arcglider but only to keep me accountable. I do two days straight cardio 30 min on arcglider 30 min on treadmill and then a day of strength training. On my cardio days I burn between 500 to 650 calories. I have done research and think I burn about 400 calories on my strength training day. I do this 6 days a week. I have noticed the calorie counts change from day to day but I use them as a way to up my intensity when i notice they change dramatically.

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