Well, there are a few more factors to consider when it comes to calorie counting in order to shrink your waistline. For one thing, not all calories are created equal.
“Calories matter when it comes to weight loss and maintenance, and in order to lose weight, you must take in less energy than you expend,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “And how much energy you burn each day is dependent on your metabolic rate, as well as your physical activity.”
She further explains that part of your metabolic rate is determined by the number of calories you burn during digestion. “This is where the calorie equation becomes tricky,” continues Palinski-Wade. “A calorie from a simple to digest source—for example, a calorie from a simple sugar, like soda—can be converted into energy easily. Therefore, your body won’t have to burn much energy at all to utilize and store energy coming from a simple sugar.”
However, a calorie that derives from a resistant starch (such as fiber-rich pulses, like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas) or from lean protein are harder for the body to breakdown and convert into energy. “And this means more energy will be burnt up during the digestion of these foods, increasing the total amount of calories you burn during the day.”
Palinski-Wade breaks it down with numbers: For example, if you consume a 1,600 calorie diet rich in simple sugars, an estimated 100 calories would be needed to digest this food. “But if your diet is made up of 1,600 calories from fiber and protein-rich foods, you may burn closer to 300 calories during digestion,” she states. “And that difference in calorie expenditure during digestion can have a big impact on body weight over time.”
Also, calories count when it comes to hunger and satiety. Palinski-Wade refers to a study published in the journal Nutrition Journal, which concluded that pea proteinwas more effective at starving off hunger than whey protein. “And if the majority of your calories come from simple sugars, like Twinkies, you will most likely be left feeling hungry and unsatisfied, which will impact your ability to keep weight off long term—not to mention the negative health impact of consuming all of those empty calories and added sugars,” she says.