The Truth About Calorie Counting

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Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska

Article by: Sila Kurtoglu

Tracking calories isn’t for everyone, especially if you have a history of eating disorders, so we have to be mindful of people’s mental health when recommending it. However, it isn’t an obsessive tool as it’s often accused of either. Let’s look at it this way, if you want to save to buy something it makes sense to balance the books and work out your income vs your expenditures.

Saving a certain amount of money vs what you earn isn’t obsessive, it’s smart. And that’s what calorie tracking is; we’re just balancing the books – because there may be too much spending going on vs what you’re earning.

To translate the metaphor for my readers, if you eat more than you burn you will gain weight/muscle (Surplus), if you eat less than you burn you will lose weight (Deficit). For example;

Calorie Deficit. Essential for weight loss.

CALORIES IN
2,000 Calories Consumed

CALORIES OUT
2,500 Calories Burned

500 calories that will be burnt from fat or muscle Stored as fat or muscle

Calorie Surplus. Essential for muscle gain.

CALORIES IN
2,500 Calories Consumed

CALORIES OUT
2,000 Calories Burned

500 leftover calories
stored as fat or muscle

Tracking calories is something we implement to improve daily habits and awareness of the energy you’re consuming and then understanding how that compares to the energy you’re burning each day. After a while you’ll intuitively understand what contributes to your goals and what doesn’t. ⁣

Can you eat too little to lose weight?

The above teaches us to recognise whether the energy we’re eating is greater or less than the energy we’re burning. If your goal is to lose weight, I recommend being in a deficit of about 15% (similarly if your goal is to gain muscle, I recommend being in a surplus of about 15%). Here’s the thing, YOU DO NOT need to go beyond this! So to answer the question – yes, you can eat too little to lose weight.

As you know by now, the most effective way of losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you expend, but if your calorie intake dips TOO low, your metabolism starts to slow down, burning calories as slowly as possible to conserve its energy. Some people call this “starvation mode” but it isn’t the case.

In the short term a reduction in energy intake is counteracted by mechanisms that reduce metabolic rate and increase calorie intake, ensuring the regaining of lost weight. For example, even a year after dieting, hormonal mechanisms that stimulate appetite are raised. Over a million calories are consumed a year yet weight changes to only a small extent; there must be mechanisms that balance energy intake and expenditure.

Eating too few calories can be the start of a vicious cycle that causes diet distress, and in addition to sabotaging your weight-loss efforts, by eating too few calories you are at increased risk of:

  • Abnormally low blood pressure and slow heart rate
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities
  • Gallstones
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle fingernails
  • Loss of menstrual periods in women
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anaemia
  • Swelling in your joints
  • Brittle bones
  • Depression

Please be mindful of calorie counting and if you’re ever in doubt, contact me. I write these articles to educate and help; I am always here to consult free of charge, because I am passionate adequately understanding your health and fitness journey.

Any questions?

Please get in touch today either by my contact page or via Instagram.
IG: @sk_personaltraining

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