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Nobody Counts Calories Any More – So Do Calories Really Matter?

The secret to losing weight used to be simple: Eat less calories. But with the advent of Instagram-worthy meals (think: avocado toast, berry smoothie bowls), and more and more research on the effects of macro nutrients on weight loss, counting calories is trending down. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about calories – it just means we have to think smarter about them.

What research says about calories?

There’s a growing camp against counting calories. And, some have called calories a myth and even a diet con. Diet trends feature a big focus on food quality, over food quantity. But, if you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that it’s a complicated process.

Whether your goal is to add muscle or slim down, know that there is a relationship between calories coming in and going out of your body. And there are other factors, such as metabolism, food quality, hormones, exercise intensity and so much more. And don’t forget about body weight, activity level, too.

Should you give up on counting calories?

Calories do matter, but to use them smartly in a weight loss program (or even a bulk-up program), you need to understand how calories work.

Our bodies use food for energy. We’re burning calories all the time. Even when sitting, we still we burn calories. Our bodies use calories for normal bodily functions. And when we move, we burn more calories. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle will always be important.

Everything you need to know about calories – simply put

There is a very tangible relationship between calories and body weight:

  • Maintain weight: Eat the same amount of calories the body requires to burn.
  • Gain weight: Eat more calories, the extra calories will be stored in the body as fat.
  • Lose weight: Eat less calories than the body burns to create a deficit.

Of course, the relationship between food and the body is more complicated than this, as I explained above. But, as a rule of thumb, you can think of calories in this way.

How to calories burn with exercise

Your body burns energy, but it burns more energy with exercise and an active lifestyle. Both aerobic and non-aerobic exercises (think cardio and strength training) make the body burn more calories.

When exercising, your metabolism briefly increases to compensate for the exertion of calories – and the more active you are the more often your metabolism speeds up.

Your body begins using calories to support metabolic increases and muscle tissue repair used from exercise. And that is why you’ll hear about how intense exercises, like HIIT will burn calories hours after the workout’s complete.

Caloric intake varies for everyone. That’s based on fitness goals, activity levels, age, weight, gender, hormones, inflammation and medical conditions and medications. It’s tough to figure out your calorie needs without the help of a fitness expert, like a certified personal trainer. Especially, if you’re trying to figure out how many calories your body needs to reach a fitness or weight-loss goal. Calorie calculators can help to estimate your caloric needs. Then you can track your how many calories you eat and how many you burn, which can then be adjusted, accordingly to your goals, whether it’s weight gain or weight loss.

A lifestyle with a regular training regimen and eating healthfully will help balance the calories in and calories out. So, calories do matter, if you think about them in the right way.