Despite all the diet strategies out there, weight management still comes down to the calories you take in versus those you burn off. Calories are the energy in food.

Your body has a constant demand for energy and uses the calories from food to keep functioning. Energy from calories fuels your every action, from fidgeting to marathon running.

After researching this topic, some studies were found which supported tracking calories for various reasons for weight loss.

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In March 2014, The Society for Endocrinology presented a study that suggests counting calories is all that really matters when it comes to losing weight.

Findings from the study revealed that whether the participants ate two meals or five meals a day had no effect on how many calories were burned.

Over a 24-hour period, they burned the same number of calories when they ate both numbers of meals.

You may remember in March 2014, an associate professor of nutrition at Kansas State University, my alma mater, made headlines when he lost 27 pounds after two months of living on Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Little Debbie’s, and other convenience-store snack cakes.

The experiment reinforced the calories-in/calories-out equation: If you drastically cut back—as he did, from 2,600 to 1,800 calories per day—you will lose weight, no matter how nutrient-deprived your diet may otherwise be. Anyone who knows what calories are—units of energy—knows this to be so.

Carbohydrates, fats and proteins are the types of nutrients that contain calories and are the main energy sources for your body. Regardless of where they come from, the calories you eat are either converted to physical energy or stored within your body as fat.

These stored calories will remain in your body as fat unless you use them up, either by reducing calorie intake so that your body must draw on reserves for energy, or by increasing activity so that you burn more calories.

Your weight is a balancing act, but the equation is simple: If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight.

Although carbs don’t have the best reputation among some dieting communities, you don’t have to avoid carbs to successfully shed pounds. In fact, getting too few carbs can drain your energy – and therefore hinder your weight-loss efforts.

Following general carb recommendations, while reducing your overall calorie intake, is the key to safely dropping weight.

Weight-Loss Calories

Burning an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day means you may not have to reduce your calorie intake to shed pounds.

Effective weight loss often requires reducing your current intake by 500 to 1,000 calories daily, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Recommended overall calorie intakes for weight loss range from 1,000 to 1,600 calories daily for women and 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day for many men, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Individualized calorie needs for weight loss vary based on your initial body weight and activity level. Burning an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day means you may not have to reduce your calorie intake to shed pounds.

Eat More Protein

is calorie counting effective2

Protein is a key component of weight loss because it increases satiety and energy expenditure. One reason some low-carb, high-protein diets work for weight loss is because of elevated protein intakes. Protein is a key component of weight loss because it increases satiety and energy expenditure.

Though protein-rich foods – such as lean meats, egg whites and soy products – are helpful for reducing your calorie intake for successful weight loss, meeting your minimum carb requirements of 130 grams daily is also important to prevent nutrient deficiencies and fatigue.

Low-fat milk is another source of healthy carbs, protein and calcium.

Though it’s fine to cut out unhealthy carbs – such as added sugars, sweets, candy, sodas and other sugary drinks – many carb-containing foods are packed with essential nutrients your body requires on a day-to-day basis.

Examples include fiber-rich nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and vegetables.

Fiber is a type of carb that boosts satiety and isn’t entirely absorbed by your body. Low-fat milk is another source of healthy carbs, protein and calcium.

But what’s the reality of dieters who like or dislike counting calories every day?

If someone is told by a health professional to start counting calories for a weight loss program, and they stop doing it after a week because it’s just too timing consuming or just not their personality, then calorie counting won’t work.

What works is what works for the individual. Any healthcare professional involved in weight loss should be trained in coaching and motivational interviewing to find out what works best.

Sometimes, they may find out the person just isn’t ready for the huge lifestyle change and not motivated enough.

This calorie consciousness is a good and a bad thing. Most Americans do need to cut back on calories. Balancing energy in and energy out (which brings in the whole question of exercise) is critical to solving the obesity crisis. But calorie counting per se is tedious and may only be utilized temporarily.

So then, post weight loss, what happens? Will you go back to old habits or did you learn how to minimize high calorie foods.

This is where the lifestyle change approach comes in. Most people who were overweight/obese most of their adult life have to still make a conscious effort to make healthy food choices to prevent weight gain.

Even then, if weight creeps back, calorie counting may get one back on track.

One more research study which is well published and used is that by The National Weight Control Registry in 2005 stating that their findings suggest six key strategies for long-term success at weight loss are:

1) engaging in high levels of physical activity
2) eating a diet that is low in calories and fat
3) eating breakfast
4) self-monitoring weight on a regular basis
5) maintaining a consistent eating pattern
6) catching “slips” before they turn into larger regains

National Weight Control Registry members have lost an average of 72 pounds and maintained the loss for more 5 years. They also add that weight loss maintenance may get easier over time.

They have to continually adhere to diet and exercise strategies, and they report low levels of depression. Take a look at the success story section, it’s quite inspiring, http://nwcr.ws/stories.htm.

The proof is definitely in the pudding.

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