How effective is Calorie tracking in weight loss?
The obesity epidemic is speedily covering the whole world. The root cause of obesity as stated by the World Health Organization is an energy imbalance between calorie intake and calories burnt.
To regulate Calories, wearable fitness bands and mobile sensors are experiencing tremendous growth over the past decade, their potential in tracking calories and logging nutrition has emerged promptly over the past three years. So let's get you familiar with its effectiveness.
Recalling the term ‘Calorie’
We get energy from the food we consume in the form of calories. The calorie requirement varies with age, size, height, lifestyle, gender, overall health, and activity level.
Simultaneously, Calories are also used to describe the amount of energy your body spends to carry out physical activities including breathing, thinking, and maintaining a heartbeat.
According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, women require 1600-2400 calories, men require 2,000 to 3,000 calories while infants require 1,000 calories in a day.3
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, on an average, 2400 Cal per day is required in the rural areas and 2100 Cal is required in urban areas.2
If the Calories required per day exceed the normal range, it can lead to a calorie deficit, and obstruct the weight loss.
Understanding the fate of Calories in the body
A calorie is a vital asset for energy and is derived from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats we consume in our daily routine.
Here is the list of Calories contributed by these macronutrients:
Calories / gm
9 (maximum calories)
60 % -70 % of these calories primarily contribute to managing the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)of the body.
BMR is the minimum amount of energy in terms of calories, the body utilizes for the primary functioning of all body parts including blood circulation, breathing, digestion, and regulating body temperature at the resting phase. BMR assessment helps to evaluate the estimated calories your body requires for the healthy functioning of all body parts and consequently determines your body’s metabolic age. Accordingly, you can restrict your calorie intake to shed some extra pounds.
Your BMR depends upon your weight, height, age, gender, and genetics. It usually declines with age.
Another corresponding parameter, Metabolic age is your body’s age, which is different from your actual chronological age. It depends upon your activity levels, eating habits, energy levels, sleep patterns, stress levels, and weight management for the past several years. The metabolic rate of these activities stays quite active in growing years and declines with age.
Metabolic age less than your actual age is a positive sign. It indicates that you have a faster metabolism than normal, which favors calorie consumption. Whereas a slow metabolism than normal promotes calorie accumulation, leading to weight gain and related disorders.
If your metabolic age is higher than your actual age, then you probably need to speed up your fitness regimen and switch to healthy eating habits followed by a regular health assessment of your body.
How Calorie Imbalance causes Obesity?
To maintain healthy balanced bodyweight, ‘calories in should equal calories out. Therefore, if you are gaining weight then probably you are either eating too much or moving too little. To lose weight you would have to eat less and move more.
The excess calories from foods that we consume are stored in the form of glycogen in muscle and fat in adipose tissues. Therefore, all the excess calories promote Obesity.
On average, a woman should eat 2000 calories per day to maintain weight, and limit her Calorie intake to 1500 or less to lose one pound per week. For males, the average intake should be 2500 calories per day or limit Calorie intake to 2000 to lose one pound per week. 9
Some people with an active lifestyle can maintain a healthy weight without a Calorie count. While for others with a sedentary lifestyle, Calorie tracking devices are an effective and recommended way to consciously consume, burn, and maintain Calorie deficit.
How does counting calories work for weight loss?
Physical inactivity is a modifiable risk factor for a wide variety of chronic diseases, including Cardiovascular, Diabetes, cancer (colon and breast), Obesity, Hypertension, Bone and Joint diseases, gallbladder disease, gallstones, fertility problems, fatty liver, Sleep Apnea, and Depression. 9 Somehow, all these diseases are interlinked.
A person who is overweight is also predisposed to Diabetes, Cardiovascular, Hypertension, and joint issues.
To cope with these health conditions, physical activity of any form is recommended for weight loss. However, people living in megacities face barriers to being physically active, one of them being a lack of time. Due to this, many of us cannot implement a healthy routine. This is where Calorie tracking apps provide convenience.
Current technologies include websites and smartphone apps that allow us to track Calorie intake throughout the day, along with activity monitors and smart scales that sync with these websites/apps. These technologies in combination, allow us to keep a record of vitals such as body weight, Calorie intake, and calories burnt during physical activity.
Tracking Calories keeps us attentive to what we are eating and influences the brain to make a purposeful decision to eat low-calorie items. Besides, the guilt of logging any unhealthy extra snack will help improve eating disorders and purging related disorders, if taken positively.
A lot of findings favor that calorie tracking in combination with physical exercise is most effective for weight loss.
The weight-loss interventions through Calorie tracking are designed to increase physical activity, and reduce daily calorie intake with a modified diet.
In a case study, conducted on 225 overweight and Obese, self-monitoring patterns for weight loss such as weight tracking, activity tracking, and food logging were demonstrated with the outcome that weight loss was more consistent and effective for those who were logging their meals in self-monitoring devices.1
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Calories in terms of health
For sustainable health, the source of calories is more important than the total Calorie intake. In terms of healthy and unhealthy Calories, foods high in energy but low in nutritional value provide useless calories. Consequently, weight loss with empty Calories can make you vulnerable to malnutrition if you focus on just accomplishing daily Calories intake.
For instance, your daily Calorie intake is 2000 Calories per day but your diet is high in glycemic index, unhealthy dietary fat, free sugars, and sodium but low in dietary fibers, micronutrients, essential nutrients, and micronutrients. This will elevate your blood sugars, resulting in increased insulin spikes and increased fat storage. This will positively add to obesity.
Therefore, make sure to plan your diet with minimally processed, low sugar, nutrient-rich foods rather than just achieving a daily calorie count.
The Calories from Alcohol should be limited the most, as it contains empty calories. They have no nutritional value, body can actually use for energy. It simply causes weight gain without adding nutrients to the body.
Furthermore, tracking Calories with Nutrition apps also makes you aware of the Nutritional value of your meals beyond just counting Calories.8
It is advisable to choose a Calorie tracking app that is based on National guidelines and culturally relevant food database of India that will relate to your daily consumption.10
DrTrust360 is a promising all-in-one dietary and fitness app designed according to Indian needs.