Don't waste your time getting wrapped around the axle tracking caloric intake and expenditure. Unless you're a seasoned bodybuilder or fitness competitor, paying particular attention to how many calories you consume and burn is not necessary. Why? Because most of the data of calorie values on food labels and published literature is inaccurate.
Here are factors that cause errors in calorie intake:
- Nutrition label values are based on average laboratory measurements
- Our bodies do not absorb all of the calories we eat
- Food preparation affects calorie loads
- Gut bacteria affects calorie absorption
- People usually underestimate portion sizes
- Published calorie burn values are based on imprecise laboratory measurements
- Fitness tracker devices and gym cardio machines do not provide accurate caloric expenditure values
- People burn calories uniquely based on genetics, body type, body composition, hormone levels, lifestyle, etc.
- Macronutrient consumption affects calorie burning (i.e., protein burns more calories for digestion than carbs and fat)
- Adaptive thermogenesis in which your body adapts to a particular caloric intake affects metabolic rate
BOTTOM LINE: Tracking caloric intake and expenditure is, in most instances, not necessary. Most people are not bodybuilders nor fitness competitors and therefore do not need to track every morsel of food that passes their lips. Likewise, no need to be obsessed with how many calories you burn. Tracking caloric intake and expenditure is imprecise and variable. It is not an exact science. Rather than being overly concerned with the absolute calorie values, it would be more wise to be aware of the relative calorie values. If you're trying to lose weight, eat 250 calories less from your baseline caloric intake per week. If you're trying to gain weight, eat 250 calories more from your baseline caloric intake per week. The important thing is that you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and enjoy life.
Brian Danley, CFT
"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."