The calorie has been around since the 1820s when it was first defined by physicist and chemist Nicolas Clément.
Several years later, American chemist Wilbur Atwater (1844-1907), known for his studies in human nutrition, invented a machine called the respiration calorimeter and used it in extensive studies to determine the metabolic dynamics of energy input and output in humans. And we’ve been counting calories ever since.
These scientists determined a value for fats, carbohydrates and proteins and how much energy it takes to burn 1 gram of each:
- 1 gram carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram protein = 4 calories
While we’ve come to rely on this system to help us plan our menus, this research is over 200 years old. So exactly how accurate is it? And is it time we considered an alternative more accurate method?
There are several factors that neither Clément nor Atwater considered in their calculations. The one most important factor is the number of calories it takes to digest food. Other factors include:
- The texture of food
- The fiber content of food
- How it’s cooked
- The protein density of food
- The effect of chewing, which starts to break down food before it enters the stomach
The harder your body has to work to digest food, the more calories it burns. So, experts are now saying that those nutrition analysis panels that we’ve come to rely on so much can be off by as much as 25%.
But before you throw in the towel, there are numerous studies that prove the efficacy of calorie counting and its success on weight loss. The more important issue here is that you recognize portion control and that you don’t become dependent on counting calories, because that’s just setting you up for an unhealthy relationship with food. Knowing what foods are healthy and that it’s better to get your carbohydrates from sources like fruits, veggies, beans, legumes and nuts (natural sources) will help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off in the long term.
Originally published @ FITLODE.COM