When it comes to losing weight or building muscles, the amount of calories you eat is one of the most common metrics you’ll find talked about. Unfortunately, this simply is not a good metric for tracking and improving performance.
A calorie is just a unit of measurement for energy. One single calorie is equivalent to the amount of energy you would need in heat to raise the temperature of one gram of water one single degree Celsius.
That energy is then converted into food and measured to see how much energy you’re taking into your body.
However, this kind of measurements doesn’t take into account many of the crucial factors that actually determine how much weight you gain or lose.
It’s Not What You Eat, It’s What’s in Your Body
One often overlooked aspect of calorie counting is the measurement of how many of the calories you eat actually end up in your blood stream.
Two people could eat the same meal and have completely different amounts of fats, vitamins, minerals and toxins absorbed by the body.
One person may take in a lot of the fat and gain weight as a result, while another person could eat the same meal and have the fats pass right through his body.
In this case, what matters really isn’t how many calories you’re eating, but how many calories are absorbed.
It Leaves Out the Quality of the Food
Of course, measuring calories completely leaves out the measurement of the food quality.
Is a calorie of ice cream the same as a calorie from organic lean meat chicken? Just a few decades ago, health experts would have said “yes.” Today however, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Where your calories come from play a much larger role in determining whether you gain weight or lose weight than most people imagine.
There are many other metrics you can use to track your progress.
One of the best metrics is your body fat percentage. If your body fat percentage is going up, then there’s probably something your dietary habits that you need to change. If it’s going down, you’re probably doing something right.
Keep a food journal and write down everything you eat. Then compare what you ate to the fluctuations in your body fat percentage. This information can help you identify which kinds of meals result in better results for your body.
This is a much more effective approach than measuring raw calories, which have a different effect on different people.
Another metric you can use is BMI. While the BMI equation isn’t perfect, for the majority of people it can provide a very good indicator of overall muscle health.
In short, calories really have limited use for someone who’s looking to build muscle or lose weight. It simply leaves too much information out to be useful. Instead, try using other metrics that actually give you data that can help you follow the correct course.