In the battle to lose weight, enemy number one seems obvious enough: calories. But did you know that not all calories are the same and many are really your friends?
In fact, calorie is only the measure that expresses the energetic power of food; that is, it indicates the amount of fuel that we inject into our body.
And that means that if you want to lose weight by reducing the number of calories you eat, you must first get an idea of how many calories you need to work every day.
The answer will depend largely on your age, size and physical activity levels, but the Internet is full of calculators that can help you get your starting point clear.
Then, if you’re overweight, the recommendation from public health agencies is to try to drop between 0.5 and 1 kilo every week to a healthy weight. And, for that, the magic figure is between 500 and 600 kilocalories per day less than your body requires.
Count or be conscious?
Now, while more and more menus and labels tell you how many calories are in what you eat, counting calories can be tedious and boring.
And while the many smartphone applications designed for this purpose can help, the best thing to do is to simply be aware of them.
600 kilocalories, for example, are those that usually provide a good breakfast. But a piece of apple pie and a chocolate, eaten in the middle of the morning because you didn’t have breakfast, can easily add up to that figure.
A 500 ml glass of cola soda has 200 calories, a 370 chocolate croissant and a Big Mac burger at least 540 calories.
And remember that if you’re consuming more calories than your body needs, an extra 500 to 600 calories a day will make you gain up to one kilo a week.
All of this means that the best way to cut calories is to acquire habits that help reduce your number naturally.
For example, replace sugary drinks with water, sweets and cakes with fruit, and favor fiber-rich foods.
Calories from fiber
In fact, Coca Cola and its similar products carry an average of 10 tablespoons of sugar per can, so for each one you stop drinking, you will reduce your daily kilocalorie consumption by 140.
While if you change a chocolate bar (240 kilocalories) for an apple (60), you’ll be saving 180.
And if you really want to lose weight, it’s not enough to think about the number of calories you eat, but also where they come from, because the calories in processed sugar are digested very quickly.
Indeed, that means that the energetic effect of drinks, sweets and snacks lasts very little, making us feel hungry again soon after.
While bread and black rice, brown pasta, fruit and other natural foods that are rich in fiber are digested much more slowly, so your energy intake lasts longer and you feel full.
The way our digestive tract works makes not all calories equal.
We absorb most of the calories in our food, but the fiber is different: we only absorb half of the calories it contains.
The rest goes without being digested, and some fiber also absorbs water which contributes to the feeling of fullness that makes us not want to continue eating. And this is more useful than trying to burn off extra calories by running, because exercise usually burns fewer calories than you think.