As we learned last week, tracking your calories is one of the wisest decisions you can make. But it’s very easy to make mistakes while counting calories or trying to lose weight. A few missteps here and there, and the results fluctuate. If the results are not what you expect, you get disappointed, get off the routine and end up gaining weight instead of losing it. Here are some mistakes you should avoid.
Tracking calories without macro nutrients
For Delhi-based architect, Akhilesh Chaudhary, a 10 kg weight loss in two months occurred as soon as he planned his calorie deficit diet chart. But soon he realized he had started to look weak and felt drained out. Soon he hit a weight loss plateau.
“My body started using my muscles as source of energy while working out because I did not track my protein and carbs intake on daily basis. I was not fuelling myself with right kind of food and focused only on calorie deficit. I figured out that something is wrong and then started my research and understood the science of calories with macro tracking,” says Chaudhary.
Understand that your body needs basic amounts of each macro nutrient for it to function properly. Each of them—carbs, fats and proteins—have a role to play. A 60:25:15 ratio for these groups should do nicely for your daily diet.
Miscalculating your calorie intake
If you are not cooking your own food, there is almost no point of trying to track your calories, believes Goa-based nutrition coach and personal trainer, Alpha Madhu. The reason for this is simple, he says. “Just putting something like matar paneer on a calorie tracking app will not give you the correct numbers. It depends on things like how much oil you used, do you use a certain type of oil versus something else, are you adding other taste enhancing condiments etc.”
For this same reason, Madhu recommends weighing the individual ingredients to correctly count the calories instead of the final meal. This way you can figure out exactly how much the “two-spoon of oil” you put actually amounts to. Another tip Madhu gives is to never measure ghee and peanut butter by spoon but by weight. This is because ghee can become solid and pack much more in a spoon. Peanut butter too can pack a good amount of calories if it is dense and heaped on a spoon.
Miscalculating calories burnt
The other side of the argument is true as well. We often tend to think that we burn more calories while working out than we actually do. It also doesn’t help that none of the fitness wearables can actually track calories burnt acurately. In case we are working out or running in a group, sometimes we even ask friends how much they burnt and believe that we “must have burnt roughly the same”. Basically, much of what we do is imprecise. The amount of calories you burn depends on a range of factors including height, weight, age and heart rate. Eating to make up for calories we believe we have burnt means we can very well be off the mark by a huge margin.
Not reading nutrition labels
Guilty of this one myself. But how many people actually read the nutrition labels of any packaged food products they buy? Some easy hacks to read the labels? Look at how the ingredient list goes. The list usually names each of the ingredients in decreasing order of usage. So if it says sugar as the first or second item in the list itself, keep it back on the shelf. “Also, look at calories per serving size. Don’t overeat (no matter how tasty a snack is) and finish off the whole pack and then count it as one serving,” says Amita Salvi, HOD Dietetics department at Mumbai’s Saifee Hospital .
Forgetting the importance of hydration
Oh yes, you are eating healthy. But it’s not going to be enough if you’re dehydrated! In very crucial ways, water helps to flush toxins out of your system. Drinking enough water could also decrease your appetite (especially if you tend to munch too much on snacks in between meals). “When you are on any diet that recommends high fibre, it can lead to constipation. This can also have an impact on your skin and lead to acne. Drinking 14-15 glasses of water can help you keep these things in check,” explains Shweta Gupta, nutritionist and founder of online diet training website, New Beginnings.
Water is also necessary to metabolise fat. The first step in the metabolising process is called hydrolysis, which occurs when water molecules interact with triglycerides (fats) to create glycerol and fatty acids. A review published in the medical journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that increased hydration leads to body weight loss, mainly through a decrease in the urge to eat, and a loss of fat through increased lipolysis.
All of these are various factors that one must consider before actually starting on their weight loss journey. A few mistakes here and there are acceptable, and even expected. But the more you increase your awareness about nutrition, the better the results will be.