When it comes to calories, surprisingly enough, it is not all about the actual food we ingest.
Calories in vs calories out is a well-known (and logic) rule in the world of dieting. However, not all the calories are processed the same within our bodies, and there are other external factors that can have a big impact in the actual calories we ingest.
So if you feel you are eating “healthier” or moving more, but still not seeing results in the scale, bear in mind the following six factors:
- The weather
Yep, the weather. Cold weather makes our body work harder to keep the body temperature still, and this means that we do burn slightly more calories in cold weather than hot weather. Shivering is one obvious reason, but so is tensing and contracting our muscles due to the chilly weather. This means that the environment do matter more than we think.
- Your height and weight
The bigger you are, aka the more space you occupy, the more calories you will burn. Our height and weight directly influences our basal metabolic rate (BMR). Our BMR determines the number of calories we burn simply by staying alive, this is the energy used by your internal organs to do their everyday job. That is why, if you check your BMR on one of the many online calculators, you will notice how your daily calorie requirement is higher the higher your height or weight is.
- You age
It is not just your impression… it is a fact. The older we are the slower our metabolic rate is and, therefore, the slower we take to burn calories. Once we hit our 20s, our BMR decreases to around 1-2% per decade, which equals to 150 calories each decade. So by the time you are 40, you effectively need 300 calories less a day, 600 less when we you are in your 60s and so on. Not only our cells are in growing mode when we are young, but our muscle mass percentage tends to be higher too, with both of these factors being big calorie burners.
- Your gender
Nature can be cruel and picky yes. Again, it is not our imagination ladies, men burn calories quicker than us, this is another fact. The reason behind this unfair reality is that men have generally a higher muscle percentage than women, whose bodies naturally have more fat. Female fat is nature’s way to ensure a woman’s body will have enough storage when it comes to procreating, it is genetic and there is nothing we can do.
Because fat is more static than muscle – it is a “simpler” material let’s say – and therefore needs less energy to stay alive. Muscle, in contrast, full of blood vessels and different tissues, consumes more calories. This means that basically, the more muscle, the quicker our ingested calories will burn – and the good news is that this applies to both men and women.
- Your cooking method
The way we cook has a massive and direct impact to the quality of the food we eat. It is not the same eating a carrot boiled, raw, steamed, roasted or fried. For example, continuing with the carrot example, a boiled carrot has more sugar (and therefore more calories) than a raw carrot. The same happens with many other veggies and starchy foods, the more heat we apply to them the more vitamins are lost and the more sugary they become. Heat makes food easily digestible, true, but also changes the chemistry of its composition, making the carbs more easily available and turning them into simpler sugars.
When is comes to optimising nutrients and reducing unnecessary calories, raw, steamed, stir-tried tend to be best methods of cooking.
- The time of the day
Oh yes, this too. There many studies who have proven that our circadian rhythm is programmed to start the day with energy and burn the most calories the first half of the day. The saying “Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, Dinner Like a Pauper” was not invented for not reason. Not only we burn more calories during the day (when our body and mind are active) and less during the night (when we are obviously sleeping), but it has been also proven that the exact same amount of calories can make someone fatter if these are eaten at night in comparison to the same amount been eaten the first half of the day – as explained in the fascinating book The Circadian Code: Lose weight, supercharge your energy and sleep well every night.