Four Calorie Myths Busted

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Blog, Nutrition
nutrition facts

You don’t have to talk to very many people about weight loss before you get all sorts of advice on how to burn more calories and consume less. But a lot of that advice seems contradictory: ‘skip breakfast’, ‘always eat a good breakfast’; ‘get a high-intensity workout’, ‘workout at a slow steady pace’.

So what’s the truth if you are serious about counting calories as part of a weight management program? Many of the accepted ‘truths’ of weight loss are either not really true, or at least not true for everyone. It means there are lots of myths about calories out there:

Myth 1: Grazing helps you reduce calories

The idea is that, because eating raises your metabolism, eating throughout the day, or at least in six smaller meals instead of three larger ones, will keep your metabolism high and burn more calories.

However, a University of Missouri study found significantly less fat in the blood of women who ate three meals than in the blood of women who ate the same number of calories spread out over six meals. (

Overgrazing: When you eat throughout the day, you give yourself more opportunity to overeat. Once we start eating, we tend to eat until we are full. If we don’t eat enough in each of the smaller meals, there’s the risk you’ll eat more to avoid the hunger pangs.

Myth 2: Some Foods Have ‘Negative’ Calories

Many of the more pervasive myths sound really good in theory. In this case, the myth is that some foods, like celery, are so low in calories that you burn more calories in eating and digesting the celery than it actually contains.

Not true. First, you don’t burn that many calories while eating and digesting. Second, there is no food so low in calories that you burn more eating it than it contains.

Myth 3: All Calories are the Same

Calories are a measure of energy, so we assume when we talk about food calories, they represent the same amount of energy and affect us the same way.

It’s true that the energy in 500 calories of chocolate cake is the same as the energy in 500 calories of carrots. But there is a significant difference in how our bodies handle those calories.

The calories in processed foods, like cake, are stripped of many of their nutrients. This makes it far easier for your body to metabolize those calories versus the more nutrient-rich calories carried in high-fibre foods like carrots. That means your body works harder to digest carrots, which raises your metabolism and burns more calories.

Myth 4: You Have to Sweat to Burn Calories

Nice try. But this one is easy to debunk. You’ve seen situations where two people are in the same place, at the same time, doing the same thing, but one is sweating like a – well, sweating a lot – and the other is cool and dry.

Like everything else about you, your metabolism, and how and when you sweat, are unique to you. Also, the temperature and humidity in the area can make you sweat even when you are at rest.

Sweat is your body’s cooling system, not a calorie burner. You can burn lots of calories without sweating, and you can burn relatively few calories while sweating profusely.

There’s a little truth to every myth, and a little myth in every truth. The answer is to make weight management part of your lifestyle. When you do, you will take the time to see what works for you, and what doesn’t.

In any case, it always helps to get as much good, reliable advice as you can. The weight and nutrition specialists at your local Herbal One Centre are ready to help and answer any of your questions.