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  • Writer's pictureSophia Kamveris, MS, RDN

Does Counting Calories Matter?

For those of you that have spoken with me, you know I promote the application of Time Restricted Eating (TRE) principles into my own daily regimen. TRE restricts eating food within a daily timeframe. I first read about TRE in Dr Satchin Panda’s book, The Circadian Code, which comprehensively describes the function of the body’s circadian rhythm, also known as it’s biological clock. TRE is often interchanged with intermittent fasting. I’ve never liked the idea of a fasting program; to me it can conjure up feelings of deprivation but I respect that there are cultures that employ fasting programs for other reasons than to lose weight. 

I’m always looking for scientific studies to support my advice to patients. I came across a study published in 2023 in the Annals of Internal Medicine that looked at the weight loss benefits of TRE versus a calorie restriction regimen. The 12-month, racially diverse study consisted of mostly females who weighed around 220 pounds at the start of the trial. Participants were divided into three groups: 

  1. TRE Group: TRE participants could eat (as desired) between an eight-hour window (noon to 8PM) and did not count calories. They could drink calorie-free liquids at other times. After 6 months, the food window was expanded to 10 hours daily.

  2. Calorie-restriction (CR) Group: These participants reduced their caloric intake by 25%. They also employed the USDA’s My Plate principles to fill half of their plate with fruits or vegetables; and to consume 50% calories as carbohydrates, 30% as fat, and 20% as protein. And yes, a dietitian worked with them to figure that out! 

  3. Control Group: could eat as normal but it had to take place over at least 10 hours

What they found is that the TRE group reduced their calorie intake by 425 as compared to CR group who reduced their calories by 405. You’re going to say, “hey, they aren’t much different.”  Calorie wise they are similar but what I take away from this study is the relief TRE may give people from the pressure of counting calories—and still lose weight. 

There are apps to input your food intake but they are not always accurate and they take up a lot of time. Some people find it adds another layer of stress into their day. I support tracking for limited periods of time as it can demonstrate some eating patterns. I use their data as more of a platform to assess one’s intake and make recommendations for improvements. 

What I find interesting is that the study showed that the TRE patients reported adhering to their food window restriction 6 days a week (86% of the time) while the calorie-restriction patients reported 61% adherence to their caloric goals.

Bottom line, if you have a limited time period to eat calories in one would assume this would lead to eating fewer calories by the end of the day—and therefore result in weight loss. But we all know the deal about making assumptions!

Another benefit of the application of TRE was just demonstrated in a study on gut (intestinal) health. TRE helps to balance the microflora—the good bacteria that keeps the bowels “moving” while also supporting a significant role in enhancing the body’s immune health. 

Dr Panda cites the importance of giving your body’s vital organs the time they need to process foods and keep you healthy. And giving them time to “catch up” to do this all is a nice way of saying thanks!

In Good Health, 


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