Debunking The Calorie Myth – Why “Calories in, Calories Out” is Wrong

Girl Frustrated With MathI think the notion of “calories in vs. calories out” is ridiculous.

Foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through different metabolic pathways.

Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat.

Therefore, the types of foods we base our diet around are just as important as the amount of calories we are eating.

What a Calorie is

I want to make sure that we understand each other, so let me quickly define what a “calorie” means.

A calorie is a measure of energy:

“1 calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.”

The official measure of energy is Joule. 1 calorie equals 4.184 joules.

What we usually refer to as “calories” is actually kilocalories (kcal).

One kilocalorie, or one dietary Calorie (with a capital “C”) is the energy required to heat 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree celsius.

One dietary Calorie (kilocalorie) is 4184 joules.

But what does “energy” mean?

Energy is the capacity of a system to do work.”

The human body requires energy to move, breathe, think, contract the heart, maintain electrical gradients over cell membranes, etc.

On a molecular level, the body functions with an enormously complex set of chemical reactions. These chemical reactions require energy, which is where calories step in.

Bottom Line: A dietary Calorie is the amount of energy required to heat 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. The body uses energy (calories) to drive chemical reactions.

What Does Calories in, Calories Out (CICO) Entail?

According to the “calories in, calories out” (CICO) way of thinking, obesity is simply a matter of eating too many calories.

Proponents of this often say that the types of foods you eat aren’t very important, that the caloric contribution of foods is the key.

They say that the only way to lose weight is to eat less, move more and that it is any individual’s responsibility to keep calories balanced.

A pound of fat is 3500 calories (a kilogram is 7700). If you eat 500 calories less than you burn every day, then after a week (7 * 500 = 3500) you will have lost a pound of fat.

From this comes “a calorie is a calorie” – the idea that all calories are created equal, no matter what foods they come from.

Even though it is true that obesity is caused by excess calories and weight loss caused by a calorie deficit, this is still such a drastic oversimplification that it is downright wrong.

The fact is that different foods can have vastly different effects on our bodies and go through different metabolic pathways before they’re turned into energy (1).

Just focusing on the calorie content of foods and disregarding the metabolic effects they have is a highly flawed way of thinking.

Bottom Line: Proponents of the “Calories in, Calories out” way of thinking say that the only thing that matters when it comes to weight loss is calories, disregarding completely the metabolic and hormonal impact of foods.

“Too Many Calories” Doesn’t Tell us Much

How much energy we eat and how much energy we expend matters. It is of utmost importance.

The first law of thermodynamics tells us that energy can not be destroyed, it can only change form. So if the energy that is entering the body is greater than the energy leaving the body, then the body will store the energy, usually as body fat.

If we take in more energy (calories) than we expend, we gain weight. If we expend more energy than we take in, we lose weight. This is an unbreakable law of physics and isn’t even debatable.

However… this fact, tells us nothing about WHY this is happening.

A person who has gained weight is the same as a person who eats more than they burn.

Let me explain this with a simple analogy…

Imagine that the entrance hall of a movie theater is full of people. These people are all there because they’re going to watch a very popular movie that just came out.

If you would ask… “why is this entrance hall full of people?” and someone were to answer with “because more people are entering it than leaving it” – then you’d think it was a fairly ridiculous answer, right?

It tells you nothing about the cause of the entrance hall being full, it is simply stating the obvious.

Saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories is just as ridiculous as saying that the entrance hall is so crowded because more people are entering than leaving.

The next logical question to ask would be… why are people eating more?

Is it a consequence of a series of logical decisions to eat a bit more and exercise a bit less, or is there something in our physiology that is causing it… such as hormones?

If it’s behavior that is causing the increased calorie intake (weight gain) then what is driving the behavior?

The fact is that all our thoughts, desires and actions are controlled by hormones and neural circuits.

Saying that it’s “greed” or “laziness” that is causing the increased calorie intake totally disregards the complex physiological processes that control our behavior and how the foods we eat can directly affect these processes.

Bottom Line: Saying that weight gain is caused by excess calories is true, but meaningless. It tells you nothing about the actual cause.

Different Foods Affect Our Hormones in Different Ways

In my opinion, one of the biggest fallacies in nutrition is to think that all calories are created equal.

Different macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) go through different metabolic pathways.

Let me show you this with two examples… fructose and protein.

Fructose

Fructose, when it enters the liver from the digestive tract, can be turned into glucose and stored as glycogen.

But if the liver is full of glycogen, it can be turned into fat… which is then shipped out or lodges in the liver.

Consumed in excess, it can cause insulin resistance, which raises insulin levels all over the body. Insulin drives fat gain (2, 3).

Fructose also doesn’t get registered in the same way as glucose and doesn’t impact satiety in the same way. Fructose doesn’t lower the hunger hormone ghrelin (4, 5).

So… a 100 calories of fructose may increase your insulin over the long term, lead to higher ghrelin levels and increased appetite.

Protein

Then you have a 100 calories of protein. About 30% of the calories in the protein will be spent on digesting it, because the metabolic pathway requires energy.

Protein may also increase levels of fullness and boost the metabolic rate (6, 7).

This increased protein may even be used to build muscles, which are metabolically active tissues that burn calories around the clock.

Clearly… a 100 calories of fructose will have completely different effects on the body than a 100 calories of quality protein. A calorie is NOT a calorie.

In this way, the fructose will drive increased energy intake compared to the protein, via its effects on hormones, body and brain.

Drinking a can of soda every day for 5 years will have a vastly different effect on the body and long-term energy balance, compared to eating the same calories from eggs.

Some people say that “any” food can be harmful in excess. Well… I disagree. Try eating broccoli in excess, or eggs. You will feel full very quickly and not want to take another bite.

Compare that to a food like ice cream, which is very easy to consume large amounts of.

Bottom Line: Different foods go through different metabolic pathways. Some foods can cause hormone changes that encourage weight gain, while other foods can increase satiety and boost the metabolic rate.

Different Macronutrient Ratios Affect Appetite

Changing your macronutrients can affect your appetite in a dramatic way.

The best example of this is seen in studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets.

Whereas people on low-fat diets must be calorie restricted in order to lose weight, people eating low-carb (and high fat and protein) can usually eat until they feel satisfied and still lose weight.

Studies clearly show that there’s something about the low-carb diet that decreases appetite and makes people lose weight without having to control portions or count calories (8, 9).

In these studies, the researchers need to actively restrict calories in the low-fat groups to make the results comparable, but the low-carb dieters still lose more weight (10).

In this study, the low-fat group is calorie restricted while the low-carb group is eating until fullness (11):

Weight Loss Graph, Low Carb vs Low Fat

The low-carb dieters automatically start eating less calories, because their appetite goes down.

These studies show that there is no need to consciously focus on calories in order to eat less of them. This can happen automatically, simply by changing the types of foods you eat.

Bottom Line: Being aware of your calorie intake is NOT necessary to lose weight, as long as you eat in a certain way. Cutting carbs while increasing fat and protein is proven to lead to automatic calorie restriction and weight loss.

The Metabolic Rate (Calories Out) Can Change Depending on What You Eat

Another thing to keep in mind that long-term dieting will reduce your metabolic rate.

If you were to cut calorie intake by 10%, it would only work for some time until your metabolic rate would adapt and you would stop losing. Then you would have to cut calories again, then again…

The body tries desperately to maintain its fat mass. This is called the body fat setpoint and is regulated by the hypothalamus. If you don’t change your diet, only the amount of foods you eat, then your set point won’t change.

If your weight goes below your set point, your brain responds by decreasing your calorie expenditure (calories out) and increasing your calorie intake (calories in).

Bottom Line: The body tries to resist changes in body fat levels by increasing hunger and reducing calorie expenditure.

Maybe We’ve Got Things Backwards

Most people believe that the increased calorie intake is driving the weight gain.

But what if we’ve got things backwards and the fat gain drives the increased calorie intake?

When a teenage boy grows rapidly in height, he eats more calories than he expends. Instead of turning into fat, the calories are used to build muscle, bones, skin and organs.

It is not the increased calorie intake that is driving the growth, but hormones, growth factors and physiological processes that are causing the growth and the growth drives the increased calorie intake. That makes sense, right?

What if obesity is similar? What if calories are a consequences of the weight gain, not a cause?

In the same way that a teenage boy’s muscles and bones grow because of hormones, an obese person’s fat mass may be growing because of hormones.

One example of this is drugs like some antidepressants and birth control pills, which often have weight gain as a side effect.

There are no calories in these pills, but they alter the physiology of the body (brain and hormones) to cause weight gain. In this case, the increased calorie intake is secondary to the change in hormones.

Bottom Line: It is possible that we are confusing cause and effect. Perhaps it’s not the increased calorie intake that drives the fat gain, but the fat gain that drives the increased calorie intake.

Eating Behavior is Largely Subconscious

Humans aren’t robots.

We don’t walk around and make decisions about our behavior based on mathematical calculations. It is against our nature.

We make decisions based on our emotions, how we feel and what we want to do. The “logical” part of our brain often doesn’t have much control over the part of our brain that is regulated by emotions.

Some might call this weakness, I call it human nature. Changing behavior based on logical, rational decisions can often be impossible.

Ever made a decision not to drink coffee after 2pm? Always do homework right after school? Only sleep in on Sundays?

Making these kinds of changes in your life is often very difficult and the same applies to eating behavior like making the decision to eat 500 calories below your maintenance every day.

Even though some highly motivated individuals are able to control their food intake completely (like athletes and bodybuilders), this really isn’t representative of the general population.

This is very difficult for most people and especially for people who have a tendency to gain weight.

Let me use breathing as an example of how it is difficult to “control” a physiological function that is regulated by the brain.

Breathing is almost completely subconscious, although you can control your breathing for a short amount of time if you manage to focus on it.

If you made the decision to skip 1 in 10 breaths, then you could probably do it… but only for a few minutes. Then you’d get distracted and start doing something else.

This is only possible while you’re consciously focusing on it… and even if you did, you might unwillingly compensate by breathing a little heavier in the other 9 breaths, or you’d start to feel uncomfortable and stop doing it altogether.

If you think this is a ridiculous example and not applicable to eating, then you’re wrong. Eating is controlled with the same types of homeostatic mechanisms.

Some people may be able to consciously eat less calories and manage it with portion control and / or calorie counting. But they have to stick with it for life.

Bottom Line: Eating behavior is largely subconscious, controlled by hormones and neural circuits. It can be downright impossible to control these sorts of behaviors in the long term.

Optimal Health Goes Way Beyond Just Weight

One of the key problems with the “calories in, calories out” way of thinking is that it doesn’t account for other health effects of foods.

The fact is that different foods can have varying effects on our health.

For example, trans fats can lead to inflammation, insulin resistance and all the horror that follows, including cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes (12, 13).

Another example is fructose. When consumed in large amounts (from added sugars, not fruit), it can lead to insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and increased abdominal obesity (14).

There are many examples of foods having harmful effects that have little to do with their caloric content.

Also, being at a healthy weight does NOT guarantee that you are healthy, in the same way that being obese does not necessarily mean that you are unhealthy.

Even though these metabolic problems are more common among obese individuals, many obese individuals are metabolically healthy and many lean people have the metabolic syndrome and can succumb to heart disease and type II diabetes (15).

Optimal nutrition and disease prevention go way beyond just calories.

Take Home Message

Saying that weight (or health for that matter) is simply a function of “calories in, calories out” is completely wrong.

It is a drastic oversimplification that doesn’t account for the complex metabolic pathways that different foods go through, or the effects that foods have on our brain and hormones.

61 Comments

  1. Jodee Weiland says:

    When I first saw weight gain in my mid 40′s, I used to think I needed to cut my olive oil because of calories, so I used a spray when possible. I’m Italian and olive oil spray is not the same. But I came to find out the actual olive oil was healthier and better for weight control with my Mediterranean way of eating and health.

    I have always worked out, having loved dance in my youth. An increase in workouts, plus a healthy diet, helped me get back and maintain the weight that is best for me. Your article is excellent and gave me additional information to keep in mind when trying to live healthy. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Kris. A great article. It deals with a very important issue. The important message is that calories in and calories out is not the only thing that matters. That is a very important message if we are to understand the mechanisms behind overweight and obesity.

    However, it is important to realize that this does not mean that calories don’t matter. Indeed, many people lose weight by counting calories and reducing caloric consumption.

    This is why it is so important to educate people about diet and nutrition. Everybody has to find their own way.

  3. As ever, a meticulously researched and carefully written blog! Brilliant work Kris, extremely informative and thought provoking. A*!!!

  4. A well researched and well-written piece. I do appreciate you having the references for the statements that you make.

    However, this recent trend in the nutrition/health blogs to play down the idea of “calories in, calories out” is disturbing to me. Yes, an understanding of the mechanisms is important, but people must also take responsibility for their behavior. The second law of thermodynamics is indisputable. If we take in more energy (calories) than we expend, we gain weight.

    You must alter your behavior, and change your energy balance in order to lose weight. The how and why is important, because understanding helps you to change your eating patterns. I have seen many people fail “diets” by using a simple calorie counter.

    The type of food we eat dictates how our body handles those calories, appetite will change according to macronutrient distribution, hormones affect the process. All of this is true, but if you don’t create a calorie deficit, all other things being equal, you will not lose weight. If my logic is flawed, please explain.

    • Lisa McClure says:

      I can understand that you might be disturbed to read that “Calories In / Calories Out” isn’t right. It can be difficult to learn that what we’ve been told for so many years just isn’t accurate.

      This article does an excellent job of explaining why. When people who are prone to obesity eat certain types of calories, i.e. high glycemic carbohydrates, their bodies immediately want to store these calories as fat. If the body doesn’t get as many of these carb calories as it wants to put into fat cells, it sends signals to compel the person to feed it more carbs. If the person resists the hunger pangs, then the body shuts down the energy and does its best to force the person into a state of hibernation. The body wants to feed fat cells first, then uses remaining calories to give the person enough energy to move about.

      Fat calories are not treated the same way by these bodies. Fat calories do not trigger blood sugar induced hunger pangs. Instead they satiate. If these people eliminate the carbs from their diet, and replace them with fats, they soon find that they are not as hungry as they used to be. Their bodies stop sending out hunger messages, and instead get into a habit of using the stored fat for energy. So these people feel full and comfortable and have much more energy. They feel like they want to be more active. Their body shifts more fat from fat cells into energy and muscle, and it does this on its own.

      The folk wisdom that obese people lack will power is one of the last socially acceptable forms of bigotry. It’s high time people get the information they need to become healthier.

    • Yes your logic is flawed. Every man is different, has different bacteria who extract different amounts of energy from food, also depends on how food is prepared, etc. More information can be found here: http://www.robrdunn.com/2012/08/the-hidden-truths-about-calories/

    • Look at a yearbook picture from 1940-1970. Do you think any of those uniformly lean people knew the math of calories in/calories out? Do you think they were just less indulgent or had more willpower? Calories in/out and “personal responsibility” is fine, but the fear of losing this stuff is just moralism. I defy someone to be obese on less than 50g of carbs a day. I say it would be nearly impossible and you wouldn’t need any knowledge of math.

      • Carbs don’t cause weight gain, excess calories do. It would be quite easy to gain a lot of weight on less than 50g carbs, given that fat has more than twice the calorie density. You can’t assume that someones appetite will definitely be blunted once they switch to low-carb. A 16 oz sirloin has north of 1,000 calories, for example. Steak, pork, spoonfuls of peanut butter… you will be eating plenty of calories. That’s why those who think low-carb is the answer to everything ultimately plateau and may even rebound.

        • Humans have a tendency to want things to be simple, because it makes them easier for us to understand. So, following this tendency, we like to assume things are simple. Hopefully most people can see just how silly that really is.

          For a long time we assumed that Newtonian physics was and would always be the only way, and partly this was because it was simple; it made logical sense and wasn’t too difficult for us to understand. However, anyone with some knowledge of deductive arguments knows that just because something is logical and can be logically debated doesn’t mean it is the truth.

          We now know, through extensive research all over the world, that (while Newton’s laws still hold true in many senses) the reality is actually not nearly as simple as we thought. Quantum physics goes against basic logic at almost every turn, and yet from our research it is the truth, the reality. So why should we assume that fat loss/gain is simple just because we want it to be?

          In the mid 20th century, dieters and dietitians alike believed wholeheartedly that fat equaled fat, meaning simply that consuming fat meant one would have more bodily fat. As you can likely see, this seems to follow straightforward logic and thus was seen as true. However, we must go back to our point: should we believe something is true just because we want it to be, and it would be convenient if it was?

          Wouldn’t it be great if we could just figure out what was making North Americans fat and put an end to the obesity epidemic? Of course it would. So, in our desperation to solve a serious problem, we are clinging to the easiest answer. But this doesn’t make it the right one.

          This point was proved, as nowadays we know that the idea that eating less fat meant losing fat is untrue. We seem to believe now that we’ve figured out that it was purely a coincidence that people who ate less fat lost fat, because what they were actually doing was reducing their Calories. But here’s the problem with that: why should we assume just because the idea of Calories in/Calories out is current, that is it true? Aren’t we being just as naive as the people that believed eating fat made one fat?

          It’s now time for us to look back at the relatively recent realization that Newtonian physics wasn’t actually a reality. We thought they were laws, that they couldn’t be debunked. Yet, with a few experiments (that didn’t go as they should have gone, according to Newton) we realized that we needed a new theory. We completely revisited and destructed our view of the universe, and changed it to something that seems to work with every experiment we do. Maybe in the future we’ll have another experiment that proved Quantum theory is utter crap, and if that comes then we’ll revise our theories.

          Why don’t dietitians, doctors, and dieters want to work the same way and natural scientists? There are copious quantities of experiments where the Calories in/Calories out theory has not worked, and yet we’re unwilling to let go our our theories. People have eaten 4000 (even 10,000) Calories a day without letting their carbohydrate intake exceed 10 grams, and they have LOST fat. If this doesn’t disprove the theory that C in/C out is all that matters, then I nothing ever will.

          The point here is that we need to readjust our theories, because when a theory no longer works in every scenario then it is debunked. This isn’t to say that Energy in – Energy out = Total Energy isn’t true (thought hopefully, if you’ve read my comment up to here, you’ll actually question this law, too), but rather that perhaps the amount of food we consume in Calories minus the amount we exert in physical activity and staying alive doesn’t necessarily equal our fate vis-a-vis fat gain or loss.

          Maybe we cannot accurately measure how many Calories we use in a day. Maybe something else is throwing us off. But we can’t just throw away evidence that our theory is disproved simply to stop it from being so. If we worked that way, we’d still believe the sun orbited around the Earth (as a previous commenter said).

          The point of this long and somewhat tedious comment is that we cannot just assume that our fat loss is driven solely by something simple just because it would be handy if that were the case. We need to keep researching and not hang on to an old idea. Open mindedness is the only thing that drives society forward.

    • The second law of thermodynamics applies to closed/isolated systems. The human body is not a closed/isolated system.

    • You are EXTRAPOLATING what the first law says. The BODY controls energy balance.The first law dos NOT say if you eat less and move more you will lose fat or even any mass necessarily. The body RESISTS. The first law does NOT take into account BIOLOGICAL defense mechanisms. HUGE mistake, HUGE extrapolation.

      Never, ever EXTRAPOLATE laws in science. The conclusions are almost always wrong.

      Furthermore, energy balance itself does not address fat cell regulation specifically. First law only deals with “if this, then that.” it does not at all address WHAT is lost or gained, bone mass, fat mass, muscle mass or organ mass etc.

    • Nothing in science is immutable. That is NOT even a characteristic of a law. I suggest you read Science Misconceptions By The University of California at Berkeley – for an education. There is NOT ANYTHING that makes a law “above” or “better than ” a theory…

      Second, you’re misusing thermodynamics. The first law does NOT AT ALL imply bad behavior whatsoever. Many people have GREAT behaviors and REMAIN fat and this does NOT contradict thermodynamics. Only Internet gurus’ ERRONEOUS understanding of it.

    • True, the second law of thermodynamics is indisputable. But you assume that humans can’t pass caloric intake out without either putting the energy to use or storing it.

      Try a day of eating 80% fat and 20% protein and watch how much undigested fat comes rushing out the back door. Lisa McClure explained well what happens to the absorbed portion.

      Flip it the next day and eat 80% protein and 20% fat, you probably won’t even have a BM. Do the same with high carb and low protein and notice similar effects to the high protein effects. Just because you take in 1000 calories of fat does not mean it will be put to use or stored. The same cannot be said of 1000 calories of carbohydrates. Not all calories are the same.

  5. Another great article Kris. I like the section about fat driving the calories, that is a very interesting theory and one well worth following up. As a Personal Trainer myself I have done my own research here and have long since abandoned the whole calorie counting philosophy and, instead, encourage healthy eating and whole foods. I recently did a raw vegan detox diet as an experiment.

    I didn’t track calories or macros but it was obviously much lower in starches and protein than usual. After the 7 days my BP was 111/54, my HRH down to 40 but my weight was also down slightly. I lost an inch around my waist and about half a kilo in body weight, interestingly my body fat % increased from 6.9 to 7.2 which means I lost lean mass, despite eating tonnes of raw food and supplementing with protein powder. This just goes to show that no two calories are the same.

  6. Hi Kris,
    Thanks for yet another great and informing article. I have one question, if I adopt the low carb way of eating will protein as well as the reduced amount of carbs give me enough energy to be able to exercise at moderate to high intensities for a little over an hour?

    Cheers :)

    • Peggy Holloway says:

      Yesterday, I had some coffee upon awakening and then did some household chores while waiting for a young friend of mine to arrive from out-of-town to do a bike ride. He overslept, and arrived late, so we didn’t get out until nearly 11:30 am. By then it was 90 degrees and the wind was blowing a gale at 22 mph with higher gusts.

      We set out on a rather hilly route and we went at a pretty brisk pace to satisfy the “speed demon” young man who is more of a sprinter than distance cyclist. We survived his “crash” (new bike adapting) and a flat, and did 26 miles. At midpoint, he was eating some sort of sports “candy” but I just kept drinking water. We finished at 2:30 pm and I continued to drink water.

      I realized after an hour or so that I hadn’t eaten since the previous night at 7:00 pm – 4 “bbq” ribs (no sugar seasoning), some green beans, and a green salad with sour cream. I still wasn’t hungry and we had a social gathering to attend that was serving “heavy hors d’oeuvres, so I decided not to eat until the party. So, I would say that on a really high fat diet like mine you will fuel off of ketones and can exercise for hours without hunger or “bonking.”

      P.S. My young friend is a 30 year-old, athletic male and I am a 60 year-old female! He kept up with me pretty well for a kid.

  7. Ravindra Singh says:

    Why do some people never seem to get fat? I have read a good article about this.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7838668.stm

  8. Thanks Lisa for your attempts at explaining substrate utilization at the mitochondrial level. But that was not my comment.

    My concern is that calories are never free, and the second law of thermodynamics will always hold, regardless of hormonal/enzyme activation and & feedback loops.

    If we take in more energy (calories) than we expend, we gain weight. If we expend more energy than we take in, we lose weight. This is an unbreakable law of physics and isn’t even debatable. It is this that I am trying to reconcile… all other things being equal, isn’t calories in, calories out still true?

    • Yes, it is true. But the CICO way of thinking (“a calorie is a calorie” and all that) about diet and health is still a drastic oversimplification that it is inaccurate.

      Just focusing on calories is the wrong approach… the quality of foods and how they affect the body is just as important. There isn’t necessarily any reason for people to be “consciously” focused on calories. That’s my opinion anyways.

      • I think the only thing most people lack is a true idea of how active they really are. For bodybuilders CICO has worked for centuries. Tried and true. I have found that most people who don’t see results from CICO, simply know nothing about balancing macro and micro nutrients.

        • It’s dogma, not science. There are ENORMOUS amounts of hard working active people who exercise dedicatedly and eat well (nutrient dense, reasonable amounts) and REMAIN fat. This is the scientific evidence. Dr Friedman himself commented that voluntary factors have minimal impact LONG TERM.

          I see them in my own neighborhood. Nobody walks (6 days a week for an hour) as much as a woman on my block. She is substantially over-fat.

          Body fat is regulated LONG TERM (many years – not months or days). Diets do not work. They induce chemo- mechanic efficiency in the muscles that dooms you for regain over the long term. The failure rate is well over 98 % after 8 to 10 years. This chemo-mechanic efficiency persists the rest of your life as far as scientists know. They studied this effect 8 years out and it was still going strong. There are involuntary responses to even a 10 % of body weight loss. Very powerful effects.

          Exercise is for health maintenance. It does not address fat cell regulation/dysregulation. Fat cell regulation gone awry etc.

      • I think it’s important to realize CICO simply doesn’t apply to all people in all circumstances.

        There are many that claim changing quality and macronutrient composition of calories makes no changes for them or others…

        In my case, I made a drastic change from a very unhealthy diet to a LCHF diet (5% or less from carbohydrate, all non-starchy veggies, 25% protein and 70% fat), kept my calories consistent (at about 2800 per day) and lost 80 lbs in three months. Yes, the last two months I added exercise into the mix, so I’m not the best example, but not many middle-aged people see that dramatic a change from changing macronutrient ratios and adding exercise.

        My daughter saw my success and asked me to tailor a diet plan for her. She ADDED calories to her diet, also went LCHF (a little lower protein than me with higher fat ratio) and lost 50 lbs in 3 1/2 months with NO exercise whatsoever.)

        When you can INCREASE calories, NOT exercise and lose over 50 lbs in 15 weeks, it’s obvious CICO is NOT the be-all-end-all many claim it is.

        • Glen, this sounds fantastic, I am a 63 year old female, fast walk a minimum of 5 times / week for an hour. Eat about 1200 calories/day. Maybe lose 1 pound in 2 weeks. Very discouraging.

          How old are you? Maybe it wouldn’t work for me. Any suggestions? Would appreciate any input.

          • I’m 48 years young. I engaged more in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) for my weight-loss than I did anything else. If you’re healthy enough for more-strenuous exercise (do some research on HIIT) you may want to give it a shot. Many people experience great results.

            You may also want to re-examine your caloric intake. Barring some thyroid or other dysfunction, 1200 is pretty low, depending on your size, even at 63 years of age for an exercising individual…

          • That is because your body actively defends fat mass as if your life depends on it. Look into Dr. Rosenbaum, HBO special. The body has ITS OWN AGENDA regarding weight. The internet salesmen will not acknowledge this valid gained scientific evidence from top scientist.

  9. Don in Arkansas says:

    Good article Kris. I do believe that CICO is not an accurate guide to use for weight loss or maintenance. But in my personal experience (I am 67 and in good health with the exception of too many pounds being carried around all day) calories definitely do matter. I eat 90/10 clean, with an emphasis on low-carb, shooting for <30g/day.

    But eating like this does not allow me to eat unlimited quantities as some would suggest. I cannot, even eating <20g/day of carbs and no grain/sugar/starch, lose at over 1700-1800 calories per day. I can maintain at around 2000, but anything over that and I gain. That's my n=1 testimony. I agree that I can eat more with this WOE, but even this has limits.

  10. Ed Bechirian says:

    Kris, you have outdone yourself with this article!

    Very insightful and one of the best written, constructed and explained from you yet.

    Would it be safe to assume that you will follow this up with more about DHEA (the “mother hormone” produced in the adrenals) and its impact on testosterone/estrogen and the effects of (natural) human growth hormone produced by the pituitary (just to mention a few)…

    Whichever way you chose to go, keep up the great work!

    Thanks,
    Ed

  11. Fantastic article, and I’m sure it will make me a regular reader of your website.

    Your analogy with the move theater was great.

    • I actually think that analogy should be attributed to Gary Taubes. A lot of this article seems to be based on the ideas in his book Why We Get Fat.

  12. We humans like simple explanations, why do you think E = mc2 is so famous? Few people truly understand what it really means but it is simple and cool. CI = CO is so simple as well, easy to understand, etc.

    However, here are my comments about it:

    I don’t understand why we call it calorie. Yes, thermal energy will raise the temp of a system. So what? We are not just simple water bags that just need warming up, are we?! We are complex non linear open systems that constantly seek some balance. This is thermodynamic off equilibrium. The openness of our bodies (and mind) is such that we can even consider that we are just parts of a bigger system that is highly chaotic and dynamic.

    In this, it is true that the energy received by the system must be preserved (we’ve known this since Lavoisier). The energy is simply transformed and can be partly used to fuel chemical reactions, heat up the local temp, be used for mechanical work, etc. It is so complex and subtle that the whole CICO thing just reduces the complex, detailed and fine picture to a single unicolored blob.

    Moreover, there is without a doubt entropy production. That part of the energy balance is completely hidden and ignored in the CICO oversimplistic model. Usually, entropy takes on the form of heat dissipation in physical systems. You therefore don’t necessarily need to eat less and move more. All you need is to ramp up the metabolism by activating the proper energy pathways so your are producing more entropy. One way I could think of is e.g. to sleep 12 hours a day :)

  13. CICO is moot for me. I have starved myself at 1200 calories and lost little (and it took looong). Now that I eat LCHF, I average around 2000 calories a day. Lost weight and it stays off… without effort. So much for a calorie is a calorie.

  14. Peter Attia says the calories in a food might matter more if we were using it to fuel a lamp, like kerosene.

    http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-fat-trap-nyt-magazine-article-thoughts-and-comments

  15. David Salter says:

    The reason the “calories in, calories out” nonsense has prevailed for so long is that it is a convenient way for the processed food and sugar industry to divert the blame for obesity back on the consumer. They are then able to say that if you are obese, it is your own fault for eating too much and exercising too little, i.e. you are a lazy, self-indulgent sloth. They will vehemently deny the truth, because it will mean that they are to blame for knowingly and secretly adding addictive sugar and other chemicals to the food, to covertly encourage the consumer to eat more by manipulating their hormones.

    The food regulatory agencies, who many people believe exist to protect the consumer from this kind of abuse, has long since been taken over by the processed food industry. You only have to look at the list of sponsors for an organisation such as British Nutritional Foundation, to see a veritable who’s who of junk food companies – think about it, why would these companies be pouring so much money into an organisation that is supposed to be regulating the very same companies?

  16. James Webb says:

    I came here by trying to find an answer. An answer for protein. I love science and I also love proving common ‘knowledge’ wrong.

    Gluconeogenesis turns protein into glucose.
    Burn protein by fire and you get 4 calories per 1g.
    So, if the protein is used for amino acids and muscle recovery, then it can’t be used for gluconeogenesis, right?
    I.e. You don’t get any energy from digesting protein when it’s used for cell repair.

    This would mean that all the athletes out there who are tracking calorie intake and expenditure (even the ones using douglas bags and metabolic chambers) could actually be in a calorie deficit WHILST gaining muscle.

    What are your thoughts on this? What/Who do you know that could shed some light on the subject?

    • Well, if the protein is going into the muscle cells and being used to build muscle, then essentially the energy is getting stored there, instead of in the fat.

      If that same athlete would stop working out, lose the gained muscle, then the body would break down the muscle tissue and use that same protein for energy. There is some energy lost as heat in the process of building muscle proteins, then breaking them down, etc. but a large part of the energy (calories) is still being stored.

      So… if you separate the body into compartments, the total body and muscle tissue could be in positive calorie balance, while the fat mass could be in negative calorie balance, if you see what I mean.

      That is, losing a bit of fat, while gaining some muscle, but your body is still storing more energy than before. Does that make sense?

  17. A calorie is a unit of energy. A calorie cannot be anything except a calorie, so a “calorie is a calorie” is absolutely correct.

    Consequently, it is neither stated nor implied that the “calories out” part of “calories in vs. calories out” is static. Indeed, calorie expenditure is highly variable and influenced by many factors, including the “calories in” part.

    Proponents of the “calories in, calories out” way of thinking who make this mistake of misinterpreting the equation does not make the equation incorrect. It is very much correct in determining changes in bodyweight, and was never intended to address any other factors, such as health, appetite, etc.

    • David Salter says:

      You might want to check on that statement “…[calories are] very much correct in determining changes in bodyweight”, because I was under the impression that every single attemp to verify that theory with experiment has failed miserably.

  18. On ketogenic diets we don’t count calories, but net carbs.

  19. People have been counting calories for decades and it has got the world absolutely nowhere.

    Nutrition is about physical sustenance, vitality and healing and NOT not deprivation and maths.

    If any trainer talks to you about ‘burning’ calories or eating ‘less calories’, sack them and run away.

  20. Hi Kris , :)

    I must correct you about one point. ( In a friendly way) :)

    Laws in science are NOT immutable. That is not even a characteristic of a law. A law could be changed just as easily as a theory. There is no hierarchy whatsoever between hypotheses, theories and laws. There is not anything that makes a law “more true”, “better than” or “above” a theory. A law could be changed , modified or amended TODAY with new evidence, realization of past mistakes or newly gained perspectives. EVERYTHING in science is TENTATIVE. EVERYTHING is open to being wrong. However, I am not saying ther first law is wrong- it is MISUSED.

    Hypotheses are not guesses, educated or otherwise either. They are not proposals or ideas. They are scientific explanations for a NARROW set of phenomena. And hypotheses can be SO complex they are best described in the form of a computer program or long mathematical equation.

    They are all different and serve different roles. Hypotheses, theories and laws all differ in BREADTH, NOT level of support.

    I would like to comment on this topic because nobody has researched this particular topic anywhere close to what I have over the last 4 years. I have even researched this on holidays. Every single day for 4 years,.

    I have communicated directly to top physicists (30 to 40 in all) from M.I.T., CalTech, Harvard and Cambridge. They all UNANIMAOUSLY agree with Gary Taubes’ assesment of the first law of thermodynamics and how it does not at all expain obesity, nor the causes of this phenomenon.

    The first law of thermodynamics is being ABUSED and completely MISUSED by gurus for PROFIT and to blame obese people. This law, while valid for life, says NOTHING WHATSOEVER about the many hellishly complex BIOCHEMICAL causes of obesity. They EXTRAPOLATE this law far beyond its reach and scope which is as erroneous as it gets. Contemporary research has shown the body HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN regarding your fat mass. No money for McDonald or Colpo in admitting this. Dr Rosenbaum is VERY thorough. Nobody acknolwedges this piece of gained knowledge except Dr. Stephan Guyenet.- a REAL scientist.

    NUMEROUS INVOLUNTARY factors affect whether there is a positive or negative energy balance over time. The first law only says “IF THIS, THEN THAT.” It ONLY addresses overall body mass/size (from bone mass to organ mass to muscle mass and even fat). It does NOT address fat mass specifically. Or muscle.

    THAT is hormonal and biochemical. Invoking the first law during obesity discussions is pointless. This law was NEVER INTENDED to address the hormonal regulations in the body. Obesity is a biochemical matter. In people such as Manuel Uribe- something went very, very wrong and their fat cell regulation is not normal. Obesity is a genuine disease state. Normal people are not clogged with fat abnormally. In every single nook and cranny of their bodies.

    The human body is an OPEN, NON-EQUILIBRIUM DISSIPATIVE system. I talked directly to scientists who SPECIALIZE in this area of thermodynamics.

    Professor Stephen Hawking himself was kind enough to get back to me (after 4 tries over 2 years).

    He said “Your question pertains to biological and biochemical matters which is not exactly my area. In general one must consider FREE ENERGY (which includes entropy) rather than energy. The loss and gain of fat/muscle are extremely complex biochemical/physiological processes best understood within that framework. This is NOT (emphasis mine) a matter of basic thermodynamics. Best wishes, SWH”

    BOTH Dr. Hawking and Stanford’s top professors (in this area) TOLD ME THE ABOVE. This is NOT a matter of basic thermodynamics. It is about fat cell failure, fat cell dysregulation etc. The chemical behavior of fat cells’ receptors is not understood.

    Furthermore, I was told by many other top physicists (30 in all over 4 years including Dr. Tyson, Dr. Filippenko, Dr. Susskind and many more) that there is NO SINGULAR EQUATION that can characterize the loss/gain of body fat and muscle. IF it could even be done, it would be MANY equations and they all would be hellishly complex to the maximum. These scientists said that they had NO IDEA what it would look like. They admitted this specifically.

    “There are MANY, MANY PATHWAYS energy can be led to. The caloric hypothesis, BY ITSELF, is FAR too simplistic to explain the regulation of body mass/fat which is EXTREMELY COMPLICATED.” Dr. Garret Fitzgerald himself told me this.

    Humans exchange energy and matter with the environment. When you simply breathe you are changing the numbers of atoms/molecules in your body.

    *Humans produce a SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT of DISSIPATED HEAT- LOST energy.

    *Humans POOP out energy- up to 9 %.

    NOBODY on the Blogosphere that I ever saw discusses this.

    There are NUMEROUS OBSERVATIONS that contradict the laughably simplistic caloric hypothesis:

    *Top level (Olympic level types and professionals) endurance athletes (usually women marathoners, swimmers etc.) who get LIPOSUCTION for their arms , butt, abdomen for stubborn fat that does not at all respond to their hellish exercise and good nutrition. Fat behaves like a TUMOR. Some of their videos are on YouTube.

    *Normal weight obesity- a genuine medical condition.

    *Progressive lipodystrophy (severe obesity lower body, emaciated upper body).

    * The FAILURE of gastric bypass to alleviate an elevated fat mass. These people are STILL VERY fat body fat percentage wise, despite being smaller to various degrees. They are all still loaded with fat. They would be a smaller sized fatty piece of human meat. ALL of this suffering and poor results on 800 calories a day. This alone should tell you how complex obesity is. Dr. Jeffrey Friedman noted publicly that this surgery does NOT work ANYWHERE NEAR as good as ADVERTISED. This last point is WEIGHTY AND DEVASTATING evidence against the caloric hypothesis. There is MUCH MORE going on. We all do not look like Evander Holyfield from simple energy deficits. Furthermore, these “successful” patients are nowhere as lean as even a normal person, let alone a truly lean individual like Allen Iverson for example.

    Nobody wants to discredit CHARLATANS such as Lyle McDonald and Anthony Colpo more than I do. They are nothing more than arm chair Net surfers full of MISINFORMATION . They are “self appointed experts” and LAYMEN who are NOT advancing human knowledge.

    Carl Sagan and Phil Plaitt were actual research scientists and fell into the category of genuinely advancing human knowledge.

    I have challenged these dimwitted internet frauds to publicly debate me about this topic . They back out because they KNOW I have done my research from THE BEST OF THE BEST sources. I will publicly discredit them. Internet fraudsters prey on easy-to-fool people. They do a disservice to the public and need to go away.

    Science is moving AWAY from the caloric hypothesis in favor of FAT CELL DYSREGULATION/FAILURE. That is something “with legs.”

    The UNKNOWNS about obesity are far greater than any knowns. NO truly reliable and effective treatments are available YET.

    Best wishes,
    Razwell

  21. Hi Everybody,

    This is for the benefit of everybody so that they can be provided information to take on the CarbSane/James Krieger/Lyle mcDonald/Anthony Colpo’s of the blogosphere who are abusing science.

    Physics does NOT work or operate by “FIAT” as Lyle McDonald et al evidently (erroneously) believe. Numerous top physics professors (M.I.T. CalTech) told me this.

    Why is energy conserved?

    Why should we trust this?

    It turns out that there is a REASON energy is conserved. Very few people in the blogsphere know this information below:

    Here is the reason: As best we know, the laws of physics do not change with time. If the laws of physics do not change with time, there MUST be a QUANTITY (which we can call energy) which is conserved.

    So, the fact that energy is conserved in nature is a MATHEMATICAL CONSEQUENCE of the fact that the laws of nature do not change over time.

    IF they DID change over time, THEN energy would NOT be conserved.

    I am honestly chomping at the bit to publicly debate and discredit McDonald and Colpo about physics. I am tired of their scam and arrogance. They deserve nothing but contempt from us. They have total certitude about complex human physiology that baffles the best scientists out there.

    They are nothing more than non-expert arm chair Net surfer scammers. Misinformed laymen preying on an easy-to-fool public.

    If somebody could set this debate up, I will gladly accept it.

    The first law of thermodynamics has nothing to do with how the body’s biology resists fat mass loss, nor the tricks its has at its disposal to keep obese people fatter. Gurus claiming otherwise are abusing it and extrapolating it.

    Heavyweight physicists FIRMLY agree 100% with Gary Taubes’ assesment of the first law and its non- explanatory power of obesity and fat cell regulation specifically. Please stress this to McDonald et al. Nuff said. Those jokers have no argument whatsoever.

    The fact that the best of the best (genuine geniuses) unanimously agree with Gary Taubes is worth its value in gold.

    Arnold doing his bodybuilding workouts and meals and gaining muscle has a positive energy balance. So do some obese people- those gaining mass. The results are radically different. Arnold gains mostly muscle, the obese person gains adipose tissue. Genes, biology, physiology, biochemistry, overall health, medical issues, etc deal with that, NOT some imagined fiat.

    Take care,
    Razwell

  22. I know it’s different for everyone but the only way I have ever been able to loose weight is calorie reduction.

    I’ve done low carb (20-50 grams per day) and gained weight. And the only way I can reduce calories is with some type of anorectic (appetite suppressant) because my body COMPELS me non-stop to consume a certain amount each day (around 2500 calories).

    I’m a 5’8″ female whose normal weight range is 127-154 but over the past 10 years have progressed toward 180-190 range. The only way I’ve ever been able to lose the weight is through exercise and calorie reduction by using the natural herb Ma Huang Ephedra for years before the Fatal Drugs Allowed criminals took it off the market while allowing toxic garbage in our food, gmos, harmful stating drugs, etc.

    I kept my weight steady at 130-145 lbs for over 15 years after having two kids by using ephedra on and off (never more than one on the on days) and doing aerobics when it was in vogue than light jogging and walking afterwards. About two years after they took our ephedra from us (like we are children that have no common sense), I began to put on weight because without an appetite suppressant my body compels me to eat around 2500 calories, which is the same amount I ate as a teenage girl.

    I’ve always had a hearty appetite. So now the only way I can get the weight off is to go to diet clinics, get humiliated by them weighing and measuring my BMI, etc then paying around $100 bucks a pop to get less effective, FDA regulated phentermine that causes insomnia and has 1/3 the appetite suppression of the ephedra and none of the added energy.

    So you see who is controlling this agenda to get rich off our obesity and sickness? The FOOD Industry and the MEDICAL industry who are controlled by evil people are behind this. They have corrupted out food supply and with a few exceptions, are the reason why so many are obese.

    I know there are some who have the Progressive lipodystrophy (severe obesity lower body, emaciated upper body), because I have seen a woman with an extremely severe condition of this which I have no explanation for and I myself have large legs that hold on to fat no matter what since I’ve lost down to 125 lbs (nearly anorexic for me) and my upper body was the size of a preteen girl but my legs still looked like they belonged on a 160 lb woman so I know the calorie thing doesn’t work for everyone but eating more calories, even with low carbs does not work for me, I just slowly keep gaining.

    I’ve gotten up to 192 and got phentermine and lost 31 lbs, then slowly began gaining it back. I won’t allow myself to get above that weight because I am very vain so I’ll do what I have to do to stay slim. But “eating right and exercising” does not work for me, neither does low carb because I am not endowed with the Herculean willpower that it would take to consistently eat what is to me “like a bird” (1200-1500 calories per day without giving in to my intense need for eating to satiety.

    I am not a glutton and believe that God gave me an appetite for a reason and I should (in a normal world) be able to eat until my natural satiety kicks in but when I do that I gain about 2 lbs per month continually. It is very frustrating but it’s obvious that the powers that be are largely behind the agenda to fatten and sicken their “cash cow” for both monetary gain and government control.

    • Kimberly Green RD, LDN says:

      Never drop below 120g Carb/day. If you are below that you are starving your brain of the energy needed to function properly.

      • James Webb says:

        Look into ketones, ketosis and gluconeogenesis. If we only got energy from one type of food, then we would really suffer in harsh conditions. In winter, the most abundant source of food is meat. Plants die because the soil becomes dehydrated and hard. There are some root vegetables which can grow, but not enough to feed a large group.

    • Hi Lynn.

      Possibly your protein intake is very high. Can you try including 70-80% of good saturated fat (like animal fat or lard or “Pure ‘Desi ‘Ghee”) and have 20-30% protein and experiment?

      Please also go through the self experimentation done by V Stefansson (inuit diet) and R Anderson and some related papers.

      And remember, you do not have to listen to anyone. Enlighten yourself with nutritional science with scientific papers rather than blogs or opinions without proofs and then experiment on yourself.

      Good luck!

  23. Kimberly Green RD, LDN says:

    I’m sorry but a calorie is a calorie, just like a pound is a pound. What you are talking about is that not all nutrients are created the same. A Calorie – just like you stated, is a unit of measurement. It has no effect on hormones. The nutrients in the food, or lack there of are what effect our body.

    Your conclusion of “Eating behavior is largely subconscious, controlled by hormones and neural circuits. It can be downright impossible to control these sorts of behaviors in the long term.” is down right wrong.

    As a registered Dietitian I have seen the general population make these LIFESTYLE changes for healthier body and weight loss. Yes, being at a healthy weight does not mean you will have perfect health as genetics play a role in everything, but being overweight does mean you are at increased risk for many chronic, avoidable diseases like heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and stroke to name a few. I agree that different nutrients effect your body differently and that we need to watch the types of foods we are eating along with calories.

    The increase in caloric intake is the mentality that America has. Over the last 20 years our portions have grown, why? Not really sure of one specific cause, but the idea that it is impossible for the general population to decrease their portions and change their eating HABITS is completely asinine. The way we eat, the amounts we eat, and what we eat are all habits that we have formed over the years. It takes time to form a habit and time to break one. If you work at it, then healthy eating and weight loss are easy to achieve and maintain.

    The claim that you have to maintain it for life just makes me believe you are a quick fix type of person like many Americans. I want it fixed and I want it now. You do not take the time to learn the tools and skills needed to lead a healthy life because you don’t want to maintain it? Really? I would love to debate this with you more, as a Registered Dietitian I’m sure I would be able to provide you with more scientific research to prove your claims are inaccurate.

    • Have you read Good Calories, Bad Calories or Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes?

      You should – it supports the author’s claims here. (And debunks the myth of the “Changing American Diet” that you use to support your argument.)

    • James Webb says:

      I’m sorry, but just because you’re a dietitian doesn’t mean everything you say or think about diet and nutrition is pure gold. That’s not to say that what you’re saying is false, but to the people that actually use their brain (Yes, I’m a d**k) titles and statuses mean nothing (I can very easily do a test to become a Personal Trainer, but that doesn’t mean I can train people into champions. It just means I know the basics, which are boring in all honesty).

      Yes. A calorie is a calorie (is a calorie), but it’s the foods that have different effects. Protein from pork will have a different effect on your body than red lentils would have. Your body has to put more effort into digesting meat than it does lentils. This is because of surface area and digestion rate (and of course mastication).

      But, even though I’ve found loads of studies suggesting what I want to believe, I’ve also found evidence for the other side of the coin. I.e. Initiative will get you far. “Does XYZ make you fat?” Find out yourself. “Is this too many calories?” Only you know.

      But even after all that, calories don’t actually make you fat.

      Glucose + Insulin = Fat storage.

      Glucose comes from carbohydrates (including vegetables) and protein (via gluconeogenesis).

      Fat, however, breaks down into ketones (not sugar to my knowledge).

      To tap into fat stores, you don’t need low levels of insulin, but actually higher levels of glucagon. Protein triggers a rise in both insulin and glucagon. Allowing weight loss better than carbohydrates and fat, AND muscle recovery.

      I’m not very good at creating structured replies, but there are many things that even dietitians and nutritionists don’t know about. “I’ve got my degree, I don’t need to study anymore” is very common in the world.

  24. This post appears to be a rewrite of Taubes’ books. Am I missing something (attribution)?

    http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307474259

    http://www.amazon.com/Good-Calories-Bad-Controversial-Science/dp/1400033462/

  25. But it is “Calories in, Calories out”. I can prove it.

    • If you take a single person, you pick their diet for one month and feed them 2000 calories with or without exercise. Then take that same person, same diet, same exercise regime and feed them 3000 calories, will they not gain weight?

      • James Webb says:

        That depends on the diet.

        Sugar. Wheat. Other foods with high glycemic indexes (GI). Yeah, they’ll gain more weight.

        Meat. Eggs. Colorful vegetables. Other foods with low GI’s. No. They’ll probably lose [more] weight (see meat sweats).

      • OK, the question really shouldn’t be:

        “Will I lose weight if I eat less food, or calories?”

        Or whatever you want to call it. That is probably going to happen. Eating less food, and less calories, will make you lose weight. That’s beside the point.

        But let me ask everyone who tells an overweight/obese person to “just eat less” this question:

        Do you believe that two people of the same age, gender, height, same physical activity (notice I took all of the factors which determine one’s supposed TDEE), eating the same amount of calories, will have the same amount of body fat?

        Like I said, the question really isn’t about whether you will lose weight by eating less food. The question SHOULD be:

        “Why can he eat 3000 calories and not gain weight, and why I am gaining at 2000 calories” ?

        Or why are some people gaining weight eating the same amount of calories and others can eat almost twice that and not gain weight as shown in numerous experiments? Should be pretty obvious that there is vast difference in how someone’s body handles the ‘calories’ he eats.

        Following that if someone can eat 3000 kcal and stay lean and another can only eat 2000 or god forbid 1500 as in my case, then the latter person is doomed to a life of starvation and restriction which I guarantee you is going to lead to hormonal and other health problems down the line.

        The point is it’s not about HOW MUCH food you’re eating, but what your body is doing with it.
        In those ‘naturally lean’ people, something is obviously vastly different when they can eat almost 2-3x their calorie intake in experiments and fail to increase their weight by the expected amount.

        Whereas unfortunate people are eating what should be a normal 2000-3000 kcal and gaining weight because their body is storing way more fat than someone who is naturally lean.

  26. It appears to me that you are answering a different question. While you seem to touch on “how do we get fat, or how to lose weight”, and you admit that we do so from too many, or too few calories. The rest of your article seems to be answering, “how is it easiest and most healthy to stay fit, or lose weight”. They aren’t the same question by a long shot.

    More importantly, there aren’t too many respectable people in the diet industry that are claiming that you should eat 100% of your calories from any one source. Common sense should be all you need to know that you should eat a variety of sources.

    If you do this, and create a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. If you “eat healthy” and have a caloric surplus, you will gain weight. You are over complicating something that you could be helping to make more clear.

  27. So calories in vs. calories out doesn’t matter becuase when you put people on a diet that makes them EAT LESS (less calories in) they lose weight?

    What you fail to realize is that you just proved your own point wrong. Calories in vs. calories out is all that matters and that different types of foods have different effects is irrelevant to this point.

    As well look at the LONG-TERM studies (6 months to a year) on low-carb compared to other diets. No significant difference in total weight loss. Because in the long-term the people end up eating more. And have to consciously EAT LESS CALORIES.

    It always comes down to calories and nothing you’ve offered changes that fundamental fact.

    • Yes, “Calories In=Calories Out,” but doesn’t mean your body took it all in. Next time you have a BM, among other things consider how many undigested calories you just let go. The energy wasn’t destroyed, but it certainly wasn’t used.

      Most evidence used by laypeople are anecdotal, but I have an in-law that eats more than 3K (burgers, half pie of pizza, Chinese food) in a day, after working with him for so many years the guy still doesn’t have as big a gut as his brother who eats the same stuff.

      Key points: CICO is overly simple, our bodies aren’t furnaces. Biochemistry needs more consideration than physics, MORE honest scientific research and less staying in our comfort zones.

  28. Is that The Lyle McDonald? Either way, the bottom line is NO ONE has ever been able to prove you can eat more then your bodies maintenance calorie level and NOT gain weight… I am still waiting for solid proof of this.

  29. TL;DR: It’s still calories in, calories out. Nothing debunked.

    Even the studies come to this conclusion, that although you lose fat quicker upfront with low carb dieting (you lose more muscle as well), after 6 months, it evens out.

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