Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Jan

7 Common Calorie Myths We Should All Stop Believing

Uncover The FactsMany people think weight loss is simply about cutting calories. They believe that to lose weight, you must reduce calories (either eat less or burn more), to gain weight you must add calories, and to maintain weight you keep calories constant. To these folks, calories in, calories out is the only thing that matters. They usually oppose the Primal Blueprint because they assume that we “deny” the importance of calories in weight loss.

Well, they’re wrong. I don’t deny the importance of calories. Calories absolutely count. And if someone has lost weight, they have necessarily expended more calories than they consumed. That said, there are some major misconceptions about calories, body weight, fat loss, and health. These calorie myths are often rooted in truth but presented in black-or-white terms that are useless at best, harmful at worst, and do little to help the average person lose body fat.

Let’s dig right in.

Calories in, calories out is all you need to know.

Simple is nice. Simple is good. But overly simple is dangerously inaccurate, so let’s break this statement down.

What does “calories in” refer to?

Calories in — what we eat. We can’t metabolize sunlight or oxygen. We can’t feast on the souls of the damned. The food we eat determines “calories in” entirely. Simple.

“Calories out” is where it gets confusing. There are several components to “calories out”:

  1. Resting energy expenditure — the energy used to handle basic, day-to-day physiological functions and maintenance
  2. Thermic effect of food — the energy used to digest food and process nutrients
  3. Active energy expenditure — the energy used during movement (both deliberate activity like lifting weights, jogging, and walking, plus spontaneous activity like shivering and fidgeting)

Not so simple, is it? There are a lot more variables to consider.

Oh, and about those variables…

Calories in and calories out are independent variables.

That would be nice. You could drop energy intake and maintain your resting metabolic rate while burning the same amount of energy digesting food (even though you’re eating less of it) and working out. The fat would melt off at a predictable, constant rate. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills (or a calculator) could become a successful weight loss coach and very few people would be overweight.

In reality, the amount and type of calories we eat affect the amount of energy we expend:

  • During calorie restriction, the body “defends” its body weight by lowering resting metabolic rate and reducing spontaneous physical activity. To keep weight loss going, you often have to lower food intake even more (to counteract the reduced metabolic rate) and remind yourself to fidget, tap your feet, twiddle your thumbs, and shiver (to recreate the missing spontaneous movement). And you have to do it again when the body readjusts.
  • Whole foods take more energy to process and digest than processed foods. In one example, subjects either ate a “whole food” sandwich (multigrain bread with cheddar cheese) or a “processed food” sandwich (white bread with cheese product). Both meals were isocaloric (same number of calories) and featured roughly identical macronutrient (protein, fat, carb) ratios. Those eating the multigrain sandwiches expended 137 calories postprandially (after their meal). The white bread group expended only 73 calories, a 50% reduction in the thermic effect of food.
  • Protein takes more energy to process and digest than other macronutrients. Compared to a low-fat, high-carb diet, a high-protein diet increased postprandial energy expenditure by 100% in healthy young women. And in both obese and lean adults, eating a high-protein meal was far more energetically costly (by almost 3-fold) than eating a high-fat meal.

Calories in affects calories out. The two variables are anything but independent of each other.

Weight gain is caused by eating more calories than you expend.

Calorie fetishists love pointing out that weight gain requires overeating. That is, everyone who gains weight necessarily ate more calories than they expended. Okay. We’ve established that everyone agrees on this. But it’s just restating the issue. It doesn’t tell us anything new or useful. It’s merely descriptive, not explanatory.

To show you what I mean, let’s do the same thing with other phenomena.

Why was Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated? Because someone pointed a sniper rifle at him and fired it.

Why did Usain Bolt win the 100 m final in the Beijing Olympics? Because he crossed the finish line first.

Why is the restaurant so crowded? Because more people entered than left.

These are technically true, but they ignore the ultimate causes. In King’s case, they fail to discuss racism, the civil rights movement, or the motivation of the shooter. They don’t mention Bolt’s training, genetics, or his childhood. They don’t discuss why the restaurant has attracted so many customers — new menu, Valentine’s Day, graduation? They simply restate the original statement using different words. They just describe what happened.

I’m interested in what truly causes us to eat more than we expend and/or expend less than we eat. I don’t care to merely describe weight gain because that doesn’t help anyone.

A calorie is a calorie.

Look. I loved Carl Sagan. Like everyone else, I got chills when he’d wax poetic about our place in the universe and our shared origins as “star-stuff.” But just because steak comes from the same star-stuff as a baked potato, isocaloric amounts of each do not have identical metabolic fates in our bodies when consumed.

We even have a study that examined this. For two weeks, participants either supplemented their diets with isocaloric amounts of candy (mostly sugar) or roasted peanuts (mostly fat and protein). This was added to their regular diet. After two weeks, researchers found that body weight, waist circumference, LDL, and ApoB (a rough measure of LDL particle number) were highest in the candy group, indicating increased fat mass and worsening metabolic health. In the peanut group, basal metabolic rate shot up and neither body weight nor waist size saw any significant increases.

Does this invalidate the relevance of energy balance? Of course not. Since the peanut group’s metabolic rate increased, they expended more calories in response to added calories, thus remaining in balance. But it does elegantly and definitively invalidate the simplistic notion that all calories, especially added calories, are treated equally by the body.

Weight loss and fat loss are the same thing.

People don’t want to lose weight. “Losing weight” is common parlance, but we really want to lose body fat and retain, or gain, muscle. And studies indicate that the macronutrient composition can differentially affect whether the weight lost is fat. It’s not just about total calories.

Take the 2004 study from Volek that placed overweight men and women on one of two diets: a very low-carb ketogenic diet or a low-fat diet. The low-carb group ate more calories but lost more weight and more body fat, especially dangerous abdominal fat.

Or the study from 1989 that placed healthy adult men on high-carb or high-fat diets. Even though the high-carb group lost slightly more body weight, the high-fat group lost slightly more body fat and retained more lean mass.

Just “weight” doesn’t tell us much. What kind of weight? Are we losing/gaining fat or muscle, bone, sinew, organ? Are we increasing the robustness of our colons and the number of bacterial residents (who, though small, carry weight and occupy space) from added prebiotic fiber intake? These factors matter for health. I’d argue that they’re the only factors that actually matter when losing or gaining weight because they offer insight into our health and body composition.

Exercise helps you lose weight only by burning calories.

Most people think of exercise as a way to mechanically combust calories. And that’s true, to a point. Exercise does “burn” calories, and this is a factor in weight loss. But it does lots of other cool things to our physiology that can assist with improving body composition, too.

Compared to something high intensity like burpees or something aerobic like running a 10k, lifting free weights doesn’t burn many calories when you’re lifting them. But it does improve insulin sensitivity, which reduces the amount of insulin we secrete for a given amount of carbohydrate and increases our ability to burn body fat. It increases muscle mass, which uses calories (protein). It strengthens connective tissue, which also uses calories. It even preserves metabolic rate during weight loss and boosts it for up to 72 hours post-workout. All these changes affect the fate of the calories we ingest.

If calories burnt were the most important factor, then the best way to lose weight would be to hammer it out with as much endurance exercise as you can withstand because that’s the most calorie intensive. But studies show that combination training — aerobic and resistance training — leads to greater reductions in body fat than either modality alone.

Even aerobic exercise isn’t just about mechanically burning calories. It also preferentially targets the reward regions of our brains, reducing the allure and spontaneously lowering our intake of junk food.

Counting calories allows us to accurately monitor food intake.

You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Most foods at the grocery store have labels. Even restaurants are beginning to emblazon menus with calorie counts for each item. As humans, we implicitly trust the printed word. It looks so official and authoritative, and it spells out with great specificity exactly how many calories we’re about to eat.

Except studies show that’s not the case. Whether it’s the nutritional information provided by restaurants, the calorie counts on supposedly “low-calorie” foods, or the nutritional labels on packaged foods, calorie counts are rarely accurate. Food manufacturers can even underreport calories by 20% and pass inspection by the FDA.

Maybe that’s why people have so much trouble sticking to their allotted number of calories. If only reality would bend to the will of the label!

You may roll your eyes at some of these ideas because they’re so preposterous, but consider where you’re coming from, where you’re reading this. This is how the general public – and, often, the experts and physicians advising their patients and writing policy — approaches the question of fat loss. Sure, not everyone immersed in conventional wisdom holds every one of these myths to be true. And when they’re actually faced with the statement, few will claim that a calorie of steak is metabolically identical to a calorie of white sugar or that weight loss is the same as fat loss. But when calories in, calories out is the first line of attack against excess body fat, these are the kind of myths that become entrenched.

It’s important to take them head-on.

No one wants to be fat. The obese know they’re obese. They’ve had “calories in, calories out” drummed into their heads for years. If it were really as simple as eating less and moving more, they wouldn’t be obese. And yet here we are. That might be the biggest danger of the continued propagation of these myths — they convince people that they’ve failed at something simple, basic, and central to being a healthy, moral human being.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to let me know what you think of these calorie myths in the comment section. And check back soon. I’ve got more calorie myths on the way.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Not only do the calories and macro nutrients effect it but the times at which you eat it. I tend to eat one large meal per day. It keeps me pretty well satisfied and let’s my body return to a fasting state as soon as possible.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Hi Groktimus – I am looking to transition to one large meal a day too – how did you determine how big your one meal should be? Is it just experimentation – i.e. eat a fairly large meal and see how long it lasts? Do you time it so you don’t get hungry at inopportune times (i.e. middle of the night?) I’ve always been squarely in the 3 meals plus snacks camp but have been reading more about the great effects of fasting – but the whole concept of ‘how to’ is a little new to me.

      jenny wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • I’ve been doing this for years. I eat until I’m good and satisfied. When I eat it depends mainly on life circumstances. I keep it fairly low carb and I don’t usually get too hungry. Not eating stimulates my appetite less than eating does. For me food is an addiction (mainly carb addiction) so the fewer times I take the tiger out of the cage the better I do since complete food abstinence is impossible.

        Groktimus Primal wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • This is interesting. This must have a huge impact on your metabolism? No headaches, constipation or depression troubles?

          Tom wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • I’ve always had a lot of headaches but that was even when I was a kid and eating “normally”. As I’ve gotten older I do deal with occasional constipation too but overall I feel better when fasting. I think the 3 meals a day thing might be another food industry invention. It is also necessary if you live as a sugar burner. I think if a lot of people tried it they would actually like it. If I could eat anything I wanted, whenever and not gain weight it would be different but I enjoy the time saving and simplicity. I suspect hunter gather’s probably did the gorge/starve thing quite a bit out of necessity.

          Groktimus Primal wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • Thank you Groktimus! Appreciate the advice.

          jenny wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • I have had several athletes move to 1 meal per day when they are cutting weight for the UFC. Usually the meal will start off with a superfood smoothie and then will be followed with some type of meat. Grass fed beef, fatty fish etc. As they get deeper into the weight cut, they may move to leaner cuts of meat and white fish.

          The point I am making, is that high level athletes can use one meal per day and still be successful.

          Dr. John Fitzgerald wrote on January 12th, 2015
      • One meal a day doesn’t work for everyone, particularly if you do it cold-turkey. Try for two meals minus snacks. If you increase your fat and protein intake slightly and keep grains and sweets to an absolute minimum, you should pretty well lose the desire to snack. Snacking definitely stimulates the appetite, whereas giving the body a daily break by eating less frequently seems to be more healthful.

        I usually eat a fairly high-protein breakfast/brunch around 11 am, and then dinner around 6 pm. I don’t eat anything after dinner and seldom eat anything between meals unless it’s a small piece of fruit. The main thing is, you need to experiment a little. No two people are exactly alike in their meal requirements. Instead of focusing on what others recommend, do whatever makes you feel the best.

        Shary wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • Thanks Shary – appreciate the advice – yes I was going to transition slowly into it. When I eat primally I don’t get the sugar crashes and ‘Hangry’ feelings that I used to, and have been reading more about the benefits of IF so wanted to give it a go.

          jenny wrote on January 8th, 2015
    • I recently transitioned from 3 to 2 meals while on holiday at all inclusive resort. I ate as much as I felt like at breakfast (8am) and dinner (6:30pm) – I literally ate as much as I could, but focused on “decent” food (protein, veggies, some fruit). Guacamole and salsa at each meal (yes even breakfast!).
      I didn’t skimp on food: I had two full, overbrimming plates at dinner (many fat Americans were ogling my plate) with fish, chicken, roastbeef, lots of veggies and I also slept 8 hours every night.
      I am an under 9st female and lost 5 pounds in two weeks.
      Although I normally exercise, I didn’t even exercise at all during the holiday because I hurt my foot pretty badly on the first day.
      I do think the eat fast eat approach did work its magic on insulin sensitivity, though the good travel probiotic I took also probably helped.

      However, I am finding very hard to stick to the plan at this very moment (couple of days) as I am ravenous (due to period) and I just cannot seem to eat enough. I am even hungry during exercise and after eating eggs AND a large vegetable “smoothie” with 3 different protein powders. It is sooo much easier to be male.

      cis wrote on January 10th, 2015
      • Hello :) I am a male so I don’t know this from personal experience; a female friend of mine told me this – Taking an iron supplement (and maybe Vit C too) at that time of the month helped her a lot. She suspected that the food cravings were being induced by low energy due to lower iron level from blood loss. Might be worth a try…..

        Good luck

        Jon wrote on January 17th, 2015
  2. I love the “cause” analogy, that could not be more true. Calories do matter to some degree of course, but people often don’t understand what that really looks like both in the body and from a real food perspective. Also reminds me of a training plan (I was just doing one!) where you don’t start with the number of miles you want to hit per week, but focus on quality workouts to grow fitness organically, and the mileage total will most likely be on target with the result in mind.

    Michele wrote on January 7th, 2015
  3. I guess some “authority” somewhere decided we didn’t need to worry our pretty little heads over the details…sheesh! These same authorities (or their successors) have no idea how the internet works either.

    Wenchypoo wrote on January 7th, 2015
  4. This is a great article, wouldn’t it be nice to see an article like this show up on Yahoo news and really reach the masses!

    Jeff wrote on January 7th, 2015
  5. Well there’s one line I guess I shouldn’t repeat around here again, even if it seems to be applicable enough for me.
    Usually I don’t get too swamped with fine scientific details and as a result could say some inaccurate things. Life’s short and I’m not a speed reader with a brainiac’s memory capacity.

    Animanarchy wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Also, I’ve never counted calories, except roughly once in a while for say a meal or snack, basically out of curiosity and boredom.
      When I think calories in calories out I don’t take it too literally. I think of it more like Mark’s advice to find out how much to feed a dog: if it’s getting skinny, feed it more, and if it’s gaining fat, feed it less.
      For humans, less would mean less “calorie” macronutrients first of all: fat and carbs. I think it’s difficult to overeat whole food protein. And you can always stuff yourself with leafy greens or something if needed to help fight a food craving. I don’t seem to gain fat when eating all the lean / somewhat lean meat I can handle as my dietary base. Often I’ll get sick of the food before I can eat too much, especially with fish.Times like that I tend to get leaner.
      Personal conclusion I better start buying more good food when I can afford it in a few weeks and cut back on the luxurious stuff like wine because I’m sick of living off overly processed foods from charity / food banks and having to eat a bunch of extra calories and in some cases synthetic toxins to get my nutrition. And get my own apartment soon if possible instead of shelter hopping – then come spring I can go on bicycle road trips and visit all the local food banks to try to get the best stuff from them or at least just have an excessive food stash like I’m preparing for the apocalypse and burn plenty of calories in the process. I call it foraging.

      Animanarchy wrote on January 8th, 2015
  6. excellent, thank you for all the links and studies.
    as a physics student I like to think a calorie is just a calorie, but it is of course way more complicated than that.. unless you simply assume a spherical physicist..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spherical_cow

    Doug K wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Assuming that a calorie is a calorie is how you GET Spherical Physicists!

      PhilmontScott wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • To put it in a scientific way, 0.75 gallons of gasoline is about 2,000 dietary calories (kcal,)

      By the crazy logic of “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie,” then should the USRDA of gasoline be about a cup?

      (I just want to add that petroleum is poisonous. Don’t drink it. I’m just pointing out the really really stupid idea of calories being calories.)

      Tom S wrote on January 8th, 2015
  7. By the calories out vs. calories in line of reasoning, I should be morbidly obese. Instead I’m barely above the official BMI for normal weight. Beyond the known differences in resting metabolic rate, is it possible some of the calories consumed are not metabolized, passing through the gut underutilized in much the same way fuel passes through a combustion engine unburned. I’ve never seen a study addressing this possibility.

    thanks

    David Boyce wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Some theories assert that in cold adapted ketosis, excess ingested fats are converted to heat rather than stored as fat.

      John Caton wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • I know you’re right about the “passing through” part– before my Celiac Disease was diagnosed I think I had to eat half again as much as most people my size to keep from wasting away, & even so I was anemic & short on many other nutrients.

        It actually took a little while after going GF for me to realize that I didn’t have to eat so much when my digestive system was working properly!

        Paleo-curious wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • “The food we eat determines ‘calories in’ entirely. Simple.”

      Right. The calories in-calories out folks love the analogy of the car. Gas in/energy out. Even this simple minded example is wrong. Millions of cars with their gas caps on loosely, engines out of tune and wasting gas out the tail pipe. Etc. Same with food energy. Resistant starches. Your body can’t use them very much as food but the critters in your gut can. Many more examples.

      Harry Mossman wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • I use this example often in my experiences training and advising clients. Only with the added analogy of the type of gas. You can go to the crappy old station outside of town with watered down and/or low-quality gas and pay less. Or you can get good, clean gas and pay a but more. But your engine will certainly know the difference when your valves take a beating!

        Vince G wrote on January 8th, 2015
  8. Great article, one I will be sharing both on my blog and personal fb page. I love that my cardiologist who has seen me lose about 150 pounds since he became my doctor, asks – so you are still counting calories, right? Because I broke a plateau (after losing about 88 pounds with the moderate carb program I use), and then began losing again by setting a daily calorie limit (over 120 since I began doing so).
    I laugh and say “yes, but you wouldn’t like what it is I’m eating.” I simply have used it for portion control. I had to relearn what a normal portion size was. But..I eat protein and low carb veggies for 2 meals a day and any snacks, I cook from scratch, I get organic, local grown as often as I can, I only eat grass-fed beef, use evoo, extra virgin coconut oil, bacon fat, etc.
    It so so so matters, to my body, what kind of food I eat – not how many calories it has.

    eatinmyselftothin wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Congratulations! And thank you for the reminder that for many of us, we really really need to be mindful of the quality and type of calories we’re consuming. I find myself always making excuses for eating lower quality food and I needed this reminder.

      Beth wrote on January 9th, 2015
  9. Soooo… Souls are calorie-free?

    😉

    Paula wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • They are?!? Sweet!

      Wildrose wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Weeell, technically, souls are low-calorie. But thanks to political pressure on FDA regulations, the manufacturers of edible souls can report zero calories. Diet souls, however, are completely devoid of everything that is good and right with the world.

      Jon wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • :-) that made my day, I’m smiling, not done that in a long while! Thanks

      Kelda wrote on January 7th, 2015
  10. Excellent! I’ll be sharing this article for sure!

    nate wrote on January 7th, 2015
  11. Excellent content and well written. I’ve run three marathon, which involved 30-40 miles per week of running. After each one, I’ve had to stop running for a short period so I could lose weight. Most people assume I’m kidding when I say this, but it’s true.

    I’m now a bit wiser and incorporate a lot more weight training and a lot less processed carbohydrates. Thanks Mark for your positive influence on my health and appearance.

    Trent wrote on January 7th, 2015
  12. For 30 years I counted calories in. I had to run to get some back out. When I couldn’t run I had to starve a little. It was 5 pounds lost, 10 gained, maybe 12 more lost but then gain 7. For years.

    Then I went Primal and quit counting. Never hungry. Lost about 25 pounds and it’s staying off with no hunger, no effort and no chronic exercise.

    John Caton wrote on January 7th, 2015
  13. Great information! Makes so much sense. Thank you for providing. Under my own power several years ago I lost 157 lbs thru diet and exercise. I truly believe exercise is important for your health and helps somewhat with burning calories, BUT avoiding things like sugar is the real key to satisfactory and long term fat loss, as is weight lifting. I’m in the process of going Primal and have therefore been devouring everything I can find. I’m enjoying your emails and website. AND I need to say how much I appreciate the ‘written word’ instead of videos for everything you put out! They seem to be the ‘thing’ right now and I don’t know about anyone else, but I can read much faster than listen to a video – especially when its sole point in the end is just to try and sell me something I don’t need in the first place. Please keep up the good work Mark!

    Deb wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • DEB
      “written word” Right on!!!
      I have gotten to the point that I dropped some people I follow because more than half of what they put out is video. Knowing them, I am sure the stuff I am missing is valuable, but the aggravation is not worth it.

      Mark wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • Ditto.

        Leaf Eating Carnivore wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • I totally agree.

        cindy wrote on January 9th, 2015
  14. The calories in calories out crap also fails to account for substrate usage. Yes that steak would produce 800Kcal in a BOM caloriemeter…but your body does not work like that. You dont convert EVERYTHING to energy immediately…the body uses some of it to build stuff. :)

    Part of why processed foods make you fat. Energy is just about the only thing it is good for.

    DavidM wrote on January 7th, 2015
  15. Isn’t the real issue calories out of your digestive track and into your system, rather than the calories taken into your mouth? For example, it is common to have undigested food in one’s stool. Even your articles on resistant starches indicate that these starches are not digested, so their calories don’t count.

    Farhad wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • No. The real issue is calories (or energy, or fat) into fat cells vs. calories out of fat cells. When you get right down to it, you get fat when more fat enters the fat cells than leave the fat cells.

      So, what causes that to happen?

      Insulin.

      Get your insulin under control and you’ll get the fat in vs. fat out (of the fat cells) going in the right direction.

      Russell wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • Yes!!

        Whitedaisy wrote on January 9th, 2015
  16. Dear Mark,

    Thanks for the very nice information. I have a question outside the calorie issue.

    An old man (87 years with great health), was telling me once that I need to check food comes from source that lives long. Olive is an example. its tree lives long comparing to other plants. Have you been to such a subject? Eating things living long to live long!!

    Please advise if it has any scientific research for such a subject. Do we really need to find out what food/trees live?

    Thanks

    Zaher Iyaso wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • That’s an interesting question. I hope someone has looked into it. I wouldn’t doubt that there is some positive psychological effect–not to be discounted, since the placebo/nocebo effect is powerful.

      dmunro wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • Thank you for the reply!

        I was wondering if Mr. Mark has any answer or research for this issue.
        I hope he can write an article about this issue as It might be important.

        I have met this gentlemen 3 times (he is 87 years old). He was jumping on the ladder! very fast in walking and he looks like 60. He depends on his food on eating food coming from long life plants!

        All the best!

        zaher Iyaso wrote on January 9th, 2015
  17. As a chronically morbidly obese person, between 270 and 340 lbs at 5’9″ from mid 20s to 48, hunger was a constant. I went from 285 to 165 this past year and half without calorie counting a single day. My hunger has disappeared.

    Here is what I pieced together happened. I was a carbolic. Constant insulin production. It would not surprise me if it was 24/7. So food was getting constantly stored, hence less nutrients for me. Also it was not nutrient dense food. So my body needed more food. Hence always hungry.

    Gut bacteria was probably majorly messed up. So I was less able to absorb nutrients even with the higher nutrient foods I sometimes ate. I was eating a lot of processed food and I sometimes wonder if the body knows this and stores even more as fat so that it at least gets the toxins out of the bloodstream.

    In any case my body had way too much glucose on a daily basis to do anything but store it (thankfully in many ways) to keep me alive. I was probably close to being diabetic.

    In any case with nutrient dense Primal food and as importantly with the good stuff there was less and less and then eventually none of the bad stuff, everything healed. My body wasn’t producing insulin all the time. I started to up-regulate my mitochondria and probably started getting more of them.

    My gut healed from IBS. I am sure I changed my gut biota. And yes my appetite went naturally down.

    What word am I using most often here? Heal, healing. Just eating less of the SAD crap would never have healed me and led to all the cascade of changes that NATURALLY led me to a reduced appetite.

    So now it is no problem to maintain because I am literally a different person, metabolically, gut wise, mitochondria wise, etc. True healing and weight loss result from this approach. The calories will take care of themselves. Putting calories first. How well is that working for the sickest and obese global population ever?

    Larry wrote on January 7th, 2015
  18. I’m ecstatic to know that these souls I’ve been consuming are 0 calories!

    Kris wrote on January 7th, 2015
  19. Fun to read this as I just heard on CBS This Morning that the best diet is Weight Watchers with The Biggest Loser close behind and that it is ALL about “calories in, calories out”, getting on the treadmill, will power and discipline. HELLO? Have these folks ever questioned this dogma? Apparently not. We are just a nation of gluttons and sloths.

    Lynn wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Lynn, I saw that too on CBS this morning and all I could do was to shake my head. I was first introduced to Mark’s website in 2012. Depending on whether I am liftinfg weights or not, my sustained weight loss varies between 20-30 pounds and I keep the weight off through maintaining this way of eating.

      Quincy wrote on January 9th, 2015
  20. Hey guys, happy new year first off!

    I think what’s key is recognizing how a foods calorie number has been attributed to it. I’m sure it’s been covered on here at some point but to discover the calorie content in a food the item in question is turned into a freeze dried powder of sorts and is incinerated in a device that measures the increased temperature of water surrounding it.

    The problem is our body doesn’t incinerate food, it digests it. And it responds to food differently in variety of different ways and situations. We’re not machines or calculators we are biological organisms. The idea of calorie measurement became and is such a real danger that is very unnecessary. Articles like this really help in getting people on the right track.

    -Jamie

    Jamie Logie wrote on January 7th, 2015
  21. Gary Taubes in ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ and ‘Why We Get Fat’, debunked the calories in, calories out years ago in that classic book.

    Kudos to recognizing that most people just want to lose weight and don’t mention anything about muscle lost. I’ve known several folks who lose both, and it looks really unhealthy.

    Nocona wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Calories in vs. calories out ISN’T debunked though. If you eat a small caloric deficit then you will lose fat. If you weight lift and eat sufficient protein then you will preserve your muscle or even gain some while doing so. This is common knowledge in more athletic circles, so I thought people here would know it too, but I guess not.

      nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • I think you missed the point. Read all these comments today and read the books.

        Nocona wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • I’m not missing the point. The fact of the matter is that if you measure the whole foods you eat, estimate your calories used, and eat less than needed, then you WILL lose fat. Saying otherwise is biologically incorrect.

          nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
      • Go ask a hundred fat people if they’ve ever tried cutting calories or increasing output.

        Or better yet, you’re so smart, why not start a weight-loss clinic and serve the first hundred fatties for free. Then show the world your 100 success stories and the rest of the obese world will beat a well-beaten path to your door and you’ll become famous and fabulously wealthy.

        I only wish I had your intelligence and could have solved the world’s obesity problem with a five-line comment on a blog.

        I bow down to your genius.

        PS – In case your knack for sarcasm is as limited as your weight-loss expertise, I’m kidding of course. Your little five-line comment neglected to mention the single most important factor in obesity: insulin.

        I could get any fat person to lose weight by feeding them 2 slices of bread per day and forcing them, at the point of a gun, to exercise 12 hours per day. But that’s not a very pleasant life. If you want to help someone lose weight and not be miserable, you absolutely must get their insulin under control.

        Russell wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Wow, people are really sensitive. Nocona was basically agreeing with what Mark wrote in the blog post, by pointing out the calorie in/out “myth”, and gets harped on. I guess either people disagree with Mark’s blog post and well or else didn’t quite comprehend either the blog or Nocona’s comment…

          PH wrote on January 9th, 2015
        • Man, you are taking this waaaay too personally. I’m sorry man, but eating less than you need will lead to fat loss, it’s biological fact and is why we have fat in the first place. Just because people lacked the ability to put down the fork and properly calculate the calories you needed to eat to lose weight (not a perfect science, but if you aren’t losing weight on your numbers then either exercise more or eat less, it’s simple) doesn’t mean the system is broken. Nor does it require starving yourself like you think it does.

          My guess is that most of them saw that they were 10% body fat after a week and gave up rather than realizing that weight loss takes time.

          nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
      • I’m mystified by this as well. One must create an energy deficit to lose weight. I grew up in an African culture where the staple diet of our tribe was very high carbs. I was never overweight and didn’t ‘formally’ exercise. We just walked around alot out of necessity(easily 5-8miles most days). Max weight was 130 and I honestly thought I was fat. All my friends were slimmer.

        After moving to the US, I quickly shot up to 165 from reduced activity, driving everywhere plus junk food. After cutting out junk and going primal, I lost some weight but stalled at 145-150 for the last 6 years because I wasn’t exercising and hated it.

        I was thinner on an African high-carb diet than on my current primal one simply because I was expending all the energy intake. The best of both worlds for me will be reintroducing some of those carbs that I’ve denied myself and really loved and just moving my butt a lot more. Calories out must exceed calories in for weight loss.

        kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Keep in mind that the “food” you are getting in America has been genetically engineered and treated very differently than food around the world. There are a lot of reasons Americans are so unhealthy, and the carbohydrate content of out food is only part of the problem. The genetics and processing is also a huge problem. Please don’t consider only calories, there are many variables involved, here.

          Nicole wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • Nigel – You act as though the human body is a simple bucket…calories go in, and calories go out. Figure out the equation and fix obesity. Your arrogance is astounding. There are probably more than a hundred million obese people in the US. Do you think they’re all so stupid that they lack the intelligence to figure out your simple calories in/calories out equation???

        Come on man, check your premises at the door, because they’re wrong. Obesity has very little to do with calories in/calories out and nearly everything to do with insulin. Look in the history books and find some pictures of type 1 diabetics before insulin was discovered. Let me know when you find a fat type 1 diabetic.

        Dig a little deeper than calories in/calories out. What causes fat to enter fat cells? What causes it to leave fat cells? Those are the critical questions, not your simple-minded equation.

        I don’t know a single overweight person that hasn’t tried eating less to solve his/her problem. Not one. I also don’t know a single overweight person that hasn’t benefited from getting their insulin under control.

        I know you think you have all the answers. But people have “known” what you “know” for decades…yet somehow the obesity problem just keeps getting worse.

        Russell wrote on January 9th, 2015
  22. What about #4 on the “calories out” mode?

    #4 is defecation of undigested foods. I am pretty doggone sure that some people are more efficient at gleaning available/digestible calories form foods than other people are. I own livestock and know for a fact that it is true for them. If you crap the food out before it enters your blood stream it can’t do much for weight gain.

    Edmund Brown wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Dumping calories is real but I think this is how it’s handled in the equation:

      As it’s dumped it’s not counted as calories in ( so doesn’t have to be listed as calories out ).

      This means #1 ( the calories-in description ) is incomplete: it should be calories eaten that is absorbed into the blood stream via the gut (dumping them is not calories-in) – but we don’t measure dumped calories (a variable amount) so never really know calories-in.

      There are other calories-in complexities which I won’t bother getting into – it all gets too hard – too hard to properly track and count everything.

      Mitch wrote on January 7th, 2015
  23. I ate according to the Primal Blueprint for two years and I struggled to maintain the five pounds I had lost at about six months in. I kept faithfully going, thinking at some point the rest of the fat I wanted to lose would eventually disappear (as described in so many Primal success stories.) It was only after beginning to count calories that I was finally able to lose another fifteen pounds and significantly reduce my body fat percentage. I had to decrease fat and increase carbohydrates to experience satiety. For me, the more fat I eat, the more fat I crave… I couldn’t get enough bacon!

    Violet wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • I really do think that one “style” of eating doesn’t work for everyone. Everyone’s body is a bit different and people need to find what works best for them.

      PH wrote on January 9th, 2015
  24. I lost 35 lbs doing calorie counting with a really fun app that kept track of everything. I had lost weight in the past using low carb but it always came back with a vengeance when I started eating carbs again. Calorie was helpful in teaching me portion control. Also, I liked that if I strayed a little and indulged in a candy bar, french fries or a glass of wine, I just factored it in to my daily total. It gave me a little freedom to not feel so deprived, which is part of the psychology of dieting for me. I am fine with my weight now, but hearing this explanation of the difference in energy expenditure of the types of foods eaten gives me inspiration to try a new direction in maintaining my weight by not worrying so much about a higher calorie count if I want to eat some nuts or 2 eggs instead of 1, etc. Also, a goal this year is to be more concerned with the quality of the food I eat so I can give my body what is best for optimum health. Thank you Mark. You never cease in keeping us informed with another side of the story!

    Shari wrote on January 7th, 2015
  25. Hi there,

    I have a question regarding weight lifting. I am in the fitness industry myself and realized the importance of weight lifting, but unfortunately I never enjoy lifting weight. I would like to walk my talk but at the same time, I would like to do something that I enjoy as well both for my mind as well as for long term compliance. My question is in your literature reveiw, have you come across any that talk about the effects of using your own body weight as resistance type of training? if not, do you think it is as effective as weight lifting.

    Thanks and Happy New Year

    Daisy

    Daisy wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • I’m so with you there, Daisy– weights are my nemesis. In fact, that’s the focus of my challenge goal.

      By the way, if you’re in on the 21-day challenge, there are some nice videos there on bodyweight moves, with variations for folks starting at different levels of strength.

      Paleo-curious wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Hi Daisy,
      I don’t know of any specific literature, but resistance exercise should be considered weight lifting. Many folks who do yoga (no weights involved) have fabulous muscle tone. I love yoga, which supports all 3 areas of fitness: strength, endurance, and flexibility. That’s my two cents worth anyway. Kim

      Kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • I was going to suggest yoga as well. There are different types of yoga though and, particularly in the U.S., some is more cardio-focused while other types are more strength/isometric muscle use focused. I can tell you that yoga, done right, is not easy, like some people seem to think it is :)

        And there has been stuff written about using your own body weight as resistance. I remember reading an article on this blog about it with several links to other sites. Maybe you can either search this blog or someone with more specific info will post a link for you :)

        PH wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • Hi,
      Absolutely body-weight resistance is effective. External weights are, in part, the carrot to help spur us on. We see the weight go up and down and it is satisfying and provides a nice framework of accomplishments.

      What matters most, from my direct experience, is the intensity of lifting –whether your own body weight, weights at a gym, or that stiff your boss told you to whack for “knowing too much”. Once you reach a certain level of physical effort to move whatever weight, then you signal the body to make changes –i.e you’re basically telling it: “Man, I’m losing this battle today. I need to get stronger for next time”. That plus adequate REST is key. Ciao!

      Steve wrote on January 8th, 2015
  26. Good, no nonsense article as always, Mark. I have most of your books and two of your cookbooks. I also have a husband who not only “brings home the bacon” but he brings home chips, cake, cookies, donuts knowing I have an eating disorder!
    Can anybody out there help me convert him to a primal diet?

    Sonja Goldinak wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Hi Sonja, I am wondering if we are married to the same man!!!
      My other half constantly undermines my efforts to lose weight while complaining about my weight. Aghhh.

      GrannyGrok wrote on January 7th, 2015
  27. The calorie in calorie out corundum is only meant to be an approximation, just like those equations that calculate your BMR or TDEE. As an approximation they work well to give you an idea, especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle. Where things get dicey is when you begin to account for calories when you exercise and that is where the epic failures are seen. Some people try to account for the calories by whatever a machine or heart rate monitor displays and those numbers are never accurate, as a matter of fact in most cases they are a gigantic exaggeration of reality. The calories you will expend while exercising unfortunately are tremendously affected by the efficiency of your metabolism and the fiber composition of your muscles. If you have been doing the same type of workout for a while and your metabolism has adjusted to it, the calorie expenditure could be minimal. So in summary, you can use the calorie in calorie out equations to get a basic idea of the amount of food you should consume but to adjust for energy expenditure and exercise you need to do it by trial and error or you can take the scientific route and get a BMR analysis and a DEXA scan done to assess your oxygen utilization and the composition of your muscle fibers.

    Jules wrote on January 7th, 2015
  28. This is a great article that bashes “conventional wisdom” in the face. So often, people like my dad have had it en”grained” in their minds about calories in and calories out and how many calories you burn during the exercise. I love these articles because it reminds us that we can’t just look at a menu or watch a tv commercial and believe everything you see and trust it implicitly. Thanks for a great article once again, Mark!

    Dave wrote on January 7th, 2015
  29. The details are nice to know but still, for people wanting to lose weight, calories in/out is still the most important message. Everyone knows that real food is better than processed food. If they eat more real food and exercise more, they will lose weight.

    kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Not for me. I tried that for years and years and was always at least 25 or 30 pounds overweight, creeping upward every year. I had to eat every couple of hours and was usually exhausted and headachey in the afternoons. This was eating normal quantities of good quality real food cooked at home, not junk, and doing a reasonable amount of exercise. I did lose 20-30 pounds three or four times, but the weight always came back immediately. Counting calories was always a full time job, and not one I could see taking on for the rest of my life. Cravings and lack of appetite suppression must be one of the main reasons a higher carbohydrate diet fails for most people in the long term.

      Going Primal helped me a lot, though weight loss was only around 10 pounds. Eating a very low carb ketosis diet has been like rocket fuel for weight loss. It’s become clear that for me, weight loss is only achieved and maintained when I eat a lot of fat and cut the carbs down to the bone. I’ve effortlessly lost nearly 45 pounds since starting Primal and then keto. Do I eat fewer calories? Definitely. Do I try to eat fewer calories? No. I just don’t want to eat more. It’s the kind of calories I’m eating that make all the difference. The irony is that I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I have a health problem that improves with keeping my blood sugar as low as possible.

      I’m not recommending my diet to anyone. Different people seem to thrive on different diets, probably because of our gut bacteria. But it seems to me there is a good reason that telling people to count calories, exercise more and eat real food has failed pretty magnificently as a real world basis for long term weight loss.

      Allison wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • Exactly! No matter how you went about it, ultimately, you ate less calories based on the type of foods you chose. Another person can choose to eat more/less carbs/fat/protein foods that they like and still lose weight if they’ve created a deficit one way or other from food/exercise.

        kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Wow. That’s not what she said. She said that counting calories did not effectively lower her weight until she ate the right foods for her body. Yes you have to lower calories to lose weight but counting calories is rarely enough to cause weight loss on its own. That’s why conventional weight loss has a 98% five year failure rate. Calories in and out is only scratching the surface.

          Patrice wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • I mean, does it really matter if someone is consciously ‘counting’ or eating the right or wrong foods? A calorie deficit is a calorie deficit. Of course one can make it easier on themselves by eliminating calorie dense carbs but if they ‘can’t’ get through life without eating bread daily and they are able to tolerate it with no ill effects and are active enough to burn it off, they can make it work.

          I think many people fail at weight loss due to underestimating calorie intake and overestimating expenditure. How many overweight people people swear up and down that they ‘barely eat anything’?

          kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Counting calories did help me to lose weight. Again, and again, and again. The problem was always the rebound weight gain, because counting calories was:

          1. A huge, boring amount of effort every single day,
          2. Not successful at reducing food cravings, and
          3. Not successful at reducing appetite or managing hunger

          It seems I am not unusual in finding this to be a difficult way to live.

          Altering my macronutrient ratios has worked because it solves all three problems. Now I automatically limit my calories without thought or effort, and weight loss is a side effect.

          Allison wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • The weight probably came back because you began overeating once you hit your “goal”. The thing with counting calories is that it works great, but if you lack the ability to maintain a normal weight without it then you always have to do it. This is true for me as I lack the off switch for my appetite even on a paleo/primal diet, but too many people seem to think “I lost 20/40/100 pounds so I can eat whatever now!” and revert to the habits that got them fat in the first place without realizing that such an action will get them fat again. They then lament the failure of calorie counting and blame their failure on that rather than the fact that they themselves shot themselves in the foot.

        I am glad that primal worked for you, but the failure of calories in vs. calories out doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work (it’s biological fact, it works), just that you found it unhelpful for your weight loss due to the inconvenience. I think this is a distinction that too many people seem to be unable to make on here.

        nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
        • I really wish you would check your “biological facts” before posting, yet again, Nigel. Please study Insulin and Leptin. 300 calories of bread and 300 calories of a juicy grassfed steak will not provoke the same insulin response. As insulin is the fat storage hormone, it does not matter if you are in a calorie deficit- insulin will shuttle the excess blood glucose into the fat cell. The body is very efficient at solving the immediate problem of excess glucose. This is the point-choose your food wisely. It’s not calories in/calories out. It’s all about managing your insulin response.

          Whitedaisy wrote on January 9th, 2015
  30. So, to summarize:
    1. Calories matter; you can’t gain weight unless calories IN is greater than calories BURNED. HOWEVER>>>
    2. You can’t accurately measure calories IN. You’d be lucky to be within 20% which would be many pounds per year.
    3. You can’t accurately measure (or control) calories BURNED.

    So I guess…don’t worry about calories!

    Doc Jim

    Jim wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • 2 is entirely wrong. You can’t be sure that processed foods aren’t the exact number provided, but you can Google whole foods (meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables) and use a small scale to get very accurate calorie values. Not worrying about calories is what has gotten America fat in the first place.

      nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • A pint of hot milk has more calories than a chilled pint of the same milk.
        Are you measuring of the temperature too?

        Meat has variable amounts of fat ( much more calories in fat weight) – do you cut out ALL the fat and measure it?

        Mitch wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Assuming what you said is correct (couldn’t find anything about it on Google so I am skeptical), the difference would be negligible at best. You estimate the amounts, and go off of that. Sometimes your estimates will be high, sometimes low, but over the meals it will equalize to a reasonably close value, especially with the wealth of nutritional information that things like Wolfram Alpha has. And, if you find that you aren’t losing sufficient fat or are even gaining it, then decrease your calculated calories by some more. It’s really not difficult or that variable, even with some small variations listed by you and the article itself.

          nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
        • re: Assuming what you said is correct (couldn’t find anything about it on Google so I am skeptical)

          I assume you mean the hot/cold milk comment.
          Yeah the macro calories are the same (carb, fat, protein), but it hot it took energy calories to get it hot (so it has more energy calories ).

          Is this relevant? for a glass of milk to a person it wouldn’t count as much.

          But heat in/out does matter to the body – a person burns calories to maintain temperature.

          If a worker outside in winter is in a tee-shirt. He needs to eat more (or same amount but hot food/drink instead cold food/drink) to maintain temperature and body-weight than if he does the exact same stuff in a pullover/jacket.

          Temperature of food/drink matters if your in temperature extremes.

          If you’re in freezing in a survival situation with only a gallon of water a day (no food), whether the gallon is frozen/very-cold or warm, will have a difference in body-weight over time and survival (yet pure water has no food calories)

          Mitch wrote on January 9th, 2015
        • Jim’s second point was :
          “2. You can’t accurately measure calories IN. You’d be lucky to be within 20% which would be many pounds per year.”

          You said:
          “2 is entirely wrong…….

          …..You estimate the amounts, and go off of that. Sometimes your estimates will be high, sometimes low, but over the meals it will equalize to a reasonably close value

          ……….. And, if you find that you aren’t losing sufficient fat or are even gaining it, then decrease your calculated calories by some more…….”

          Mitch wrote on January 9th, 2015
      • Not counting calories is what got America fat???!! REALLY?
        How do wild animals or bushmen stay thin?!!

        Our ancestors must have been hugely fat as they did not count calories. The term was not even invented until a couple centuries ago or so.

        Esther Cook wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • I think it was a bit different in tribal times. Food was not easy to come by, it took a lot of effort to get hold of it and people lived very active lifestyles. Just getting a drink of water required a lot of effort. Same goes for animals today. Food is not everywhere and animals must expend a lot of energy to stay alive. Unhealthy overweight animals will just not survive.

          Cherry Pie wrote on January 8th, 2015
        • Bushmen and wild animals stay thin because they use up a lot of energy from all the hunting. Whether or not they’re aware of the concept of counting calories, is not relevant. Their bodies are doing the math.

          kim wrote on January 10th, 2015
        • Exactly, Kim! Their bodies did the math. Wondrously.

          There are about 3500 calories per pound of fat. So if you are gaining a pound a year, that is 10 calories per day. Nobody can use those paper calculations to figure out their needs so closely, yet that is a typical story for Americans in their 20’s and 30’s. Even when you are gaining 10 lb a year like menopausal women, the body is only off by 100 calories per day.

          Few bodies gain weight any faster than 10 lb a year.

          When a person diets and loses weight–why is there a rebound effect?

          If a normal body can “do the math” so wondrously, whatever throws it off?

          Esther Cook wrote on January 10th, 2015
  31. So here is an interesting study: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/

    Not sure what to make of it.

    Al wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • That is certainly an interesting study. One thing I make of it is that the foods called “junk,” while vile, are not as bad for you as refined grain products or a number of other things.

      But mainly, the prof succeeded in losing weight by counting calories. Every fatty has managed the same thing. Temporarily.

      How do we restore the body’s natural ability to balance food and nutrient intake resulting in an attractive bod?

      Paleo has worked for some, getting a stand-up job instead of a desk job worked for one man I know, and I read a library book by a hugely fat man who got in shape with wholesome home-cooked meals.

      Esther Cook wrote on January 10th, 2015
  32. Calories in: A cup of gasoline has 485 calories, if I drank 10 a day I should gain a pound, but I’m pretty sure that would not be the result. What’s that you say, it depends on what form the calories are in? Thanks for playing.

    Calories out: Poop burns.Because it has calories in it. I suspect a person on a high fat diet will have some really flammable poop. You could probably use it as fuel – which brings us back to the gasoline issue again.

    Baerdric wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • Not that this is relevant to your point, but you reminded of something else. Did you know the most efficient antioxidant is carbon monoxide? So, not all antioxidants are created equal either.

      John Caton wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • just curious where you read that?

        Erin wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • It’s sarcasm in response to Baerdric’s non sequitur :)

          PH wrote on January 9th, 2015
        • ha! my bad.

          Erin wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • I’m not entirely sure what point you are trying to make, unless you entirely misunderstand what foods we can actually digest and which we can not. We can not metabolize either the calories in gasoline (a cup of which actually contains 3875 kcal, not 485) or the calories (mainly in the form of fiber and dead bacterial matter) in the poop, so hopefully you’re trying to be funny and not actually trying to argue that drinking gasoline would do anything but kill you.

      nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • It’s no fun if I have to explain it to you. But I did mean to write “an ounce of gasoline”…

        Baerdric wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • Well, even that was wrong, lol! I thought there were 64 oz in a gallon for some reason.

          Baerdric wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • So funny! You’ve brought tears to my eyes!

          Kazzarooni wrote on January 8th, 2015
    • Reminded me of something a history teacher said that (I think) the Nazis did in World War 2: harvested poop to extract explosive chemicals from it to use in their bombs. I think the chemicals were nitrates.
      So, a paraffin candle alternative?

      Animanarchy wrote on January 8th, 2015
      • Most cultures burned animal dung at some point in their history, but meat eater dung is probably only really flammable when they are losing weight. While most of the weight is lost in breath, some of those fatty acids are sure to make it to the excrement.

        Baerdric wrote on January 8th, 2015
  33. All book sellers try their best to twist facts, but the fact is NO ONE has ever been able to prove you can over eat above your caloric maintenance day after day and NOT gain weight, It’s funny how we all agree 3500 cals make a pound of fat , but not to lose it…

    ken wrote on January 7th, 2015
  34. On weeks I don’t eat that much I do not lose weight. On weeks when I eat more food I lose 2 lbs. I’m talking about Paleo foods here.

    Shirley wrote on January 7th, 2015
  35. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like Weight Watchers when they had “points”. Sure, the leaders talked about nutrition at the meetings (lots of whole grains), but points in chocolate cake compared to the same points in a pile of cucumbers slices is all the slippery slope I needed to work the system :)

    Kate wrote on January 7th, 2015
  36. I personally think all of these are minor factors compared to calories. Counting calories is only useless if you measure vs some arbitrary value that determines the amount you need. Instead, track your cals every day and in the same manner, and see compare your intake to your avg weight inc/dec over that time. If you gained weight, you know you should cut back and vice versa.

    I do agree that 2000 cals of candy isnt the same as 2000 cals of nuts, but who really eats like that? All this stuff is important to take it to the next level, but calorie intake is #1. Its like buying really high end painting supplies, but you dont know how to paint.

    chris wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • This is similar to what I addressed in my comment. At the end of the day, calories in vs. calories out still holds fast, even if the minutiae changed the exact difference you need between the two to gain or lose weight.

      nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 7th, 2015
  37. This is one of the few places that I disagree with Marky Mark. On one hand he is totally right that it’s not as simple as calories in and calories out in terms of fat and muscle gain and fat loss due to a variety of factors, including the thermic effect of food and how different calories react with the body and whether they are utilized for energy or for structural purposes. However, it’s still by far the most reliable method for both, so the system still works in the end if you follow it. It’s not perfect since calories are estimates at the end of the day (though whole foods aren’t underreported like processed ones often are, so it’s easier with those in my opinion), but I’d take it any day over his “do whatever as long as you eat what I say is healthy” method of eating because that doesn’t work for me. I already eat like that due to my mom raising me right and I still gained a good 20 pounds over the summer last year because I just eat too much and have trouble with my appetite. I need a more concrete method for controlling my food intake, even if his way works for other people, and I think it’s irresponsible to present calories in vs. calories out as inherently incorrect and his way as correct simply because it more closely agrees with what he already thinks.

    This is also one of the cases of Mark cherry picking his data, which bugs me a lot since he is usually fairly good about this. For example, he cites a study comparing overweight men being put on a ketogenic diet compared to a high carb, low fat diet that showed that the men on the ketogenic diet lost more weight despite eating more. What he doesn’t mention is that ketones, once produced, have to be used as energy or else they are expelled in the urine as a waste product. Unlike fatty acids and glucose in the blood that are circulated for energy, which can be reconstituted back into fat if unused, your body expels these sources of energy in the urine if they are not used up by the body, and ends up actually using more energy to do the same things due to being unable to recycle the ketones. It’s why a ketogenic diet functions so well for weight loss, as your body routinely overproduces ketones to ensure that it has enough of them, but it still follows the principle of calories in and calories out, just with your BMR effectively being increased due to a higher energy usage by your body.

    He also misrepresents how quickly your BMR and energy levels drop due to a caloric deficit; it takes a couple of weeks of consuming a caloric deficit of 1000-1500 for your body’s BMR to drop a significant amount, and even then the effect is usually only a few hundred calories drop. Your body still has to function and only so many corners can be cut metabolically. Furthermore, he keeps representing weight loss as just that: weight loss, when the majority of people use it as ignorant short hand for fat loss. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when I say “lose weight” I most definitely mean lose fat.

    nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • I have had this argument with my daughters boyfreind, think the mistake you make is the same as his.
      Yes calorie counting is good IF you eat the right types of calories then use them/system. If you just eat any and restrict to your 2500/2000 whatever it wont work, hasnt for 99% of the population of dieters.

      tazo wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • It’s not a problem with calories in and calories out, it’s a problem with a bad diet and lack of will to not shovel everything that’s not nailed down into your mouth. Losing fat is not that difficult if you make small changes over time and eat a small caloric deficit with light exercise like walking, and the fact that people can’t handle eating less or not eating all the time does not mean the way to lose weight has changed.

        nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • I say eat what is healthy and do a few other things correctly and you should be good to go. Sometimes simple trumps everything else.

      rob wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • A little food for thought..maybe you need to drink more water?

        rob wrote on January 7th, 2015
        • I eat what is healthy, even by primal/paleo standards, I just do not have an appetite “off-switch” and I never have so the idea of “just eat this way and you’ll be fine” does not work for me.

          On average I drink a gallon to a gallon and a half of water a day, not counting tea, so I do not think that is it.

          nigeltheoutlaw wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • Nigeltheoutlaw is correct.

      kim wrote on January 7th, 2015
      • On the contrary, both he and you are refusing to understand that the calories in vs. out model is oversimplistic and does not adequately describe the processes needed for fat loss.

        Jeremy wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • Do children grow because the take in more calories than they expend?

      Russell wrote on January 9th, 2015
      • children grow due to hormonal changes. You can’t feed a kid tall. However providing adequate nutrition while in a growth phase can have an influence on their growth.

        theflexetarian wrote on January 27th, 2016
  38. I don’t think point #3 is a myth. Eating more calories than we expend does cause weight gain. There could be a lot of causes for eating more calories, But the above statement is not a myth.

    Farid wrote on January 7th, 2015
    • But it does not address what is done with that energy. Nor the absorption. Nor the partitioning.. How the body uses it or if it wstes it as heat dissipation, poop it out etc. Nor does it address what form of mass could potentially be gained.

      This is VERY important!

      Brett Michaels wrote on January 9th, 2015
    • I don’t see the evidence matching that. You can gain fat while eating a calorie deficit. You can loose fat eating an excess. That’s why some medications are notorious for causing weight gain. They are not literally reducing your energy expenditure. They are changing your body chemistry and directing it to favor one outcome over another.

      If my calorie expenditure was a magical fixed 2000 calories per day and I added an additional 100 calories a day of sugar or leafy greens they would not produce the same results as they would trigger entirely different metabolic and chemical reactions.

      And since there is no such thing as a fixed metabolic rate and food interacts with this variable, we can safely say that using “calories in verses calories out” is entirely meaningless to the point that it should be a myth.

      Clay wrote on January 9th, 2015
  39. Be very careful when spelling fetishists.

    Greg wrote on January 7th, 2015
  40. As a competitve sod/cyclist will you stop with this. I dont want the simple truth coming out! Please let them watch/eat calories all 2000 in cake a day,

    Then they can watch my skinny arse.

    However when I try telling my kids, and the 18 yr old powerlifting uk champ, gym instructer boyfriend to not to eat the pyramid 5 a day calorie counting nonesense then, Then I need your help.

    tazo wrote on January 7th, 2015

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