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The Calorie Debate Thread

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  • The Calorie Debate Thread

    I thought this may be an interesting project, especially for all of us who like to have a nice friendly discourse regarding an important topic.

    The nature of calories -- even throughout this forum, there seems to be two principal schools of thought regarding calories: they either matter or they do not.

    Some claim that calories in should equal calories out. Some claim that it does not make sense of think of the body as perfectly tracking every single calorie that goes through it.

    I'd like to see what you all think on this subject matter.

    The traditional, even the CW, approach, is that to sustain your weight, you have to perfectly balance the calories you eat with the calories you exhume. However, calories are not "real" entities, as are things like fatty acids and proteins. If a person eats as little as one calorie over their "daily budget," then he or she is elibigle for weight gain over the long run. Also, the thermodynamic hypothesis (energy in = energy out) applies to simple systems functioning in one level of scale. Humans and other animals are multi-scalar systems that function at different temporal levels: the neuron funcions at a different rate than the entire brain in which it is nested, than the entire body in which the brain is nested, and so forth.

    However, many people claim to see results by following how many calories they eat. Then again, people even one hundred years ago did not have fit day, and people a centruy ago did not suffer from many problems we see today, even through all the grain consumption.

    Let the discussion begin!
    Here it is, your moment of zen.

    It's a no brainer: The journal of the cerebelum

  • #2
    People from thousands of years ago also didn't have delivery or supermarkets. So it was difficult to stuff your face day in day out.


    • #3
      Personally, I think that since protein really isn't a major fuel source for the human body under normal circumstances that protein calories should not be considered or counted the same way that ones from carbs and fat are. I think that the mistake that we tend to make around here is to over consume fat by virtue of the fact that we are greatly reducing or nearly eliminating our carbohydrate intake.


      • #4
        Interested to see how this plays out. I think calories matter. I don't seem to lose, unless I am under a certain amount, no matter how clean I eat. I can say though, that I am maintaining my weight very easily eating whatever I want from the primal blueprint foods......even when adding in an absolute ton of 85% chocolate (about 1/4 to 1/2 a bar a day).

        I feel like I'm pigging out, but not gaining weight.......haven't counted calories though since I haven't been trying to lose lbs.


        • #5
          Here's something I wonder about too after rereading the section covering Ketones in the BP. If we're in a mild state of ketosis...and once there, the body expels ketones (energy) in urine and waste products, then our effective calorie burning rate goes way up, correct? That might help to account and reconcile the two theories. Thermodynamic laws are kind of tough to get around.


          • #6
            I think at some level calories matter. Yes, if you eat more than your body needs you will pack on weight.

            What is wrong with CW is the notion that your metabolism is totally unaffected by what you put in your body. (so in ketosis in pp calories in still equals calories out...there is just a higher out than in other scenario)

            However I do not think a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Even CW doesnt when it comes right down to it. They will SAY that insulin resistance leads to lower metabolism...but then go back to calorie is a calorie....but you have to assume a lower burn. If you do any research at all into diabetes even from CW sources it will say that one of the issues in managing type II is that once the insulin resistance starts the body increases hunger and decreases metabolism so you get fatter which makes the diabetes worse which makes you hungrier and fatter until you fall off a cliff.

            As to 100 years ago...People simply did not eat the quantity of processed food that we eat now. Period. I think that if the magic food fairy came down and eliminated all processed foods and all you could buy was unprocessed foods it frankly wouldnt matter much if you were vegan or paleo, high fat /low carb or hc/lf. The majority of people would be healthy in about 10 years. Much of the remaining damage would clear up in a generation. Much of the necessity for lower carbing (to the point of needing to restrict fruits, veggies and nuts) that you see on this site is to repair damage caused either from eating poorly earlier in life, or they are finding, in utero.

            Food was just more work. You didnt run out and get a big mac and fries. At best you probably baked your bread and made the patties and sliced the potatoes and fried them in oil. Maybe you bought bread 100 year ago, probably not 150. Mom probably didnt take too kindly to you eating an entire loaf in one sitting if she was kneading it for hours.

            I (blushing slightly) have the Little house in the praire cookbook. In it she documents what a typical farm breakfast was for Almanzo when they were married and living in the ozarks. By ANY diet it is a feast of gargantuan proportions. But they both worked their ass off to make that food. Maybe they bought flour or sugar, but they also hacked the heads off their chickens and plucked them. The time created to make food means you didnt wander into the kitchen aimlessly and scarf down 400 calories randomly while you try to figure out what you want.

            For what it is worth I think I am losing weight partially because I am eating food that encourages losing and partially because I am eating less even with the high fat. Satiety for me has decreased by about 700 calories a day. However I estimate my intake to by old formulas still be "too high" to be losing at the rate I am losing.
            Last edited by runnergal; 02-03-2011, 04:12 PM.
            MTA: because it is rare I dont have more to say

            "When I got too tired to run anymore I just pretended I wasnt tired and kept running anyway" - my daughter Age 7


            • #7
              The human body is a very complicated, well designed feedback system. If it's healthy, the system works and maintains the proper weight. Eat a bunch of crap and screw the system up and you get fat. Pretty simple, really. You aren't smart enough to do all this in a conscious way, so you'd better concentrate on staying healthy and let your body do the tricky stuff.



              • #8
                Do calories matter? Sure. I also think it's funny that people think they can outsmart their body and figure out exactly how many calories are being burned. Your body can up and down regulate so many things to account for excess or deficits of calories. It's also pretty hard to know exactly what's going in the ol' piehole...calories vary and most of us use generic food databases...the gov't even allows up to 20% variance on food labels vs what's actually in the food. You combine what your body can do to adjust it's metabolism with the inherent in accuracy in logging food (even if you are a meticulous weigh/measure person) and it's all basically a crap shoot. I think tracking can be VERY helpful though in keeping people from binging. It also makes them aware of what they're eating and I think that spontaneously makes people eat less.

                If it were JUST about calories in/calories out, then weight loss would be linear. There would be no plateaus. Even on shows like Biggest Loser where they contestants are meticulously watched every moment, they don't see linear weight loss.

                What a lot of folks have a problem with - and this can happen even eating "real, whole, unprocessed" foods is eating for the sake of eating and not from hunger. This has been my problem all week. sigh. If I keep eating beyond what I know I need, I'm gonna gain weight. In this case, the system is working (my body isn't saying "feed me"...and in some cases it's shouting I'M FULL UP!) but my boredom and laziness is saying eat eat eat eat past what my body wants or needs.

                And that doesn't even get in to how stress/cortisol and other hormones can affect metabolism.

                I think nutrient density matters a great deal. Stephan Guyenet wrote a line that struck a cord with me with respect to weight loss - essentially you have to have a calorie deficit without the body thinking there's a calorie deficit. You do that with REAL whole, unprocessed, nutrient=dense foods - meat, veggies, fat. And, you have to have a GI system that can digest and absorb said nutrients...things like wheat and other grains break down this system.

                eta: I think about this a lot and find it a really interesting subject. I frequently change my opinion as I learn new stuff, so this thread will be really interesting to read!
                Heather and the hounds - Make a Fast Friend, Adopt a Greyhound!


                • #9
                  They matter, but if you are eating low processed carbs and whole foods, it will be hard to stuff your face enough to get fat in the face of your increasing metabolic rate and need to exercise constantly. You can do it though, I just did it this fall and am about to do it again (gain weight on paleo). I had to force myself to drink coconut milk and chocolate shakes before bed every night, literally. I was also COMPELLED to take brisk walks every night. Weird stuff.
                  Calories matter but they are not the whole story.
                  If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least and this (personal fave):


                  • #10

                    this post in my opinion is $$, cleared up a lot of body functioning for me
                    Get on my Level


                    • #11
                      Wow. That guy needs a writing class.



                      • #12
                        wanted to add...a nourished body with abundant nutrient access does not in any way WANT to gain weight. when a human body gains and loses weight, theres ALWAYS a reason and it almost ALWAYS makes evolutionary sense.

                        so, if your gaining weight, think about why your body is gaining weight, there IS a reason- either youre doing something to make your body think it needs stores of adisope or it needs to increase your muscle size.

                        if youre IR, your body is like that for a reason, something youre doing is disabling your body from accessing glucose/insulin release correctly. if you eat a ketotic diet, it makes sense you should be IR b/c if not, i think it is safe to say youd end up dead or severely unhealthy. you should have circulating FFA because your running off them. the problem is FFA in the presence of excess insulin.

                        if you dont eat a ketogenic diet, then your body is use to or primed to run off glucose and your insulin SHOULD spike when you eat, and IMO, you need to eat more often, but not keep your glucose spiked. if your clearance rate is f-ed then you would fare better on keto.

                        but calories... i dunno they do not make any sense to me. youre putting a measure on a piece of nutrition. when i look at food, regardless of what it is, i look at it as nutrition and wage whether it makes me feel good or not.

                        calories dont matter, nutrition is what matters...if youre giving your body excessive nutrition, it will store it in either msucle or fat stores, if youre undernutrienting your body it will store in case of an emergency and then throw off your glucose tolerance as a ''starvation' response...its a delicate balance
                        Get on my Level


                        • #13
                          Allow me to quote Gary Tabues from the article in Readers Digest as he says it best...'

                          "There's this absolutely fundamental idea when it comes to weight and obesity - that the way we get fat is that we take in more calories than we expend. Its the gluttony and sloth hypothesis: We eat too much and exercise too little. It sounds undeniable, as commonsensical as can be, and it's actually nonsense - it doesn't tell us anything meaningful about why we get fat. If I get fatter, it's obvious that I must have overeaten. But if you ask the question, Why did you overeat? Well, that question I can't answer - not with the calories-in/calories-out theory of weight gain.

                          People react to this as though I'm questioning the laws of thermodynamics. I'm not questioning them; I'm saying they're not relevant. Yes, if you're getting fatter, you're taking in more calories than you're burning - the question is why. There's a ridiculously simple alternative hypothesis, why is that you don't get fat because you're overeating. You overeat because you've developed a disorder in the way your fat tissue is regulated."

                          Its simple. A calorie is a unit of measurement. If you take in 2000 calories every day but only burn 1999 then you will gain weight. That is a fact. But, it simply does not matter because counting calories is IMPOSSIBLE. There are unlimited factors that determine how many calories you burn.

                          What do you guys think?
                          Find me at Cheers!


                          • #14
                            I think we need to take it upon our primal selves & conduct an experimental. An experiment with real actual humans, because I don't know about you guys but I don't really care about what makes a rat or pigeon or turtle pack on the pounds.

                            Group 1: eat 50 G carbs/ day & unlimited protein & fat calories
                            Group 2: eat 50 G carbs/ day & limit total calories to...what do you say, 1,500 for women & 2,000 for men?

                            Then I think I could confidently state my opinion about calories (though in full disclosure I am leaning towards Taubs' explanation).
                            Notebook of a Nutrition Nerd



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by gordo View Post
                              Wow. That guy needs a writing class.

                              Thank you, Sir.

                              My take on this subject is simple: Calories start to matter when you arent eating what you are supposed to.