Why “Calories In and Out” Will Always Matter in Weight Loss
Wanna watch grown fitness professionals lose their minds and instantly start arguing amongst themselves? It could be a fun game…
Well, just mention the topic of calories in versus calories out and ‘it’ will be on!
Talk about a controversy…
So what the heck are they on about? Why are the veins popping out of their necks as they turn a different colour and start holding their breath? Is this a new exercise you should know about?
Nope, it’s just that they’re all fired up and on different sides of a very heated debate that goes like this:
- One side believes food quality is what’s important for weight loss and body composition
- The other believes food quantity is what’s important for weight loss and body composition
Both sides have some legitimate arguments, but neither really paints the complete honest truth when talking about calories in versus calories out and how the application of their particular mindset affects your body.
So, today I’m going to help you clear the confusion so you can understand once and for all what the calories in versus calories out technique can do for you, and what it can’t do for you.
Resting Metabolic Rate Argument
Everyone’s body is going to naturally burn more calories at different rates, so some people who are against a “calories in versus calories out” method of dieting use this as one of their arguments. They don’t feel you can assign a caloric number to weight loss because everyone is different.
And it is absolutely true that if two people who weigh approximately the same amount eat the same number of calories and do the same amount of exercise, one of those people might naturally burn 20% more calories.
However, this still doesn’t negate the fact that calories in versus calories out matters.
It just means that each individual needs to determine how many calories they need to take in to lose weight.
If you track your food and find out how many calories you typically take in when your weight stays the same, how much you take in when your weight typically goes up, and how much you take in when your weight goes down, then you can apply the calories in versus calories out rule specifically to you.
Thermic Effect of Food Argument
This is the idea that different foods that are similar in nutrient type and caloric load digest differently inside the body and that some foods burn more calories through digestion when compared to other similar foods.
For example, if you take tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of butter, you’ll probably burn a little bit more calories digesting the coconut oil than you will the butter.
And this leads some people to argue that quality (or type) of food consumed, rather than the caloric amount of the food, is the most important consideration for weight loss. But there are issues with this type of thinking!
Issue #1 With the Thermic Effect: The Caloric Difference Is MINIMAL
At the end of the day, the difference in digestive caloric burning doesn’t really make a significant impact in your diet.
- So, let’s say in a day you can have three coconut oil servings or you can have three butter servings by the tablespoon, and each tablespoon has about 120 calories in it.
- Let’s say, you burn 20 calories of that 120 calories from digesting the coconut oil and you only burn five calories from digesting the butter. Yeah, when you look it at that way, going from burning five calories with butter versus 20 calories with coconut oil can seem significant and statistically, mathematically, yes, that is significant.
- But at the end of the day if you’re taking in an average of 2000 calories a day and you’ve saved yourself 45 extra calories by eating coconut oil, is that really a significant impact, when you consider that one tablespoon of coconut oil is 120 calories itself? No.
So, while the thermic effect is a very, very real thing, its ability to impact weight loss is very, very low in most people.
Issue #2 With the Thermic Effect: The Resulting “Superfood Effect”
When you tell somebody, “Oh, coconut oil is a fat burning food and if you eat coconut oil it will help you burn fat,” they think coconut oil is some kind of magical superfood.
Then they go out and eat 20 tablespoons of coconut oil a day thinking it’s going help them burn fat when in reality they’re just taking in an extra 1,000, 2,000 calories from overeating coconut oil…
And while you may think this example sounds extreme, when we as humans think something can burn fat, we have a tendency to eat as much of it as we can. So, when you’re looking at people who are trying to lose weight or change their body and you’re saying, “Yeah, eat more of this really high caloric density fat and it’ll help you burn fat,” all you’re really doing is having those people take in more calories, and likely gain weight rather than lose it.
Energy Balance and Food Quality
All the arguments surrounding how calories in versus calories out doesn’t matter, fail to take into account the fact that however you expend your energy and however you take your energy in, you’re either putting energy into your body or you’re expelling.
And any time you’re taking in more energy than you’re expelling you are gaining weight and any time that you’re taking in less energy than you’re expelling, you’re always losing weight.
This is one of the most absolute scientifically proven facts in the human body, in terms of weight loss and how weight loss works.
You can’t get around this…
So calories in versus calories out will always matter for weight loss! And when people talk about calories in versus calories out being very, very important in weight loss, this is because that is just how the human body works.
Energy in, energy out. When you have too much, you gain. When you don’t have enough, you lose. And, that is how it works.
And while it’s also scientifically true that people have differing resting metabolic rates and that certain foods burn more calories when they’re digesting, these things are secondary (if that).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying food quality doesn’t work or food quality doesn’t matter. Of course, it does. If you if you want be a healthy human being, if you want to be disease-free, if you want to feel good and have energy every single day, yes, food quality matters!
…This is where people get screwed up in the argument…
When people like me say what I’m saying now—that energy balance is critical for weight loss—that isn’t the same thing as saying food quality doesn’t matter. It’s two different things.
And what I’m saying is, both matter.
Both food quality and energy balance have to be taken into account to optimize your diet, but you can’t say calories in calories out doesn’t matter. It absolutely matters! In fact, it’s the most important factor if you’re trying to lose weight.
Of course you should try to eat the best foods you can as often as possible. But, even if you’re eating quality foods, if you take in more calories than you expel, you are going to gain weight.
So, you have to know how much food you’re eating and you have to understand what is in what you’re eating from a caloric standpoint.
So try this out: Track how many calories you’re taking in every day versus how much energy you’re expelling. This will give you the facts about how many calories you need to consume for your particular body, and in turn make your weight loss and body composition journey much more effective.
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