Calories In Vs Calories Out: Is This for Real?

Calories In Vs Calories Out: Is This for Real?

Does “calories in, calories out” equal weight loss? Can you shed pounds simply by reducing your daily calorie intake? Well, things are more complicated than that. This statement is greatly oversimplified.

As I was saying in my previous post, counting calories is just one small part of the equation. It is important, but not essential. Food affects our bodies in different ways. How much energy we take in and how much energy we use matters. This is an unbreakable law of physics. However, there are several factors that may influence the effects of food on our bodies, such as stress, hormones, physical activity, exercise intensity and more.

Your metabolic rate can change depending on what you eat. Diets with a similar calorie intake but different macronutrient ratios have different effects on cholesterol levels and body composition.

Fats and protein are used to build physical structures in the body, while carbohydrates are used as a source of energy and can be converted into fat. Under certain circumstances, protein can be used for energy as well. Counting calories is important, but there are other factors that matter even more. Cutting carbs while increasing protein and fat will lead to weight loss and calorie restriction.

How Accurate Is the Calories In Vs Calories Out Model?

Recent studies suggest that the human body actually takes in 25% more or fewer calories from food. “Calories in, calories out” is not a myth, but it’s just not as accurate as most people think.

Let’s assume that this statement is correct. This would mean that it really doesn’t matter if we get our calories from junk food and desserts, or from lean meat and veggies. The most important factors in the equation are not the number of calories ingested but their source. In other words, the type of food we eat affects our body composition.

Even eating an extra 40 calories a day could make you gain over four pounds a year. According to health experts, the number of calories on food labels may be inaccurate by up to 25 percent.

Additionally, some calories are absorbed faster than others. For example, white flour is almost completely digested, while only 70 percent of whole flour is fully digested.

Since most processed foods are made with white flour, the calories they contain will be entirely absorbed by your body. If you don’t burn those calories, they will be stored as fat.

The Calories In/Calories Out Model Is Flawed

If you want to lose weight, it’s better to think of your diet in terms of macronutrients, rather than counting calories. Fat loss can’t be reduced to the “Calories in, calories out” model of energy balance.

People tend to compensate for changes in both physical activity and food intake. Athletes, bodybuilders, and active individuals can consume more calories without going into positive energy balance.

Let’s not forget that it takes energy to store energy. The macronutrients in your meals will affect how many calories are burned in converting food into a storable source of energy.

Another point to consider is the thermic effect of food (TEF). Let’s take two different people. One eats a diet consisting of 150 grams of carbs a day, 80 grams of protein, and 50 grams of fat. The other one consumes 150 grams of protein a day, 80 grams of carbs, and 50 grams of fat.

Both people consume the same number of calories a day. Still, the high protein diet triggers a higher thermic rate. Thus, the person who eats 150 grams of protein a day will lose weight faster (on long-term) than the other one. His body uses more energy to digest protein that it would use for digesting carbs.

Factors That Affect Energy Expenditure

What about the calories we burn? It’s very difficult to determine exactly how many calories we consume when lifting weights, doing cardio, walking, or moving around the house.

Different exercises affect our bodies in different ways and have different effects on our hormone levels. Weight training and high-intensity exercises will trigger a greater hormonal response than walking in the park.

Several external factors may affect the way we burn energy. Stress, smoking, medications, alcohol consumption, genetics, menopause, illnesses, sleep, and previous weight problems influence the way we utilize fuel (calories).

The bottom line is: if you want to jump-start your metabolism and lose weight, watch your macronutrient ratios. Eat healthy, unprocessed foods and exercise at high intensity. Have at least five small meals that are rich in quality protein, complex carbs, and good fats.

Image credit: joephotostudio


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