First things first:
Calories In/ Calories Out (CI/CO) works and it works for everyone. It’s just that there are two problems with assuming that CI/CO is the be-all and end-all of weight loss.
- Measuring metabolic rate is much more complex than any calculator on the internet.
- There are other factors that affect weight loss and fat burning (which are very different and will be talked about later.)
What some people just don’t get is that it is all CI/CO. I don’t care if you believe that you are that special someone who has a metabolism that is half of the rest of the world. Your weight is still ruled by CI/CO (you just need much less CI, because you have such a low CO.) Or it might be that you use steroids or other enhancers in your quest for muscle-building. CI/CO is still the rule (except, in this case, your CO is so high that you need more CI.)
In both situations, CI/CO is what rules your weight loss potential. But the average online metabolism calculator will likely give you a calorie budget that is wildly inaccurate, which means you will not lose weight as you think you will. It’s the equation that is faulty, not CI/CO.
And it is not the type of calories that you consume.
I don’t know how many calories you burn on a daily average, but let’s assume you burn 3250 calories a day. If you ate 5000 calories of meat (just meat, you pick the animal) you will gain weight. The excess 1750 calories of meat will cause a ½ pound (approximate) gain of fat.
If you ate 5000 calories of veggies and fruit, you’d gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.
If you ate 5000 calories of table sugar (6.5 cups), you’d still gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.
I’ve never seen any proof that suggests otherwise. Yes, my religion is science. Show me the data—peer-reviewed, double-blinded, control groups, and a large population tested—and I’ll believe it. Tell me your gym coach told you so, and I’ll smile politely.
But there is another factor that clouds the issue. People here talk about CI/CO and weight gain/loss when it would be much more accurate to equate CI/CO with FAT gain/loss.
Weight changes can be fat, but more commonly—and especially with large and rapid changes—that weight is mostly water. Water retention and expulsion is different from CI/CO. When you consider water weight, that brings in many other factors—and everyone out there who thinks that they are completely uncontrolled by CI/CO might be completely controlled by those factors.
- Natural hormones fluctuations in bothmen and women. Hormone changes greatly influence water retention.
- Stress levels (which also alter the hormone levels)
- High (or low) sodium diets
- Alcohol (This affects the liver, which pulls in water to dilute and break down the alcohol.)
- Health conditions, especially any that involve the heart, kidneys or liver
- Allergies, especially sensitivity to carbohydrates.
All of those factors change a person’s hydration status, which is another way of saying it changes their weight. More water within the tissues means more weight. But none of those change a person’s fat stores, which is what people really want to reduce.
Let’s talk briefly about carbs. It is not that carbs necessarily make you gain more fat stores, but they can make you gain weight. This is why some people say that when they stop eating carbs they are able to lose weight faster. Carb metabolism requires extra water in the biochemical process.
When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles for energy. For every gram of glycogen stored, you gain approximately 2.7 grams of water (that is about ½ teaspoon). This water retention occurs because your kidneys hold on to sodium in response to carbohydrate consumption. Your body reacts to the higher sodium levels by storing more water to keep the sodium-blood concentration at a healthy level. Eat fewer carbs and your body excretes the extra water. But that is a WEIGHT loss, not a FAT loss, and that is where people are confused.
It’s relatively easy to drop a lot of weight fast. Eat mostly protein and fat which require less water to break down. This explains why those members of what I call the keto-cult experience rapid weight loss. Their body is dumping extra water that is no longer needed. That makes the scale move, but it is not necessarily fat loss. There are other methods to reduce the body’s water level. Both wrestlers and boxers will take specific actions to dump weight a couple days before the meet. They will drop 10-15 pounds in less than 2 days so that when they weigh in, they are in a lower weight class (and yet have all the muscle of the larger weight class.) Then after they weigh in, they try to rehydrate.
DO NOT DO THAT. THIS IS VERY UNSAFE. I AM NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU ANY IDEAS ON HOW TO DO THAT.
Let’s look at marathon runners. They are the exact opposite. What do marathoners do the night before the race? They gorge on pasta the night before the race. Pasta = carbs = more water retention for metabolism (and the sauce will be sodium-heavy, too), which will increase their running endurance. During the race, their body will use up all the stored water as the muscles work hard, and their skin sweats to keep them as cool as possible.
If people could change their mindset from “I’m going to lose weight” to “I’m going to lose fat” then maybe—slowly—the idea of CI/CO would be more accepted as the reality. But even if people have that way of thinking, most do not have the proper method of measuring fat content. Those scales that measure fat are grossly inaccurate, as they are dependent upon the correct hydration status. If a person is even a little dehydrated (as they are in the morning, when their body weight is the lowest) the sensors notice poor electrical conduction and determine the person has a high body fat percentage (fat is a poor electrical conductor.) If they get on the scale at night, when they are fully hydrated from eating and drinking all day, the scale will sense good electrical conduction, and therefore a lower body fat percentage. But the scale will also show a huge increase in weight (overall weight, not increased fat stores) and no one wants to see a number like that. If you really want to determine body fat, you can purchase calipers to measure fat stores (but that takes training and practice.)
So, what is the bottom line?
Stop worrying about weight. Focus on fat reduction through the proper consumption of food. I don’t care what you eat—carbs, protein or fats—but I do care about how much you eat. Experiment with your calorie budget. Pick a budget that you think will work for you, and eat it for a month. If you lost the weight you predicted, you are set. If you lost too much, or not enough, now you have evidence that your budget needs to go up or down. But that evidence only applies to you, and it is still a demonstration and CI/CO.
It is all CI/CO.
Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of Audionautix.com
Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over
work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!
All images are Creative Commons Zero.