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Published: May 18, 2020

The facts about calories in and calories out

I was thinking I hadn’t written an article in a while and it was something I was going to start doing again. Funnily enough I caught up with a friend of mine who showed me an article from her friend in the fitness industry. The article saying “Calories in Calories out! The lie, you’ve been told for too long! Instantly I called bullshit. However, trying to be more open minded in my older years, I thought I better read this article and here what he has to say. One thing I won’t do is call this person out. I admire the work he has done as a Strength and Conditioning coach and admire his passion for the industry, the sad thing he is using incorrect information to ‘Educate’ people on nutrition.

Anyway, the article as suspected was complete bullshit, no studies to back up his claims whatsoever, something which I will provide at the bottom of this article to reference the findings and claims that I’m making and also refuting from the subsequent article.

So first off, he states that alcohol impacts your sleep and testosterone/recovery etc, absolutely true. Leaves you feeling less energetic and you probably want to consume more calorie dense foods. Again absolutely because you’re moving less and consuming more it will mean you gain weight. He also states that low levels of testosterone make you store bodyfat (body stores fat all the time), which again yes it’s true, but it still doesn’t negate the issue of energy balance as this study (1) shows with short term testosterone suppression, just the changes in fat deposits around the body which in this show more fat to store in the legs. Low levels of testosterone in men usually correlate with smaller waist circumference. (2)

Second of all he questions whether you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose fat? Well you do (3) negative energy balance is solely responsible for weight loss. He also criticises calorie counting as a pain in the ass and unsustainable. Which yes I half agree with it’s definitely good to intuitively eat and not worry too much, however you have to earn the right to do that, as people have managed to intuitively eat their to 150kgs. For me personally counting calories has been empowering and I know if I plateau in my fat loss journey it’s an issue with energy balance and I can then figure out whether I need to reduce my intake or increase my expenditure.

He then talks about the number of calories going in and out of your body and saying your body doesn’t know the exact number of calories from certain foods, well yes no shit and he’s totally correct in stating that the hormonal response is different when you eat 100 calories from donuts and an avocado. However a calorie is simply a unit of energy and your body burns calories, so 100 calories from a donut and a 100 calories from an avocado is still 100 calories. The changes in what our hormones do come from the macronutrients in it. He states that the donuts will spike your insulin levels (true) and avocado doesn’t, well an avocado does have carbs in it so yes it does, but anyway lets say for this sake an avocado doesn’t. Insulin in essence is a hormone released by the pancreas that’s transports glucose and regulates blood sugar levels. When we eat carbohydrates and protein insulin levels spike, insulin then transports the glucose into the cells where it gets stored in muscles, liver and adipose tissue (fat tissue). So yes the donut may store a little bit of energy as fat, but once we start moving again we start to burn that energy. Insulin isn’t the devil, I’ll discuss more about insulin later on.

The next part of this is even better he says “It’s not how many calories you eat, it’s how many carbs you eat” this study (4) shows that by not restricting carbs is actually more beneficial to obese clients and calorie for calorie more beneficial to eat a lower fat diet. He then suggests that he only recommends his athletes to eat 50-70 grams of carbs per day or if they’re excessively active 125grams per day ? We doing keto or what mate? I’m on over 3000 calories a day and a lot of carbohydrates, so if I followed this fella’s advice and only eaten 125 grams of carbs per day which is 500 calories (one gram of carbs is 4 calories), I’ve then got another 2500 calories a day to fill up. If I eat 250 grams of protein per day that’s another 1000 calories to my total which still leaves me with another 1500 left. I can only get this from fats and sugar alcohols or alcohol, which the booze 95% of the time I’m not going to do. 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. 1500/9 =166 grams of fat per day. That’s a lot of fat. These measures are also extremely unsustainable too, I’d be drinking shots of olive oil to get that amount of fat in to hit my calories. Telling people to limit their carb intake that low and expecting them to stick to that is absolutely ridiculous, especially when most foods have carbs in them. The client doesn’t learn anything, only that cutting carbs is the only way to lose bodyfat, which just simply isn’t true as this next study show below (5) this shows that high levels of fructose intake IS NOT associated with any metabolic issues or weight gain. Whilst I wouldn’t advise eating this amount of fructose purely because of satiety issues and performance issues, it just shows again that energy balance is key to fat loss.

He also talks about the dangers in sugars, additives and preservatives, yet provides no real study to back up his claim?

He also states that carnivores are lean because their balance of insulin is well maintained? Wrong. They’re lean because they’ve gotten themselves down to a lower bodyfat, whilst being in a calorie deficit as seen in reference 3. Vegans and vegetarians the same thing, fat gain/fat loss comes down to energy balance, same with any diet. No diet has been shown to be more effective for fat loss. Just manage your intake better, learn how many calories a day your body burns. Simple.

He then makes a second article and states that the food pyramid is the reason nations are getting fatter and sicker than ever before. No it’s because we are exposed more to food than ever before, restaurants, takeaways, uber eats, supermarkets open for longer, 24 hour take out stores, it’s easier to overeat, we now move less as technology has advanced, kids play on ipads instead of playing outside, they're far less active than what kids were twenty years ago. All of this contributes to a positive energy balance, not the fucking food pyramid and carbohydrates.

He then states carboydrates are good and have a place in everyone’s diet, but meal timing matters, frequency and type. Yes for performance carbs around training are optimal absolutely, but not for fat loss (6) the study is more around food as a whole, but again meal timing and fat loss don’t make a difference.

He then proceeds to talk about circuit training and saying how you want to add some carbohydrates from “proper” food sources. I get the point he’s making, but Usain Bolt ran a world record from chicken nuggets too. But the whole food demonising shit, gets people confused and then they binge on those foods because people tell them it’s bad and they feel guilty about eating those foods, instead we should be teaching them how to integrate it into their diet. A diet you can stick to 70-80% is better than a perfect diet you can’t stick too, period.

He advises his clients to stay away from carbs when not training because "you don’t need them"

He then states if you were a person “Counting calories” and you’re on 2000 calories a day, he recommends that 15% of your calories is the best for being lean all year round FML (sad reacts only), Myself and my clients who are sub 10% bodyfat must be doing something wrong on our 400 grams of carbs a day then hey, a lot more than the 75grams he suggests for a person on 2000 calories? He then critiques the food pyramid on their stance of 45-60% of your daily intake to come from carbs, stating if someone followed that their total amount of carbs would be 225grams a day and therefore a “hormonal disaster” again no study referenced to back up his claims.

Now the last section about how calories in over calories out is a myth, he then dives in and talks about hormones…… now yes hormones do a play role in weight gain/loss, however it still comes to energy balance, which is calories in over calories out again shown in reference (3) the hormone this person is now demonising is insulin.

He describes insulin like a “power hungry bouncer” who wont let you into the club to dance the night away and “burn some fat” yes insulin stops fat burning, but your body is constantly burning energy, it never stops, so that argument again is just completely flawed 100%. Apparently, the reason you release insulin is because your body doesn’t know when its next meal is. When really your body just releases insulin to regulate your blood sugar levels. He then talks about how often we eat. Doesn’t really matter often we eat in terms of fat loss and whilst he calls out the myth that we need to eat more to speed up the metabolism, it still doesn’t negate the fact that energy balance matters and has nothing to do with insulin. But anyway he continues to say that if your insulin levels are elevated 5-6 times a day and your meals have carbs then well fat loss is impossible. He seems to be confusing fat oxidation and fat burning, but anyway look it is what it is. (7) Another study showing that low carb/keto dieting is no more beneficial to fat loss than higher carb where calories and protein are equated.

Whilst I agree completely in what he stays that refined carbohydrates have poor levels of satiety (they don’t make you full) there is still a place for them in a diet. Refined carbs are awesome and taste so good and from experience integration of these things in our diet, yield far better long lasting results than simply just cutting them out as he is suggesting.

I wonder what his solution is when his client cant lose anymore fat when he’s practically on a keto diet anyway. What’s the next solution? Cut the carbs down more?

Overall to summarise this energy balance matters. What dictates energy balance is completely different for each person. However if youre losing fat, you’re in a calorie deficit, if you’re gaining fat you’re in calorie surplus. You can eat as many avocados, nuts, cook in as much oil as possible, for all its healthy it still has calories in it and too many will cause you to gain weight. Whilst you don’t have to count calories to lose fat, it helps so you can learn something and when the fat loss plateaus which it will at some point, we can at least address the issue of ENERGY BALANCE and rectify it

If you want sustainable fat loss focus on these things:

  • Sleep 7-8 hours and try and get into a good routine
  • Manage your levels of stress, take time to wind down
  • Write down your food and the calorie and macros in them, do this for around three months, so you start to understand and learn more about food.
  • Track your steps, the more we move the better
  • Train for performance, aim for progression
  • High protein is a winner, keeps you full and has a higher thermic effect
  • Eat your carbs whenever you want, just within your calorie budget
  • Stick to an 80:20 rule. 80% nutrient dense foods and 20% of the foods that we all enjoy
  • Lower calorie drinks like vodka lime soda/diet mixers are going to be more helpful than bourbon and coke when trying to balance a social life and achieving fat loss.
  • Enjoy your life and if you want some cake have it, i’ll teach you how to integrate it in.

Anyway if you wish to enquire further about the services I offer. Please book your call on this link below and we will get started.


(1) https://bit.ly/2Zds2hK

(2) https://bit.ly/2z8N9qL

(3) https://bit.ly/2Tg946m

(4) https://bit.ly/3g06nQ9

(5) https://bit.ly/3cFFlLW

(6) https://bit.ly/3fZxCdK

(7) https://bit.ly/2X6NfXV

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