Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Ask anyone what it takes to lose weight and they will most likely recite to you the following:
Calories Out> Calories In

Simple, right? As long as your are working out and burning more calories then you consume, scientifically, you should lose weight.  I subscribed to this belief for a long time. I did the calories counting, I tracked all my food and activity and at the end of the day my goals were not met and I was left exhausted from all the tracking and math.  This would leave me extremely frustrated.  Why wasn't all the working out and starvation working for me? I MUST be burning enough calories to create a deficit. 

Well....if only it could be that easy. 

The equation  above that we have all been taught fails to take a few things into account, namely Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR is how many calories you burn at rest.  To calculate your true BMR you must account for muscle mass and there is much controversy among scientists as to how many calories a pound of muscle really uses. So how is someone suppose to know exactly how many calories they need to burn to create a deficit? It is not as if the human body is as simple a car. With a car, we can measure how far we can go on a gallon of gas and how much we would need to drive to run out.  The way the human body uses calories is vastly different from machines and extremely individualized.  There are so many things to take into account when trying to measure calories such as genetics, sleep, medications, stress, illness, past dieting and age.

And here is the other shocker--- our bodies are made to survive! If you underfeed your body (reduce your calories), while increasing your physical demands for the long-term, there is a good chance your body will maintain it's adapted lower level of energy expenditure and store any addition energy (remember your body is trying to survive) as FAT.  Not only is this counterproductive to what you want to achieve (weight loss) but over time, this method can damage your metabolic rate and your body's normal functions. This only makes dieting harder and harder. Not only does this do damage to your physically, but think about the mental stress that you put yourself under by counting all those calories and not getting the results you want. Pure frustration!

Now there is a lot of science that goes behind why this equation doesn't work and I won't pretend to really understand it all, but in the most simplest of form, it goes back to thermodynamics. Remember that from high school physics? Specifically, the first law of thermodynamics states that the process if increment in the internal energy of a system is equal to the increment of heat supplied to the system, minus the increment of work done by the system on its surroundings.   WHAT?? 

Let's break that down a bit more to: 
"energy can neither be created or destroyed" 

AH...everyone remembers that saying.  You with me?
This law is where we get the equation that calories in must be less then calories out to lose weight. 

Here are some things to consider that make the law of thermodynamics not applicable to the human body when trying to lose weight
  1. When we eat, we consumer carbs, fats, and proteins. Proteins do other things in our body like build muscle and repair cells. Fat acts as a vehicle for nutrients and does its job insulting and repairing cells. So fat and protein are actually used by our bodies, they  act as our bodies fuel, they are not calories that are burned or stored like carbs
  2. Also mentioned this above...BMR is hard or impossible to calculate so we never truly know how many calories we are burning in 24 hours
  3. As with all physics laws, it is assumed that your body (the system) is a perfectly efficient calorie burning machine. And in case you didn't know it, your body is NOT ever 100% efficient. It is not a closed system, rather your body is affected by things such as genetics and environment

Still not convinced?
Have you ever known someone that can eat everything in sight and not gain a pound? We all know them and all hate them. And you have asked yourself, why?! Why can't I be like that?
And this person, that eats everything and maybe does nothing, it your simplest form of proof that the calorie in vs. calorie out equation is flawed.

So moral of the story...to give your body the best chance at getting to its optimal weight and to reduce your mental stress...STOP CALORIE COUNTING!
Eat real nutritious food, work out, sleep and repeat daily. 

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