Counting calories to lose weight.
Is it just a pipe dream?
The concept seems very simple. It’s based on the ‘calories in vs calories out’ model of weight loss.
That if you just go on a calorie deficit, you’re gonna lose weight. And the most mainstream way of doing this is called IIFYM or ‘if it fits your macros’.
And this diet, counting calories to lose weight, is still as prevalent on social media.
This is still what a lot of trainers, dieticians, nutritionist, macro coaches, and even your doctor. You know, your kind of overweight doctor giving you diet advice? This is what they push as the best way to lose weight.
Just go on a calorie deficit.
It’s such an easy sell because hey, as long as it fits your macros. It’s all good. Eat whatever you want. And this was really popularized by the body building community.
Again, the concept of counting calories to lose weight sounds great in in principle.
Especially when you scroll through instagram and you see all these people who are losing weight and they’re getting shredded.
This is when you see people posting that they eat pop tarts for dinner. Or they had ‘In-N-Out burger’ and they put the macros of their food.
So I can totally see why people are drawn to this. And I know first hand because I used to do it. It’s awesome to think that you can have anything you want as long as it fits your macros.
But I think deep down, we all know something is off about this. If it sounds almost too good to be true, it usually is.
Counting calories to lose weight – Explained
Let’s break down the concept of tracking macros.
It’s basically an advanced version of counting calories to lose weight for all intents and purposes.
Because now you’re also accounting for macronutrients. That’s what macros is short for. And your macros are fat, protein, and carbs. As long as you hit your daily numbers, you’re good.
BUT, If you follow that concept literally, that’s where the problem starts. Why? Because it’s such an over simplistic way of looking at the human body. It’s too big of a blanket statement.
It doesn’t address your body’s physiological response to certain macros. Or the quality and nutritional profile of the foods you’re eating. Nor does it address satiety. It doesn’t address your body’s hormonal response. It doesn’t address nutrient timing or bio individuality.
No. As long as you hit your macro ratio and numbers, you’re good.
The most popular split is 40/30/30. 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein. That’s actually not the worst, I guess. But it also doesn’t make it optimal.
But some people, especially the ones who are addicted to carbs can start at 50% carbs and go higher from there.
So if you were counting calories to lose weight by following IIFYM, and your calorie counting app spits out 1500 calories as your daily calorie deficit number. You can technically eat 1500 calories of protein powder, pop tarts, rice crackers, egg whites, and you’re gonna lose weight.
That’s where the problem starts.
Full transparency, you will lose weight at the beginning by counting calories to lose weight. Even if you eat all the crappy food I just mentioned.
But the keyword there is at the beginning. If you put yourself in a calorie deficit, you’re gonna lose weight. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that.
But, you need to ask better questions. Are you gonna be healthy just by cutting calories and eating junk? Are you gonna feel good? But most importantly, are you gonna be able to maintain your results?
The answer is, no. That’s a hot negative.
This is why I’m never impressed with people’s before and after pictures after 8 weeks. No. Show me how you look 8 months later. I wanna see your after, after picture. Because that usually tells a better story.
In fact, counting calories to lose weight, this over simplistic calories in vs calories out model, has been shown to have a 99% failure rate.
And I’m gonna show you its 5 biggest flaws and what you need to do instead order to get results.
The ‘calories in vs calories out’ model’s biggest flaw: It assumes that your metabolism stays the same.
And this is my all time favourite non sense, BS comment from the CICO zealots. They’ll say, “It’s the first law of thermodynamics, bro. You can’t break physics.” Yeah, I know.
But for that argument to hold, that assumes that your body is a closed system and that your metabolism stays stable. Both of which, your body is neither.
If you look at actual studies, instead of just throwing a presumptuous statement that you probably just heard from your bro, your metabolism can go up or down by as much as 40%.
Let’s relate this back to what happens when you start counting calories to lose weight and you go on a deficit.
It works at the beginning. But eventually, the weight loss stops. That’s when you hit the dreaded weight loss plateau.
It’s not because you’re counting your calories wrong. It’s because your body is an adaptation machine. And it’s adapted to this semi starved state by lowering your metabolism.
You can’t just go on a calorie deficit and not expect your body to adjust to it.
But if you have no idea that this is happening, our first instinct is to cut even more calories.
But again, your body eventually adapts to this. And this becomes a vicious cycle until you get to a point where you’re eating less than 1,000 calories every day.
You’re barely eating anything. You’re hungry, you’re tired all the time, you have no energy, and you get “hangry: easily. Worse of all, you’re not losing weight. Sound familiar?
The second flaw of counting calories: It reduces food to just a number
I have such a big problem with this.
Because the thinking is that 100 calories of fruit loops is the same as eating 100 calories of eggs.
If you are under that belief, you’ve got your work cut out for you. You don’t need me. You need a miracle.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to deduce that 100 calories of breakfast cereal will have the same fattening effects as 100 calories of eggs.
The former is made out of refined carbs and sugar. You’re gonna get a rush of blood glucose when you eat it. It’s then gonna trigger a huge spike in insulin, which is your storing hormone. It’s gonna shift your body into fat storing mode.
Your body can only be in two states. You’re either be in the fed state, or the fasted state.
All you need to remember is high insulin, from eating a lot of refined carbs and sugar, blocks fat burning.
Eating fruit loops also results in increased inflammation and increased cortisol. That combination is gonna cause your body to increase sugar cravings.
While the latter, eggs, is an extremely nutrient dense unprocessed food.
It’s basically nature’s multivitamin. It has 13 vitamins and minerals. Most of which are in the yolk. It’s actually the healthiest part of the egg. So stop eating boxed egg whites.
Eggs are also high in fat and protein both of which activate your satiety hormones. Your body only has to release a minimal amount of insulin because you don’t have a massive spike in blood glucose. Your hormones stay balanced.
But this concept of treating all calories equal has given birth to a multi billion dollar industry of food like products.
Which leads me to to the next flaw.
The third flaw of counting calories to lose weight
It leads to the consumption of what I like to call ‘Frankenfoods’. You’re eating food-like products that have been processed to the nth degree.
This is when you see people eating low calorie ice cream like Halo Top, skim milk, margarine, low fat cheese, and low calorie and low fat versions of foods (ie. those 100 calorie packs of Oreos), and drinking diet soda.
This is where the dietary fat phobia starts for a lot of people. We tend to
gravitate towards these ‘Frankenfoods’ because they’re lower in calories. The problem is, when fat gets taken out of these foods because it’s calorically dense, food manufactures have to replace it with something else to make it taste good. And that something else is sugar. And they’re very good at hiding it. There are over 60 different names of sugar.
Fat doesn’t make you fat. If anything, if you’re not eating enough fat, you’re probably fat from eating these ‘Frankenfoods’.
The higher the processing your food goes through, the higher the insulin response, the worse it is for you.
That’s why diet soda is one of the biggest lies in the history of nutrition. Nothing that sweet gets a free pass once it enters your system.
In fact, diet soda is often linked to weight gain, not weight loss. Why? Because it destroys your gut microbiome. It doesn’t matter that it says “zero” calories.
The other problem is food manufacturers spend top dollars on research to make these foods highly palatable. Your brain literally lights up like a Christmas tree when you eat these foods.
All you need to know is this. There are no bad foods, only processed ones.
The fourth flaw of counting calories: It doesn’t address nutrient timing
What you eat and when you eat are equally as important when it comes to weight loss.
Counting calories to lose weight provides you with the macros. But it doesn’t really say when you should be having those macros. Or, how you should be having them.
For example, let’s use 1500 as your calorie deficit number. In theory, you can eat 15 of those ‘100 calorie’ Oreo packs and you’re gonna lose weight.
Initially? Maybe. But you’re most likely not gonna be healthy in the long run.
And that’s the other problem with just counting macros to lose weight. It leads to this myth of eating 6 small meals a day or snacking all day to keep your metabolism running.
That is literally one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to lose weight.
Because again, every time you eat, your insulin goes up. Especially when you eat ‘Frankenfoods’. Again, high insulin blocks fat burning.
Think about it this way. If you start your day with breakfast cereal, which should really be called breakfast candy, or toast. And then you have a granola bar for a snack mid morning.
Then you have lunch, you eat a protein bar for a snack, then you drink your pre workout or you sip on gatorade during your workout, then you drink your protein shake afterwards. Then you have dinner. And maybe you have a little late night snack. That’s easily 7 meals right there.
I don’t care if all the food you ate from those 7 meals fits your macros. You’re not gonna lose weight. You’re basically putting food in your mouth every 2-3 hours which keeps you in fat storage mode all day.
Why is nutrient timing so important? You can bet that there is a world of difference with how your body reacts when you’re in fat storage mode all day from eating all day. And your only break is when you’re sleeping. Versus having a compressed eating window of eating all your food in a 6-8 hour eating window.
The fifth flaw of counting calories: It doesn’t address satiety
Here’s a very important concept you need to understand.
Weight loss in its very essence is not about counting calories, it’s about controlling hunger.
Why? Because being hungry sucks.
I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed feeling hungry. And you can really only fight hunger for so long. You’re going against your hunger hormones. You’re going against your physiology, and it will always win.
Let’s go back to the real food vs ‘Frankenfood’ example.
What do you think is more satiating for breakfast. Fruit loops with skim milk, or bacon and eggs and avocado?
The former is made out of refined carbs and sugar. Which again will cause a huge spike in your blood glucose resulting in a subsequent spike in insulin. Which then results in a subsequent blood sugar and insulin crash.
Your body treats this as if you’re going into a state of hypoglycaemia. So it sends hunger cues through the hormone ghrelin that you need a quick hit of fuel.
Notice how you’re always hungry mid morning or mid afternoon after a high carb and high sugary meal? And what do we usually reach for? More of those frankenfoods.
Same thing if you drink a can of diet coke. You’re even more hungry afterwards.
Whereas, if you eat bacon and eggs and avocado. It’s high in fat and protein which will activate your satiety hormones and turn off your hunger hormones. You won’t feel the need to snack in between meals.
Plus, breaking news, you have no calorie counter in your stomach. That’s why drinking “zero” calorie diet soda is the biggest scam.
You do however have hunger and satiety hormones. You should focus on regulating that instead by eating real food. I’ve seen my students achieve amazing results and they’ve never counted calories. They just focus on eating real food.
Let’s pivot. This would be incomplete and biased if I didn’t mention that you can count calories and do IIFYM the right way.
In fact, it can be an unbelievably powerful tool when it comes to dialling in your nutrition.
But with great power, comes great responsibility. You have to use it properly. What I wanted to talk about is what I see that is very common where people royally mess up.
It can be used as a powerful tool, but it needs to be done the right away.
What I mean by that is if you use the right macronutrient ratio by going high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. Because that is the best ratio to moderate your insulin levels.
Then set your goal to achieve metabolic flexibility. And you achieve that all powerful metabolic state by revolving your diet around single ingredient, mostly unprocessed, nutrient dense foods.
Followed by eating organic vegetables and pastured animals, or the highest quality food that you can afford.
Counting macros to lose weight can be an unbelievably powerful tool. Especially if you combine it with time restricted eating or intermittent fasting.
And my entire YouTUbe channel is all about achieving metabolic flexibility and intermittent fasting so make sure you check out my other videos.
You should also check out my programs if you just want a proven step-by-step plan on how to do this properly.
At the end of the day, the human body is an amazing, sophisticated, complex system.
Reducing it down to just counting calories and adding it all up on your macro calculator is not doing it any justice. It’s more than just a mathematical equation.
And that’s where people go wrong with it. It’s when people fall into the trap of eating frankenfoods. You’re better than that.
But if you use tracking macros and counting calories to lose weight the right way.
By also factoring nutrient timing, eating the best quality foods you can afford, optimizing your hormones, making supportive lifestyle choices, and working on achieving metabolic flexibility? You might just unlock the blueprint for fat loss.
Just remember this. Calories matter, but hormones count more. Food is information, not just a math equation.
As always, if this was helpful, share it with a friend who could benefit from it as well!
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