Is It Really As Simple As Calories In vs. Calories Out?
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
The blog post could probably end now, but let me elaborate....
I think many people are a little skeptical about the calories in vs. calories out idea because they feel like they don't eat that much and are still gaining weight. Here's the kicker, you don't know how much you are eating until you are tracking how much you are actually eating. And that means tracking EVERYTHING. Even that late night sugary snack you eat right before bed. Yes, that counts. You will probably soon realize that you are eating a lot more than you think you are. I highly encourage you to track all of your food for one week and see what your consistency really looks like. Then from there you can make a plan.
The bottom line is that your body obeys the law of thermodynamics. You can't get around that. If you consume more energy than you are expending, your body will hold on to and conserve that excess energy. This excess energy turns into extra body weight. This extra weight turns into muscle for some, and fat for others. This is entirely dependent on what kind of foods you are eating and what your training does or doesn't look like. The person that strength trains hard and eats a lot of protein, even if they are in a caloric surplus, will likely add muscle to their frame and not fat.
The next question is how to go about creating the right amount of caloric deficit or surplus, depending on your goals. Most people's goal is to lose weight and look lean while doing it. Meaning, they want to hold on to (or gain) muscle, while losing body fat. This is where tracking your food for the week will come in handy. Once you know how many calories you are eating on a daily basis that is contributing to your weight gain or weight maintenance, you can start to create a plan to minimize that if your goal is to lose weight. A strong suggestion if you want to lose weight is to start in a small caloric deficit. Dropping down to 700 calories a day is not healthy and I highly encourage you not to do that. Start with just a 100-200 drop in calories and see how your body adjusts. Try to eat a lot of protein and as healthy of foods as possible (we all have an intuitive sense as to what those are).
You can lose weight just by adjusting your calorie intake to be in a deficit. You don't even have to train. But, I highly encourage you to train. The benefits of exercise go way beyond body composition and I think it is one of the most important things any human could be doing in the year 2020. The reason I think more people are overweight than ever before is because there is an extraordinary amount of available fast food that is highly caloric, and people are more sedentary than ever before. My first suggestion for anyone wanting to lose weight would be to exercise more than they currently are. Even if it is going for a walk every day.
Our ancestors were very fit and healthy. I don't think that is solely because they only ate meat and berries. It's because they moved non stop. This movement dictated how hungry they would be and when they would eat. They weren't tracking their calories, but they were in a constant state of energy expenditure. It was virtually impossible for them to be overweight. But, if you dropped a few McDonalds in the savanna, and gave them some couches and T.V., I think this would change in no time.
I understand tracking your food can be hard and it can lead to a psychological state of being neurotic around food, which is never a good thing. But, I highly encourage it, even if it is for a little bit to gain the understanding. It is important to enjoy life. It can also be super rewarding to achieve your goals and the body you want.
If you would like a consultation with a coach from Lift Lab where we can create a more elaborate plan for you, email Justin@liftlabco.com. We would love to help you make the change you want to see!