Counting calories is the LEAST EFFECTIVE dieting method I know of. “Energy-In, Energy-Out” Diet Theory (aka Calorie Theory) is just utter GARBAGE. The assertion of those who believe in this failed theory of human fat loss is, “you simply have to burn off more calories than you eat”. Their mantra is “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie”. I’ve been hearing, seeing, and often politely and silently tolerating this nonsense for at least 25 years.
Other, professionals like me have also had to suffer through being lectured on why Calorie Theory is valid by less educated people who just do not grasp why they are wrong. Gillian Michaels once scolded author Gary Taubes (who has a Physics degree from Harvard) on the Law of Thermodynamics on national television. Here is Gary’s response:
You cannot talk uneducated and/or inexperienced people out of what they BELIEVE to be true. In fact, there are 3 specific topics of conversation where people say, “I believe what I believe – don’t confuse me with the facts”. Those 3 areas are politics, religion, and diet. Well, I have returned to a previous personal code of conduct that includes NOT talking about politics, or religion… ever… with anyone. Let’s face it, in today’s social climate, nobody is making friends by talking politics, or religion. However, in regard to discussing diet, I suppose I just cannot help myself.
Mainstream media (MSM), the last time I cared enough to check, is finally starting to agree with and broadcast the idea that there is a DRAMATIC DIFFERENCE BETWEEN eating 2000 calories/day of chicken and eating 2000 calories/day of donuts. The translation being that WHAT you choose to eat is more important than HOW MUCH. Make no mistake, there is still PLENTY of FAKE FITNESS being broadcast daily, but baby steps – at least their propaganda is moving in a better general direction.
If YOU believe that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie”, then I have a challenge for you. If you are so confident that you are right, try this experiment. 1. Eat 2000 calories/day exclusively from chicken or turkey for 30 days, 2. Eat 2000 calories/day exclusively from brownies or cookies for 30 days, 3. Eat 2000 calories/day from exclusively red or sweet potatoes for 30 days. In 90 days, you will have your answer. See what happens, and then you tell me if FOOD CHOICE is more important than counting calories. Disclaimer: drink plenty of water, try this at your own risk, I accept no responsibility nor will I be held liable for your personal choices.
Additionally, if you view exercise as just a way to expend calories that you hope, theoretically, will make you lose body fat, you are in for a VERY, VERY LONG ROAD OF DISAPPOINTMENT. Exercise does NOT work because of simple calorie expenditure either. I repeat – successfully losing body fat is NOT “based on the Law of Thermodynamics”. Applying the Law of Thermodynamics to human fat loss as a strategy is a LOSING PARADIGM. Calories in / calories out dietary theory and hypothesis is utter GARBAGE. It is not helping you. You would do yourself a great service by getting rid of these failed theories of weight loss.
Sometimes, I have someone tell me that they lost weight simply by counting calories and/or doing cardio. Sure they did. At least, that is what they perceived to take place. What they do not realize is that when they started counting calories, they ALSO altered their food choices, and likely, their meal frequency and timing as well. They make the simple association that they counted and lowered calories so that must be why they lost weight. The fact that they also changed the foods, and the ratio of each food choice relative to the other, and when they ate them, are things they have not considered could be part of causation. As far as cardio being the primary fat loss agent… understand the following: the body responds to training in direct proportion to 1. what you were doing in the past, and 2. what you are currently doing now. So, if you went from virtually no training at all, to 30-40 minutes of cardio 3-5 times/week, OF COURSE, there is going to be some sort of EFFECT – in the short term. Come back and talk to me in 6 months when you can’t figure out why you are stuck. Or in a year, when you are now doing more cardio and eating less food, AND GAINING WEIGHT. Still stuck on the calorie theory as it relates to exercise? Take a look at results of this study that showed that even though the high-volume exercise group burned twice as many calories as the moderate-volume group, and ate the same number of calories, the moderate-volume group expending LESS calories lost slightly more body fat and body weight. BOOM.
How do you really lose fat?
Simple. FOOD CHOICE. Eat foods that open up the metabolic pathways in the body that make it easy for you to lose fat. A meal is a HORMONAL EVENT. A workout is a HORMONAL EVENT. Unless you are a complete knucklehead, you can see that eating stuff like Oreo cookies is NOT going to help you lose fat, whereas eating salmon just might help you lose fat. But, I know… you want simply rules that you can apply immediately for fast fat loss. Instead of categorizing EVERY food into good, bad, or neutral, I have an easier tactic for you. Eat only the foods that allow you to get into and maintain ketosis. This can be a very effective long term strategy. It is not the ONLY way to lose fat, it is simply the most efficient way, metabolically speaking.
What is ketosis?
The Wikipedia definition of ketosis does a fair job of describing what it is. Read about it. And while you are at it, read about the difference between ketosis (not a harmful state) and ketoacidosis (a harmful state that occurs in diabetics). Because few things annoy me more than people assuming that ketosis is a harmful state before they even have a clue about what it is. But let’s get back to the useful part of this post. The fastest way to achieve PURE FAT LOSS is to achieve ketosis. Once you are in ketosis and your body switches from burning primarily glucose to burning primarily ketones, your body will be getting most of it’s energy from stored fat. And in that metabolic state, muscle protein is naturally conserved. Meaning that you will maintain or even add (depending on your training program) muscle. Maintaining muscle during WEIGHT LOSS is the only way to lower you bodyfat percentage when losing fat. Bodyfat percentage is a function of how much fat you have versus how much lean body mass (muscle, bone, non-fat) you carry. If you lose fat AND muscle at the same time, you just become a smaller FAT person, soft like a couch cushion. Being in ketosis will naturally spare your muscle and target your fat stores for breakdown and transformation into energy.
What Foods Do You Eat to Achieve Ketosis?
Easiest dieting and nutrition program rule EVER… AVOID ALL CARBOHYDRATES. I know, I know, that’s crazy, you need your carbs, right?!? Yes, you need them if you want to be stuck in an every increasingly fat body. And I’m not saying there is ANYTHING wrong with that. I don’t judge people because they are overweight. I view it as a personal choice. But I am assuming you are reading this because you would like to have less fat on you. Avoid all carbohydrates. The more you avoid carbohydrates, the lower your body fat percentage will become. Avoiding carbohydrates in everyday practice can be a little challenging, but it can be done. The nice thing about it is you will find you are much LESS HUNGRY overall when you avoid carbohydrates, ESPECIALLY when you achieve ketosis. Also, 99.9% of people who achieve ketosis notice that they are much more energetic and more easily focused mentally. Nice benefits I would say, wouldn’t you? I went to a social function recently and had a casual conversation with a very wise woman about the idea of avoiding bad carbohydrates. She quickly pointed out that all the way back in the early 70’s, some people were suggesting the rule of avoiding the “5 Whites” – salt, sugar, flour, rice, and potato, for the purpose of weight loss and improved health.
“But, the human body NEEDS sugar…”. Nope. It’s doesn’t. The liver can MAKE SUGAR out of amino acids, glycerol, and lactic acid.
Indeed, carbohydrate restrictive dieting is NOT new. There is research on it going back over 100 years. And going “keto” is currently very trendy. I have over 25 years experience with keto dieting, cyclic ketogenic diets, and achieving body fat percentages of under 10%. Lately, I can’t go on the internet without seeing some new “expert” rave about the power of going keto. Frankly, I’m rather bored with the topic and I have moved on to more sophisticated dieting methods. If I was working on Ketogenic Diet Tactics 25 years ago, imagine what I am working on now! Also, I view the new explosion of keto powders being promoted to the public the same way I view giving loaded pistols to elementary school students, sending them to school, and telling them to be careful. One advance I am pleased with is the availability of Ketone Testing Meters like this one:
So, let’s assume you are going to avoid carbohydrates and attempt to achieve ketosis. That’s where the Ketostix (pictured above) come into play and something like Precision Xtra Abott Ketone Testing Meters can really help. It will take you about 3 days (maybe even 4 or 5 days!) to get into ketosis and start getting a reading on your Ketostix Strips. Just in case you missed it, you PEE on these “sticks”, wait 15 seconds and compare your color to the key on the side of the bottle. KetoStix are readily available at most pharmacies. Treat it as Pass/Fail. Either you get a color change or you don’t. You don’t need to get the darkest reading for the fat loss to be successful. The testing meters take a blood sample via a finger prick, so be prepared to commit to that if you choose that route. Once you are in Ketosis, think about this- everything you are doing is burning more fat than normal. This is the time to do more cardio and/or lift more weights! I like to “break” ketosis about once every 7 days (once a week) with a single, well-contructed high carbohydrate meal. I would suggest, ideally, that breaking your ketosis with high quality carbohydrates like oatmeal and sweet potatoes is a better idea than breaking it with Fruit Loops and Chocolate Milk, but that is really up to you. And breaking the ketosis with a random high quality carbohydrate day every 4-7 days will work better than staying in ketosis chronically.
“So, just tell me… what should I eat? What do you eat?”
Here’s a short list of basic food choices that I personally eat to drop me into ketosis (in no particular order):Eggs, bacon, sausage, extra sharp cheese (before you start yelling the “high cholesterol!” rhetoric that you have been programmed with, let me point out that the saturated fat —> high cholesterol —-> heart disease HYPOTHESIS is also complete nonsense- go do the research and find out for yourself*. I have some first-hand, personal experience with that hypothesis and I am here to say that it is mostly refined SUGAR that leads you to heart disease, NOT saturated fat), fresh mozzarella cheese, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans (sparingly), butter, lettuce, olive oil, vinegar, pork loin, broiled fish, ground beef, steak, almond butter, fresh blueberries (small amount!), Kefir, raw unsweetened cocoa powder, turkey, chicken, onions, and garlic. These are just the foods that I find myself eating most often. And yes, there is SOME small amount of carbohydrates in a couple of these items, but you can figure out by trial and error what you can include and still achieve ketosis and get into that ideal fat burning state.
*Side Note – there is an excellent book out there that explains the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease quite well. Read The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will
The Four (4) Root Causes of Heart Disease:
This blog post is NOT MEANT to be an all-inclusive article of the benefits and details of “ketogenic” dieting and you follow anything I said here at YOUR OWN RISK. I am not taking responsibility for someone out there who mis-applies this knowledge. Here are 3 books that can dramatically increase your understanding on the subject and help you decide if avoiding carbohydrates and achieving ketosis is for you: Underground Bodyopus: Militant Weight Loss & Recomposition, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, and The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life.
Lastly, I am NOT saying that the ONLY way you can every lose bodyfat is by going zero carbs – I am just saying that it is the most efficient way to drop body fat while simultaneously maintaining lean body mass. At NEWT Systems, I seldom write zero carbohydrate eating programs. All diet and eating programs are tailored to the individual and most tend to include a more balanced ratio of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
However you choose to eat and diet, I wish you the best of luck.