It’s Time to Throw “Calories In, Calories Out” Out
A Bite-size Read for Your Health and Your Waistline
We hear it all the time, “calories in, calories out” and “burn more than you eat.” If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve tried this method. At some point in the process of following this plan, it stops working. To get things moving again, do we go more extreme in each direction? Eventually, you can’t eat any less or move any more. What if I told you this weight loss philosophy is wrong? Keep reading to find out why this “calories in, calories out” idea is just a myth and learn a new, better(!) mantra to live by.
Before we dive into a new mantra, let’s discuss why “calories in, calories out” doesn’t work. Well, it works for a short period of time. While the theory makes sense, calorie deficit creates weight loss, there’s more to it. Not every calorie is the same. Our body responds differently to different foods. Eating 300 calories worth of gummy worms is very different from eating 300 calories of broccoli. The sugar and chemicals from the gummy worms will push our bodies into fat storage mode unlike broccoli which is full of vitamins, minerals, and some protein. Calories are not created equally; we want to look for nutrients! So, we need to focus more on the quality of our food, not the quantity.
When we use the “calories in, calories out” method we are typically not eating enough. When we do eat, we are eating calories devoid of nutrients. This raises the question, what should we be eating? The answer is simple! Eat more of the foods that give your body nutrition. Every day, aim to eat 7–12 servings of vegetables, 4–6 servings of protein, 1–2 servings of fruit, and 2–3 servings of quality fat. That’s a lot of food! So, eat more (of this stuff)!
Now we know why the “calories in” aspect of “calories in, calories out” is not the best option. Let’s talk about the “calories out” part. Calories out refers to exercise or burning fuel. The main flaw in the “calories in, calories out” logic, is we can’t direct our bodies to burn yesterday’s M&M’s or mac and cheese when we go to workout. So, the calories devoid of nutrients are not necessarily the ones we burn when we exercise.
Rather, for the activity component, we want to focus on building muscle. Don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to increase muscle mass (that aren’t as scary as lifting weights!) like yoga and resistance training using your own body. Building muscle is helpful because muscle dictates metabolism. So when we build muscle, we are essentially turning our bodies into fat burning machines. Another aspect of activity to improve overall health is moving regularly. We are not meant to sit at a desk or on the couch all day then get up and move like crazy for an hour at the gym. One of the easiest ways to make a habit of moving regularly is to unpack groceries one item at a time or walk a lap around the office as a break during work. To put it simply: move more!
Bottom line: calories are not created equally. “Calories in, calories out” does not work because we need to eat foods with nutrients, and we can’t undo our food choices by working out. I encourage you to replace that old mantra with a new one: quality in, quality out, get up and move more!