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Do calories really matter?!

by (1683)
Updated October 23, 2014 at 3:21 AM
Created September 28, 2011 at 5:23 PM

I know this has been asked before BUT I can never get a clear answer...

Do calories really matter?! My meal of 3 eggs, 3 strips of bacon, sausage, and avocado/tomato plus coffee and cream would equal a lot of calories...ususally when I eat this I only need to eat once a day but people tell me that I need to eat more, and really make sure that the fat and protein are way up, which are both calorically dense. My carb intake is quite low...definitely under 50 g. a day I am confused because some people say "eat less calories than you burn and you will burn fat" and other says "eat as much as you want, just keep carbs low and keep fat high, and you will burn fat." Why are there two extremes to one problem? Do they both work? Which has shown better results for you?!

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1683 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

someone put this into fit day above and came to like 1200 calories....now i started adding in a piece of bison/steak and greens cooked in ghee(or butter) and coconut oil in the evenings to get additional nutrients. a few times a week ill add frozen berries with coconut oil and cacao butter on top (yummy) but thats like 1-2 times a week. id assume im around 2000 cals a day...but im not sure.

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698 · January 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM

I will add that I probably consume calories in the 3000-5000 range daily, but I keep pretty damn active. :)

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698 · January 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM

This. This. This! Giving enough time for my body (i'm assuming leptin, grehlin, insulin here) to start working as intended and now the difference is night and day. I am no longer hungry immediately after I eat, I am quite lean already but still losing adipose tissue, and any caloric restriction I do just comes naturally.. I for some reason can't force myself to eat most of the day, then out of nowhere usually after I am well exercised BAM! I'm hungry, I eat, then I am no longer hungry for who knows how many hours, typically 5 to sometimes 12 hours later before my hunger returns. Totallyawesom

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15976 · September 29, 2011 at 1:20 PM

if there is no stimulus to use your eaten extra calories to build muscle or bone then if you eat more calories than your body requires to maintain its current weight those extra cals will be stored as body fat, no matter their macronutrient label.

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78422 · September 29, 2011 at 12:29 PM

@Carbsane, yes, perhaps something to do with carbohydrate inhibitin carnitine synthesis....

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1683 · September 29, 2011 at 1:38 AM

would you mind explaining the differences in these? obviously theyre different, but id love to know what you ahve to say

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18671 · September 28, 2011 at 11:26 PM

No one says that in the end, if you lost fat and maintained lean on an ad libitum LC diet, that you didn't expend more calories than you consumed; only that your body chose to release fat and maintain muscle and you didn't have to use your willpower or higher cognition to choose the number of calories to make it work.

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18671 · September 28, 2011 at 11:22 PM

What my body does with the calories I give it depends on a lot more than the number of them. LC's advantage doesn't primarily come from fuel efficiency, but from the metabolic milieu it creates.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Exactly: An increase in adipocyte size coupled with adipocyte hyperplasia results in greater overall transmembrane NEFA flux and a larger serum pool of NEFAs. The FAs need to be oxidized as rapidly as possible, so *passive* weight loss strategies will always be less effective than *active* ones that involve as much low to moderate intensity exercise as possible in order to force oxidation.

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692 · September 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM

+1 I agree with this, it varies wildly by individual. I pack on weight rapidly if my intake exceeds my activity even though I'm very careful about my diet. It's one of those unfortunate "I'm a girl that loves to eat," problems, and I've seen a lot of really frustrated people on here with similar issues.

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8879 · September 28, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Re:"So many people in the paleo world build fat loss protocols around promoting lipolysis without a focus on promoting lipid oxidation. Both are required for effective reductions in body fat." I would add that promoting lipolysis without subsequent oxidation is not a desired outcome. Lipolysis is not the rate limiting step in burning off excess body fat. The obese have elevated circulating free fatty acids or NEFA.

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8879 · September 28, 2011 at 9:51 PM

If what you are saying is true, you have a serious fat malabsorption problem. Even the most avid LC proponents will acknowledge that you have to eat less on LC to lose weight, and any claims of metabolic advantage (were it true) are at most 300 cal/day.

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3946 · September 28, 2011 at 8:05 PM

This is not entirely correct. I cannot lose weight with 1200 calories of low-fat, high-carb, however, I can lose weight with 2300 calories of high-fat low-carb. Calorie counting/deficit is not the end all.

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25467 · September 28, 2011 at 7:30 PM

We dont gain weight the same way we lose weight......it seems most are unaware of that.

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25467 · September 28, 2011 at 7:29 PM

If you are LR yes....if you are LS nope.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 7:22 PM

I take that back; glucagon doesn't result in glucose being released systemically as a result of low blood glucose, but it would affect glycogen oxidation in the muscle mitochondria.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Glucagon doesn't affect muscle glycogen ever, as far as I know. When meat is eaten, insulin is released, which binds with cells in the liver to block glucose release, which lowers blood sugar, which causes a glucagon release, which binds with probably the same cells and causes a glucose release. The liver as well as the adipocytes are getting mixed signals, which results in less blood glucose and less FFA release than would otherwise occur, but the difference wouldn't be perceptible on a scale. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/283/3/E565.short

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2861 · September 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Travis, doesn’t the glucagon just kick the glycogen out of the liver and muscle and into blood glucose? Wouldn’t you still have the same insulin-glucose situation as you would from a carb meal - insulin + glucose (from glycogen) -> fat?

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Jack: What works to reduce bodyfat also works to reduce serum triglycerides.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Glucagon is released to almost match insulin secretion after a meat-only meal, otherwise we would become hypoglycemic. Less fat is oxidized than would be during a fast, but it's not a huge difference.

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2861 · September 28, 2011 at 6:38 PM

I’m still skeptical that the whole idea of insulin interfering with lipolysis is too narrowly focused and does not take into account the bigger picture. Many people lose weight on low-fat diets that have them eating carbs every 2 to 3 hours. Also, protein causes insulin release. It seems from this lipolysis argument that what you would really want would be IF - the quantity of carbs would not matter as long as the frequency was limited to one or two feedings per day. I think most of the IF research shows that most of the benefits of IF come from fasted exercise, not necessarily just fasting.

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18412 · September 28, 2011 at 6:02 PM

plus 1. and i've often wondered if the same the same concept may be playing a role in high trigs and VLDL in the blood. you would think that I burn enough fat for energy to keeps blood lipids in balance. I do not gain or lose weight at all. very stable. but what if my body chooses carb burning first (starches) and then fat burning? the fat burning may get cycled correctly eventually, but at any given time, my blood could have a higher concentration of lipids that don't know where to go because they are not being stored as fat but instead being treated as a secondary energy source.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5
18412 · September 28, 2011 at 6:01 PM

plus 1. and i've often wondered if the same the same concept may be playing a role in high trigs and VLDL in the blood. you would think that I burn enough of it to keeps things in balance. I do not gain or lose weight at all. very stable. but what if my body chooses carb burning first (starches) and then fat burning? the fat burning may get cycled correctly eventually, but at any given time, my blood could have a higher concentration of lipids that don't know where to go because they are not being stored as fat but instead being treated as a secondary energy source.

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39841 · September 28, 2011 at 5:44 PM

High fat, low carb diets work for body fat loss because there is little carbohydrate-induced insulin throughout the day, which means insulin isn't 1) interfering with lipolysis (the release of fatty acids from your fat cells) and 2) interfering with mitochondrial lipid oxidation (the burning of fatty acids in your muscle mitochondria). There is also the added benefit of reduced appetite as you've observed, which means that though meals are highly energy-dense, overall energy intake is reduced.

The "eat as much as you want" strategy can work well because though you eat a lot of fat, your appetite may guide you correctly toward undershooting your energy needs and relying on stored body fat instead. However, this strategy can (and often does) fail when it is coupled with someone whose appetite signals are skewed due to leptin resistance, binge-eating tendencies etc.

Keep in mind that all of the fat you listed is packed into chylomicrons and sent to your fat cells. That doesn't mean that you will be fatter the next day, simply that this huge amount of fat has to be stored rapidly because obviously you don't want it sitting around in your bloodstream. It's an open question as to whether it will all be burned off (along with some of the fat that is already there). Basically, if you are losing bodyfat, then keep going with this. If you are not or things slow down, you should incrementally decrease fat intake (replacing it with lean meat) and increase activity. So many people in the paleo world build fat loss protocols around promoting lipolysis without a focus on promoting lipid oxidation. Both are required for effective reductions in body fat.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Glucagon doesn't affect muscle glycogen ever, as far as I know. When meat is eaten, insulin is released, which binds with cells in the liver to block glucose release, which lowers blood sugar, which causes a glucagon release, which binds with probably the same cells and causes a glucose release. The liver as well as the adipocytes are getting mixed signals, which results in less blood glucose and less FFA release than would otherwise occur, but the difference wouldn't be perceptible on a scale. http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/283/3/E565.short

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596
2861 · September 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM

Travis, doesn’t the glucagon just kick the glycogen out of the liver and muscle and into blood glucose? Wouldn’t you still have the same insulin-glucose situation as you would from a carb meal - insulin + glucose (from glycogen) -> fat?

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5
8879 · September 28, 2011 at 10:10 PM

Re:"So many people in the paleo world build fat loss protocols around promoting lipolysis without a focus on promoting lipid oxidation. Both are required for effective reductions in body fat." I would add that promoting lipolysis without subsequent oxidation is not a desired outcome. Lipolysis is not the rate limiting step in burning off excess body fat. The obese have elevated circulating free fatty acids or NEFA.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5
18412 · September 28, 2011 at 6:02 PM

plus 1. and i've often wondered if the same the same concept may be playing a role in high trigs and VLDL in the blood. you would think that I burn enough fat for energy to keeps blood lipids in balance. I do not gain or lose weight at all. very stable. but what if my body chooses carb burning first (starches) and then fat burning? the fat burning may get cycled correctly eventually, but at any given time, my blood could have a higher concentration of lipids that don't know where to go because they are not being stored as fat but instead being treated as a secondary energy source.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Glucagon is released to almost match insulin secretion after a meat-only meal, otherwise we would become hypoglycemic. Less fat is oxidized than would be during a fast, but it's not a huge difference.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 7:22 PM

I take that back; glucagon doesn't result in glucose being released systemically as a result of low blood glucose, but it would affect glycogen oxidation in the muscle mitochondria.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78422 · September 29, 2011 at 12:29 PM

@Carbsane, yes, perhaps something to do with carbohydrate inhibitin carnitine synthesis....

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Exactly: An increase in adipocyte size coupled with adipocyte hyperplasia results in greater overall transmembrane NEFA flux and a larger serum pool of NEFAs. The FAs need to be oxidized as rapidly as possible, so *passive* weight loss strategies will always be less effective than *active* ones that involve as much low to moderate intensity exercise as possible in order to force oxidation.

Af1d286f0fd5c3949f59b4edf4d892f5
18412 · September 28, 2011 at 6:01 PM

plus 1. and i've often wondered if the same the same concept may be playing a role in high trigs and VLDL in the blood. you would think that I burn enough of it to keeps things in balance. I do not gain or lose weight at all. very stable. but what if my body chooses carb burning first (starches) and then fat burning? the fat burning may get cycled correctly eventually, but at any given time, my blood could have a higher concentration of lipids that don't know where to go because they are not being stored as fat but instead being treated as a secondary energy source.

Medium avatar
39841 · September 28, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Jack: What works to reduce bodyfat also works to reduce serum triglycerides.

7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596
2861 · September 28, 2011 at 6:38 PM

I’m still skeptical that the whole idea of insulin interfering with lipolysis is too narrowly focused and does not take into account the bigger picture. Many people lose weight on low-fat diets that have them eating carbs every 2 to 3 hours. Also, protein causes insulin release. It seems from this lipolysis argument that what you would really want would be IF - the quantity of carbs would not matter as long as the frequency was limited to one or two feedings per day. I think most of the IF research shows that most of the benefits of IF come from fasted exercise, not necessarily just fasting.

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7967 · September 28, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Calories do matter... somewhat. It's complicated, and it varies by individual. Some people here (mostly men I must say) lost a lot of body fat and have kept it off while eating high calories, and everything from high-fat zero carb to high carb. Some people here must count calories and keep them very low even while eating zero carbs, to see any weight loss at all or avoid fat gain (mostly women in this case). That's a large part of why you see conflicting advice even on paleohacks. People can have good results with changing their body comp doing the direct opposite of someone else, as long as they are eating whole foods/grain free.

I plugged 3 eggs, 3 bacon strips, 1/4 lb sausage, a whole avocado, a small tomato and 2 fl oz of heavy cream into fitday. Only about (assuming you're eating a whole avocado) 1265 calories, and deficient in A, B-6, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, manganese, niacin, thiamine, and zinc. This isn't what I would call a complete or healthy diet, and yes, I'd say you need a LOT more calories and protein. I imagine you'll lose weight pretty fast on it though, but personally I think you'll see much better results both in your health and your looks with slower weight loss while eating a diet with lots of nutrients. If you have a lot of fat to lose it's pretty important to support your skin, nutritionally, while doing so...

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692 · September 28, 2011 at 10:20 PM

+1 I agree with this, it varies wildly by individual. I pack on weight rapidly if my intake exceeds my activity even though I'm very careful about my diet. It's one of those unfortunate "I'm a girl that loves to eat," problems, and I've seen a lot of really frustrated people on here with similar issues.

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8879 · September 28, 2011 at 6:39 PM

Calories matter. If you want to burn body fat you need to be in calorie deficit. Period.

The LC "extreme" is really the same one. Spontaneous caloric decrease. A must see documentary from the BBC. It's several parts on YouTube so I linked to them all in one place on my blog: Must See TV

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18671 · September 28, 2011 at 11:26 PM

No one says that in the end, if you lost fat and maintained lean on an ad libitum LC diet, that you didn't expend more calories than you consumed; only that your body chose to release fat and maintain muscle and you didn't have to use your willpower or higher cognition to choose the number of calories to make it work.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5
8879 · September 28, 2011 at 9:51 PM

If what you are saying is true, you have a serious fat malabsorption problem. Even the most avid LC proponents will acknowledge that you have to eat less on LC to lose weight, and any claims of metabolic advantage (were it true) are at most 300 cal/day.

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3946 · September 28, 2011 at 8:05 PM

This is not entirely correct. I cannot lose weight with 1200 calories of low-fat, high-carb, however, I can lose weight with 2300 calories of high-fat low-carb. Calorie counting/deficit is not the end all.

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18671 · September 28, 2011 at 11:22 PM

What my body does with the calories I give it depends on a lot more than the number of them. LC's advantage doesn't primarily come from fuel efficiency, but from the metabolic milieu it creates.

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2181 · September 29, 2011 at 2:16 AM

It really depends on the individual and how fat he or she is to begin with. Some people can lose weight by reducing calories. Some cannot. For some people, eating any carbs will keep insulin so high so that no matter how little they eat, they will not burn fat and all the carbs they eat will turn to fat. In fact, their muscles and organs will be sacrificed before any fat is released for energy. Such was the case with my mother. She was obese and ate like a bird. But everything she ate was a carb. She had no energy and was always tired--her cells were being starved.

Most obese people have insulin resistance, so low carb high fat is just what they need to solve the problem. The big stories are always the huge amounts they lose, and that's wonderful, of course. What is not talked about, however, is what happens when they get within say 20-30 lbs of where they should be. Once the hormonal problem is under control, then it becomes an issue of calories. And now being much thinner and requiring far fewer calories to maintain their lower weight, losing more fat becomes more difficult, or at least slows down considerably.

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37187 · November 15, 2011 at 5:37 AM

As Travis said, if you are losing weight then whatever you're doing is fine. If you've been counting calories, I'm not saying you have to, but obviously it's not hurting anything. If you haven't been counting, but you are losing fat why change?

As Quilt said, if you are leptin resistant it's very difficult to lose fat whether or not you count calories. If you follow Quilt's leptin reset or some other routine that results in improved leptin sensitivity then counting calories shouldn't be necessary--again, if you're losing weight this should be a non-issue.

IMO, any paleo approach that results in steady loss of excess body fat is a good approach, particularly if you have a high energy level and are not having to exert constant willpower to eat in a way that doesn't satisfy your appetite. For me, that's high protein/fat and moderate carbs but if you're doing well on low carbs then that's just as good.

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698 · January 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM

I will add that I probably consume calories in the 3000-5000 range daily, but I keep pretty damn active. :)

1e36119906da54831601a7c23674f581
698 · January 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM

This. This. This! Giving enough time for my body (i'm assuming leptin, grehlin, insulin here) to start working as intended and now the difference is night and day. I am no longer hungry immediately after I eat, I am quite lean already but still losing adipose tissue, and any caloric restriction I do just comes naturally.. I for some reason can't force myself to eat most of the day, then out of nowhere usually after I am well exercised BAM! I'm hungry, I eat, then I am no longer hungry for who knows how many hours, typically 5 to sometimes 12 hours later before my hunger returns. Totallyawesom

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1659 · November 15, 2011 at 5:25 AM

This question is relative to what you want to accomplish.

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1130 · September 29, 2011 at 8:39 AM

I am confused because some people say "eat less calories than you burn and you will burn fat" and other says "eat as much as you want, just keep carbs low and keep fat high, and you will burn fat."burn fat." Why are there two extremes to one problem?

As I see it, those two approaches are NOT actually two extremes. Why? Because if you keep your fat high, your satiety goes way up, and eat "as much as you want" could very well still lead to eating less calories than you burn. So the approach 2) is just a variant of approach 1). I think your described meal confirms this:

My meal of 3 eggs, 3 strips of bacon, sausage, and avocado/tomato plus coffee and cream would equal a lot of calories...ususally when I eat this I only need to eat once a day

How much calories is such a meal? If this is all you eat the whole way, you are on calories restriction diet. I don't myself count calories, but this seems to not be much more than 1000 kcal.

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1683 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

someone put this into fit day above and came to like 1200 calories....now i started adding in a piece of bison/steak and greens cooked in ghee(or butter) and coconut oil in the evenings to get additional nutrients. a few times a week ill add frozen berries with coconut oil and cacao butter on top (yummy) but thats like 1-2 times a week. id assume im around 2000 cals a day...but im not sure.

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