Why people are still talking about CALORIES?

by 0 · June 20, 2014 at 01:27 AM

I don't understand. The basics of any paleo diet is the demystification of the modern nutrition concepts about calories and how our body copes with the nutrients in different ways. Nevertheless, people here are still talking about how much calories you need to eat and things like this.

Why do you think this is happening? Are people misunderstanding the real idea behind the paleo?

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15 Replies

14507 · June 16, 2014 at 08:36 PM

Because at the end of the day it is your energy balance that determines whether you gain or lose weight (your net calorie deficit or surpluss).

Beyond that, it is your macronutrient composition (ratio of protein/carbs/fats) and your exercise regime that determines your body composition (how much of that weight is lean tissue vs fat).

0 · June 16, 2014 at 08:32 PM

Part of the reason I went Paleo is so I do not have to count calories. I eat as many fruits/veggies as I want.I do portion my meats and nuts though. I maintain my weight within a two pound range

15380 · June 15, 2014 at 06:25 PM

Because calories are still calories.

Even though processed food is bad for you, but calories are still calories. And if you eat 5,000 per day and all your calories are strictly Paleo, you won't lose weight.

The beauty of it is that there is absolutely no way to get so many calories while eating Paleo. All you need is liver and kale, your body will meet its nutritional needs and voila: you are full.

26073 · June 14, 2014 at 06:54 PM

Is it just me or does this thread remind anyone else of something.... http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3cwMLRLtAhs

7944 · June 14, 2014 at 03:35 PM

Obesity is not a moral failing. It's a metabolic disorder. In fact, many obese people are malnourished because the food they eat lacks the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and hormone antecedents needed to support their health. Their bodies are in a constant state of hunger because they are desperately trying to obtain those micronutrients, but the processed SAD does not provide them. When the metabolism is corrected through adequate nutrition--real, whole, nutrient dense foods packed with the micronutrients our body needs-- hunger is satisfied. Calorie counting is not necessary, there MAY be a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake when the body's needs are finally satisfied, but it does NOT require scrupulous counting of calories with mathematical precision to lose weight. Some people may even INCREASE their caloric intake to get sufficient nutrients, but still lose weight. Calories are not the determinant factor in weight loss. Eat real whole food of adequate nutrient density. Eat only when hungry, stop when full. I know this works. 73 pounds down now.

519 · June 14, 2014 at 12:31 PM

I think you've bought into the paleo fantasy, and maybe also the low-carb fantasy :)

For starters, we aren't eating true paleo foods, nor existing in a stone age environment.

Calorie counting is a useful tool when your environment provides 24/7 access to unlimited calorie-dense foods.

Calorie in-and-out is also useful when you don't move enough. Which is why submarine crews are fed calorie restricted diets at sea.

Also, I wouldn't just trust the word of nutritionists. Dig a little deeper...

Here's a recent interview with Dr. Varady. She does original research in calorie restricting diets and fasting. Not paleo, but that's OK :)

40 · June 14, 2014 at 09:14 AM

I don't count calories myself but I do exercise portion control. Apart from the fact that adding fat to your meals make them way more filling, let's face it, hunter gatherers didn't have free flowing food. Sometimes they would eat, still be hungry, and fill full a few minutes-hours later. It happens. In my own experience, that's what worked best for losing extra fat. Of course, if you're already at a proper body shape, you don't really need to concern yourself with this, going paleo does miracles to general health. But I'm convinced that if you're fat/overweight/obese, you need to go the extra step. (Though going through a ketogenic diet before lowering your portions is what I would suggest)

225 · June 13, 2014 at 03:34 AM

Step away from the cool-aid...

Calories are certainly the best way to think about energy as it relates to the diet, and by extension, weight loss and weight gain.

Now, one could argue we do not take into account enough factors, for example it's hard to measure how many calories someone burns unless you monitor them very, very carefully. Also you have a ton of bias and speculation as far as calorie consumption is concerned, very few people truthfully account for the calories they consume.

As far as the paleo diet is concerned, changing macros to cause weight loss is silly...you can and will lose weight on any macro ratio if you cut calories. The reason changing macros is initially effective for weight loss is because people will cut foods and not replace them ( reducing their calories ).

What's not debate-able is, when you get down to it, it is math...no two ways around it. Once we account for enough factors calorie in, calorie out should be 1=1 with weight change. Can the average person currently be perfectly accurate with this? No. But it is certainly the best option around. Certainly better than, 'Cut the carbs and eat as many calories as you want'. (This is not paleo, this is just stupid.)

982 · June 12, 2014 at 05:59 PM

Assuming you consume food for energy and food calories are a measurement of food energy, I feel like they will appropriately appear in discussions on food + performance. I find calorimetry to be a fascinating science, and calorie restricted optimal nutritional diets a powerful tool for an array of issues. If an individual comes to the site and the numbers don't seem to add up, that's a useful constant that can be tracked around other dietary / lifestyle modifications. We still talk about calories because it's useful to talk about, if you're concerned with energy / health. The prioritization of fat storage above oxidation is a separate concept beyond that of simply tracking calories.

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0 · June 12, 2014 at 02:35 PM

Because some people come to the diet when they are obese. Obesity is not like "gee I could stand to gain some muscle and lose 10 lbs of fat" it's more like "my body will fight me if I try to lose any fat at all and if I try to exercise, I will probably activate inflammation enough to put me out of work for a week." It also means that people have no idea what is a normal meal size anymore after sometimes decades of overeating unconsciously in front of the TV, or in zombie mode during a 30 minute lunch break (30 minute lunches are a form of emotional abuse, IMO). Calories can be a tool for figuring out what's normal again. But if you're using them to deprive yourself, you're misusing the tool.

Or it can help if you're on a ketogenic diet and you're not used to having so much fat in your food. Meal sizes with high fat are physically smaller but equally satiating. I hope you're not suggesting that obese people should know when enough is enough, because obviously they never did know that. Or are you saying that obesity is not a disease and should be treated as if it was all in the person's head and/or can be treated with a change of diet alone without any objective tools to track progress or other help?

10920 · June 12, 2014 at 02:04 PM

"The basics of any paleo diet is the demystification of the modern nutrition concepts about calories and how our body copes with the nutrients in different ways." According to..... You? Please provide a formal citation from a credible/accredited source.

26073 · June 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM

The basis of the diet is evolutionary biology -- not don't count calories. That is an absurd statement.

40550 · June 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM

The CICO model works, quite well in fact. Of course, you can come up with situations that it breaks down, but all scientific models do when put under enough scrutiny. In practice, it has no equal when it comes to weight loss.

If we're talking weight loss… how much you eat has the largest effect. What you eat has a small effect, other factors (e.g. timing) has more or less an imperceptible effect on results. The vast majority of folks (we're talking 90+%) get results dealing with the 'how much.'

Nutrition scientists have hunted for macronutrient effects for years, with not much to show for it. When controlled for calories, certain macronutrient enriched diets might show a statistically insignificant level of greater weight loss.

Paleo works because you're replacing nutrient-poor high-calorie foods with nutrient-rich lower-calorie foods. It is a calorie reduced diet by default.

16813 · June 12, 2014 at 10:43 AM

Science wants to deal with numbers and in the absence of anything better, calories are a number, even if they don't really work. So these folks stick to using them because there's nothing better yet.

But yeah, calories are a useless measure unless you do a whole lot of other things to equalize things.

Calories do matter if the order of magnitude is large enough, but not for small measurements. If you cut back on only 100 calories, or work out an extra 100 calories per day, it won't make much if any difference. Certainly, those 100 calorie deficits after 35 days won't add to a 1lbs loss of fat - depending on other factors (hormone levels, absorption, stomach acid levels/bile levels, macro ratios, and even breakdown within a type of ratio, types and counts of gut flora, fidgeting levels and other non-exercise activity, how deep your breaths are and how much oxygen you absorb, sleep quality + duration, water intake, micronutrient intake, etc...), you might see a gain in fat of several pounds, or even a loss of several pounds, but the resulting numbers won't add up.

So certainly calories aren't calories. Isocaloric diets have shown this, and the Calories-In-Calories-Out theory is quite wrong. If it were right, the numbers would add up precisely. If someone would bother to create a comprehensive formula that takes into account all the factors of what humans do to process nutrients all the way into whether fat is deposited or released and burned from fat cells, that would probably be a correct measure. But certainly it's not Calories Stored = Calories Eaten - Calories Burned by activity.

You might even lose weight by adding 100 calories worth of fiber, or 100 calories worth of MCT oil while changing nothing else. Or you might add 100 calories of a refined sugar and start gaining fat. Or you might cut out 100 calories worth of glucose carbs from starchy veggies and find you've lowered your thyroid function enough to gain weight (depending on all the other variables which this reductionist shortcut doesn't take into account.)

Best thing to do if you're trying to lose fat: change your macros for low carb (or low fat*) if your genes say that's how you lose fat. Change your workout style to HIIT + weights, and eat real food that you make yourself from quality ingredients such as wild caught seafood, pastured/grassfed animals, organic veggies, instead of crap in a bag.

* There are people who do better on a high carb, low fat diet based on their ancestry/genes. These are typically skinny on a SAD, so they usually don't come to the paleo diet unless they have a health concern that can be addressed by removing toxic junk foods. They're the ones that can eat lots of fruit and lots of carbs and stay skinny, but if they eat fat, they gain weight.

EDIT: Just ran across this, it shows a very interesting discussion about the myth of 3500calories of fat = 1lbs.


One reply was: ”Basic biology tells us that 1kg pure fat, converted to 
energy = 9000 kcal, 1lb pure fat = 0.453 kg = 4077 kcal. The 
approximation to 3500 kcal is made on the basis that ‘adipose tissue’ is
 not 100% fat (some water and some lean tissue). Hence to lose 1lb pure 
fat = 4077 kcal deficit, or 1lb fat tissue in the body = approx 3500kcal
 deficit. This equates to 500kcal per day to lose 1lb in a week. This 
has been supported by numerous studies using whole body calorimetry.” 
There were no sources put forward, for these “numerous studies”. I asked
 on 21 July and again on 11 August for “even one obesity study that 
proves this formula” and have received nothing back.

In other words, someone pulled it out of their digestive tract and it became conventional wisdom, just like the CICO theory.

Medium avatar
10068 · June 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM

I try to convince people that Paleo is about behavior and not just changing the set of snacks you eat while watching TV. But no one pays much attention.

I realized that calories were important before I knew about Paleo. I used what I learned to lose 50 lbs and keep it off. Knowing about calories forced me more and more into Paleo behavior, and to a recognition that some foods are better than others depending on what you do with them after you digest them.

Most of the Paleo pundits are in it for the money and are vested in creating their own mysticism. Educate yourself in ancient practices by reading books like The Conquest, The Oregon Trail and The Leopard's Tale. Get an understanding of how the life was lived. Then decide on whether calories are useful for Paleo living now. Those books won't point you towards fructose theory, leptin reset and bulletproof coffee.

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