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Calories in vs. Calories out "debunked" article


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The issue people have with keeping weight off is that they think that it is a one and done proposition. If people approached weight as something to be managed cyclically, whether training for better b

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Waldo- i just read through the gnolls stuff and can see why you dont see some it as valid, especially the error in calorie counting. What is your response to all of the studies that show differences in weight gain/loss based on the different macro ratios and identical calorie counts? It would seem that unless every single study they used is faulty, then what you say about all calories being equal is not true. Please dont just cite more studies. Id rather be a lazy american and have them presented to me.

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Waldo- i just read through the gnolls stuff and can see why you dont see some it as valid, especially the error in calorie counting. What is your response to all of the studies that show differences in weight gain/loss based on the different macro ratios and identical calorie counts?

That is a simple question to answer.

Carbs become glycogen in the body, which binds to water at a ratio of 4:1. Glycogen storage is variable person to person, but some people can store several thousand calories that way (this is one of the adaptations to strength training; sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, allows you to store more "gas" in your muscles). Glycogen variance is highly visible on the scale, this is why after eating a meal with 1000 cal of pasta you will probably gain 2-3 pounds. It is also why when you start a low carb diet, you'll lose crazy weight in the first 2 weeks, as you body depletes your glycogen stores.

Unfortunately people aren't actually interested in losing weight, they are interested in losing fat. Glycogen is not fat. The link I posted that I said is an awesome explanation is in fact an awesome explanation of this (literally is one of the finest pieces ever written on human energy useage). When glycogen levels are low, the body burns fat faster. However controlling for calories, since a low carb diet includes more fat than a high carb diet, the effect is essentially a wash, you burn fat faster but also take it in faster. The weight effect is not seen in body composition; in fact that opposite is often true, studies comparing the macro ratios (when controlling for protein, which is well established to matter for muscle sparing) typically find greater weight loss for low carb diets, but greater fat loss for low fat diets (hence greater improvement in body composition).

Anyone that uses studies comparing diet macros that doesn't account for the glycogen issue with weight (and thus measure body composition instead of/in addition to weight), and touts the weight loss, is being intellectually dishonest at best, if not outright advertising total ignorance. Noobs freaking out about the scale after eating dessert might not know a thing about glycogen, but if you're writing an article that purports to debunk calories, you damn sure better.

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You'll be reaping the benefits long term.  It's expensive to perform a long term study to prove this, but i'm sure there are a few going on right now considering how quickly the organic, natural food market is growing.  Although the obvious answer is that your food would be free of antibiotics compromising your immune system, extra hormones, and fewer pesticides.  If that's how you are living now, than I find that admirable and very impressive.  

I would just like to clear up the statements in bold.  There are some pretty strong (and wrong) statements here.  All meat is free of antibiotics, regardless of whether the animal was treated.  There are these things called withdrawal times associated with all antibiotics.  This means that the animal cannot be slaughtered until after a certain period of time - allowing the antibiotics to be cleared from the animal's system and thus not in the meat.  The residue testing system in place finds very few violations.  For example in April-June 2013, there were almost 1500 samples tested and 6 violations (primarily in veal calves) - violations are not put into the human food chain.  The 2011 final report tested for 128 substances and 99% of carcasses were free of all of them.  

 

In terms of antibiotic resistance, which is what I think you were probably getting at, evidence is scant at best indicating transfer of antibiotic resistance from meat to humans.  Contrary to the "80%" number widely reported in popular press, the bulk of antibiotics used in livestock are not used in human medicine, nor do they cause antibiotic resistance in bacteria that we would be worried about, as they have a completely different mode of action than traditional antibiotics.  In the drug classes that do cross over, research in beef cattle at least has shown less than 1% resistance to drugs of importance in human medicine.  The highest level of resistance in beef cattle is to tetracycline, which comprises about 4% of drug sales in people, and is not used to treat life threatening illness.  In addition, molecular fingerprinting has shown that the genes conferring antibiotic resistance in campylobacter in cattle are different than those genes conferring antibiotic resistance in campylobacter in humans.  By far, the largest cause of resistance in humans is use in humans.

Extra hormones.  Exogenous hormones are not used in poultry or swine.  In beef cattle, the difference between the same size serving (~3 oz) of steak from an implanted and non-implanted steer is approximately 0.4 nano grams (1.9 vs. 1.5 ng).  A can of beer contains 15 ng, 3 oz of raw peas contains about 500 ng and you, yourself as an (I'm assuming) adult male produce approximately 100,000 ng per day. 

Pesticides.  Just because something is organic does not mean it did not get any pesticides (as was stated earlier).  It just means no synthetic pesticides.  It also doesn't mean that a lower amount was used.  In fact, some organic pesticides are far more toxic than conventional ones - just look up rotenone and nicotine sulfate.

 

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Waldo:

How much of this have you found out via trial and error on your own body? You mentioned "N=1" experiments quite a bit and obviously keep very detailed data points.

If you've done a lot of that kind of personal experimentation I would like to learn what variables you tweaked and just generally hear about what you've done either here or in another thread. I've got another 15 to put away before I'm at goal weight, and I'm always interested in learning more ways to self experiment.

 

Ultimately I believe diligently monitored self experiments are the only way to figure out how to make any real progress in fitness. It's how every fitness guru became great.

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However the paleoness of NF, especially how confrontational its beginners can be (especially about the basics, such as this thread, calories debunked), have driven off many very successful people.

My MFP friends list is full of ex-NFers, still active there, not so much here, (plus I know of a few others that post at other forums); whenever I ask why they don't at NF anymore, paleo is always the reason, especially the paleo beginners who just annoy the shit out of non-paleos after a while. See that request by El Ex for an IIFYM forum instead of or in addition to the general forum, there's a damn good reason for that; threads like this one that serve no purpose but piss people off.

 

 

Not to throw too much more fuel on a fire, but I think there are elements of truth to this.  The main reason I distanced myself from the self-proclaimed paleo community was the tendency for a large portion of said community to ignore things that were obviously true(calories/thermodynamics) - that and the fact that Paleo in many cases has become entirely too entangled with low-carb - which is patently stupid when one takes an objective look at the history of various societies.  I'm not an IIFYM purist by any stretch of the imagination, but regardless of one's dietary philosophy, consuming the proper quantities of macronutrients is essential if you want to improve your body composition.  Particularly over the short to medium term, the macronutrient content of one's diet is the most important contributor to success.  I personally also believe that the realm in which "food quality" is likely to matter most is over longer periods of time(and in metrics unrelated to body composition/BMI), which is admittedly much harder to prove in controlled, scientific studies - but that's not really the subject of this thread.

 

Fundamentally there are aspects of "paleo" philosophy that are worth exploring - but it should  in the context of "what does evolution tell me about how my body might respond to X?" instead of "ancient humans didn't eat Y, therefore Y is bad".  Unfortunately most people seem to adhere to the latter.   Self-experimentation is a good thing - but there's more than one reason why people lose weight when cutting out wheat that has little to do with gluten intolerance (hint - most calorically-dense foods - i.e. fried foods, pastries, etc. are basically grain products with varying amounts of fat along for the ride).  Ultimately whether you're paleo, vegan, or something in between, the laws of thermodynamics don't change.  By all means experiment, but be honest with yourself when interpreting the results.

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My MFP friends list is full of ex-NFers, still active there, not so much here, (plus I know of a few others that post at other forums); whenever I ask why they don't at NF anymore, paleo is always the reason, especially the paleo beginners who just annoy the shit out of non-paleos after a while. See that request by El Ex for an IIFYM forum instead of or in addition to the general forum, there's a damn good reason for that; threads like this one that serve no purpose but piss people off.

 

I think what turns people off is any form of "there's only one way" advice. Whether it's Waldo's "only calories matter" approach or the Noobs' "you get fat if you eat any way but paleo" bull, making people feel like they are doing it wrong is a guaranteed way of making them feel like they can't do it right. If two people follow two entirely different dietary plans in order to achieve their individual goals, and they both work, who are we to tell them that they're wrong? Perhaps his scientific backing is lacking; perhaps his way shouldn't work, but if some new guy stops eating pop-tarts, and as a result loses weight and shits better, why should we tell him that he doesn't need to cut out pop-tarts? Every person needs to find out what works for him or herself. It is our job as a community to provide perspectives and evidence (anecdotal and peer-reviewed) so that people are able to find what works. It isn't our job to convince someone that one way is better, but rather to assist in finding the best way for him or her.

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There's a difference in the total energy content of food if you burn it (Basically what calorie counts on packages are based on), vs, the total net energy available to the body after we've done our best to digest it (and not necessarily digesting all of it) and spent energy digesting said food, and the difference varies by food (e.g. protein takes more energy to digest than carbohydrates). Our calorie counts on labels are based primarily on work done 100 years ago. This NPR Article does a good job of summarizing some of the areas around this where there are big questions.

 

If at the low end, a food takes 5% of it's calories to digest, and at the high end, it's 30%, then, on a 2000 calorie diet, that's a 500 calorie per day difference. That is a HUGE difference (not that I'm suggesting anyone's eating a diet completely at either extreme; but even an extra 100 calories per day adds up to 10lbs over a year). If you poop out 20% of the potential calories in Almonds, because your body didn't break it down as much, and then on top of that spend much more energy digesting it than white bread, that's a big difference.

 

We don't know all the answers; and for weight loss, you do need to eat at a deficit and calorie counting (or some abstraction thereof) is one or our best tools for doing so. But eating more veggies and less sugar is almost never bad advice, and the hard part isn't losing the weight, it's keeping it off long term.

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Waldo:

How much of this have you found out via trial and error on your own body? You mentioned "N=1" experiments quite a bit and obviously keep very detailed data points.

If you've done a lot of that kind of personal experimentation I would like to learn what variables you tweaked and just generally hear about what you've done either here or in another thread. I've got another 15 to put away before I'm at goal weight, and I'm always interested in learning more ways to self experiment.

 

Ultimately I believe diligently monitored self experiments are the only way to figure out how to make any real progress in fitness. It's how every fitness guru became great.

 

Its hard to say exactly what I have figured out by trial and error, there always is a combination of factors (trial and error verifying/discarding things I read).

 

But I have a data archive with loads of information; daily weigh ins, calorie in/out data, protein.  Daily calculated avg wt, and 14 day/28 day metabolism.  Weekly measurements of waist and all muscle groups, some places I take measurements a couple different ways.  Measurement archive is a little over 2 years old (~120 weeks total).  Daily archive is closing in on 3 years (>900 days now).

 

Until recently each time I've bulked and cut I've done things a little differently.  I also experimented with things a bit when I was losing weight.

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I personally also believe that the realm in which "food quality" is likely to matter most is over longer periods of time(and in metrics unrelated to body composition/BMI), which is admittedly much harder to prove in controlled, scientific studies - but that's not really the subject of this thread.

Its hard to establish what this even means though.

As of right now it is near impossible to separate any marker of health from body composition; that is the person with superior body composition will reliably show better in the metrics of heath; the few places that don't are typically going to be related to genetics, where compared against yourself improving body composition will improve those markers of heath.

The thing is we are blessed with a system to quite accurately assess health via a snap judgement (especially in the opposite sex), it is programmed into our reproductive system; aesthetics mirrors health quite closely (especially in-person as opposed to photos/video). Body composition matters a lot to aesthetics.

Very, very, very few things "build up" in any meaningful way in the body, so its very hard to even make sense of why the long term would even matter. It certainly doesn't have to do with micronutrients; all long term studies thus far of daily multivitamins vs. no supplimented vitamins for years/decades show no benefit whatsoever, even in places where you'd expect an impact (bone health in women for example).

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Waldo, on that daily log you posted, I notice you were a few lbs. over the red line for most of your bulk, then you dropped onto target at the end.  Was that planned?  Any explanation?

It did work out that that was the end of a wave, which usually will get right to that line. The first wave didn't happen to, but they usually do.

You typically will be a few pounds heavy during a bulk when in the wave patterns. As soon as you exit a surplus though you will drop out of the wave pattern in a rapid ebb. My second bulk showed this very strong; I had a stopover at maintenence for 2 weeks before cutting; I dropped 4 lbs in the first week with no change in waist; my body dumped all the extra bulking weight.

Why the wave patterns exist I don't know. I have some theories. This isn't something though that science has studied that I am aware of. I think the process of building muscle in the body requires a lot of extra water, likely bound to hormones or proteins; something, and the body produces this, what amounts to construction scaffolding, in pulses. A strong pulse of it occurrs, which binds to water causing a rapid weight gain, and as the construction supplies are "used up" you lose this extra weight (likely water) until you return to the baseline, when the body sends out another pulse of supplies.

Purely subjectively, muscle growth appears to be strongest during the time when weight gain stalls or goes backwards within the wave pattern.

But the low point weigh-ins do track well with the line. Low point weigh-ins are fewer and further between when bulking; weight is far more stable at maintenance or when cutting, where your low points will come more frequently and day to day variation is typically lower.

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I've followed Paleo, the whole foods approach, and the IIFYM approach.

 

I've lost fat with Paleo.

I've lost fat with "whole foods" that didn't limit any foods other than (certain) processed foods.

I've lost fat while eating a "typical" diet with lots of processed foods, sugars, grains, etc.

 

(during intentional bulking periods)

I've gained fat with Paleo.

I've gained fat with "whole foods" that didn't limit any foods other than (certain) processed foods.

I've gained fat while eating a "typical" diet with lots of processed foods, sugars, grains, etc.

 

The one constant is that I was at a caloric surplus when I gained fat and a deficit while losing fat (and I ate a lot of protein, ~1g per lb). I'll also add that I cut easily and have struggled with bulks.

I just finished a short cut eating Ice Cream and/or Donuts practically every day. It was glorious. I cut my calories way back (replaced bread, cheese, protein bars, and takeout with lentils, peas, and chicken) and lost a little more weight (and body fat) than my CICO averages would lead me to expect, but reasonably close. Muscle loss was small as well. I don't think I could sustain that deficit for all that long, and it probably wasn't healthy, but it was damn effective for losing fat.

I hate absolutes (so I suck at internet debates), but I think CICO (again, w/ Protein because I've never tried to do these without a ton of protein) will get most people 90% of the way to their goals. Maybe someone could make things more efficient if you banned sugar or grains or fats or eating before bed or breakfast, but once it starts contradicting with CICO, it'll probably be less effective than caring about nothing but CICO (& Protein). I have no opinions on the health benefits of any diet, just fat gain/loss.

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How the hell do you eat Ice Cream and/or Donuts practically everyday while eating 1g Protein/lb and still stay at a deficit? On a bulk I get it, you've got much more leeway as the overall number is higher, but on a deficit I usually struggle to stay at 120g protein without even putting anything but fruit, veggies, meat and the occasional starch into the equation. Do you mean a small cup of ice cream/one single donut / day? Or do you save tons of calories with the "healthy food", not using much/any oil/butter to prepare, season and do you completely forego starches?

Even a simple 300gChicken Breast+100gRice+300gBroccoli meal, prepared with Olive Oil and a little butter already comes in at (meat:300+rice:350+broccoli:115+oil:120+butter:70) 955cal while providing (60+7.7+13.2) 70.9g protein, which leaves me with 545cal to get the remaining 49.1g to end up at the desired 1500cal/120g protein, although the lesser cal the better, since I wouldn't want to cut forever, but rather cut steep and short.

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Ahh, NF ate my post!

I'm in a rush now to the gym, so this is a little disorganized. I aimed for 150-165g of protein per day, I started at around 160lbs and (pre cut) was maintaining at about 2500 calories per day, after having spent several months slowly increasing my metabolism.

My staple foods:

.75lb Baked Chicken Breast - no added fats, sometimes marinated in Sriracha sauce (5cal per serving) or heavily spiced (my favorite is applying curry paste, loads of flavor and very low cal) = 400cal, 75g protein conservatively. Sometimes I'd just spice the hell out of it instead, no added calories.

3 servings of crunchy baked lentils, usually spiced with cinnamon, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and either garlic salt or bacon salt = 210cal, 24g protein, and an insane amount of fiber (lentil nutrition #s seem to vary from brand to brand more than they should, I'm just going off the stats of the bag I have now).

On workout days, 2 NOW Protein shakes = 220cal, 50g protein.

 

That'd put me close to my protein goal, for about 900 calories. The rest I just kind of played with, I might eat some apples or strawberries if I found a good sale. I also used turkey sausage (100cal, 15g protein per link) or Premier Protein Bars (290cal, 30g protein), especially if I wanted some protein before bed. If I had eaten a lot at work, dinner might just be some Broccoli. I ate low-fat ice cream, which wasn't my plan, but it turns out the "Slow Churned" ice cream that either Breyers or Dreyers makes is every bit as tasty as the full fat kind, but only 110-130 calories a serving in the flavors I like (mint cookie crunch and rocky road) vs 170. It really wasn't that hard, other than withdrawal symptoms from lack of Thai Curries (my weakness, but I couldn't fit it in very easily).

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Thanks for the thorough post despite having to retype it. Yeah it seems that I lose a lot of ground with the preparation and less with the food itself, guess that's what happens when you learn cooking by following the usual chefs where "a glug of oil" here and "a knob of butter" there really add up. Thanks to you I dusted off my old george foreman type grill which, with my newly aquired seasoning skills, should make for still delicious but less fatty food which in turn would up the leeway I have with other foods, sweets or simply increase my deficit. Protein shakes is another key ingredient I can incorporate once my monthly amazon delivery arrives on Monday which should make things easier as well.

 

It's amazing though, I just went through my entire food log and it turns out, no matter which 30 day block I take, it almost always comes down to an average of 1950-2000cal/day, losing several dozen pounds in the process, so I'd guess I'm in a similar boat to you, where 2.5k seems to be where I maintain.

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It's just the usual pissing match between the "what you eat" vs. "how much you eat" crowd.

 

Humans love to create false dichotomies. 

 

Thankfully this has been an enlightening, interesting and good natured discussion rather than the usual internet pissing matches.

 

Off topic, but how do you put those fancy progress bars in your signature?

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Off topic, but how do you put those fancy progress bars in your signature?

Came across this just today! Haven't tried it but here you go

 

Just type "["progress=red]10[/progress"]" without quotes to get this bar:

 

10%
10%

Getting more technical, you can customize the color by using RBG hexcodes in place of color names.

 

Credit:Darwins Demons

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