There is so much talk about calories amongst fitness professionals with what seems to be a 50/50 split between those that say you should track calories and those that will tell you not to bother
In this post I thought I would dive into the calorie conundrum
To track calories or not?
My stance on this is…. Do what works for you. Yes that’s very vanilla BUT it’s the TRUTH. If you have been successfully tracking calories then continue.
That said, personally I am not a fan of tracking calories. For me it sucks the enjoyment out of eating. It’s not something our ancestors did and it’s certainly not something my 4 year old would do. Typically most people track calories for the sake of weight loss/gain. I believe that if we spent more time focusing on health and movement and less time focusing on the numbers – weight loss/gain would simply become a byproduct of what we do. In turn I believe we as a society would have a better relationship with food.
You don’t lose weight to get healthy, you get healthy to lose weight
Tracking calories is based on the law of thermodynamics, in particular the first law – The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.
I cannot argue with the Law of thermodynamics but I can argue it in relation to one’s body. The law is based on a closed chain system as in it has very little interactions with other systems or the outside environment. Mmm that doesn’t sound like my body.
The human body is an open chain system. I take oxygen from the environment, I eat food from the environment, who I am has everything to do with the environment. If I were a Bunsen burner then maybe not, but I am a human – living, breathing and interacting
It’s not that thermodynamics is wrong, it’s just very difficult to measure in the real world.
Some of my personal findings
Having been in the field of fitness and health over the last 20 years I have without a doubt seen some interesting correlations
Typically I find that if you’re in your 20’s and your hormones are somewhat balanced then maybe just maybe you might find success with calorie tracking
However if you are over 35 and have had…
1 – many years of chemical stressors in the form of coffee and alcohol.
2 – you haven’t slept properly in years because your little ones think it’s awesome to be wide awake at 2am
3 – your boss who not only micromanages every last little thing you do but also piles you with papers that need to be completed last week.
….then you’re screwed. A lifetime of stress massively disrupts hormonal balance making counting calories somewhat redundant
Jon is tired. He has two young kids one who is teething and the other who just simply doesn’t sleep. Jon would be lucky if he gets 5 hours sleep a night. Because Jon is tired all the time his body craves energy, fast energy. – that’s sugar
So, when one of Jon’s co-workers Jane brings out the chocolate cake she made the other day the neurotransmitters in Jon’s brain start to dance
Jon has a pretty stressful job with many tight deadlines. His body see’s this stressful job as a chronic battle of fight and flight. Jon’s body increases blood sugar in order to send energy to his muscles in preparation to flee or fight. As a result Jon is swimming in cortisol and high blood sugars.
Jon is fast becoming insulin resistant
His lack of sleep has resulted in a suppressed leptin and high ghrelin, Leptin is what makes me feel full after a meal and low levels of ghrelin are what prevent one from being a hangry man.
Suppressed leptin and high ghrelin = hungry all the time and no matter what is eaten one is never full or satisfied
Not a place anyone wants to be.
It doesn’t matter how hard Jon tries, he simply cannot beat the weight loss battle. He knows he should eat less and exercise more but he just can’t seem to do it.
Jon is part of the 95% that go on calorie restricted diets. The 95% that initially lose weight but over the course of a year end up putting the weight back on and then some
Saying Calorie Deficit doesn’t help anyone
The question has always been how many calories are you eating but it’s the wrong question.
The question is WHY. For many, they know that they take in too many calories but WHY do they take in too many calories, why do they over-eat and why do they get fatter
You cannot out willpower your hormones
Hormones are so ridiculously powerful. They make you a man or a woman, they make your teenagers very grumpy, they put you to bed at night and get you up in the morning. They govern your heart rate, blood pressure, make you happy and excited. They calm you down when you’re anxious and depressed. They assist in food digestion and control your sex drive. They fight stress and ward off infections. They are responsible for burning and storing fat.
‘Hormones before calories’ Paul
So, if you want to continue counting calories, then do so, but I say, focus on eating good nutrient dense foods, and this in turn will help keep your hormones happy, and result in shedding the excess weight.
Paul “not counting my calories from the weekend” and Krystie “wine and chocolate = 0?” Miller