If you have ever hear a self proclaimed fitness or nutrition expert say that the solution to body composition management is a simple matter of counting calories, extolling the virtues of the energy balance theory (consuming less calories than you burn to promote “weight” loss) – stop listening to them immediately.
If they take the fat loss fairytale a step further and dispense the mythical advice “if you want to lose one pound of fat just eat 3500 less calories”
Ask the following four questions:
1. What’s a calorie?
2. Why would my body decide to burn fat exclusively if I deprive it of energy (calories)?
3. So… are you saying it doesn’t matter what foods I eat – just as long as I am calorically deficient?
4. What about exercise… isn’t fat loss more effective with a well-designed fitness lifestyle program?
Seriously, Google “eat 3500 calories less” and you will be shocked by the list of individuals and organizations that promote this insanely wrong concept.
Why Eating 3500 Less Calories Will NEVER Result In One Pound Of Fat Loss (answers to the above 4 questions)
1a. First and foremost humans don’t burn calories… calories don’t actually exist. A calorie is just a unit of measure used to describe the amount of heat produced when a nutrient is burned in a metal oven called a calorimeter. While it may be a popular idiom, humans don’t actually have cast iron stomachs and the process of burning fat or turning nutrients into energy or stored matter is significantly more complex than counting fictitious calories.
2a. Energy is of prime importance to the human body – running out a fuel is not an option. Humans gain and store energy from the foods we eat. Not surprisingly the six nutrients we consume are the same six ingredients we are composed of (In descending order water, protein, fat, mineral, carbohydrate and vitamins). Energy is only available from the macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) that supply energy in a mixture of the macronutrients at any given time depending on the activity level and we NEVER burn fat exclusively.
3a. Human motion is not fuelled by calories but instead by a miraculous nutrient derived chemical called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The problem with the counting calorie theory beside the obvious non-existence of a “calorie” is that it wrongfully suggests all foods are created equal. We store fat as a matter of efficiency, fat provides the most concentrated source of energy measured in a calorimeter at approximately nine (9) calories per gram – compared to protein and carbohydrates that produce approximately four (4) calories per gram when incinerated in a calorimeter. Therefore any nutrient consumed in excess of capacity will be converted to triglyceride and stored as fat.
Important points to consider:
When the body feels threatened (starvation) the body will hoard fat and shed metabolically expensive muscle as an act of survival.
Consuming less energy (3500 calories worth of nutrients) than required can just as likely result in the loss of approximately two (2) pounds of muscle instead of one pound of fat.
One pound of fat is not equal to 3500 calories – one pound of fat (454 grams) 454 grams x 9 calories per gram = 4,086 calories when burned in a calorimeter not 3,500
Two pounds of lean muscle mass (protein) 454 grams per pound x 2 = 908 grams x 4 calories = 3,632 calories when burned in a calorimeter.
The best method to improve body composition, health and reduce the risk of injury is to increase lean muscle mass which cannot be accomplished by following an energy deficient diet.
Stored excess body fat is not necessarily a result of consuming fat. The body converts and stores any nutrient as fat when consumed beyond need (humans have a very limited capacity to store carbohydrates).
4a. Clinical studies prove that all nutrients are not created equal and if your goal is to lose excess fat then a Unified Lifestyle approach will prove superior. A twelve week study divided participants into three separate groups: Group A followed a uniformly energy (calorie) deficient diet. Body composition analysis determined that for every pound of body weight lost approximately sixty-nine percent (69%) was comprised of fat (the other 31% was muscle and or water). Group B followed the same energy deficient diet and added cardiovascular exercise resulting in seventy-eight percent (78%) of each pound lost consisting of fat and Group C that followed a unified approach of diet, cardio and weight training for every pound lost ninety-seven percent (97%) of every pound lost was excess fat.
The solution to safe and effective fat loss or improving body composition is counting nutrients – not calories generically. Body fat percentage can be improved by losing excess fat, gaining muscle or both.
All food can be measured by energy (calories) or weight (grams). It is important to use both forms of measurement when it pertains to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are non-essential to human health however fiber, which have excellent satiety and blood sugar balancing properties contain no energy.
To determine your individual nutrient needs have an accurate body composition test done to determine your lean body mass and deliver specific nutrients to fuel your specific goals.
About the Author
Grant Roberts is the CEO of Unified Lifestyle and one of Hollywood’s most sought after personal trainers, nutritionists and lifestyle coaches. He received worldwide recognition for packing on twenty pounds of muscle over just nine weeks, transforming the mind and body of actress Hilary Swank for her Academy Award winning role in the film Million Dollar Baby.
Roberts’ clients include the Hollywood elite, leaders of industry, world champion athletes and the military. Additionally he continues to support the current US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in the fight against obesity.
Roberts was honored at the International Club Industry show in Las Vegas as one of the worlds top ten personal trainers as voted by the PFP in October 2012.
Grant has a challenge of his own to extend to Lean Body Challengers: “I only had nine weeks to prepare Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. In that time (completely natural of course with only supplements, training and nutrient timing) she packed on 23 pounds of muscle (her scale weight went up 19 pounds and she dropped 4 pounds of fat on an already lean body). My challenge is, can you beat that sort of body re-composition?”
Get Grant’s FREE app “ Weighttracker” from Unified Lifestyle available for Apple and Droid products to determine your body fat % and track your success.