T Nation

Calories In, Calories Out

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
elusive wrote:
From my personal experience, I needed to cycle my carbs/calories to see more progress. I’ve dieted for 10 weeks and got stuck. I added more cardio, ate less with no results. I expended more energy than I ate, yet fat loss stalled. So IME, tricks needed to be played (still need to be played) for me to lose some fat.

What kind of levels of leanness?[/quote]

single digits

[quote]forlife wrote:
Elusive, are you sure that you were consuming fewer calories than you were burning? For example, if your metabolism is slower then you are going to burn fewer calories. How closely did you monitor your calorie intake and exercise levels?

I’m wondering how it would physically be possible to eat less calories than you burn, and not lose either fat or muscle. The body has to get its energy from somewhere.[/quote]

The metabolism slows and stalls fat loss even if you are keeping active. This is when a change is needed to convince the body it is not starving.

[quote]RWElder0 wrote:

I do believe that for most people seeking to get to at or around 10% it is a calories in, calories out equation. Below that and it gets a little more tricky.
[/quote]

I feel the same way.

Calories in < calories out = WEIGHT LOSS, not necessarily fat loss. You don’t need to over complicate things, but going from 8% to 5% for most people will require watching where your calories come from. Insulin response to and nutrient profile of the food you consume is relevant to body composition, how is this even worth debating?

[quote]arsenal109 wrote:
Calories in < calories out = WEIGHT LOSS, not necessarily fat loss. You don’t need to over complicate things, but going from 8% to 5% for most people will require watching where your calories come from. Insulin response to and nutrient profile of the food you consume is relevant to body composition, how is this even worth debating?[/quote]

Best response is from the new guy.

it’s not a simple equation for FAT loss because of one reason: insulin

hate to break it to ya pal, but insulin is secreted in responce to protein, not just carbohydrates, sometimes to a greater degree then complex carbs(as with amino acids or even processed meat such as ground beef).

Also, fat storage can take place in the absence of insulin, just search pubmed for Acylation stimulating protein (ASP)

“ASP is a hormone produced by adipocytes and is of importance for the storage of energy as fat. The consumption of dietary fat alone can increase fat storage. Dietary fat affects fat cell metabolism with NO INCREASE in insulin.” - Jamie Hale, as quoted in this round table discussion:

alanaragon.com/bodybuilding-nutrition-roundtable-
alan-aragon-will-brink-jamie-hale-layne-norton.html

Finally, it is only when carbs REPLACE protein (while in a caloric deficit) when we see lean tissue loss. As I stated before, if protein is sufficient, training is sound, AND there is a caloric deficit, you can get shredded on a high carb (percentage wise) diet. People have been doing it for years and years.

[quote]RWElder0 wrote:
Macro scrutiny is over rated in most situations. Sensitivity, in my opinion, and an athlete�??s ability to figure that out will get you on the road to leanness more quickly. Once at the desired level, in order to stay at close to peak performance levels, you need more analysis on the types of nutrients and where they are coming from. If you do not have that then performance degrades, the body finds hemostats and the calories you continue to consume begin to take you on the slow club to chubby.

I do believe that for most people seeking to get to at or around 10% it is a calories in, calories out equation. Below that and it gets a little more tricky.
[/quote]

For me, being an endo, this is absolutely correct. I closely monitor caloric intake, down to the 100’s daily. At 10%, and previously as low as 8% and absolutely ripped, it is essential to maintain a SLIGHT caloric deficit. I feel I can load up on the weekends a little bit and stay @ 10% pretty much consistently - with no degradation in performance of any of the activities I like.

So, in summary, also consider…

body type
current body composition (read: BMR)

Calories, and where they come from (macros) are vary in levels of importance and impact from person to person. There is absolutely, positively NO universal rule of calorie balance that applies to every single person.

Elusive pretty much said it. ‘more strategic eating is needed for more refined fatloss’

Goin from 25-15% bf calories in - calories out works well.

However for the 15- 5 % drop, it goes beyond calories in, calories out. You need some days to eat up to maintenance or above and to cycle those carbs to keep that fat loss engine fueled

The calories in/calories out principle still remains when goin for the single digit bf, however the process of how and when the calories are taken in is more important.

[quote]forlife wrote:
Much ado about nothing?

For fat loss, doesn’t it really boil down to calories in < calories out?

I’ve spent years reading about clean eating, macro ratios, meal timing, carb cycling, leptin manipulation, etc. The gurus have flocked from low fat to low carb to portion control eating plans, claiming at each stop that this time they really have found the holy grail of fat loss.

WTF? The more I learn, the more simple it all seems to me. If I am eating fewer calories than I am consuming, then I am going to lose fat.

I understand that changing up plans may keep things interesting and provide motivation to control calories, but does it really matter what plan you follow?

Does anyone here believe that you will lose fat at a significantly higher rate by doing anything beyond simply eating less than you burn? Isn’t the rest just a fireworks show?

What do you think?[/quote]

Is indeed the classic (and outdated) stance of the majority of registered dieticians and the like, however, it only tells part of the story.

Yes, calorie reduction CAN reduce body mass, however, we consistently see data that shows what you lose - fat versus fat-free mass versus muscle mass - is more dependent upon the composition of one’s diet; holding all things other than nutrition, constant.

Indeed, progressive, albeit modest calorie reduction COMBINED with macronutrient changes (consuming not more than 1.5g of CHO for every 1.0g of PRO) has recently been found to be the ideal “mix” for promoting the most significant change in body composition and improvements in health, w/ the least amount of loss in lean body mass.

For some great references, check out my recent study ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18426586?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum ), recent work by Layman et al. [J Nutr 2005, 135(8):1903-1910; J Nutr 2003, 133(2):411-417; J Am Coll Nutr 2004, 23(6 Suppl):631S-636S, etc], a meta-regression analysis by Krieger et al. [Am J Clin Nutr 2006, 83(2):260-274], or works by Feinman, Fine and/or Volek [ex: Nutr Metab (Lond) 2006, 3:24; Nutr Metab (Lond) 2004, 1(1):15].

That last reference, by the way, is titled “Thermodynamics of Weight Loss Diets”; it specifically argues the point you raised, using both the available data to show that in studies that have compared diets of equal caloric content but varying macronutrient ratios, that the diets higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates consistently and significantly result in improved body composition and health measures. If indeed calories in -v- calories out was all that mattered, then how can one explain the aforementioned? Calories-in -v- calories-out simply can’t explain such results; is why it’s a dogma that should be modified as intended - to augment macronutrient composition changes.

Hope that helps answer your question. - c

[quote]Lockwood wrote:
That last reference, by the way, is titled “Thermodynamics of Weight Loss Diets”; it specifically argues the point you raised, using both the available data to show that in studies that have compared diets of equal caloric content but varying macronutrient ratios, that the diets higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates consistently and significantly result in improved body composition and health measures. If indeed calories in -v- calories out was all that mattered, then how can one explain the aforementioned? Calories-in -v- calories-out simply can’t explain such results; is why it’s a dogma that should be modified as intended - to augment macronutrient composition changes.
[/quote]

Good response. However, as I pointed out earlier the thermic effect of higher protein diets doesn’t magically bypass the calories in vs. calories out equation. It simply increases the calories out via raising the person’s metabolism.

Does anyone have a response to the point that IF protein and resistance training are sufficient, there is no need to consider anything beyond simple calories in vs. calories out? You are not going to lose muscle mass in that case, so fat loss should be the result without having to overcomplicate things.

[quote]forlife wrote:
Lockwood wrote:
That last reference, by the way, is titled “Thermodynamics of Weight Loss Diets”; it specifically argues the point you raised, using both the available data to show that in studies that have compared diets of equal caloric content but varying macronutrient ratios, that the diets higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates consistently and significantly result in improved body composition and health measures. If indeed calories in -v- calories out was all that mattered, then how can one explain the aforementioned? Calories-in -v- calories-out simply can’t explain such results; is why it’s a dogma that should be modified as intended - to augment macronutrient composition changes.

Good response. However, as I pointed out earlier the thermic effect of higher protein diets doesn’t magically bypass the calories in vs. calories out equation. It simply increases the calories out via raising the person’s metabolism.

Does anyone have a response to the point that IF protein and resistance training are sufficient, there is no need to consider anything beyond simple calories in vs. calories out? You are not going to lose muscle mass in that case, so fat loss should be the result without having to overcomplicate things.[/quote]

You are constantly losing and gaining muscle and fat. The body is in constant flux. Whoever made the weight loss vs fat loss was entirely correct.

If all you are worried is weight loss then a calorie is a calorie. If you want to keep muscle and lose fat you need to play games with macros and timing. Given sufficient protein and fats you are already working the macros so I think timing of carbs becomes more important the leaner you are. Just my opinion. Eat the carbs in the right window when your body is primed to use them the way you want them used.

What if at this level where protein and RT are sufficient to not lose muscle, your simply taking in too many calories to further weight loss.

Then your at the point where you have to experiment with carb cycling, and nutrient timing.

Although, I dont know why anybody would not be taking in carbs post workout. The post workout carbs will be a big stimulus to maintain muscle.

[quote]forlife wrote:

Does anyone have a response to the point that IF protein and resistance training are sufficient, there is no need to consider anything beyond simple calories in vs. calories out? [/quote]

Well which is it? You can’t say simple calories in vs calories out as long as protein needs are met, and training is adequate, then it’s not just “simple calories in vs calories out” is it?

No, it doesn’t. Calories in and calories out are the MOST important thing. But not the only thing that matters. For good body composition (and not just weight loss), attention to macronutrients, type and frequency of exercise, and to a lesser degree meal timing, make a big difference. That said, unless you are getting super shredded it’s not that complicated. 1. Eat an appropriate amount of calories, 2. eat clean, unprocessed food, 3. get enough protein, 4. eat your veggies, 5. get enough unsaturated fat, and 6. train hard. You should be good to go and get pretty lean doing this.

[quote]arsenal109 wrote:
Calories in < calories out = WEIGHT LOSS, not necessarily fat loss. You don’t need to over complicate things, but going from 8% to 5% for most people will require watching where your calories come from. Insulin response to and nutrient profile of the food you consume is relevant to body composition, how is this even worth debating?[/quote]

I agree with this post. To bring it to the extreme, consume 95% of your intake from carbs and watch your body literally eat its lean tissue to regenerate and/or repair cells. Calorie deficits produce weight loss - not necessarily fat loss. Amino acids and fatty acids are essential to survival - carbs are not.

Carbs are an efficient fuel and I am not trying to say you should avoid them. I think they are very useful in the right amounts and at the right time. However, I beleive there have been studies (I’d have to search to find them again) where people being fed a 2000kcal diet of 60/30/10 C/P/F and others a diet of 20/60/20 C/P/F that had completely different results as to the amount of body fat actually lost verses just weight loss. I don’t know about how you feel, but I am only concerned with losing fat. I prefer to keep all the LBM I can.

[quote]jsbrook wrote:
No, it doesn’t. Calories in and calories out are the MOST important thing. But not the only thing that matters. For good body composition (and not just weight loss), attention to macronutrients, type and frequency of exercise, and to a lesser degree meal timing, make a big difference.

That said, unless you are getting super shredded it’s not that complicated. 1. Eat an appropriate amount of calories, 2. eat clean, unprocessed food, 3. get enough protein, 4. eat your veggies, 5. get enough unsaturated fat, and 6. train hard. You should be good to go and get pretty lean doing this.[/quote]

I agree 100% with this post. For 95% of the population it doesn’t need to be any more complicated.

But I will say this. For most people; especially Americans, theres are a few key reasons as to why their bodies store fat.

1.) Although they are eating too many calories, they are not getting adequate nutrition. Thus their bodies think they are starving and will store fat.

2.) Along the lines of #1, they do not eat frequently enough. Many people skip breakfast, and have a small lunch, and a huge dinner. By dinner their body thinks they are starving and compensates.

3.) Their activity levels are very low, and thus they lose muscle as well as cardiovascular fitness. Metabolism slows and they get fat.

So to simply reverse these three, people should eat smaller meals more often 4-7 per day. They should avoid sugars and refined carbs, as well as foods and meats loaded with saturaded fats. (That will get rid of all the empty calories, and increase the likelihood that they’ll get adequate nutrients.)

Lastly, they should exercise. Weight training would be MOST important, and cardio would be beneficial but not necessary in any way.

If most people were to follow these guidelines they could make great improvements. It wont take them to <10% BF, but would build a good base, and get them close.

One other think I dont like about saying that calories IN vs. calories OUT is all that matters, is this. You take someone that is already not getting adequate nutrients on a calorie surplus, and then decrease calories.

They now are definately going be getting inadequate nutrition. In the long run, their metabolism will slow and they’ll likely end up fatter than ever. Restricting calories may be beneficial in the short term, but for long term health, and body comp, people should focus less on the amount they eat, and more on eating the right foods.

Once again, many of you are missing the point. Eating 6-7 small meals per day? Why? Will eating 7 meals per day at 2,500 calories and 200g protein magically make you lose more fat than 3 meals per day at 2,500 calories and 200g protein? No.

Why should it, the calories are the same therefore, assuming an energy deficit exists ad protein is sufficient, muscle will be spared, and fat will be burned to make up for a lack of energy intake.

THERE IS NO MAGIC INVOLVED IN EATING 6-8 MEALS PER DAY! You will not lose fat eating 6 times per day if you are OVER eating by 500 calories (even if it’s 500 calories of “clean” foods, which I have yet to hear a reasonable definition of, but that’s beside the point…)

Face it, it still boils down to this simple fact: the body has no need to use up energy stores, if it’s energy needs are met. Period.

It does not matter if you eat 3 meals per day or 10, low fat or high fat, or whatever. All diets work. If you do not believe me, read this:

http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/blog/2008/06/30/all-diets-work-the-importance-of-calories/
No matter how complex or how simple your diet may be, if you are eating more than you expend, you will gain weight.

ADDITIONALLY if you eat less than you expend, AND ensure enough protein to spare lean tissue, you will lose fat. It really is as simple as that.

Finally the point of refeeds, or cycling calories, is this: to keep expenditure high enough by keeping the metabolism revved up that one can to eat enough protein while still remaining in a (weekly) deficit. Diets like the UD2 wont work if you are in a net (read: weekly) caloric SURPLUS.

P.S. while over consuming protein will lead to less fat gain than carbohydrates, this is only because of the Thermic Effect of Food, therefore it increases ones caloric expenditure in a roundabout way, but calories in vs calories out STILL holds true.

Can this thread please be closed now?

[quote]forlife wrote:
Lockwood wrote:
That last reference, by the way, is titled “Thermodynamics of Weight Loss Diets”; it specifically argues the point you raised, using both the available data to show that in studies that have compared diets of equal caloric content but varying macronutrient ratios, that the diets higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates consistently and significantly result in improved body composition and health measures. If indeed calories in -v- calories out was all that mattered, then how can one explain the aforementioned? Calories-in -v- calories-out simply can’t explain such results; is why it’s a dogma that should be modified as intended - to augment macronutrient composition changes.

Good response. However, as I pointed out earlier the thermic effect of higher protein diets doesn’t magically bypass the calories in vs. calories out equation. It simply increases the calories out via raising the person’s metabolism.

Does anyone have a response to the point that IF protein and resistance training are sufficient, there is no need to consider anything beyond simple calories in vs. calories out? You are not going to lose muscle mass in that case, so fat loss should be the result without having to overcomplicate things.[/quote]

How, then, do you explain the meal frequency studies whereby subjects - both lean and obese - have consumed equal number of calories, following the same macronutrient profiles, and yet there is significant variance b/w groups on dependent variables of body composition and blood lipids? And, yes, resting energy expenditure did increase significantly in the most responsive groups (btw, 6 evenly spaced meals as opposed to 3 or 9 meals/day), however, the researchers concluded that the change in body composition couldn’t entirely be explained by the change in energy expenditure alone (Farshchi HR et al. Int J Obes 2004;28:653-660 & Farshchi HR et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:16-24).

That conclusion is in agreement w/ many of the researchers I referenced earlier (i.e. read the thermodynamics article that I referenced) - that changes in energy expenditure alone (that includes TEF) absolutely does not account for the totality of the change we see in such studies. If you don’t believe me, then please spend some time reading the literature that I took the time to reference for you; if it doesn’t change your mind, at least it will improve your argument against what many of today’s leading researchers in the field are concluding. - c

[quote]JMoUCF87 wrote:
Once again, many of you are missing the point. Eating 6-7 small meals per day? Why? Will eating 7 meals per day at 2,500 calories and 200g protein magically make you lose more fat than 3 meals per day at 2,500 calories and 200g protein? No. Why should it, the calories are the same therefore, assuming an energy deficit exists ad protein is sufficient, muscle will be spared, and fat will be burned to make up for a lack of energy intake.

THERE IS NO MAGIC INVOLVED IN EATING 6-8 MEALS PER DAY! You will not lose fat eating 6 times per day if you are OVER eating by 500 calories (even if it’s 500 calories of “clean” foods, which I have yet to hear a reasonable definition of, but that’s beside the point…)

Face it, it still boils down to this simple fact: the body has no need to use up energy stores, if it’s energy needs are met. Period.

It does not matter if you eat 3 meals per day or 10, low fat or high fat, or whatever. All diets work. If you do not believe me, read this: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/blog/2008/06/30/all-diets-work-the-importance-of-calories/
No matter how complex or how simple your diet may be, if you are eating more than you expend, you will gain weight. ADDITIONALLY if you eat less than you expend, AND ensure enough protein to spare lean tissue, you will lose fat. It really is as simple as that.

Finally the point of refeeds, or cycling calories, is this: to keep expenditure high enough by keeping the metabolism revved up that one can to eat enough protein while still remaining in a (weekly) deficit. Diets like the UD2 wont work if you are in a net (read: weekly) caloric SURPLUS.

P.S. while over consuming protein will lead to less fat gain than carbohydrates, this is only because of the Thermic Effect of Food, therefore it increases ones caloric expenditure in a roundabout way, but calories in vs calories out STILL holds true.

Can this thread please be closed now?[/quote]

I don’t think anyone is in disagreement w/ the fact that one loses or gains total body mass (weight) relative to caloric intake being below or exceeding one’s physiological “set point.” I think the question is how best to lose body fat while gaining, or at least maintaining muscle mass. That, I believe you addressed quite well.

Some of your other points, however, I’d ask you to reconsider based upon the scientific evidence.

Your referencing that there is no evidence that eating 6-7 small meals is any better than consuming 3 has any effect on body composition, assuming caloric intake is held constant, is something I addressed in my previous post/reply. Indeed there is very strong evidence that, holding caloric intake constant, that meal frequency has a significant effect on body composition and blood lipids. The reason may simply be the result of maintaining stable blood glucose levels and thus reducing large perturbations in insulin response, however, that’s another series of studies altogether.

The macronutrient ratio studies have left just as many questions standing as may be answered; the thermic effect of protein has, for example, specifically been addressed in various studies as NOT being able to account for the entire amount of significant change that has been observed. It’s likely a contributor, and I don’t think any rational researcher would deny that, however, most respected researchers at the forefront of that research also haven’t concluded the thermic effect of protein as the only mechanism involved. More than likely, it’s a combination of TEF, energy expenditure, satiety, and direct and/or indirect hormonal signaling mechanisms. However, no one of the aforementioned can or has been suggested as explaining it all.

Thus, my point isn’t to argue w/ you, b/c clearly you seem pretty annoyed that this topic continues being discussed; rather, I am simply suggesting that you consider the data before you render your final opinion. - c