Thinking Calories? Think Again!

We’ve all heard the ‘Energy Balance Equation’ (or ‘Calorie Balance Equation’). You know the one: “energy in – energy out = weight gain or loss”. Every single piece of fat loss and muscle building advice you read comes back to this simple equation. EVERYTHING! And yet despite its simplicity and popularity, in the real World, it never works! Technically, the energy balance equation is 100% accurate and true! The equation is rooted in the laws of thermodynamics: “energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only change form”. So to argue against the truth of the ‘energy balance equation’ is to argue against the nature of the Universe. However you position your argument, you are wrong! Lyle McDonald offers a great explanation of the equations perfection here…. Truth and accuracy, however, does not make an equation useful or relevant. Consider the algebraic equation: A+B = A+B. It is 100% true and accurate. It is also entirely redundant. You cannot use it for anything because it cannot help you calculate either ‘A’ or ‘B’. And an equation that cannot be used to calculate or predict something is, by definition, useless. And thats the issue with the ‘energy balance equation’. The only interest any non-academic might have with the Energy Balance Equation is to PREDICT a change in bodyweight from diet and exercise. And for this purpose, the equation is completely and utterly useless! For proof of this, have a read through the plethora of respected research articles at Pubmed. Its really no secret that you cannot use the Energy Balance equation to reliably predict future weight gain or loss! At Biologic Labs, to help our overweight clients lose weight, we typically feed them MORE calories than they were eating before! In fact, we feed them a LOT more! And generally, the more quality nutrition that we feed them, the more weight they lose; all of it from fat! And all with only 2-3 workouts per week and zero cardio. How can this occur? According to the energy balance equation, increasing calories should ALWAYS cause weight GAIN; and yet, successful trainers can consistently increase calories to cause quality fat-weight loss. The reason is quite simple: your body is an adaptive organism. Read that again: your body is an ADAPTIVE ORGANISM! This is the most critical point to understand about your body. It is not a machine! It doesn’t burn a fixed number of “kilometers-per-litre” of fuel. It changes how much fuel it uses depending on the quantity and quality of fuel provided; as well as countless other factors. Take less energy in and your body adapts by expending less energy out. Perform an activity for the purpose of burning energy and your body adapts by becoming more energy efficient; it begins to use less energy for that activity. And your body is almost infinitely adaptable in both of these regards. You absolutely cannot win against it! Our bodies are designed to change in order to keep us alive despite all the dumb things we do! If you feed it a leaf of lettuce per day and tell it to run for 6 hours per day, it will adjust to become able to do that. (Or it will fall over dead). That adaptation might involve losing weight, at first. Or it might not. Either way, the response will your bodies efficient adaptation to the stimulus. It will never be a predictable, linear, mechanical response. The smart response then is to exploit the adaptive nature of your body positively. Rather than trying to “waste away the body you hate” by starving and overtraining, work instead to “build the body you want”. Looking strong/‘athletic’ and healthy is a function of BEING strong/‘athletic’ and healthy! That means strict, high-quality nutrition and intense, progressive strength exercise. Not starving on a treadmill!

Written by

Damon Hayhow is the founder of Biologic Labs. He is also the President of Recomp, Director of Body Recompositioning Solutions, Australian Ambassador to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, World Record holding Powerlifter, former President of the World Powerlifting Congress in Australia, IFBB Mr Australia and Australian Powerlifting Champion. Damon is Australia's first CISSN qualified Sports Nutritionist and an ASCA Certified Strength Coach.

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