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3 Calorie Counting “Secrets” Every Dieter Should Know

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3 Calorie Counting “Secrets” Every Dieter Should Know

If you’re confused about counting calories, and if you just want to know what works and what doesn’t, you need to read this article.

 

For many, weight loss is quite an ordeal–physically, mentally, and emotionally.

They try all kinds of silly diets sold by silly “gurus” and, despite the thousands of pages read, dollars spent, and beads of sweat sacrificed, fail to reach their weight loss goals.

I don’t care how persistent you are–you can only take so much setback before you give up. Before you conclude that it’s just not meant to be, that you were genetically fated to be fat and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can move on with your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But then you’ll come across evidence to the contrary. Evidence that weight loss can be approached scientifically, systematically, and universally, and that results follow as a matter of course, not luck.

The world of bodybuilding is a bonanza of such evidence. There you can find millions of men and women of all ages from all around the world that manipulate body composition with ease, using the same, simple principles to gain muscle and lose fat as routinely as they wash their cars or clean their clothes.

How do these people do it though? Tons of drugs? Lucky genetics? Starvation? Voodoo?

Sure, dangerous drugs, elite genetics, and extreme diets are prevalent among bodybuilding competitors that need to reduce body fat to near-deadly lows, but they’re a tiny minority. Look past them and you’ll find a vast sea of everyday people like you and me using bodybuilding principles to build strong, lean, muscular physiques.

And here’s something you need to know…

The dietary principles these millions of normal people are using to build the lean, muscular bodies of their dreams revolve around proper calorie counting.

I know, I know–the fat MD with a PhD, the pretty girl on TV that has been skinny her entire life, the former triathlete turned fitness writer that never had to “diet”…they all say calorie counting is flawed or doesn’t work.

Or maybe you’ve come to that conclusion yourself in your dietary travels (and travails). Maybe you’ve tried counting calories and it was just as futile as everything else.

Well, I have good news for you… Calorie counting, when applied intelligently and consistently, can change your life.

As you’ll soon see, once you fully understand the physiological mechanisms underlying weight loss and gain–the causes and effects–you can bring these processes under your control.

And when you do that, you gain freedom from dietary dogmas, fads, faiths, and scapegoats. You no longer wander, wonder, and wish. You follow simple rules to get reliable results.

You can eat foods you like and lose fat when you want to. You can temporarily–and intentionally–gain fat without worry. And you can stabilize your body fat and maintain whatever type of body you want.

To do all that, however, you need to know things most people don’t about how calorie counting works, how it can fail, and why it has gotten a bad rap.

So let’s get to it.

Calories in versus calories out isn’t as simple as you think.

One of the worst diet myths out there is the idea that weight loss or gain is a “personalized” experience.

That is, the idea that your body and metabolism is fundamentally different than mine or someone else’s and that you have to, through trial and error, luck, or divine inspiration, discover how yours ticks and how to bend it to your will.

This philosophy conveniently ignores the fact that a century of metabolic research has established, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the laws of thermodynamics dictate weight loss and weight gain.

Scientific fact: you can’t lose weight without an energy deficit and you can’t gain it without a surplus.

You see, body fat is an energy reserve that your body doesn’t need to tap into (and thereby reduce) if you’re giving it all the energy it needs through food. And your body can’t create additional energy out of thin air to store as fat–it must get this surplus of energy through food.

These realities are lost on many “experts” though, who make a killing making cases against the entire scientific model, claiming that calorie counting is the horse and buggy of dieting–obsolete, unworkable, and superseded by new scientific research and discoveries.

The truth isn’t that the “calories in vs. calories out” cliche is bunk. The truth is it paints too simplistic of a picture.

“Calories in” is easy enough… in theory.

Food contains energy that we can measure in calories. We eat the food, taking in the energy. Hard to mess that up. Or is it?

Well, there are two major problems that confound simple attempts and quantifying “calories in.”

First, people are generally horrible at estimating the actual amount of calories they eat.

Thin people tend to overestimate the amount of calories they eat (a “ton” of food to them might mean one large meal per day) and overweight people tend to underestimate the amount they eat (they forget about all the “hidden” calories in their beverages and meals).

Second, the calorie counts we’re given for various restaurant and packaged foods are often inaccurate.

In fact, food manufacturers can underreport calories by 20% and pass FDA inspection and you’d better believe many are unscrupulous enough to use this to their advantage.

The net effect is people often believe they’re taking in far fewer calories than they actually are, and this alone can prevent weight loss when counting calories.

Calculating calories out is even trickier. Much trickier, actually.

The second part of this equation represents the energy we expend, which is determined by several things:

1. Our basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy our bodies burn while at rest.

There are simple equations for determining your basal metabolic rate (BMR), but research shows actual metabolic rates can vary quite a bit. Some people’s basal metabolic rates are higher and lower than normal (and than formulas would predict).

Weight loss also affects BMR. As you reduce your weight, your body reduces its total daily energy expenditure by instinctively moving less and causing its metabolic rate to slow down, and this is one of the reasons why many people hit weight loss plateaus when counting calories.

2. The thermic effect of food, which is the energy cost of processing the food we eat for use and storage.

For example, research shows that whole foods cost more energy to process than processed foods and high-protein meals result in more energy expenditure than high-fat.

Thus, 300 calories of whole foods results in more “calories out” than 300 calories of processed foods, and high-protein meals more than low-protein meals. Repeat this several times per day and the numbers can add up to something significant.

Research also shows that even water can have mild thermic effect because your body has to expend energy to warm it, which is one of the reasons increased water intake is associated with weight loss.

3. The energy we expend through all physical movement, including deliberate activities like exercise and spontaneous activities like shivering and fidgeting, and everything in between.

When most people think energy expenditure, they think only of concentrated efforts like workouts. They forget that all physical activity counts, down to our habits of walking around while on the phone or hopping to the bathroom or drumming our fingers when we read or bobbing our leg when we think.

The energy burned by these activities is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, and it plays a much larger role in total daily energy expenditure than most people realize. Research shows that NEAT can vary by up to 2,000 calories per day among many individuals.

The same research indicates that people could burn an additional 350 calories per day by taking simple actions to increase movement every day like taking the stairs when possible, walking relatively short distances instead of driving, doing some chores instead of watching TV, etc.

And to put that in perspective, burning an additional 350 calories per day for 7 days would add up to about 2/3 of a pound of fat lost. Not bad for just piddling around a bit more than usual.

Another aspect of energy expenditure that most people don’t know is some people’s bodies burn more energy while active than others’s.

Just because you’re engaged in the same types and amounts of activity as someone else doesn’t mean you’re burning the same amount of energy. This is especially true if you have more or less muscle because muscle significantly increases the energy cost of exercise.

The science is clear: force people to truly eat less energy than they expend and they will lose weight. They won’t all lose the same amounts, but they’ll all get lighter.

When people are unable to replicate these results in their own attempts at restricting and counting calories it’s not because the entire method is fundamentally flawed and “doesn’t work”–it’s because they’re doing it wrong.

A calorie isn’t a calorie when talking body composition.

You now know that gaining and losing weight boils down to manipulating energy intake and expenditure. Consistently consume less energy via food than you expend via your basal metabolic rate and physical activity, and your weight will go down.

The foods you eat to get in those calories don’t matter–a calorie is a calorie in this sense. Professor Mark Haub lost 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks, and you could do exactly the same if you wanted to.

Yes, that’s right. “Clean eating” has its heart in the right place but guarantees nothing in the way of fat loss.

Eat too many “clean” calories every day and you’ll fail to lose a single pound.

And on the flip side, maintain a calorie deficit eating nothing but Skittles and GMO wheat all day and you’ll lose weight like clockwork. Is this diet unhealthy and unsustainable? Of course. But that has nothing to do with its effectiveness for short-term weight loss. But therein lies the problem: weight loss.

That is, you’ll lose more than fat. You’ll lose muscle too.

You see, your goal shouldn’t simply be weight loss–it should be fat loss. You want to lose fat and preserve–or even build–muscle, lest you wind up skinny fat.

And when that’s the goal, a calorie is not a calorie. Certain types of calories are more important than others.

The type of calories that matter most are those that come from protein.

Protein is, by far, the most valuable macronutrient when you’re restricting your calories to lose weight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research shows that a high-protein diet results in…

Those benefits apply to everyone, sedentary and active, and regular exercise only increases the amount of protein your body needs to maintain muscle and stay healthy.

And how much protein should you be eating to lose fat and not muscle? You can get the long answer in my article on how much protein is needed to build muscle, but I’ll give a short one here:

According to recent research conducted by scientists at AUT University

“Protein needs for energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes are likely 2.3-3.1g/kg of FFM [1 – 1.4 grams per pound of fat free mass] scaled upwards with severity of caloric restriction and leanness.”

That is, 2.3 grams per kilogram of body weight, or about 1 gram per pound, is a good place to start, and needs can increase as high as 1.4 grams per pound of body weight in the very lean and active.

Based on my experience helping thousands of people of all ages and body types lose fat, I’ve developed simple guidelines for determining protein intake:

1. In the obese, 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass is adequate.

2. In the overweight. 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is adequate.

3. In the lean, 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight is adequate.

As complex as weight loss is, calories count the most.

There’s no denying that the physiological machinery involved in weight loss is labyrinthine. It’s driven by the interaction of thousands of proteins and enzymes that aren’t even fully understood yet.

Many supplement companies play up this complexity to sell you dubious “fat burners” that purport to optimize or “hack” various pieces of the fat loss puzzle, and many diet gurus use it to sell you their bestselling weight loss “breakthroughs.”

These people talk about manipulating hormones like insulin, growth hormone, and testosterone, and not your calorie intake; of using meal timing to optimize various metabolic processes; of “cycling” carbohydrates or calories to maximize results; and so forth.

Some of the sales pitches are convincing. And let’s face it–sometimes we just want to believe there’s a simpler way. That it’s not our fault that we can’t lose weight.

Well, the sooner you realize the following maxim, the sooner you can break free of the chains of weight loss ignorance:

Fat loss is a whole-body process. By focusing on reducing your energy intake below your output, everything else activates and functions accordingly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t, through diet, exercise, or supplementation, directly control the individual mechanisms that enable your body to burn fat, but you can easily control how much food you eat and how much energy you expend and let your body take care of the rest.

The Bottom Line on Counting Calories

There’s a reason why every single controlled study on weight loss conducted in the last 100+ years has concluded that energy expenditure must be greater than intake for meaningful weight reduction to occur.

There’s a reason why bodybuilders have been using this knowledge for just as long to systematically increase and reduce body fat levels as desired.

And there’s a reason why “calorie deniers” come and go, whisked to fame through carefully planned media orgies and then relegated to obscurity once people realize their new brands of quackery simply don’t work.

Calorie counting, when done properly, works. For everyone. Without fail. And once you experience it for yourself, you’ll never look back.

 

What’s your take on counting calories? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Matt

    Man, as someone who’s followed your site for a long time, I gotta say, you really need to fire whoever is doing the visual layout design of your site. I’ve worked in the PR/communications field, and sorry to say, your article pages are now violating all the rules when it comes making it easy and attractive to read. All the different fonts, sizes, bolds, colors, links, tweets, sidebar design… it’s all becoming a huge eyesore and a massive turnoff.

    I’d comment on the post – I’m sure it’s solid – but I couldn’t endure all the cosmetic distractions.

    • Dav

      I agree it’ really terrible. I still read it but the layout piss me off each time.

      • Michael Matthews

        I understand. I’ll chill out on it. 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Totally understand. I do that stuff myself and got carried away. Not even intentionally. I cleaned it up and will keep this in mind with future posts.

      • Mike P

        Mike – I’m a huge fan of your work. I’ve been following you since you first started. But I have to agree the site has gotten increasingly too busy. I’m a software developer and have experience with usability. Matt is correct – you’re breaking all the rules.

    • Cassie

      Mike, I am not a software designer, I just like to read your articles. I’m sure there is always room for improvement and it is always worth welcoming constructive criticism, however, all I will say is that I love your site, news letters and your blogs. Nothing about them has ever irritated me, I like the pictures and the easy click links throughout, I enjoy reading a well articulated article backed up with facts evidence and good referencing. So thank you!

      • Thanks Cassie. I really appreciate it and will be working on improving the user experience of MFL. Especially the mobile!

  • Juan

    Excellent article Mike. Thorough and well-researched information.

    Oh, and I personally don’t have a problem with the formatting. I actually think the different styles/fonts help with making certain points clear; Plenty of line brakes, bullet points, links pointing to references, and the main ideas in bold. Maybe less “click to tweets”, but even then it’s not a big deal.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Juan!

      I actually think I was going overboard, haha. Not intentional.

  • Chris

    Great article as usual Mike.

    I have to say,t hat your meal plan service gave me a great starting point. It’s been very easy to manipulate it from a bulk to a cut. It gave me the base i needed. Plus i’m no longer reliant on whey to get my macros on target!

    Thanks again

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’m really glad to hear it. That’s the intention of the service, really–show people how proper dieting really works so they can do their thing moving on.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Conrad

    Great info as usual Michael, Question regarding fat loss. You very briefly mentioned this before in one of your previous articles, but I wondered if you could extrapolate a little more. I have recently have been reading about diets that recommend separating fats and carbs in different meals or even different days to help your body process these macro-nutrients better. This is supposed to be particularly applicable during a caloric deficit to increase fat loss. I don’t follow this myself but I am curious if you know where this idea came from? It doesn’t necessarily go against the laws of fat loss but it also doesn’t seem like it would make anyone’s life easier either. Have there been some studies that vaguely indicated this idea?

    P.S. As someone who has studied typography and worked in print advertising. I can see why some would be annoyed with your article layouts. It doesn’t bother me personally as I am here for health information and don’t care what the format is as long as the info is good. In my opinion if you want to look like a “fitness” magazine and draw people in with big taglines etc this is the way to go. If you want a more professional look that might cater to a different audience then you may want to modify a few things. Either way I’ll still be checking in to see what you have to say.

    • Following, for the answer to your first paragraph. I’ve been hearing this too, and not sure if it’s bro-science.

      As far as the layouts — I like them.

    • Thanks!

      Food combining is bunk:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10805507

      I personally like the blog look but don’t want to hurt legibility too much, that’s all.

      • Conrad

        Thanks for the study link. I’m curious if you happen to know why this “fad” has come about? I feel like a lot of fads have some fragile inaccurate science behind them. I’m trying to have a discussion about this idea with someone else who has been convinced that it “makes sense”.

        • In many cases fads start with some wildly misinterpreted study or with rat research that’s prematurely extrapolated to humans.

          And in many cases they’re based on nothing but bullshit. Marketing pitches that sound plausible but have no real basis in good science.

          • Conrad

            Awesome, thanks for the input. Thanks for all the great info you share. I am currently 8 weeks in to BLS and am getting compliments left and right. Just got my wife on board with TLS as well.

          • My pleasure and awesome! I’m glad to hear it!

        • If I may, the reasoning behind this current fad that I’ve heard is kindof like carb cycling. You go into a deficit on rest days with high fat/protein and no/low carbs, then on your workout days you go high carb, high calories. The high fat, low carb day re-fills your fats and helps your hormones while at the same time depleting your carbs, which results in becoming more insulin sensitive so that when you do get the carbs on the next day then your muscles suck them in like a hungry sponge and you get huge. Further extended, I’ve also heard of doing this as a cyclical bulk vice carb cycling daily. in a cyclical bulking, you bulk on high carbs/calories for 4-6 weeks and then reset for 2-3 weeks on high fats, low carbs/calories. Same reasoning.

          Makes sense logically, but as Mike points out a) no studies support it and b) there is this study on obese people who don’t bulk where it doesn’t work.

          • Exactly Sean. Fancy diet schemes sound great but fail to deliver.

  • Steven Scott

    Isn’t there a medical condition in which a person actually cannot make the enzymes to break down fat? Not that this is an excuse for the vast majority of us, but that might make a good article for the folks who say they “can’t” lose weight.

  • Alex

    Hey Mike… In your article you mention a possible 20% discrepancy in the published nutritional information found on packaging… Given that I used my fitness pal and scan said packaging to input calorie and macro figures, am I at risk of going way over/under calories? How can I better manage these variable figures to achieve better accuracy in my numbers?

    • It depends what you’re eating. That’s why most fitness folk cook their own food.

      • Livo

        Hei, I am also interested in this issue, When you said “Most fitness folk cook their own food” then I guess when you talk about 20% discrepancies is about frozen meal you buy in supermarkets. Because I also prepared my own food, I buy for example chicken breast, greek yoghurt, vegetables, etc but I still see the nutritional information of their packages. So, Am I still over/under calories?

        • I don’t trust packaged foods much to be honest. That’s why I get the majority of my calories from unprocessed food I prepare myself.

          • Livo

            But what you mean with unprocessed food? You buy the cow and kill it yourself; etc.?? Because I buy unprocessed food that comes in package.

          • Haha good point. Relatively unprocessed that is. 🙂 As in, foods I prep and cook myself.

  • Brad

    Great article, Mike. This is my first blog post in history so would first like to commend you on your easy-to-follow writing style and the relief in knowing that your position is backed by peer-reviewed research. You bring clarity (wisdom?) to a field muddled by bro science and misconceptions.

    Firstly, great distinction between ‘weight loss’ and ‘fat loss’, by the way. I have, like many others, used those terms interchangeably but they really are different. In re-clarifying my personal fitness goals I have specifically changed my wording in favour of ‘fat loss’ (in the name of setting clear, specific, and realistic goals!).

    Another great distinction in your article is that ‘weight loss’ boils down to ‘calories in calories out’ but not when talking body composition.

    So again, keep up the great work and exemplary contributions!

    Brad
    Melbourne, Australia

  • Charlotte Grøftehauge

    Caloriecounting works. No doubt about that. I lost 10 lbs of fat in 7 weeks counting calories and making sure my macros were pretty close to optimal.
    Now I have gained the weight back – half of it fat – half muscle. And I’m looking forward to loosing the fluff when I start cutting in a month or so..
    Can’t start to early though – have bikini comp in september and I need to gain a bit more muscle 🙂

  • anitahall

    I’m curious to know, if calorie is a calorie, why you have said in other articles that, for example, its best to eat starchy carbs around workouts or protein first thing in the morning because its easier for your body to use those calories for energy instead of storing it as fat. If this is true, it would make sense to avoid fat storage by scheduling the macros we eat to the specific times that our bodies will more effectively use it. And what importance is the influencing the beta 2 and alpha 2 receptors in the fat loss process.

  • Hey Mike,

    It’s funny, my wife is a clinical dietitian and she knows her stuff. As popular as gluten-free, paleo, and low-carb has become these days, the research keeps pointing back to calories. I’m into intermittent fasting and we were talking about it one day. I told her that at the end of the day IF is just an easy way to control calories. Yes, there’s talk of increased fat-burning (due to low insulin and blood sugar levels), but at the end of the day it’s a way to lower calories while feeling less hunger and eating bigger meals (which also means less prep time). That’s it.

    As for carb-cycling, I like eating higher carb on days I lift and higher fat on rest days. But I have a wife and little kids and have no time or desire to go crazy with this stuff. I have a set of meals that I like to eat (I’ve already calculated the calories) and eat them over and over again.

    And you’re right, all this talk of optimizing hormones gives people the illusion that there’s something they need to focus on besides calories. I once spoke to a fitness marketer and he said the big trend in fitness these days are at home workouts and optimizing hormones.

    Raza

  • Rob W

    Mike,
    I am curious about food energy. When I eat something, does my body switch to that source for energy right away? (So it is never stored?) When does hunger occur? When this food energy is gone and it begins to pull from “storage”?

  • Steve g

    Lol this is why so many people are deluded to counting calories and this article proves my point straight away! Take for exam the Greeks at the Olympics the first people to have ripped physiques ( there statues show the grecian ideal) and they never counted calories! THE BIGGEST FLAW WITH COUNTING CALORIES OS THAT IF YOU EAT CLEAN YOU WILL BE EATING A HELL OF A LOT MORE FOOD BECAUSE CLEAN FOODS ARE NOT CALORIE DENSE! I HAVE NEVER SEEN A BODYBUILDER SAY THAT CLEAN FOODS ARE NOT CALORIE DENSE AND THATS THE PROBLEM THERE STUBBORN TO SEE THAT CALORIES FOR CLEAN EATING SIMPLY CANT WORK YOULL STRUGGLE TO GET 3K CALORIES FROM CLEAN FOOD A DAY ALSO YOULL BE FULL! OH AND MIKE I READ YOUR ARTICLE ON THE BEST BODYWEIGHT PROGRAM AND ITS FRANKLY WRITTEN BY SOMEONE WHO HAS NO KNOWLEDGE IN CALISTHENICS HAVE YOU NOT SEEN A MALE GYMNAST? YOUTUBE HANNIBAL AND BARILLA THEN SAY YOU CANT BUILD MUSCLE WITH CALISTHENICS!

    • Ricardo

      I completely agree with this , clean foods are not calorie dense so you will be consuming more food, which defeats the purpose of going on a diet because you consume more good just to get your calories in? Sounds like a lie to me eat more to lose weight when you should eat less? Just read that article on bodyweight does make some bad assumptions to muscle gains hannibal is a pure example!

    • May just be trolling but…

      1. Please share your definition of “clean” foods. Veggies aren’t calorie dense but many fruits are, for instance. And any fatty food is VERY calorie dense, like avocado for instance.

      That’s why I get dozens of emails every week from people that are eating “clean” but can’t lose weight. Once they actually break down the numbers they realize they’re just eating way too much “clean” food to lose fat.

      2. Ehhh let’s just put it this way: you could work out every day with Hannibal for the next 10 years and you’d never look 1/10 as good as him. There are a couple reasons for this that I think you can figure out.

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  • Kris

    Hi Mike, I’m 22 year old female that was training for the olympic trials marathon. I Super fit. Ripped. 5’6 100-107lbs and I was shredded, 8 pack abs, veins, strong and running 70-85miles per week running 01:20:00 half marathons. This gradually dissipated over the last 6 months. I’ve had a VERY VERY VERY stressful year for career reasons (Without revealing my career publicly, just think para-military!) I know I wasn’t counting calories that meticulously, but I always ranged from 1900-2300 (and that’d be overestimating!) after I got out of the academy. I was running a lot during these months but continued to put on the weight. Now I’m 120lbs of fat, no muscle, no strength, my body hurts, and I have ZERO energy. No mental focus, nothing. My body looks and feels swollen. I have had blood work done which is all coming back fine. I take VIT B, C, D, K. What could it be? It’s so sad to see where I was and where I am now… I want to be back to normal. I want to workout and train but literally can’t! How can I set up an appointment with you to go over my diet etc?

    Also, I’ve been eating “GO HUNZA” Coconut Chunks. It says they’re 80 calories per 40gram serving. Could this be inaccurate and have caused my weight gain because I eat a lot of them in protein shakes to add crunch!

    Thank you!

    • Hey Kris!

      Wow I’m sorry to hear about the problems you’ve run into.

      Have you looked into chronic fatigue as a possibility? It sounds like you were beating the utter shit out of your body previously and when you do that and then add a bunch of life stress, that can become a dwindling spiral.

      I know CFS is hard to diagnose and sometimes even considered quackery, but the most recent research I’ve read indicates there IS something to it.

      Are you exercising at all currently?

      Coconut meat is really, really fatty. Tastes great but god damn is it calorie dense, haha.

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  • Julio

    Great read Mike! Very thorough..

  • TD

    Keeping track of calories isn’t my favorite thing but it does work. Anytime I tried to reduce body fat without counting calories, I failed to lose anything. I use the GoMeals App now, and it makes tracking pretty simple to do.

    • Yep. Pretty hard to ensure weight loss without tracking your cals.

      When tracking, you know exactly what to eat to lose weight.

  • Shaun

    Hi Mike.
    I have a quick question that I hope you can answer……
    In one of your articles you mention it takes between 3-6 hours for food to be processed. That leads me to the question, should we eat a pre workout snack 30 mins before exercise? Surely it hasn’t been broken down to fuel the workout. Hence I’m a little confused.
    For me, I train at 6pm for an hour and then have my main meal an hour after finishing. Would that mean I’m eating to many calories at night (pre workout and meal) or doesn’t it matter as long as I’m in my calorie range?
    Thanks any help.
    Shaun

    • 3 to 6 hours to FINISH processing everything. But if you eat 30 to 40 grams of pro and carb 30 minutes before your training, that gives your body enough time to raise glucose levels and such to make a difference in your workouts.

      Totally fine so long as your numbers are right.

  • George

    Hello I do not know if there is any way to reply to me but I am 15 years old and when I was about 12 I lost 30 pounds. I weighed about 148 pounds and got all the way down to 125ish and then I calorie counted only eating 1,800 calories a day and that brought me down to 118 pounds. But anyways I only weigh 135 pounds and I still have a lot of extra skin is what I think it is. I don’t know if you have any advice on how to get ride of it or something? Thank you

    • Hey George!

      At your age you want to be focused on HEALTH, not trying to look like juiced up 18+ year olds.

      I recommend that you eat plenty of nutritious foods and be active. Play sports, lift weights, etc.

      Don’t get all neurotic about “aesthetics” at your age… Save that for later, haha.

  • Jenny Hudson

    Calorie counts has very important role 4 weight loss. See here for very healthy and quick weight loss. http://www.amazingaus.com/whats-the-best-way-to-lose-weight/

  • Sammi

    Hey, don’t know if your answer will be what I’m looking for but what do you do after calorie restriction? For example, I’m 5’5, 120lbs, very active (gym 4x/wk plus distance running 3x/wk plus tennis and other fun activities). I started calorie counting after gaining some weight a couple of years ago, up to 132 and lots of fat. I lost about 15lbs down to 115, which I liked, and for about a month hit 110, where I looked fantastic (competition, if I were doing any). But to hit 110 I had to cut calories so severely it was absolutely unsustainable — I was at 500-800 cals per day for about 3 weeks. Now I only eat 900-1200 per day and I’ve gone back to 120. I still have really good muscle definition, I just wish I could lose the fat again. But when does the calorie-restricting end? Like I went from 1800 to 1500 to 1200 to 1000 to 5-800 — to maintain that body would I have had to go to 400? Then 300? Then 0??? How do you stay in shape and not regain all your hard-lost fat after a calorie cut?? Thank you 🙂

  • Tuan

    Hey mike,
    How do you count calories in home cooked food? My mom makes them so I can’t exactly weight the raw ingredients. Is there a way to accurate estimate calories of home cooked food, or am I gonna have to cook my own food from now on? Thanks.

    • That’s pretty tough for calorie counting. I mean, you can weigh out the cooked portions if possible. Otherwise, you can only make rough estimates. If you help with food prep, though, you can weigh everything and calculate the total macros for entire recipes, then do the math for your portion.

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