Jonny and I have recently become absolutely obsessed with Dr Abraham, an endocrinologist who specialises in diabetes and lipid disorders.
The video brilliantly embodies two important truths:
1. The pernicious myth, perpetuated by the fitness industry that keeps people fat: “If you eat healthy food, you’ll lose weight”
2. The fact that his years of clinical experience and grounding in physiology of metabolism boils down to 3 words for weight loss:
‘It’s any calories’.
“But it’s 1400 calories from vegetables, or cheese, or egg?”
“It’s any calories”
“But what about cake, sweets and fruit?”
“…If you actually get bogged down in thinking that if you don’t eat, then you can’t lose weight, you have to accept that this is a physical impossibility.”
Let’s sit let this sink in for a moment.
Any time you start to get bogged down in life, just remember, it’s any calories.
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Once people really get a real handle on what this man is saying, vast swathes of overcomplicated content in fitness blogs flies out the window as a waste of time in the face of calorie balance: a physical inevitability.
“So do you think the way I use my muscles in my abdomen has affected the way that my fat has collected?”
“No. Not at all”
Obviously our goals are somewhat different to the patient in the video: we want to maximise performance and looking good. So two additional requirements would be resistance training and adequate protein intake to preserve muscle mass. Eric Helms’ nutritional hierarchy succinctly outlines the variables in order of importance:
– Leucine pulsing? Now now, you’re getting bogged down
– Won’t BCAA or milk in my coffee spike my insulin? Bogged down.
– Which is better for ketosis, MCT or coconut oil? Bogged
– Should I use a supinated or neutral grip for my chin ups? …down
– Will fasting 16 cause mTOR downregulation?
^ all questions we commonly receive.
Are you tracking your macros?
– Are you logging your training on the forum, aiming to beat your previous records each week?
I haven’t got round to it
– Worries about how many protein shakes he/she has per day and whether or not the whey is from grass-fed cows who were cuddled and read bed time stories:
-> still doesn’t come close to 1g/lb total protein intake.
2) Rushes to the changing room to slam down a shaker of SUPERANABOLIC post workout drink to sustain MAXIMUM muscle growth.
-> still eats a calorie deficit.
3) Blends 400kcal of fat from grass-fed butter and high octane MCT oil into myco-toxin free coffee to create the optimal fat-burning environment.
-> still eats a calorie surplus.
4) includes 4 bicep exercises per day to build the biceps’ peak
-> has no idea how much volume/tonnage they used last week or what they need to do to progress next session
For questions that prioritise anything above calorie balance, such as meal timing/frequency, spot reduction, insulin-fairies, to name a few, the only appropriate response is the following gesture:
The wider message here is that there’s no getting around the fundamentals. The physiological mechanisms surrounding nutrition are fascinating to read, but the best we can hope to garner from upcoming research are subtle optimisations, the final few percentiles for high level athletes.
It’s liberating to know that if you simply trained 4x/week using progressive overload, slept well, and ate a sensible amount of calories with enough protein, you’d achieve 80% of the results you see in our coaching testimonials.
Going back to basics is not a regression. It’s something we constantly need to remind ourselves. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of being busy at work, overlooking that we’re only sleeping 5-6 hours per night. Diet/training may be on point, yet progress halts. We discover our real limiting factors by going back to basics. Once they’re covered, that’s often all you’ll need to break a plateau in your fat loss or strength progress.
The most effective plan to reach your goals is one that includes a diet which is calorie controlled ,with sufficient protein and fibre, and a training plan that includes a sensible progression plan. Forget supplements and fads, ignore promises of quick fixes and 30 day transformations. Buckle down, dig deep and stay consistent. Want some help? Drop us a message to enquire about coaching
Most important changes you can make:
1) – Read THIS article from Jonny
2) – Pick ONE , write the bullet point on a bit of paper and stick it up in your room, set it as your phone/computer background, or set a daily reminder alarm.
3) – Perform the bullet point for 5 consecutive days. If you’ve succeeded, move on to the next. If not, start the from day 1 again.
24 replies on “It’s any calories: Getting bogged down”
Another good article. Nice work. However, I still cannot access your forums. Does anyone else have trouble with this? I have tried multiple browsers.
Thanks Zach :). No idea on the forum I’m afraid, have you tried a proxy? Still running from our end although we’ve had someone else say they can’t access it too. Will need to look into it
Great article as always. Main problem is that people are stubborn with these things. They don’t want to listen, they don’t want to understand things.
One of my best mates goes regularly to an “expert sport nutritionist”, one day he sent me his “diet” to “gain mass”. First of all: it does not include calories or macros. Just five meals a day, and what these meals must include. Again, no calories or macros, just i.e “1 chicken breast” Two: I did a calculation and it gave me 350g protein per day, he weights 75kg. ‘Nuff said.
I’ve already advised my mate on what he needs to do, even sent him his calorie intake. Answer:
-I’m not going to eat carbs past 6pm. I’m not going to drink milk. You don’t have a clue, are you a nutritionist?
Ok good luck with your kidney failure.
Precisely… right at the end of the video ‘for me, it still comes down to my metabolic rate’. After being put in the metabolic chamber.
Wow, 350g protein per day – expensive, inefficient, smelly and unpleasant to choke down.
Awesome work again guys. Hadn’t seen this despatches episode, but may have to get it on catch up.
Love the “slow metabolism” and “it’s all muscle” excuses.
Cheers Mike – so glad they made this episode, got to shine light on the metabolism excuse!
Best quote from that video:
Woman: So that means there is nothing wrong with my metabolic rate?
Doctor: No, thank god!
Haha you can tell in his face he has no time for this tomfoolery
I’ve been a bodybuilder for awhile, trainer for over a decade. And why I do believe Calories are of extreme importance. I also believe type of foods are even more important for certain individuals. Especially people with diabetes or insulin resistance. I would rather cut out carbs, have them eat fats moderate protein for a month. Then start cutting back on the calories. I’ve done this with my dad and reversed his diabetes in 4 weeks.
Joe – you’re absolutely right in the context of diabetics or those with any kind of metabolic pathology. Our information on this site is for informational purposes only for healthy resistance trained individuals, and advice of the physician always goes first. Great work on helping your dad with his diabetes!
Hey there mates, how do you at Propane feel about these article and podcast? I would love to believe that and that deficits are all that matter and you can eat whatever you want but I when I read/hear about these things it makes me ponder the reality of calories=calories being the total answer. These experts provide good points.
what marc mcdougall says on these two articles also has me quite perplexed!
also podcasts from dr steven gundry are very interesting as well!
You here are all very up to date would love to know that eating tons of haribo and Coco Pops is dandy but am still wondering if that is okay LOL. Anyway Cheers boys give them all a listen/read and update your fans here! In the meantime I will be having my Yorkies hopefully not damaging myself too much.
Thanks for the links Omar – will have to check them out over the next few days. Our view is that it’s not a simple answer: calories are the biggest factor for weight loss, but we do need to account for blood glucose considerations for diabetics, satiety, protein retention, etc.
Optimising nutrient timing may have a contribution to improving body composition, but the difference will be imperceptibly low for those who aren’t controlling for calories. (‘cart before the horse’)
I think there is an important distinction to be made here between eating for weight gain/loss and eating for long term health. What this post is meant to demonstrate is that when it comes to weight gain/loss, calories is the most important factor.
The time scales of these effects – being in a caloric surplus or deficit – are measured in days and weeks.
When it comes to long term health, there are several nutrient types that have been shown fairly conclusively to lead to health problems:
– Highly refined sweeteners with a high proportion of fructose (high fructose corn syrup) consumed over many years can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.
– Trans fatty acids consumed over many years increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
Does that distinction make sense?
@Propane:Not necessarily was looking at timing was more looking at quality/variety etc. of foods. As many on the IIFYM bandwagon claim that as long as you take a multivitamin, hit fiber #’s, and a fishoil, get 1 serving of fruit and veg, anything goes…
@Jason. the link takes me back to this page. Well if one were to want to do all together what plan or layout of foods as well as types should one eat and avoid? Im sure we are all more interested in more than just being vain blokes and looking good at the beach. As mentioned above that seems to not be of any concern in the count your macros community as everything seems to be ok and that there are no “bad foods” and no one gets extra credit for only eating nutritious foods etc.
Omar & Jason: Interesting read for you on fructose + fatty liver disease: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25099546
Agreed that there are things we can do to improve health outside of calorie control. However, weight loss will reduce cardiac risk, improve blood lipid profile and metabolic syndrome most reliably, especially in conjunction with other health measures, e.g. negative health consequences (cardiac mainly) of obesity can be mitigated with regular aerobic exercise.
The problem I have with avoiding fructose/trans fats per se is the risk of an implicit license to continue to eat a surplus, particularly when the data fails to fully segregate the contributions of energy surplus from these nutrients. I realise it seems stupid for a patient to take that one piece of advice without looking at it in context.. but it happens as we see in the video!
Bear in mind our target audience is generally young, healthy, non-diabetic, resistance trained individuals with body composition goals. There is a significant overlap between our recommendations and eating purely for ‘health’ but it’s not a perfect fit – particularly ‘taking the piss with IIFYM’ article, which isn’t a recommended approach, more of an experiment. With long term adherence in mind, a balance between enjoying foods and suppressing cravings while hitting the major nutritional bases is a reasonable long term strategy, but when the parameters change for health and non-body composition goals, that starts to move out of our remit.
Hope my rambling made some sense!
Hi guys enjoying the page. Possibly interested in working with you guys in the next few months just figuring out some things at the moment. Quick question though a lot of coaches and athletes talk about a high-carb diet being the best diet for putting on muscle. I agree that I have a lot more energy in the gym when I go high-carb (400g carbs), as opposed to low-carb (150g of carbs). But what confuses me is that there are some “nutrition experts” saying that eating lots of carbohydrates is going to make you “age” faster. They are talking about the effects of eating a lot of carbohydrates on mitochondria, and that chronically elevated insulin levels will increase IGF-1, which is going to shorten your lifespan (some even say IGF-1 promotes cancer growth). I’ve also heard that simple sugars promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the gut. What is your take on this whole high-carb vs. low-carb/ketogenic debate? Is it really true that we are potentially shortening our life span by eating a high-carb diet (even though it’s better for lifting)? Hope you can help me out here :) Thanks I really enjoy your stuff.
Hi Omar – thanks for the comment, just seen this. I’ve not seen any convincing controlled data on higher carbohydrate intake reducing life span, but would happily have a look at the claims if you could point us in the right direction on what they’re basing it on?
While of course it is undeniable, that when it comes to losing or gaining weight, ultimately it is all down to calories, one also has to take into account that 1400 calories from whole foods is going to be more satiating than 1400 calories from chips, coke and cake.
People need to be educated that it’s calories in vs calories out that dictate weight loss, but that making better food choices is going to make handling the calorie deficit more bearable, while having additional long term benefits such as increased nutrient density.
Yep totally agreed Simon
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