Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Calorie Manifesto

I frequent a lot of lowcarb, paleo, and fitness websites and blogs and it seems there is a persistent "discussion" regarding whether one needs to count calories when low carbing and/or eating primally. Some folks insist they can eat whatever they want as long as they eat under X grams of carbs. While others insist anything over 1500 calories per day and they stop losing weight and gain.

So I would like to join the discussion by saying yes and no!

Let me explain....

No they don't count:

If you have a lot of weight to lose, have been eating a high sugar, and refined/processed diet - than initially calories aren't nearly as important as reducing the carbs and normalizing your insulin levels. This was me the first year or so - I lost over a 100 lbs. without watching my calories only the carbs.

I will not say that I ate huge calories over the whole time though because as the weight dropped and insulin response improved I ate less calories (how much I don't know and don't care). So this is where the calorie side of the argument says see it's just the calories and that they do count.

It is six, half dozen, one or the other..... the whole argument to me is stupid. For the person losing the weight initially what matters PRACTICALLY is that if they can start by reducing the amount of carbohydrate than they will lose weight.  Why burden them with counting calories on top of everything - with the obesity crisis in full swing we need to start people down the right road as soon as possible with the best chance of them sticking to it.

If we could only get people to reduce carbs and go to whole foods without ever mentioning calories - what a HUGE monstrous impact we would have on the obesity problem.

With that said....

Yes they do count:

When you have lost a large portion of your excess weight and are eating lower in carbohydrate and mostly whole foods - IF you want to continue to lose weight. This is me the last 7 months or so - my losses slowed after the first year and I had to reduce the amount of food I was consuming to maintain the same rate of loss.

After a while when the huge overburden has been lost - the body needs less calories to operate on while you are still used to eating for some number of pounds ago. With the body operating efficiently a small amount of effort put into reducing overall calorie volume is not painful or stressful (with improved insulin sensitivity and less spikes moderate calorie reduction should not trigger massive hunger/binging) and will help remove those last pounds.

With that said....

No they don't:

If you are at a comfortable weight and maintaining a whole food low carbohydrate/primal diet than you should not be needing to monitor or restrict your calories. Your body will naturally handle small swings and without excess carbohydrates it will be harder for you to store fat with stable insulin levels. This makes sense to me - as with some days when I do bust the calories for the weekend - the worst that happens is I don't lose.

With that said....

A Summary:

Do Calories Count?

If your overweight and just starting out - NO - focus on carbs.
If you have lost significant weight and losses have slowed - YES - focus on carbs and calories.
If you are at you ideal weight/goal weight - NO focus on carbs and enjoy life!



  1. I always find discussions about calories interesting. I want to say that calories don't matter, but they seem to, from time to time, for me. But not always. I definitely don't agree with the strict "calories in calories out" theory. When I started lo carbing, I did not count calories and I did not lose weight. Even at very low carb. It was not until I cut calories to 1400 that I started to lose.

    But then, there are times I lose when eating 2000 calories. Go figure!

    Enjoyed the article!


  2. That's an excellent view point - so many out there are convinced it has to be black and white.

    I think there are paths that will and provide huge benefit for the majority of people - but there will always be exceptions. Finding why and what works for them - that's the tough part. With people there are sooo many variables.

    Sometime like me it takes half a lifetime to figure it out.

    Glad you enjoyed! Hopefully I keep learning and open to changing if needed as I progress.