Calorie restriction myths


“To know truly is to know by causes.”   -Frances Bacon

My name is Derek Walton.  This blog is designed to help inform those who have been following the conventional wisdom on how to maintain their healthcare, but just aren’t feeling or performing as good as they know they are capable of.  Health and wellness occur beyond only treating symptoms, although I do appreciate that these options exist for people whom desire them.  When we treat the underlying cause, however, we are digging a little deeper and identifying the particular ailment at it’s root.  This way you can design a specific customized and safer treatment, being sure to factor in things like cross-supplementation, anti-nutrients, potential immune responses,  disease history, etc.  In functional medicine you do not treat averages or percentages, but individual patients.  In my opinion, this is a huge contributor to the future of health care, and eliminates a ‘one-size fits all’ linear perspective on often times very complex health crisis’ and treatments.   For example, I can’t suggest a low-calorie, or low-carb dietary approach for an individual who is suffering from hypothyroidism. (1)  Your body needs food to create energy, and glucose (carbohydrates) to create activated thyroid hormone (T3). (2)  Without the activation of the thyroid hormone-which occur in both the gut and the liver- metabolism would pose a great challenge.  The inconvenient reality is that not everyone benefits from low-calorie, low-fat or as previously demonstrated, low-carb diets.  In fact, very few people benefit from intense

calorie restriction, especially woman. (3)  Don’t get me wrong, you can’t eat 6,000 calories a day and be sedentary, but a calorie is not a calorie.  What source did the calorie come from? Anyone who has seen the nutrition facts on food labels has seen that one gram of carbohydrate and one gram of protein both equate to 4 calories per/ gram each, however one gram of fat equates to 9 calories per/gram.    Does this mean that we should cut down on fat, and increase carbohydrates and protein because they contain less calories?  Does eating more fat in the diet thus lead to obesity? Well, the short answer here is NO, but again different scenarios apply to everyone.  What does indeed then lead to obesity if fat consumption does not?  What  is happening to those who haven’t experienced success-either short or long term- by incorporating low-calorie, low-fat diets?  I say this is a great place to dive right in, eh?  So first, we’ll start with the flaws in low-calorie diets:

Most of us have heard throughout the course of our lives that when the extra pounds start showing their faces you just need to work-out, go for runs more and increase the amount of exercise we part-take in to burn off the extra calories in hopes of eventually burning fat as well.  Although the laws of thermodynamics do indeed apply in energy expenditure, does this alone hold consistency in the realms of burning fat for fuel?  Does this alone give us the ability to continue to burn fat in the future as well?  Does it make sense that to burn more fat we have to keep excercising more frequently and expending more energy?  Or are there other mechanisms involved?  It would make sense when looking at it from this point of view that simply lowering your calories or the amount of food you consume and excercising more or expending more energy (calories) that you will lose weight.  However, when we tap into our energy stores (fat) for energy due to the high demand for it from exercise, it doesn’t necessarily solve everyone’s  problems.  Particularly those who did not have a problem with lack of exercise or consuming too many calories to begin with, but instead who have a problem due to a shift from ‘fat burning mode’ into ‘fat storage mode’.  For these people, more exercise and calories used in a day may provide temporary weight loss, but won’t supply more energy and may easily return as stored fat, even just simply on days where they go back to their original caloric intake.  Even just once.  So there has to be more to the story than calories for folks, and instead of trying to race our metabolism against our fat storage mechanisms, let’s maybe focus on what has initiated our fat storage mechanisms in the first place?  This could be due to various factors, primarily diets low in calories, or high in high-glycemic index carbohydrates such as table sugar, bread, pasta, and grains.  (4,5,6,7)

Nothing against Isaac Newton and the laws of thermodynamics-after all they are laws – but with metabolism we have to be more specific.  Again, a calorie is not just a calorie, and depending on the source, these calories differ in how quickly and efficiently they get metabolized.  In an example from his book, Ultra Metabolism, Mark Hyman (8) gives a brief refresher in the course of physics: if you take one pound of feathers and one pound of lead and drop them in a vacuum, which one will drop faster?  The answer being they drop at the same rate.  However, take out the vacuum and drop the pound of feathers and the pound of lead off of the George Washington Bridge in New York City and what do you find?  This time the lead hits first.  Why?  Air resistance in this case, but the point is that by weight, these two variables-the feathers and the lead-were the same.  However how these items are able to move through the air resistance is what gives us these different results.  The same holds true with calories.  According to this calories in/calories out model, all calories are treated the same.  For instance, three hundred calories of potatoes slathered in grass-fed butter and three hundred calories of soda and cookies may have the same number of calories, but how fast they are utilized differs quite substantially (one being a lower glycemic index, the later being higher glycemic index).  I will get into glycemic index and glycemic load on my next post about insulin, and how carbohydrates aren’t all equal as well.

Low-calorie diets differ from person to person because someone who is 6’8” and 270 lbs. is going to require more energy (calories) than someone who is 5’10” and 155 lbs.  Typically for the average person, consuming less than ten times their weight in calories a day is considered low-calorie.  For example if you weigh 150 lbs. you would want to consume at least 1,500 calories a day.  This number is also referred to as your resting metabolic rate or RMR.  Contrary to popular belief, low-calorie diets can actually be quite detrimental to our health over time, as well as promote fat storage instantly. (9)  This is because when our body doesn’t receive enough food to make energy, it begins to prepare for a potential starvation or famine.  You see, our bodies don’t know that there is no food coming in because of a low-calorie diet, it thinks it is about to starve, so to keep us alive it slows down metabolism and conserves energy by storing as much as it can (in the form of fat or course). Because of this evolutionary survival mechanism, we can confidently state that if you are trying to burn fat, low-calorie diets are not the route to take.  There are plenty more satiating ways to burn fat, reverse disease states and achieve optimal health that do not involve starving yourself, or physically torturing yourself with miles of running or boot-camp style work-outs with a physical trainer.  I will be sure to get into these for future posts, but for now I just want to get the basics covered.  Low-calorie diets do not always equal fat loss, and although exercise can help burn fat it may not switch you out of ‘fat storage mode’.  What puts us into fat storage mode?  This will be covered extensively in the next post, but aside from low-calorie diets as mentioned before with our bodie’s survival mechanism of fat storage, high-glycemic index carbohydrates and a hormone known as insulin play some of the biggest roles in regards to the obesity epidemic.  Stay tuned to discover how you can control the hormone insulin, promote fat loss, and increase energy without drugs, over-priced supplements or gym memberships.

To your health and wellness,

Derek Walton




3)      National Institutes of Health (NIH): Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study; 1990





8)      Mark Hyman, MD Ultra Metabolism: Chapter 2 “The Calorie Myth”, pg. 21


One thought on “Calorie restriction myths

  1. A motivatinng discussion iis definitely worth comment. I believe that yyou ought to publish
    more on this subject matter, it might not be a tboo subject but
    generally people don’t speak about these subjects. To the next!

    Best wishes!!

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