Calories In Calories Out (2 of 2)

(Versión en español: pinchar aquí)

We already know that the facts say that the Calories In Calories Out is a complete hoax (see part 1 of this article), but, why is it so misguided but it seems so logical?

“It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience“. Albert Einstein

It is good for a model or theory to stay simple, as long as it stays faithful to the facts. “As simple as possible, but not simpler“.

The human body is not a simple system

In the scheme above all the inputs have differenciated effects on the outputs: carbs, fat, protein and physical activity influence hunger, fat accumulation, food addiction, energy expenditure, and tiredness in their own and characteristic ways. Moreover, the inputs don’t fully determine the outputs because the outputs also influence the inputs: our body is a system full of feedback loops.

A couple of facts about how our body works:

  • Carbs create addiction and are barely satiating. They “force” you to eat again every 2-3 hours. There seems to be no addiction to fat or protein.
  • Protein and fat are more satiating than carbs and they don’t change significantly your blood glucose levels. They don’t induce food cravings.
  • Carbs, no matter the source, raise the glucose level in your blood. Glucose in your blood is toxic, so your body removes it from the blood and stores it as body fat. Therefore most carbs end up being stored as fat. (see)
  • Physical activity can increase/decrease your hunger and your energy expenditure: may be during a few hours after exercising you barely move and you are hungrier than usual. In other words, your Calories Out will probably have an effect on your Calories In, but also on your metabolism (another kind of Calories Out).
  • If you eat too little food your body reduces its metabolism, and therefore its energy expenditure. In other words if you reduce your Calories In, your Calories Out are also reduced. An important fact when talking about the CICO theory is precisely that our metabolism is not constant.
  • When you eat mostly fat and protein your energy expenditure is bigger than if you eat lots of carbs (see).
  • When you are getting fatter, you are probably going to be hungry because you are not using the food you eat, you are storing it. (see)

A model for weight loss that everybody can understand

Do you want to lose weight but you find our body’s physiology complicated? Don’t worry: lots of nutrition experts believe that a simple model, the one shown below this lines, describes how our body behaves. According to this model, for weight loss the only parameters that matter are the Calories: the amount of Calories In and the amount of Calories Out determine how much fat you are going to accumulate.

This model is based on the following assumptions:

  • All calories from food are equal, no matter the source. Only the total count of calories is relevant. This is the “a calorie is a calorie” dogma.
  • Hunger and food addiction don’t exist. If you are hungry and eat, you have a willpower problem.
  • Energy expenditure other than the one related to physical exercise is constant. Your metabolism doesn’t depend on the physical exercise you do nor on how much food you eat nor on the type of food you eat.
  • If you reduce your food intake and increase your physical activity you will lose weight.
  • Your body fat accumulation is determined by the subtraction of all the Calories you burn from all the Calories you ingest.

But you already know that ALL the above assumptions are false, even the last one (see).

As simple as possible, but not simpler“. The CICO model is too simple. So simple that as I already showed to you it is unable to give an “adequate representation of a single datum of experience“. This model:

  • Doesn’t explain the facts, for example can’t explain why low-carb diets are consistently better than other diets for weight loss. Even when eating the the same amount of Calories! (see)
  • Doesn’t help people to stay lean. This model leads to wrong conclusions, like “fat should be avoided because it is more energy dense than carbs or protein”. That is a logical conclusion according to the model, but wrong according to reality. This model has created the epidemics of obesity and diabetes (see, or, see, but, do you really need a study to know that? Have a look around you!)
  • Doesn’t help people to lose weight. “Eat less and exercise more” has consistently proved it is useless for losing weight. (see)

It is a model used to tell you how to lose weight. Even when it is based on false assumptions this model still could have been a good model, if it were useful to control or lose weight. But regrettably that is not the case. The model is beyond being useless: it is damaging our health and the ones of our relatives.

Are you still not convinced this model is useless? Ok, let’s play nutritionists once more. Grab a calculator and solve the following problem:

Today you weigh 150 pounds. If you decrease your Calorie intake by 250 Calories/day and you increase your physical activity by another 250 Calories/day, how long will it take for you to completely disappear?

NOTE: remember that you lose one pound for each 3,500 Calories.

Don’t worry. It isn’t a dangerous experiment: you won’t disappear. You won’t even lose weight, because after losing a little you will recover all of it. Been there, done that, again and again. You can’t explain reality with this model because it is too simple and it doesn’t take into account that our metabolism is not constant. The Calories In Calories Out (CICO) paradigm doesn’t consider the existence of metabolism changes depending on what you eat or how much you eat. But it also ignores hunger, addictions and other important feedbak loops. This model, the CICO paradigm, says that by keeping a caloric deficit you will lose weight and eventually disappear. The facts say that with a caloric deficit you won’t even lose weight in the long term.

Bottom line: the Calories In Calories Out model is wrong and fails to reproduce the facts.

This model makes us obese and sick.

Reading further:

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