Calories In Vs Calories Out – Is that Enough?

Flexible dieting through IIFYM (“If it fits your macros”) is a concept that has been making the rounds for the past few years and seems like the next fad diet, although some experts will argue that the results are the same as clean eating while being able to keep your social life active.

But the notion of ‘Calories in vs Calories out’ doesn’t tell you the whole story. There are a lot of other factors that come into play while structuring a diet plan, besides simply counting your calories. Here are 5 things that must be kept in mind when tracking your calories –


  1. NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

Sub-consciously when you’re in a caloric deficit, you tend to become less active. However, that does not mean that a higher-than-necessary calorie intake leaves you pumped up and raring to go. In fact, a large number of people, even (and perhaps especially) after over-eating, don’t move much.

The ones that happen to be more active through out the day are almost always the leaner individuals compared to sedentary individuals.



  1. Cooking and processing:

There have been a number of studies done that prove that the structure of food may change when it is boiled, or heated, or processed in any form. Therefore, the number of calories available to the body is also likely to change. For example, a person who ate a certain quantity or peanuts was found to have lost more weight than his counterpart who ate the same quantity of peanut butter.


What emerges as undeniably true, is that a meal consisting of whole, unprocessed food requires almost two times the energy to digest it when compared to processed food! So, make your choices well.


  1. Macro nutrient Breakdown:

The effect that each of the macro nutrients has on our body is different. Carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram whereas fats have 9 calories per gram. The amount of energy our body uses to digest these macros also varies, and is known as Thermic Energy of Food (TEF).

To rephrase what was said earlier, therefore, the TEF of protein is 20-30%, while the TEF of carbs is just 10-15%, and the lowest among them all is the TEF of fat at 0-3%. Again, this becomes vital when deciding not just ‘how much,’ but even ‘what’ kind of foods should your diet permit you to have.

This being said, calories are still of primary importance. Sure, you are bound to drop some weight by controlling calories, even though you may be still eating processed food. But, changing your diet for your health and well-being is a lot more than just shedding some weight.



  1. Fiber:

When we speak of ‘dieting,’ the importance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, is always overlooked. Fiber is extremely important for lowering cholesterol, facilitating bowel movements, and also to keep numerous diseases at bay. Apart from the obvious health benefits, eating fiber-rich food keeps you satiated for longer, and so reduces frequent hunger pangs.

Coming to what kinds of foods contain more fiber, and how it is lost from other kinds, it is important to know that solid food wins every time over liquids in terms of fiber content. And hence also the fullness solid food provides, as opposed to juices and liquid equivalents.

Fiber is found in abundance in whole foods, but is usually lost when it goes through chemical processes that whole foods are subjected to, in order for commercial packaging. That is why the stress is invariably on eating organic, unpolished, unprocessed foods that truly represent the bounty of nature.



  1. Hormones:

Hormones can cause havoc in the body by their being less, or more. When we diet over an extended period of time, the levels of Leptin and thyroid hormones drop. This creates an increase in hunger, and lowers the rate at which the body burns calories. Given that a person is already lean, when the brain registers that the body is “hungry,” the testosterone drops and cortisol levels can increase, leading to muscle loss instead of just fat loss. This is simply the body’s defense mechanism to stop the individual from starving to death. The level at which these hormones come into play depends from person to person, changing the rate at which an individual loses fat.


To summarize, our body calls for a much more complex understanding than a mere following of the law of thermodynamics. But this does not mean that we should stop counting calories. Instead, one must make a conscious effort to include at least 90% of unprocessed, whole, nutrient-dense food in our diet.





Author Credits : Lalitha Lakshman