Calories In vs Calories Out: Is How Much You Eat More Important Than What You Eat? | The Hart of Health Podcast S1 E11
Joané & Jonathan: (00:02)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart, and I am Jonathan Hart. This is The Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. We hope you enjoy the show.
Hi, everyone on today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about calories in, calories out.
It shouldn’t be much of a debate, but it always seems to come down to that because of how popular that saying is in America. Yeah.
Yeah. Especially in America. You wouldn’t believe it. I went on a YouTube bingeing spree, where I just watched a lot of videos of girls talking about their weight-loss journeys, people talking about diet and health. And in at least three videos today, I heard the phrase: “It’s just about calories in, calories out”.
And we’re not saying that calories don’t mean anything because I think a lot of people assume you don’t think that calories matter at all if you take the opposing view. It’s just, they’re not 90% of the battle like a lot of people would think they are.
No, I think hormones are a lot more important than calories. I think that what you eat is a lot more important than calories.
Yeah. I mean, on Joe Rogan’s podcast, there was a debate between Layne Norton (what was kind of a debate between Layne Norton).
I loved it though. It was a friendly debate.
Yeah. Layne Norton and Dom D’Agostino. They are friends, so I guess they kind of delve down the debate side of things, but you could see that Layne had a sort of attitude like he doesn’t care what you’re doing. As long as you’re getting a calorie deficit, it doesn’t really matter. And I just can’t believe that someone who has gotten that far in all his research that he’s done, doesn’t realise how important what you eat is.
Yeah. I also found that a bit confusing. I must say, if you’ve done that much research on health and fitness and wellness, then surely you must know that the quality of your food is extremely important, you know?
Exactly. And even if you take it as, okay, let’s say it’s all about getting a calorie deficit. Eating the food that makes you feel crappy and hungry again in two hours is obviously not even the right strategy. So even just on trying to get a calorie deficit, what you eat makes a huge difference in satiation and your hormones that regulate hunger like ghrelin. So if you’re eating something that doesn’t really satiate you and you’re hungry because your ghrelin levels increase again in the next two hours, you’re much less likely to be able to keep to your calorie deficit. And I don’t get how that’s not an important part of the conversation.
Oh yeah. I definitely noticed that for me, the fewer times I eat in a day, the easier it is to stick to calorie goals. But if I eat frequently, then it’s very easy to overeat. One thing I think people don’t realise is that if you’re inflamed, it’s going to be much harder to lose fat. So, you could be in a calorie deficit, you know, technically the numbers could add up, but if everything you’re eating is inflammatory, then that’s going to make it a lot harder for you to lose fat. And you know, you hear a lot of stories of people where they say that: “Oh, I cut out gluten and lost fat”; “I cut out dairy and lost fat”; “I cut out grains and lost fat”. They just switched from eating processed junk foods to whole foods, even if they didn’t really restrict their calories that much, they saw massive improvements in their body composition just because they lowered inflammation as well.
Yeah. And that’s the thing: I think a lot of the research around the benefits gained from calorie restriction are also kind of actual proxies for health. They’re not really showing you. So a lot of people say like: “Oh, let’s look at your blood markers”. Like, yes, there are more modern blood markers, like your C reactive protein and those things that are good indicators, but they’re not, they’re not like the final word when it comes to who is healthy and who is not. I think health is actually pretty difficult to define, but for each individual person, I think they’ll know what is healthy or not individually. And I think that’s actually a more important gauge than saying like: “Oh, this blood market changed. And apparently this is what makes me more unhealthy now because of the change”. It’s like, no. How did you feel about it? Did you feel more crappy or did you feel better? You know, it’s actually, it’s a little bit more important in my opinion to gauge your own health than to just listen blindly to these blood markers that are being used as proxies for what they’d say is health. Yeah. You definitely have to listen to your body and what your body reacts to well and don’t just focus on like science and statistics and say: “Oh, but the study says this, so this applies to everybody.” You know, like, I don’t know. I’ve been laughing at the whole term: “bro-science”. And whenever I hear someone talk about calories, if you hit your macros, and if it fits your macros, things like that, I think it’s very restrictive. Like it excludes so much. And usually, when people use terms like that or focus on that, I think a lot of people who got out their health information from places like bodybuilding.com focus a lot on weight and body composition when it comes to health. I think a lot of people who focus on calories are also in the mindset that being healthy is mostly about fat loss or gaining muscle. It’s like when they think about diet, they think about it in terms of cutting and bulking and hitting macronutrient ratios to help them achieve certain body composition goals. It’s like the focus is a lot on things like that and not as much on what is healthy for your body on other aspects of health, like keeping your cells healthy, longevity, and performance. I used to buy this magazine called “fitness magazine” and it is very bro sciencey. It was always about macronutrients eating for fat loss, what supplements to take for fat loss, how to eat for muscle gain, how to rest for muscle gain. It was always just focused on those things. And, um, I don’t know. I always just thought: “Okay yeah, but there’s so much more to nutrition than calories and macronutrients.”
What’s striking me about what Layne Norton said is that he said you get most of the health benefits by just losing the weight. And for me, that doesn’t make any sense because, in my own experience, I didn’t lose any weight. I actually probably gained a little bit of weight and noticed my health changed for the better. When I started reducing my sugar intake, when I started intermittent fasting, when I started all of these things that actually don’t really have much to do with calories in, calories out, because technically all the benefits are supposed to be gained from losing weight. So they say, oh, calorie deficit, this is why you gained all these health benefits. But I’m like, I was in a situation personally, where I gained weight and gained health benefits. So that for me, makes it very hard to believe that you can’t have a “just eat whatever, as long as it fits your macros” kind of mentality because yeah, let’s say: “Oh, if it fits your macros, have this peanut butter smoothie.” Oh wait, you died because you’re allergic to peanuts. You know, it’s like, that’s just a very exaggerated example of: you can’t just eat whatever, you know. If certain foods do not agree well with your system and if it causes inflammation and things like that, it’s not going to be healthy for you. If you’re like Layne Norton where you are tolerant to most junk foods and it doesn’t really have that negative effect on you, you’re not going to be as aware of the fact that certain foods can actually cause problems in your system.
As much as I would love to follow the “if it fits your macros” approach, because I mean the promise of “Oh, you can have pizza if it fits into your macros, you can have ice cream, you can have doughnuts”, obviously I would love that. But I also have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and have to worry about my insulin levels and have to deal with a lot of inflammation. So I can’t follow the “if it fits your macros approach and just focus on calories and macronutrients, because yeah, I can do that, but I’m still going to be inflamed. (You’ve done that). Yeah, I’ve done that. That was more at Varsity. It didn’t work because I was still inflamed. I was still dealing with insulin problems. I was dealing with blood sugar fluctuations and you know, I’ve tried to focus on calories and just hitting macronutrients and you know, eating what I want to, but that did not work because what you’re eating is more important.
Yeah. And I don’t say like: “Oh, yeah, because of this, you have to go sugar-free, gluten-free… All these things”. It’s like, no, it’s actually not really the argument. I think it’s definitely an N=1. And you have to sort of figure out what your body does best on. And that’s probably one of the few things that I agree with Layne Norton on is that, you know, it is quite individual and you have to find out what’s sustainable for you in the long term. Like, that’s definitely something I agree with. But that, you know, that people have certain food tolerances and stuff and you have to take those into account because everyone’s going to do really well on a ketogenic diet, but the one diet we know that no one really does well on is a junk food, highly processed diet. And yes, you can probably get the right body composition and, you know, look well and your blood looks good. But I think the long-term effects of eating highly processed foods are going to come to fruition at some point where people are going to be like: it doesn’t matter if you keep your body composition because you’re an athlete and you just sort of burn all these carbs. And “I can eat as many pop tarts as I want”. But you go look now 10 years down the line and you’re going to see: “Oh, wait, those Poptarts actually did have an effect and it wasn’t good.”
Even 20 years down the line. I mean, you could look great on the outside, but your body’s alarm signals could basically just be off. And you don’t know that you’re actually experiencing a lot of damage on the inside that you’re not going to know about until 10 or 20 years down the line.
Yeah. Because like, as humans, I don’t think these foods have any kind of history with us. You know, it was very, very rare to have foods that had a mixture of carbohydrates and fats, especially in a hyper-palatable, well-processed form. And, you know, it is almost like you get addicted to them because it’s almost like this rare novel sort of a situation where your body’s almost just like: “give me more of it”. And that’s where I sort of see it as a watershed moment. Like, okay, if you’re going to be doing carbs, go low fat. If you’re going to be doing fat, low carb. I think when you try and mix the two of them that you’re probably going to experience a lot of negative health issues.
Yeah. You don’t want to do that. One thing I’ve been trying to do recently is, if I’m examining the way someone is eating, or if someone is talking about the optimal human diet and what is healthy and what isn’t, I try and think: “Okay, but would you have found this combination of food in nature? Would you have eaten this way back in the day in hunter-gather times? Like, is this the proper human diet?” Like, you know how elephants have a certain diet and lions have a certain diet,? Humans are animals and surely we should also have a certain diet. And yeah, maybe it depends on where you come from. Like, I’m sure different birds eat different things. What would this have looked like back in the day,? Like today, I watched a video where a girl was trying the ketogenic diet and then she was complaining so much, as she was experiencing keto flu and she had headaches, but she was coming from a very high carb diet. You know, she didn’t ease into it either. She didn’t look up the symptoms of like, you know, going on a ketogenic diet in the beginning. So, she didn’t know what to expect. And then she just said, you know, nobody should be doing this diet. She doesn’t want to show her before and after photos, even though she felt like she lost fat. She looked really good. She saw improvements in her body. She doesn’t want to show the before and after pictures because she doesn’t want to encourage anybody to do it. I thought that was very interesting. And then she was complaining about all of the fat that she had to eat. And then she was saying why she couldn’t just have a sweet potato and rice? And you know: “don’t do this to yourself”. “Why do you have to do this unhealthy keto diet with all of this fat, you know, just eat a healthy, balanced diet”, you know, with all of those carbs. And then I just thought, “okay, but in nature…. cause she had this giant salad with a bunch of stuff in it and I thought, but in nature, it would take you days to collect all of the veggies. Where would you find those foods in that combination? Whereas the ketogenic diet, like meat and eggs, I feel like that makes more sense from a hunter-gatherer perspective.
Yeah. I feel like we were hunters first and we gathered if we didn’t hunt anything. Yeah.
Like the plants should be the second option. Like: “Oh, I don’t have food, now I’m eating this”. Or maybe in smaller amounts as a side dish. Like, it’s called a side dish for a reason.
Yeah. And that’s the thing. If your whole body’s mechanism has been geared towards carbs your entire life, you can’t expect it to suddenly do a U-turn and make fat the primary fuel sources. Like, everything in your body is being geared towards carbs for your entire life. And, you can’t expect it to just, in a day or two, switch around and be able to use ketones and fat as an energy source. And that’s where a lot of people experience the keto flu. But for anyone who is able to push through that experience, you realise that there’s like a pot of gold at the end of that rainbow because you get this mental clarity, you get this stable energy levels throughout the day, your blood sugar levels get way more stable, and you can think clearer. You don’t get brain fog. You don’t have these peaks and dips throughout the day. Everything sort of just levels out and you feel really good. You know, you’re not always sort of thinking about the next meal as much because you’ll have a meal and your body will be completely fine for the next like four hours. And you’re not always sort of obsessing over where you’re going to get your next carbohydrate fix from. So, it’s just another way of eating. A lot of people are so carb dependent from birth, nowadays, you know. You basically get born and you get put onto a baby food porridge that’s carbohydrate dominant.
They’re carb addicts. Like, in this video, you could see this girl was just addicted to sugar and carbs. And she was complaining and talking about what an unhealthy diet keto is, but when a heroin addict is coming off of heroin and going through this three-day purge phase, people aren’t like: “see, this is a sign that being on heroin is healthy for you.”
An extreme example, but right.
I was just thinking, it’s so ridiculous to say like, this diet is so unhealthy and I’m like, that’s just because your body is going through this withdrawal phase from this drug that you’re on: sugar. Like sugar is a drug. When I eat fruits, and I love fruit, I can picture my brain lighting up like a Christmas tree because that’s what it feels like. I can, I notice in my brain that my inner addict just goes crazy if I have carbs.
You can’t tell the difference between a brain scan of someone who had sugar and someone who had cocaine. Someone said that actually, the brain lights up more when you have sugar, but it’s the exact same part of the brain that lights up. And that’s kind of the reality of a situation, where generally, if you were now 12 000 years ago in a tribe, out in the wilderness, and you come across a tree, the fig tree or whatever, and it’s got a whole bunch of figs, you’re obviously going to go: “I’m going to eat as many figs as I can right now, because I don’t know what tomorrow brings”. And you’re going to overload your system with carbohydrates and the sugars from the fruit and your body’s going to store it as fat for leaner times. That’s basically how it goes. And it’s part of the reason why people struggle to have just one piece of fruit. You know, it is almost like we’re programmed to eat that when it’s available. So, you know, you’ve now become sort of dependent on only running on that. I think our ancestors were more flexible, where they’d be like: “Okay, cool, we were successful in our hunt, so the next few weeks or whatever, we’re set and the herds are here. So, actually, for the next few months, we are able to get regular food from animal sources and they are way more nutrient-dense.” Why would I be going out and gathering a whole bunch of difficult to digest and often quite fibrous foods, you know, from plants when I can get this very easy to digest nutritionally, dense food from animals. And you can see it in a lot of adaptations in humans as to why we sort of gone to that way of eating. But it doesn’t mean that you can now say that we have to just run on carbohydrates. You know, it’s like we have the flexibility to do both. And that’s why I say you should either do fats or do carbs. because it was very rare that we’d actually mixed the two ever in our ancestry.
I like the whole cycling approach because if you think about it we are all eating seasonally, you know, fruit, when is it always in season, there were times where you couldn’t get a lot of carbs and you would only have animal products. Basically. I don’t think we were meant to eat this much in terms of carbohydrates so frequently. You know, maybe if it was a week or two a year, maybe a month, a year where you had a lot of carbohydrates and it might’ve been before winter and you stored some fat. I don’t know, but it wasn’t so often, you know?
It was not every day. It wasn’t a constant thing. And that’s the thing, you notice that even in Sapiens, they cite that as soon as agricultural things started being implemented in human populations, health deteriorated because you went from eating this very wide and varied diet, we get some fruits here and there seasonally, maybe a tuber or two, and predominantly eating meat from the animals you caught. And then suddenly, you went to almost eating, just one type of food. So, you went from eating this large variety human diet (I’d call it the human diet), you know, where you’d actually just sort of eat mostly animals, but every now and then, if you had to eat fruits and whatever you could find. But then people started growing a crop of just wheat or corn or whatever. And that’s all they ended up eating and there was a marked decrease in health at that point. And so, why would we all try and jump on that trend and say like: “Yeah, let’s all just eat these crops that we sort of self-manufactured and we’re starting to realise are probably not that good for us”. And maybe if you don’t react to wheat and you don’t feel like you have a gluten sensitivity, you might be feeling lucky, but who knows? You might actually be causing some unknown damage to your system.
Yeah. It might come to get you later.
Yeah. And so, people will say like: “Oh, you know, but we’ve been eating carbohydrates for years now and we’re fine.” And it’s like, no, we’ve been eating carbohydrates for years now, and things haven’t been as bad as they are right now, health-wise. I think this is the worst shape humans have been in ever.
It’s not because of the Coronavirus environment.
No, oh boy. Yeah. That I don’t think eating carbs is going to help you. I saw studies that say just intaking 70 grams of sugar, which is like one soft drink and one chocolate (Depending on the size of the chocolate) and you have this massive decrease in many immune cells because of that. And right now, your immune cells are quite important. So, if you can prevent that, I definitely say stay away from foods filled with sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates.
Then it’s all about calories in calories when it comes to health.
Yeah. It’s just another example of how you can be healthier without a specific food. And you’re not even talking about how many calories it has. It’s just that specific food you’ve eliminated and you get better. Wow.
Yeah. I feel like we didn’t talk about calories for quite a while during the podcast, but we were talking about the impact that what you eat has on your body. So why are people saying: “It’s just calories in calories out?” I do agree that calories are important. When I eat too many calories, I start gaining fat. You know, I do think they are still important. They’re just not the only important thing. It’s just, it’s very reductionist.
Yeah. Like if you eat too many calories in one sitting, it causes inflammation. Your body’s just like: “Whoa, like that was too much.” So yeah they do play a role. But to say that it is all about that or even 90% about that is wrong. I’d say it’s almost the inverse. Now maybe calories have like 40%, 30%
Trust me. They’re important.
So, they’re important. Like they’re a large chunk of it, but they’re not the majority of what is healthy.
Yeah. And not the majority. Yeah. Those were our thoughts and calories in versus calories out.
If it fits your macros does not work for everyone.
Macros are cool and interesting, but don’t just focus on calories and macros
Food quality is definitely important. And what you eat is definitely important. Yes. You can try this for yourself. Go on a just doughnut diet, no supplements. Because you know, it shouldn’t matter. You should, you know, just be able to eat doughnuts. As long as you stay within a calorie deficit, you should be getting benefits. You’re going to feel like crap, but at least it’ll prove a point.
I actually like it there’s this girl was talking about intuitive eating and she said, yeah, but people always say: Oh, but you’re just going to eat pizza and doughnuts if you just eat what you want to.” And she’s like: “yeah, try that for a week. See how you feel.” So people think: “Oh, intuitive eating, you’re just going to eat a lot of junk food.” It’s like, no, listen to your body. How do you feel after eating this food? And then you’ll quickly realise why it’s important and you want to choose the better foods.
Intuitive eating comes with the responsibility of actually taking notice of how certain things make you feel when you eat them.
Yeah. It’s not just about eating what you want and about how much you eat. Yeah. It’s about eating what your body wants.
Exactly. Yeah. Like half the time, you know, junk foods might have pleasant memories. Like you haven’t had them for a while, have them again and they might not actually be as good as you remember them. And then they make you feel like crap. So there is.
Uh, the girl, I don’t know her name, but you can find her at the Daily Kelsey and they have this HitBurn thing, but yeah, she talks about intuitive eating.
Yeah. And if you want to see the information about sugar’s effect on the immune system, Mike Mutzel on High Intensity Health, he released a video. This going into much more detail than we did about how sugar impacts your immune system. If you’d want to check that out.
Yeah. Cool. Hope you enjoyed the podcast until next week. Bye. Bye.