The calorie in calorie out fallacy

The calorie in calorie out fallacy

Since young we have been taught that in order to lose weight the only way is to cut the calories we eat.

But what if that wasn’t enough?

Learn more about how this traditional notion is wrong

The calorie in calorie out fallacy:

Obesity in numbers:

Obesity is one of the biggest issues we are facing, and it is only increasing with numbers above 650 million obese adults(data by the World Health Organization)1.

The biggest problem is that obessity never comes alone and increases the chance of many conditions such as cardiovascular diseases  and diabetes Type II.

If you thought that those were already a lot of problems, then when I tell you that it also comes with a reduction of lifespan of at least 8 years of life in obese patients. Their lifequality also suffers as they have difficulties with even day to day activities due to the diverse effects that it has on health2.

Obessity isn’t over

The biggest problem with this condition is the fact that the number of people it affects is still increasing and it is estimated to keep on growing in the following years3 specially in countries such as the United States and Mexico the percentage of obese people is expected to surpass the 47% and 39%  respectively.

All this information makes us realize how much of a problem obesity is nowadays and how it will continue to worsen if we don’t act against this condition, and for that we have to start by understanding one of the many reasons that have generated the increase in obesity, which is what we could call the ”Calorie in/Calorie out fallacy”.

Are all the calories really the same?

By ”Calorie in/Calorie out fallacy” we refer to the fact that until recently it was believed that the best approach to reduce our weigh, was reducing the number of calories we eat relative to the number of calories we burn.

And the simplest way to approach it would be to simply restrict the number of calories we consume, by reducing how much food we eat, and/or by increasing the quantity of exercise we do.

Photo by Avi Naim on Unsplash

The idea of this approach isn’t completely wrong and it could work, the problem though is that approaching it without taking into account one important fact. Without it, it could turn it into a most grueling effort that could undermine the motivation of those attempting to lose weight and leave them with no results and a sense of defeat that isn’t completely their fault.

Not all Calories are Created Equal

In order to keep this from happening when approaching weight loss, we have to take into account one simple fact, which is that not all calories are the same.

Photo by Artur Łuczka on Unsplash

A simple example to illustrate this fact is that nobody would expect that drinking alcohol and drinking water would have the same effect in our health.

In the same way, as we would consider it stupid to consider both drinks as the same, it is also the case that considering all kinds of calories as the same isn’t exactly the best idea.

The reason why not all calories can be considered as the same is the fact that our body doesn’t treat all kinds of food in the same way.

Our bodies don’t process in the same way food that is full of processed sugars, as it does those that are high in fibber. The reason being that while in the first case their ingestion causes a spike in the levels of glucose in blood, in the second the presence of fibber makes it so that the quantity of glucose that reaches our bloodstreams is more controlled.

We might think:

‘Why should it matter whether we receive glucose spikes? ”,

”Why should I care, does it really make a difference?”

The fact is that it certainly makes a difference and huge one at that.

The reason for the difference between the two situations is that the response they induce in our hormones is completely different, and this is mostly related to a hormone called insulin.


  1. World, O. H. World Health Organisation Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet. Who (2016). doi:10.1093/cvr/26.2.190a
  2. Pi-Sunyer, X. The medical risks of obesity. Postgrad. Med. (2009). doi:10.3810/pgm.2009.11.2074
  3. OECD Obesity Update. Obesity Update 2017. Diabetologe (2017). doi:10.1007/s11428-017-0241-7

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