The Truth About Calories, Macronutrients, and Weight Loss: A Nutritional Roadmap

Imagine this scenario:

Your DOCTOR diagnoses you with a life-threatening illness.

The only treatment, he says, is “brain surgery.”

Panic stricken, you visit a different doctor for a second opinion.

It turns out the first doctor was right about the illness but wrong about the treatment.

Antibiotics will suffice.”

Do you see where this is going?

Relieved but still worried you visit a third doctor. Again he agrees with the diagnosis but not the treatment. It turns out, “you need to have your leg amputated.”

You feel confused and helpless, so you visit 20 more doctors and get 20 different suggested treatments. What option do you choose?

This is a ridiculous situation, right? No way would 23 experts all disagree on the best treatment for a life-threatening illness… would they…?

Well, I’ll rephrase the question:

You are morbidly obese, and a doctor tells you a heart attack is imminent unless you improve your diet. Scared into action, you start visiting nutritionists for help with choosing the right diet. You visit 23 in total.

They all agree that you have a high risk of heart attack but disagree about which diet is best for you. You feel confused and helpless, so you write down the list of diets in order to make a better decision. It looks something like this:

Vegetarian, vegan, weight watchers, south beach, raw food, Mediterranean, pescatarian, paleo, zone, Atkins, slow carb, blood type, glycemic index,  alkaline, green smoothie, gluten free, ketogenic, fasting, low fat, low sodium, macrobiotic, organic, slimming world.

Welcome to the world of nutrition.

The most contradictory and confusing science on earth…

That’s how it seems anyway. But nutrition from a practical standpoint, isn’t actually that complicated at all. It only appears that way because people study it the wrong way round.

They choose a diet that looks interesting and reverse study nutrition through the framework of that diet. This causes all kinds of information gaps. It’s like an illiterate trying to learn English through a Shakespeare play.

I think that learning the alphabet first would be a slightly better strategy.

This article is not a diet or an eating plan and does not push any dietary agenda your way. Its only concerns are the elements of nutrition that are irrefutable and omnipotent in every single diet on that list: calories and nutrients.

All I invite you to do, before you decide which nutritional road to travel down, is to first get acquainted with the roadmap. 

The Nutritional Roadmap

Scientific definitions are often really detailed and precise but lack practical value. We struggle to relate the intricacies of biochemistry to our own personal health goals. I’ve simplified everything here as much as possible, but without overlooking what I consider the most important elements.

 Bonus: Get instant access to my free weight loss tools cheatsheet by clicking here.

What Are Calories? (kcal)

Scientific definition: the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water through 1 °C, equal to one thousand small calories and often used to measure the energy value of foods.

big pile of bricks

As I said, not exactly practical huh?

Calories are energy or fuel. We’ll be thinking of them as building blocks or bricks since energy is vague and does not summon a concrete image in our minds. Whether you gain weight, lose weight or maintain weight is entirely down to the calories you consume versus the calories you burn (the energy balance equation).

For this reason, calories are the most important factor in body recomposition. It’s impossible to gain weight in a calorie deficit (eating less that you burn), and it’s impossible to lose weight in a calorie surplus (vice versa).

To give calories some practical significance just keep in mind that 3,500 calories = 1lb of fat.

There are some people who argue that calories don’t matter and that the hormones that our bodies produce are the main cause of weight gain or loss. One of the biggest proponents of this view is the best-selling author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes.

He argues that carbohydrates are the cause of nearly every metabolic disorder because they spike a hormone called insulin, which causes us to gain weight. It’s a lovely idea, but it’s wrong. By the end of this section, you’ll understand more about calories than 99% of the population, including Taubes.

A common argument against the energy balance equation goes as follows:

“So you’re saying a person will gain the same amount of weight eating 1000 calories of ice cream versus 1000 calories of lean tuna?”

Let’s look at the ‘calories in’ part of the energy balance equation. We don’t breathe calories, we don’t usually absorb them through our skin, we eat them and drink them. That’s pretty much it.

The person asking the above question obviously understands this. But so does everyone else. It’s the ‘energy out’ part of the equation that confuses people. You see, there’s more to burning calories than cardio…

The 4 Ways To Calculate Calories Burned

1. Thermic Effect of Activity aka Exercise (TEA)

Okay, so cardio does burn calories. But not many compared to what we eat. A 35min run at 6.7mph will help you burn roughly 400 calories, equivalent to a muffin.

So if we do the math, and a pound of fat is 3,500 calories, all you need to do is run for 45 minutes at 6.7mph, seven days per week, while maintaining the exact same daily intake of food and you’ll lose one pound! Yeah, what I thought… muffins aren’t that nice.

2. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your BMR is the total daily amount of calories you burn by quite literally being alive. Your BMR is what you would burn if you were in a coma. One of the main differences between dead people and people in a coma is that people in a coma still need to eat!

In the same way a car with the engine turned off doesn’t require fuel, a car with the ignition on does – even if it remains stationary. In a human body, everything needs calories. Your heart, your lungs, your skin, your eyes, your brain and every cell in between. Your BMR is where most of your calories go on a daily basis.

 3. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) 

NEAT accounts for all of the activity you do throughout the day that you wouldn’t really class as an exercise, i.e. fidgeting, being expressive, pottering around the house. You’d be surprised how many calories you’re capable of burning from this type of activity. For an energetic fidgeter, possibly hundreds each day.

4. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

Ah, now this is the one most people don’t understand. Remember our question about whether you’d gain the same amount of weight if you ate 1000 calories of ice-cream versus 1000 calories of tuna?

Well, I have to concede to the carbs-are-the-devil people here. Because you would indeed  gain more weight if you ate the ice cream than if you ate the tuna, even though they contain the same amount of calories. But don’t rule out calories yet. They still count. Here’s how:

Food is made up of calories, but calories are made up of something themselves: macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (we’ll get into more depth in a moment).

Different macronutrients are processed and utilized differently by the body and require different amounts of energy (calories) to do so. This process is called  the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

Protein, for instance, has a TEF of about 20-30%. This means that 20-30% of the calories you consume from protein get used up just in the digestion process.

So out of 1000 calories of tuna, 200-300 calories would be burnt just by the mere processing of it. 1000 calories of tuna, when all is said and done is actually closer to 700 calories of tuna.

Carbohydrates, on the other hand, have a low TEF of 6%. So of course tuna, when you subtract its thermic effect is not going to make you as fat as ice-cream! Calories in, calories out. There’s no way around it.

What are Macronutrients?

Scientific definition: a type of food (e.g. fat, protein, carbohydrate) required in large amounts in the diet.

Our body has no emotional attachment or concept of what ‘food’ is. Whether we eat a bowl of sugar or a plate of greens, the only thing our bodies recognise are the nutrients within. So that’s what we’ll be studying here.

There are only 5 types of Macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein, fiber, alcohol). While calories determine weight gain and weight loss, macronutrients determine where that weight gain or weight loss comes from. For instance, weight loss can come from fat loss, or just as easily from muscle loss depending on the macronutrient composition of your diet.

An easy way to think about it is this:

Calories determine how heavy you are, macros determine how heavy you look.

The best analogy to help think of and understand the interplay of calories and macros, and one we’ll be referring to throughout, is that of a house. As previously stated, the calories represent the total number of bricks, the macros represent the architecture of the house. With the same amount of bricks, it’s possible to create two very different looking houses.

Broken Down Food Pyramid

It’s worth remembering,  food itself very rarely consists of a single macronutrient. Bread, potatoes, and rice, for instance, are commonly thought of as carbohydrates. While these foods may consist predominantly of carbs, they also contain fat, protein and fiber.

The same applies to other singularly dense macronutrient foods, i.e., chicken, protein powder with the rare exception of things like lard, which by definition is pure fat.

 Bonus: Get instant access to my free weight loss tools cheatsheet by clicking here.

 1. What Is Protein?

Scientific definition: any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds which have large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.

mixing cement

Straight off the bat, most people don’t eat enough protein.

Most of our cells are made out of protein, and it’s essential to keep them healthy and in a constant state of regeneration. Protein is also the most satiating (filling) of all the macronutrients, has the highest TEF, helps stabilise blood sugar and helps preserve muscle mass. (Muscle mass is the first thing to go in old age – my advice, eat more protein).

The way to think of protein in our house analogy is the cement and foundations that holds everything together. Not eating enough protein will make your house weak, unstable and less resistant to the harsh effects of the environment.

 Protein Stats:

  • 4 kcal per gram.
  • TEF 20-35%

Click here to see Lyle McDonalds fantastic article series on protein.

2. What Are Carbohydrates?

Scientific definition: any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.

electricity

If you were to simplify carbohydrate’s practical uses into one word, that word would be ENERGY. Your body doesn’t need carbohydrates to survive because at very low levels your body makes it’s own  called ketones. But for most modern active people, this isn’t worth getting caught up with.

In our house analogy, carbohydrates would be the electricity keeping everything powered optimally. Powering your body on ketones, is like a house running on candle light. It still functions but creates unnecessary limitations.

 Carb Stats:

  • 4 kcal per gram (100 grams of pure carbohydrate = 400 Calories)
  • TEF = 5% (Remember TEF? It means that 5% of the total calories consumed from carbohydrates are used up by your bodies processing of them)

Lyle McDonald has a two part article series on Carbohydrates that’s worth reading if you want a more detailed overview: ‘A Primer on Dietary Carbohydrates‘.

3. Dietary Fats

 Scientific definition: Fats consist of a wide group of compounds that are generally soluble in organic solvents and generally insoluble in water. Chemically, fats are triglycerides: triesters of glycerol and any of several fatty acids

maintenance man

We cannot survive without fat in our diet, neither can we survive without fat on our body (even people with six packs have some fat).

Fat to put simply is the hormonal regulator of the body.

If you go too low on fat — libido, menstrual cycles, skin health, eye health and a host of other very important biochemical processes get thrown off.

In our nutritional house, fat would be the maintenance guy. Without fat your home would become rusty, faulty and broken. Fat keeps everything well-oiled and functioning as it should.

There are four different subtypes of fat called polyunsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat. This article is not about dietary recommendations, but if I were to make one quick suggestion, the only fat you should stay away from is trans fat (man-made).

As you can see in the fat stats below, fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrate, which is why low-fat diets are so effective. They allow you to slash the least amount of food volume from your diet while creating the biggest caloric deficit.

The only problem is, very low-fat diets taste like cardboard and are difficult to adhere to.

Fat Stats:

  • TEF 3%
  • 9 kcals per gram

For a more detailed summary of the role of dietary fats, check out the incredible Lyle McDonald’s A Primer on Dietary Fats.’

4. What Is Fiber

Scientific Definition: dietary material containing substances such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin, that are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes.

banksy stencil sweeping floor

There are two types of fiber: soluble (mixes with water) and insoluble (doesn’t mix with water).

Fiber helps massively with digestion, stabilizing blood sugar, and keeping us satiated.

Most people consume a shockingly low daily amount of fiber. And not surprisingly, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and woman.

Lyle McDonald refers to fiber as, ‘natures broom’.

So in our house analogy, fiber is the cleaner. I won’t get too graphic, you get the picture.

Fiber Stats:

  • Fiber does contain calories 1.5-2 cal/gram depending on the type. But since it’s absolutely vital, and is a massive benefit in fat loss due to it’s slowing down of digestion and blood sugar regulation. Don’t dare worry about gaining weight from fiber. Every grown adult should have at least 20g per day at a minimum.

 

5. Are There Calories in Alcohol?

Scientific Definition: a colorless volatile flammable liquid which is the intoxicating constituent of wine, beer, spirits, and other drinks, and is also used as an industrial solvent and as fuel.

power cut sign

Alcohol, the pure chemical, unfortunately, does also contain calories. Many people don’t realise this. Diet coke and vodka may contain minimal amounts of fat, protein and carbohydrates, but because alcohol is never listed on the ‘nutritional information’ people don’t realise that it’s a macronutrient in its own right.

In our house analogy, alcohol would be a temporary power cut.

The calories in alcohol don’t store as fat. But when you consume alcohol, your body, in order to get alcohol out of your system, places it high on its metabolic priority list. In other words, consuming alcohol shuts down the fat burning process for the other foods you’ve eaten that day.

So be extra careful about what you eat on the way home from a night out.

For a comprehensive guide to alcohol, there’s no better article than Martin Berkhan’s  ‘The Truth About Alcohol.

Alcohol Stats:

  •  TEF = 20% (close second to protein)
  • 7 Kcals per gram

What Are Micronutrients?

Scientific definition: a chemical element or substance required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms.

living room with lots of furniture

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. I won’t be able to go into too much depth here because there’s so many of them.

Vitamins are not very important for overall body composition since they don’t contain calories, but they are very important for general health and wellbeing.

Eating 10 multivitamins per day doesn’t necessarily make you super healthy, but being deficient in certain micronutrients certainly makes you super unhealthy.

A classic example is scurvy caused by vitamin C deficiency or anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Read my detailed guide on what vitamins you might need, for more information.

Examples of micronutrient dense food are salad, fruit and vegetables. Think of these as the furniture of our nutritional house. What good is it looking good on the outside if inside you’re barren and lifeless? Too much on the other hand is not necessarily better. But too little, and your home becomes uninhabitable.

Nutritional Roadmap Summary

So there we have it. A nutritional roadmap for you to follow whenever you get inundated with extraneous nutri-babble. As they say ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’, so the next time you feel lost in the contradictory world of nutrition, just think of this house and the following 9 points, and you’ll be sure to find your way back home.

brightly lit house

1. Calories affect how heavy you are; macros affect how heavy you look.
2. There are 3,500 calories per pound of fat.
3. We burn calories, through being alive, exercising and the thermal effect of food.
4. Carbohydrates are energy.
5. Protein repairs, heals and keeps you strong.
6. Fat regulates your hormones.
7. Fiber is nature’s broom.
8. Alcohol contains calories and shuts down fat burning.
9. Micronutrient deficiencies causes illness.

 Bonus: Get instant access to my free weight loss tools cheatsheet by clicking here.

Meet the Creator

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the author of ComfortPit and the co-creator of HighExistence. He researches the practical ways art, science, psychology, technology, history, and philosophy can help us live more skillfully.

28 comments… add one
  • Bernadette Feb 10, 2014, 6:26 pm

    So much great information on here! Understanding how each element of nutrition affects YOUR body is so crucial to finding success in weight management. One of the most effective pieces of advice I’ve been able to provide my clients is to never tell yourself that you CAN’T have something. Allow yourself to indulge, but in moderation. The more you say “I can’t have that” the more you’re going to want it.

    • Jon Brooks Feb 10, 2014, 11:55 pm

      Thanks Bernadette! And I absolutely agree! It’s like that old joke – don’t think of a blue elephant… or as with clients – don’t think about eating (X) type of food. Flexibility is key 🙂

  • Sebastian Feb 23, 2014, 4:14 am

    Badass man. I’m a big fan of counting macros.

    • Jon Brooks Feb 23, 2014, 1:56 pm

      It’s funny that you commented! I was actually checking out your Youtube vids yesterday! 30 days of McDonalds 🙂 – Really cool stuff man! Thanks for checking out my post!

  • Mary Feb 27, 2014, 3:27 pm

    This article was great! It is an awesome primer for people who are just starting out that really breaks things down in an way that is easy to follow and understand.

    I have only one complaint that I would like to suggest you look into. While everything else was spot on, this one statement was like a smack in the face:

    “Straight off the bat, most people don’t eat enough protein.”

    Unless this article is being written for starving people in third world countries that statement is wildly false. Unarguably protein is important, but adequate protein intake has not been a serious problem in the Western diet for a long, long time. A small minority of people in the West are consuming inadequate protein, and in fact there is ample evidence that much of the population is far exceeding their daily recommended intake. This sounds as if it is coming from a proponent of a high-protein diet, one of those “fad diets” this article is supposed to avoid (such as the Atkins diet).

    I would recommend rewording this to be more realistic and to maintain the objectivity you have throughout the article. Perhaps you could indicate that consuming too little protein is not safe and suggest people ensure they are within the daily recommended values because protein is such an important macronutrient.

    Thank you for this article, I will keep it in my arsenal of vital nutritional information you must know and link to it liberally! 🙂

    • Jon Brooks Feb 27, 2014, 4:14 pm

      Thanks, I really appreciate the feedback!

      When I said that ‘most people don’t eat enough protein’, I wasn’t referring to the standard set by the RDA. I think the RDA is set too low. This video on protein by Alan Aragon and Eric Helms, explain the issues with the RDA. I’ve linked it at the precise moment they start talking about it.

      That said I’m not advocating ‘super high’ protein diets, I’m advocating a ‘sufficient’ protein diet. The calorie requirement set for a grown male is 2,550 and the protein RDA is 55 grams. If you do the math, this means the RDA for protein calories equate to only 220 out of 2550. Roughly 9% of the suggested daily caloric intake, leaving 81% for carbs and fat. Why? I think the RDA lacks balance.

    • Laura H Nov 7, 2014, 9:02 pm

      I completely agree with you there Mary. At that point I kind of stopped reading and started skimming for certifications or qualifications or citations or footnotes of any sort. Protein is not considered a nutrient of concern in America but fiber is which comes almost exclusively from plants.

      Alcohol is not a macro-nutrient as it is technically not necessary for life or growth. Water is a macro-nutrient although it is not a source of energy. Fiber is a carbohydrate which I think is extremely important here since you are telling people to cut back on carbs, but eat more fiber. On any nutrition label – fiber will be listed under carbohydrates and will be included in that total. Also, thirteen of the top 15 leading causes of death in America are related to eating meat from heart disease, stroke, hypertension, saturated fat, cholesterol (which doesn’t exist in plants) and so forth. A very well documented, scholarly, and authoritative talk on this is available here: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

      • Jon Brooks Nov 8, 2014, 5:40 pm

        Hey Laura, thanks for reading/skimming the article I can see you’ve got a few problems with it and I’d like to address them.

        Firstly, as you’re probably aware, confirmation bias is rampant in the nutrition world. A vegan reading this article, instead of keeping an open mind, will probably just look for evidence to validate their existing beliefs. It’s always good to welcome new evidence into our existing mental schema otherwise our learning will be restricted.

        “Protein is not considered a nutrient of concern in America but fiber is which comes almost exclusively from plants.”

        Protein isn’t a concern in America but apparently obesity is. For an unbiased evaluation (with citations) on protein requirements, read this article.

        “Alcohol is not a macro-nutrient as it is technically not necessary for life or growth. Water is a macro-nutrient although it is not a source of energy.”

        This is a practical user’s guide to nutrition, if you want to go on wikipedia you’re more than welcome. Alcohol might not be necessary for survival but it still contains calories and is neither carbohydrate, fat, protein or fiber (extraneous fiber and carbohydrate is not necessary for survival either btw). Macro nutrient just means large group of nutrients. Overly nit-picky biochemistry definitions don’t help people in the real world. If you notice, that was the point of the article…

        “Fiber is a carbohydrate which I think is extremely important here since you are telling people to cut back on carbs, but eat more fiber.”

        Well firstly, that’s a straw man argument. I’m not telling people to cut back on carbs (I make the case that carbs don’t make you fat), I’m telling people to make sure they’re getting enough protein and fiber. Many people often confuse the food for the macronutrient it primarily consists of. For example, people think potatoes, bread and pasta are carbs. They’re not, carbs are carbs, those foods are foods. Not all carbs are good sources of fiber, most of them are actually terrible. Legumes, breakfast cereals, and a huge amount of vegetables (like 8 plates) are the only way you’re going to get adequate fiber. It’s not a question of whether a food is high in fiber relative to it’s caloric content, it’s a question of how many grams of fiber in a real world setting are you going to be able to get from that food source. Prune juice is high in fiber, but in a real world setting you’d have to drink so many litres of the stuff it’s just not going to happen.

        “On any nutrition label – fiber will be listed under carbohydrates and will be included in that total.”

        I prefer to track fiber independent of total carbs.

        “Also, thirteen of the top 15 leading causes of death in America are related to eating meat from heart disease, stroke, hypertension, saturated fat, cholesterol (which doesn’t exist in plants) and so forth.”

        The article you provided only cites correlation not causation. It’s full of words like ‘associated with’ and ‘related to’. The article you provided shows just as much evidence that heart disease CAUSES meat eating, as the other way around. This article on red meat will elaborate further. If you want to use correlation to base your nutrition on that’s fine, but you can’t tell people red meat causes cancer or heart disease. We don’t know if it does.

        I will update this article with footnotes in the near future.

        • Pedro Nov 30, 2014, 10:12 pm

          dude, you should do some hardcore research before posting information that is serious such as the human health. what do you mean that the body does not need carbohydrates? and as laura said fiber is a carbohydrate. alcohol is not a macronutrient and water is a macronutrient. there are also 6 macronutrients not 5. you missed viamins and minerals.and your analogy of the human body as a house sucked. but thankyou anyways for the effort placed in writting this article for the people to either believe it and do as you say or as the ones that are literate about this issues and just laugh at your bs. 🙂

          • Jon Brooks Nov 30, 2014, 11:52 pm

            Now Pedro, is this really the right way of going about this? That’s a rude angry comment.

            If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re someone who’s emotionally invested in their nutritional beliefs. All the hardcore research in the world won’t help someone who can’t handle conflicting concepts.

            Remember: “Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

            I’ve explained some of your questions in the comment section already. Follow up the links if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge. You say in your comment “thank you anyways for the effort placed in writing this article for the people to either believe it and do as you say“. This article isn’t that prescriptive. I went out of my way to not give diet advice in this article. What am I telling people to do?

            And if you’re going to assume the stance of being someone ‘literate’. It doesn’t help when you say things like “that are literate about this issues“. Just saying.

          • Jenn Jun 29, 2016, 5:31 am

            Actually, Pedro, Jon is dead on. Carbs are not essential to life. Protein can be converted to energy if needed – it’s just far less efficient than carbs. You’d die without protein. Not so with carbs. That being said, I appreciate this article.

  • Alberto Alvarez Jan 8, 2015, 9:33 am

    Jon, great information and very well written too!

    I wouldn’t worry about those who ‘hate’ on this. The evidence is there to support your claims and we work hard everyday to keep our minds open and find more evidence to enlighten us in this nutritional world.

    “All I know is that I don’t know anything, people will pay for what I know, life is good.”

    Thanks again.

    Keep up the great work!

    Alberto

    • Jon Brooks Jan 8, 2015, 6:15 pm

      Hey Alberto! Finally someone who ‘gets it’! I’m not surprised though considering you’re The Macro Wizard an’ all. Thanks for stopping by, and keep up with your awesome message in your own work!

  • Amanda Feb 14, 2015, 10:49 pm

    The author of this article makes a lot of sense.. until they didn’t.

    Think of micro-nutrients this way; if you want your body’s furnace burning optimally, meaning you want your BMR to be functioning the way your calculating it, your micro-nutrients need to be topped up. Not doing so make all your macro-nutrient calculations negligible.

    Challenging anyone who thinks otherwise, grab a calorie/nutrient tracker like Myfitnesspal or Cronometer (I suggest Cronometer as the UI is more friendly), and actually look at your micro-nutrient totals vs your “perfect” macros.

    Making sure you getting your “35% protein, 25% carbs, 40% fats” (I use this because this is what is recommended to me as I’m an endomorph), take a look at your micro-nutrients. Where is your fiber sitting? Where is your potassium? What is your ration of sodium/potassium? How about calcium, magnesium, Omega 3,6, Vitamin D, vitamin K etc..?

    Ever wonder why your body even plateaus to begin with? Ever wonder why cutting calories back further rarely results in losing more weight? Ever wonder why carb cycling is even needed? Metabolism my friends, your metabolism has be stalled due to lack of micro-nutrients. Would you rather lose weight eating what you want? Forget about your macros, and worry about your micros instead.

    Focus on this, in this order:

    Calories: Whatever you do, make sure your calories are in deficit
    Micronutrients: All of them, but especially sodium/potassium ratio
    Water: Self explanatory
    Protein: Yes you should still be consuming “x” protein based on lean mass
    Carbs: You need them for energy, eat enough that your aren’t tired
    Fats: Least nutrient to worry about as it just comes with the others

    Basically what I’m saying is, follow this, making sure your calories are in deficit and you micro-nutrients are topped up, especially potassium as the sodium/potassium ratio is critical in removing excess acid in the body. Doing this I guarantee will throw your macros completely off, especially your carbs.

    You will thank me later.

    • Jon Brooks Feb 15, 2015, 12:45 am

      Hey Amanda. Couple of issues I have with your comment:

      1) “If you want your body’s furnace burning optimally”, The metabolism as a fire doesn’t work. We don’t just feed ourselves on food, we can also sustain ourselves on stored glycogen, muscle and of course fat — and we do so constantly, with or without food. Fires don’t work this way.
      2) “I’m an endomorph” – these terms have no backing in science.
      3) I didn’t say at any point micronutrients weren’t to be eaten.
      4) “Ever wonder why your body even plateaus to begin with?”- No, your body plateaus either because of metabolic adaptation (you’ve lost weight you don’t need as many calories), you’re unconsciously eating more food because you’re hungry, or you haven’t hit a plateau your body is just holding water.
      5) “Ever wonder why cutting calories back further rarely results in losing more weight?” — No, it does lead to more weight loss (If you don’t binge and go crazy from lowering your calories).
      6) “Ever wonder why carb cycling is even needed?” – No, carbs increase leptin which makes dieting easier. Also, psychologically speaking, carbs improve mood, thus leading to better diet adherence.
      7) “Your metabolism has be stalled due to lack of micro-nutrients” – Totally incorrect. If I put you on a desert Island with no food, just water, your metabolism would not stall.
      8) “The sodium/potassium ratio is critical in removing excess acid in the body” – This alkaline diet stuff is nonsense. There’s no excess acid in anyones body.

      You’re sort of on the right tracks but you’ve read to many mainstream diet books. Start looking into biochemistry and science, otherwise you’ll get the facts skewed to fit a theory.

  • freda Feb 26, 2015, 8:17 am

    Hi Jon
    Just downloaded your article, I have followed weight watchers over the years, been at a healthy weight but have gained it again and now two stone heavier than should be, I’m struggling to get motivated and lose the weight , I have rejoined the class and gym but weight not budging help

    Freda

    • Jon Brooks Feb 27, 2015, 3:25 pm

      Hey Freda,

      I can certainly help you, but not in the comment area because I need more details. Go to the contact tab at the top of the page and give me a brief history of your weight loss attempts.

  • Ms. Kakes May 9, 2015, 12:26 am

    Is it at all possible, for any of this awesome group of nuclear, physiologic, nutritional Guru’s to just tell me what the best macromolecular percentage equals fat lose?

    • Jon Brooks May 9, 2015, 12:31 am

      In a word: no.

      If you want to lose fat you need to reduce your calories. Hit 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, and you’re good to go. It’s not rocket science, the hardest part is behavioural.

      • Aly Jul 12, 2015, 4:28 am

        Does it Matter if it’s NOT animal protein? What about plant proteins? And no I’m not with PETA – I just have a mental & emotional adversion (since I was a child so this is a long battle) to eating animal flesh :-/

  • Aly Jul 12, 2015, 4:03 am

    I knew it was calories! Your point about the ratio of your macros determines how your body carries its weight sounds key. I was hoping you’d conclude which macro(s) make one look heavier/fat or thin/lean? Assuming this is based on a “whole food diet (organic animal foods if eaten at all) “- what macro ratios would be ideal for lean healthy body?

    Also most raw vegans (produce is carb based) are lean and aren’t eating animal proteins yet don’t carbs make you hold water weight so one should appear heavier then they actually are? While Atkins ppl can’t seem to loose the last but if fat while get consume night fat and protein?
    Just a little confused about that.

    • Jon Brooks Jul 12, 2015, 5:10 pm

      Hey, Aly! I didn’t want to make too many recommendations in that article. I just wanted to give a primer on nutrition.

      “Also most raw vegans (produce is carb based) are lean and aren’t eating animal proteins yet don’t carbs make you hold water weight so one should appear heavier than they actually are?”

      Carbs don’t always make you hold more water. It’s usually a spike in carbs or a drop in carbs that does this.

      The whole point of this article is that it doesn’t matter that much from where you get your macros: chocolate from carbs and protein from plants are fine… if your diet hits your macros on the whole. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Melissa Jul 25, 2015, 11:05 pm

    Wow! This is a wonderful article. Thank you very much.

  • Jenny Oct 25, 2016, 4:50 pm

    Thanks a lot! This post is awesome!

  • Raquel Jan 16, 2017, 9:29 am

    Thank you thank you! This article really helped me.

  • Len Apr 5, 2017, 10:42 pm

    To all the “experts” who slate, berate and negate this article – TUUHHH. I couldn’t give a hoot if the author’s opinion is different to your’s.

    Some of us are just starting out on the nutirional knowledge acquisition journey and this article was PERFECT – it provided a fantastic foundation of simple facts and anologies to use a base to build on.

    Thank you Jon.

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