Monday, October 29, 2007

Calories In / Calories Out

The lifehacking community is composed largely of engineers, and engineers like elegant, simple solutions. The "eat less than you need" diet was very popular in this scene, and the comments to anything more complicated invariably include a few "it's as simple as calories in / calories out." But calories out isn't so easy to calculate. One person can gain weight on 2000 calories a day while another person is losing weight. This could happen even if each had the same base metabolism.

*Small meals often count for less
You can keep your metabolism high and your body in muscle-building, fat-burning mode by letting it know that you're always ready to cram a sandwich in your face every three hours. Your body doesn't want you to carry extra muscle. Extra muscle = extra necessary calories. Let your body know it's in no risk of starving. Eat something as soon as you wake up, and keep eating in three hour intervals, dividing your daily calories into five or six small meals.

*Low glycemic meals make less fat
Ignoring ketosis, this is how low-carb diets work. The good news is, you can just choose low-glycemic carbs and get a similar effect. 2000 calories of sugar a day would put fat on anyone. 2000 calories of a good mixture of protein, fat, and low glycemic carbs probably won't (depending on your size).

*Exercise will increase your metabolism
Not by as much as scientists once thought, but a healthy lifestyle is a cumulative effect. Fifty calories a day adds up. Most people gaining weight from aging are gaining a pound a year. That's 3500 calories. That's 10 calories a day.

*Just eating less won't make you healthy
Yeah, you could just not eat the 300 calories you used to lift weights and then jog, but for exercising you will get:
more muscle
stronger bones
better mood
stronger immune system
healthier heart
increased confidence

We aren't able to break most things in life down to a simple equation. Health is no exception. It's a complicated subject, so educate yourself. In this case, if you're smart about what and when you eat, you get to eat more. Sweet!


bunnygirl said...

I love to snack, so I've made myself into a "small meals" person. It's a system that works well for me.

I get no pleasure from denying myself food. I'd rather exercise and work with my natural eating style (snacks!!!) than try to fight it and be unhappy all the time.

Anonymous said...

I'm the opposite of bunnygirl. I like to eat enormous infrequent meals. I don't want to eat when I first wake up (I don't want to do anything when I first wake up, so that's no surprise) and for much of my life my work or class schedule has allowed me to wait two hours or more after getting up to eat "breakfast." Then, eight or ten hours later, I eat another meal. If my schedule demands that I eat breakfast and lunch, I eat just a bite for breakfast--a granola bar, a peanut butter sandwich--and then a small-for-me meal for lunch, but I'll be sluggish and hungry both all day.

Mary Anne the dog lifter

Jeff said...

Mary Anne, you might be interested in the Warrior Diet
I've never read it, just about it here and at dragon door publishing forums, but the reviews make it sound like mostly filler that you don't need to read anyway.

Anonymous said...

"working and eating sparingly (undereating) during the day and filling up at night"--yes, that's me. I've just put the book on my reserve list at the library so I can take a look at it.

Mary Anne the dog lifter