Should I Count Calories to Lose Weight?
A: No. I've never counted calories. It's a nuisance and not necessary. The key is to eat quality foods that fill you up, without overshooting your calorie needs.
Here's what I wrote in my first book, RIPPED: The Sensible Way to Achieve Ultimate Muscularity, published in 1980:
Self-discipline is the problem: Itís hard to discipline yourself to eat fewer calories than you burn. I found the solution to this problem. I discovered by eating only natural, unprocessed foods, you avoid almost all concentrated calorie foods, and you wonít overeat. Youíll become lean.
People marveled at my results but questioned my diet. Many said (or thought) it was too good to be true. That I was oversimplifying or just didnít understand how weight control works for most people.
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Counting calories may still be the prevailing view: Why Calorie Counting Still Works Best for Weight Loss: https://www.verywellfit.com/why-calories-still-count-3496053
But some heavy hitters are coming around to my way of getting lean and staying lean.
Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, addressed your query in the February, 2021 issue:
"Counting calories is not necessary, and, I believe, not desirable when trying to lose weight. Calories of course matter, but the number of calories we ultimately eat - and burn - is influenced long-term by the types of foods we eat.
"Based on our evolutionary past when food was scarce, humans have multiple powerful, overlapping mechanisms for maintaining weight. A focus on calorie counting can work for short term weight loss, but eventually these mechanisms for weight control fight back."
"Different types of food we eat have important influences on these mechanisms. When we eat foods that are more highly processed, rich in starch or sugar, rapidly digested, and nutrient poor - even when restricting calories - our weight maintenance mechanisms are affected in negative ways that make it hard to keep the weight off. In contrast, when we eat foods that are minimally processed, rich in fiber, phytonutrients, and healthy fats, and slowly digested, these mechanisms are affected in positive ways that help us slowly lose weight, and keep it off long term."
"For long-term success and steady gradual, weight loss, fill up on foods like fruits, nuts, beans, virgin plant oils, non-starchy veggies, minimally processed whole grains and fish, as well as yogurt with probiotics. Minimize foods high in refined starch (most breads, cereals, rice, crackers, granola bars, muffins, etc.), sweets and sugars, sugary drinks and alcohol, and processed meats. Other foods like cheese, poultry, eggs, and occasionally, unprocessed red meats, can be eaten in moderation."
"Aim to lose a pound a week or simply to keep weight constant (itself a victory). Focus on making healthy food choices rather than counting calories. This approach will help your health at any weight."
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Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard, and perhaps the most widely quoted person in nutrition and health, also calls diet quality important for both weight control and long-term well-being.
Finally, Harvard professor David Ludwig, MD, PhD, is rewriting the rules of diet and weight control with his book Always Hungry? (Grand Central Life Style, 2016)
For a detailed review of Professor Ludwig's insightful book, see my Unlock Your Fat Cells, Forget Calories, Think Quality and Satisfaction: https://www.cbass.com/unlockfatcells.htm
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Now, it's up to you to decide which approach suits you best. Programs that you own work best; see The Ownership Principle: https://www.cbass.com/SELECTIO.HTM
Good training - and eating.
Why Are Some People Sore a Day or Two After Training and Others Are Not?
Visitor Comments Below
A: Emeritus Professor of Psychology Richard Winett and I have been debating this for years. He avoids soreness and I welcome it.
Suggestions that delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) may suppress the immune system caused us to take another look at this issue.
After finding little or no evidence that strenuous exercise impairs immunity, we resumed our evaluation of the two forms of training. It turns out that both approaches have merit.
I've written about DOMS at length: https://www.cbass.com/musclesoreness.htm
My experience is that muscle soreness is an important factor in long term training success. Soreness signals change and progress. And progress keeps us motivated.
Richard on the other hand, enjoys putting great effort into doing the same thing over and over--and rarely gets sore. He seeks perfection in movement, while I value change and progress.
While that explanation--change brings soreness--is in my earlier article, Richard and I dug deeper and found interesting nuances in the two approaches.
Our dialogue was enlightening, and I believe our readers will find it helpful in planning their own training.
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CB: Several questions. Do you have a bottom line on DOMS? Is it to be
avoided altogether or simply kept to a minimum?
I think your training is very productive. I also, for example, am well
aware that I could train with less frequency and the results would be
about the same. So, my frequency of training may be just a preference
that I can rationalize in any number of ways, but not a necessity. I
also though recall that if I could sleep decently, I always seemed to be
able to recover well. Keep in mind too that I found it hard to tolerate
and recover from something you did very well, really hard and longer
rowing sessions. That created more DOMS than anything else. Iím best in
short sprint protocols such as Gibalaís 3 x 20 second protocol, or the
very brief protocol noted in my piece on Sustainable Training. But, you
seemed to do great with rowing.
But, by means of comparison, with no or ineffective training over the last close to 30 years, the expectation is that I likely would have lost about 25 lbs of muscle mass and maybe would have tried to compensate by weighing less.
This photo provided by Richard shows him in peak condition at 46. He is now in his 76th year.
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Hope we've given you a lot to think about. The choice is yours. Take what makes sense and appeals to you, and leave the rest.
February 1, 2021
Selected Visitor Comments
DOMS Not Relevant
Iíve been aware of the DOMS issue for many years, but, as a practical, personal matter, it's never had any relevance for my training.
I work out seven days a week, alternating a lifting workout with a powerwalk (in a nearby park that has decent slopes).
Energy and enthusiasm are my two gauges for recovery, and it's often just one day in three weeks that I'll skip a workout day because I become aware that these gauges are low.
Great conversation regarding DOMS and training in general! Iím 72 years of age and have made many adaptations to my training due to age/injury limitations. As there are not many resources for the older trainer, you and Richard have been my guiding lights for the past 25+ years. Thank you both for all the insight and motivation that you have provided!
When Growing Stopped, Soreness Stopped
I had a major break through in my training (at about the age of 30) when I cut my workouts to 3 days a week 30 minutes max on a upper body - lower body split. I did two sets per large muscle and 1 for smaller. I gave it my all and put on the most muscle I ever have and my strength went through the roof (benching 300lbs, squatting 405 for 10 deep reps with good form and no knee wraps). This is after already working out hard for 15 years already. In the first 3 months of the 3 thirty minute workouts, my muscle soreness came back like I was a beginner again. My point of all this is, I think the soreness was related to me growing again.
Once I stopped growing, the soreness stopped.
Choose Lasting Results
interesting article as there are 2 opinions to compare.
Stress and Allow Recovery
Infrequent strenuous training, with adequate rest, may modulate/impair/suppress the immune system some, for up to 24 hours, but the exercise benefits far out way any short term immune system changes. As you say Clarence, stress the body, then give it plenty of time to recover!
I find that I rarely get DOMS unless I've been sick and have laid off of training for a week or two. On the other hand, one of my younger brothers who trains regularly almost always has DOMS whenever he does a weightlifting workout, even though he does them on a regular basis. So perhaps some of the difference here is due to genetic differences rather than just differences in how we train.
Two Day Delay
Now at 78, I'm experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness about 2 days after working a certain muscle group. Due to our restricted trips out of the house, I'm finding that doing 1 or 2 different muscle groups per day over 5 or 6 consecutive days provides "cabin fever" stress relief - and that the soreness always seems noticeable in those previously exercised muscles.
Soreness Keeps Training Interesting
I agree very
much with you that getting sore after a workout is the body's feedback
that you've done a good workout. Therefore I welcome soreness. But I can
also see Winett's point of view, of never being debilitated by soreness.
So I think the major factor in the equation is psychological. Some
people (like me, and also you perhaps) want to push themselves to the
outer edges of the body limitations. It just plain makes us feel like
we're accomplishing something. It motivates us and satisfies us. The
thought of doing the exact same workout (with only minor variations)
week after week, year after year, like Winett would drive me out of the
gym. It would be too boring. The fact that he thrives with such a
regiment shows how different we are.
March 1, 2021
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